End of union contract at the Milwaukee Public Schools ushers in new era

Alan Borsuk:

A friend of mine has two signs in her office. One says, “Stay calm and carry on.” The other says, “Freak out and throw things.”
Both offer paths to grasping the realities of Milwaukee Public Schools as the system reaches a milestone. Sunday is the last day of the contract between MPS and its teachers union, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. It is, at least for the foreseeable future, the end of the teacher contract era in MPS.
The teachers’ contract was a huge shaping force in MPS for roughly the last half century, setting not only pay and benefits, but lots of the operating rules for daily life. Especially in the last 15 years, as the price of health insurance and commitments to current and future retirees escalated, the contract drove the financial realities of MPS — and the direction was rather startling.
Now, the contract is gone. What impact will that have on MPS? A few observations:
Stay calm and carry on: In many ways, not much will be different. As is true in general in Wisconsin school districts, the contract is being succeeded by a “handbook,” a statement by management of what the rules of the school road will be. A lot of the provisions are in line with the past. A lot of school systems around the state have realized it’s good to have some stability and to keep teachers generally feeling they are being treated with some dignity and in ways that have some rationale.

Much more on “Act 10”, here.

Molly Conley’s mom shares a final letter her daughter wrote

Linda Thomas:

Molly Conley’s mom, Susan, received a packet from Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle today.
Along with her report card, it included a letter molly wrote to her class as an end of the year assignment.
The 15-year-old girl was killed while walking with friends along a Lake Stevens road. A 26-year-old Marysville man has been arrested in connection with the drive-by shooting death.
The City of Lake Stevens first confirmed that an arrest had been made in the case Friday evening. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect was arrested at his home and would be booked into jail for first-degree murder, but provided no further details.
Last week, dispatchers made reverse-911 calls to nearly 4,000 phones, seeking information that could help catch the shooter. Detectives asked people to respond if they had video of vehicles driving in the area during the hours before and after the shooting.
A reward for information in the case had reached $34,000.
Here is Molly’s letter:

What Some Call Delay Is At Times Just Good Policy Making

Matthew DiCarlo:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently announced that states will be given the option to postpone using the results of their new teacher evaluations for high-stakes decisions during the phase-in of the new Common Core-aligned assessments. The reaction from some advocates was swift condemnation – calling the decision little more than a “delay” and a “victory for the status quo.”
We hear these kinds of arguments frequently in education. The idea is that change must be as rapid as possible, because “kids can’t wait.” I can understand and appreciate the urgency underlying these sentiments. Policy change in education (as in other arenas) can sometimes be painfully slow, and what seem likes small roadblocks can turn out to be massive, permanent obstacles.
I will not repeat my views regarding the substance of Secretary Duncan’s decision – see this op-ed by Morgan Polikoff and myself. I would, however, like to make one very quick point about these “we need change right now because students can’t wait” arguments: Sometimes, what is called “delay” is actually better described as good policy making, and kids can wait for good policy making.

What’s Really ‘Immoral’ About Student Loans

Glenn Reynolds:

Unless Congress acts, interest rates for government subsidized student loans will double to 6.8% from 3.4% on July 1. In May, House Republicans passed a bill that would index rates on new loans to the rate on 10-year Treasurys (currently about 2.6%), plus 2.5 percentage points, with an 8.5% cap. But with little Democratic support in the Senate, that bill is dead in the water.
Most Democrats want to lock the current 3.4% rate in place for two more years while Congress debates a “fairer” solution. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has even proposed letting students borrow directly from the government at the same ultra-low rate that banks currently get on short-term loans from the Federal Reserve–0.75%. She calls the Republican proposal “immoral.”
In the student-loan world, there’s immorality to spare–not in the still historically low interest rates, but in the principal of the thing. Student debt, which recently surpassed the trillion-dollar level in the U.S., is now a major burden on graduates, a burden that is often not offset by increased earnings from a college degree in say, race and gender issues, rather than engineering.
According to an extensive 2012 analysis by the Associated Press of college graduates 25 and younger, 50% are either unemployed or in jobs that don’t require a college degree. Then there are the large numbers who don’t graduate at all. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than 40% of full-time students at four-year institutions fail to graduate within six years. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that almost 75% of community-college students fail to graduate within three years. Those students don’t have degrees, but they often still have debt.

UW-Whitewater education program criticized in national study

Samantha Jacquest:

A national study that gave UW-Whitewater teacher education a low score was incomplete and shallow, the dean of education at the school said.
“They never talked to our students, and they never interviewed student teachers or principals to find out how our students were doing,” said Katy Heyning, dean of the UW-Whitewater College of Education and Professional Studies.
“It’s a very incomplete picture in terms of what they were looking at, so I don’t know how they can possibly understand our program,” she said.
Kate Walsh, president of National Council on Teacher Quality, said the Teacher Prep Review gives a “pretty good indication” of teachers UW-Whitewater and other schools are turning out.
The study released Tuesday judged the quality of teacher training programs across the nation, analyzing course documents, state laws and requirements and school districts’ needs for teachers.

Much more here and here.

How Kid Apps Are Data Magnets

Jeremy Singer-Vine & Anton Troianovski:

While 7-year-old Eros ViDemantay played with a kid’s app on his father’s phone, tracing an elephant, behind the scenes a startup company backed by Google Inc. GOOG +0.38% was collecting information from the device–including its email address and a list of other apps installed on his phone.
“My jaw dropped,” says Lee ViDemantay, Eros’s father and a fifth-grade teacher at the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Why do they need to know all that?” The app, called “How to Draw–Easy Lessons,” also sent two of the phone’s main ID numbers.
A Wall Street Journal examination of 40 popular and free child-friendly apps on Google’s Android and Apple Inc.’s AAPL +0.70% iOS systems found that nearly half transmitted to other companies a device ID number, a primary tool for tracking users from app to app. Some 70% passed along information about how the app was used, in some cases including the buttons clicked and in what order.
Some three years after the Journal first tested data collection and sharing in smartphone apps–and discovered the majority of apps tested sending details to third parties without users’ awareness–the makers of widely used software continue to gather and profit from people’s personal information.

Judge Considers Tossing School-Cheating Charges

Cameron McWhirter & Meredith Rutland:

A conspiracy case stemming from one of the largest school-cheating scandals in U.S. history could be scuttled or drastically diminished if a judge rules that investigators coerced some educators into talking.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter is considering a defense motion that he strike down many, if not all, of the charges–most notably conspiracy–against the former superintendent of Atlanta’s public schools and 34 other former educators. Defense lawyers say the charges are based on interviews by state investigators who told some defendants they would be fired if they didn’t talk, which they argue violated defendants’ constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Judge Baxter is expected to make a ruling soon, though the precise timing is unclear.
A 2011 report by the state investigators found that cheating on state standardized tests was rife in Atlanta schools, including allegations that teachers erased incorrect answers because they would get bonuses if their students got higher scores. The report found the educators were responding to pressure from the administration of Beverly Hall, the superintendent from 1999 to 2011, to show marked improvement in their students’ scores or face discipline or less pay.

Tighter federal lending standards yield turmoil for historically black colleges

Nick Anderson:

Tighter standards in a federal loan program have dealt a significant blow to Howard University and other historically black colleges and universities over the past year, curtailing funds for thousands of students and contributing in some places to a sudden decline in enrollment.
The change in federal lending to parents of college students had an acute impact at Howard, where finances are also under pressure from the federal budget sequester and expenses at its hospital. Howard President Sidney A. Ribeau announced budget cuts in January in response to shortages in revenue from tuition and other sources.
Federal data show that parent loans for Howard students fell by at least $7 million in the 2012-13 academic year compared with the previous year, a 17 percent decline.
Howard’s 5 percent enrollment drop and loss of revenue fueled a debate over fiscal issues that has roiled the university community. The vice chairwoman of the board of trustees, Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, warned in a letter to trustees disclosed June 7 that the school “is in genuine trouble.” Days later the board chairman, Addison Barry Rand, countered that it remains “financially and operationally strong.”

Folsom Cordova special education violations trigger review

Loretta Kalb:

The Folsom Cordova Unified School District has violated special education rules 63 times in the past four years, according to state records.
The violations ranged from placing a child in a restraint chair without informing the child’s parents to failing to provide families with progress reports in a timely fashion.
According to state files obtained by The Bee covering the last four school years, families filed 25 separate complaints alleging that Folsom Cordova violated state laws or federal regulations a combined 92 times.
Investigators subsequently concluded the district had failed to comply with special education rules 63 times, or in nearly two-thirds of the allegations.
The California Department of Education launched a formal review of the district after complaints spiked in 2010-11, when parents alleged the district committed 50 violations.
District officials say they have since addressed and resolved the problems identified that year.

Folsol-Cordova spent $135,777,901 for 19,198 students, or $7,072.50/student.

Schools out for summer: Re-thinking 21st Century Education

Naveen Jain:

If you have school-age children, you already know how hard it can be to get them to quit playing their video games and settle down to their school work. And with the summer upon us, it’s frightening to imagine how little time most children will invest to advance their knowledge and intellect in the next 80 days.
However, imagine education that is as entertaining and addictive as video games. Sound far-fetched? I believe that this is exactly the idea — driven by dynamic innovation and entrepreneurism — that will help bring our education system out of the stone ages.
Indeed, our education system is obsolete. For starters, we are educating students under a system based on industrial-age thinking, where they advance to the next level based on their age, not ability. Some children are naturally good at one subject and can master it quickly but may take a little longer to comprehend a different subject. It’s astounding that we are advancing children on a fixed-time basis, leaving our exceptional students to languish for a full year and our challenged students to struggle and yet advance.

Newark Teacher Union’s Opposition Party: Link to “Manifesto”

Laura Waters:

For a glimpse into Newark’s educational politics, Newark Teacher Union President Joseph Del Grosso barely squeaked out a victory in this week’s contentious battle for the top spot in the association: he won by a scant nine votes. However, his opposition – represented under a new faction called “NEW Vision” or “Newark Education Workers Caucus” – won 18 of 31 seats on NTU’s Executive Board. NJ Spotlight, in recounting the story, says that this will be the “first time since his first term that Del Grosso’s slate will not control the board.”
Del Grosso has been widely criticized by by some NTU members for agreeing to a merit pay structure in NTU’s new contract and associating with Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson. Consorting with the enemy, if you will.
So what does NEW Vision want?
Handily, Intercepts has posted NEW Vision’s “manifesto,” a thoughtful and well-written strategic plan that defines this union’s activism as “a movement of social justice, a “supreme act of devotion” to schoolchildren in Newark and the city’s future. Part of that devotion is declaring enmity to “the privatization of public schools, the corporatization of public life, and the commodification of human life in general.”

Promise of Prizes Helps People Save

Khadeeja Safdar:

Can the lure of gambling be used to help people save?
A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research explores the possibility of using lotteries to induce savings behavior. The concept is called a prize-linked savings (PLS) account, in which holders have the chance of winning cash or other kinds of prizes for contributing money.
The authors of the paper — Emel Filiz-Ozbay, Jonathan Guryan, Kyle Hyndman, Melissa Schettini Kearney and Erkut Y. Ozbay — conducted a controlled experiment with 96 University of Marylandstudents to compare the success of a PLS account to that of a standard interest-bearing account. They found that participants were more likely to save when offered the possibility of winning a prize. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence showing that PLS products are more effective at inducing savings as compared to a standard interest bearing account offering the same expected return,” write the authors.

UW-Madison professor nets highest jazz honor

Channel3000, via a kind reader email

An 83-year-old music professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has played bass with Bruce Springsteen and classical conductor Igor Stravinsky has been awarded the nation’s highest honor in jazz.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Richard Davis won a 2014 Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Davis says, “It feels good to be honored amongst your peers.”

Repairing America’s Unhealthy Relationship with Student Debt

Judah Bellin:

Sallie Mae, the largest private lender of student loans, recently announced that it will split into two entities. The first company will manage nearly all of Sallie Mae’s assets–$118.1 billion worth of federal loans and $31.6 billion worth of private loans–and the second will continue to lend to students.[1] This development underscores a disquieting truth: Americans have a healthy attitude toward higher education but an unhealthy relationship with student debt. While household debt comes in many forms, only student debt grew during the Great Recession. Federal policy has encouraged this habit. In the two years following the financial crisis, spending on student loans grew 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
Though students and families are borrowing more to cope with the ever-growing cost of college, the loans that they are taking out may actually be a cause, as well as a result, of the problem. Many studies suggest that colleges are capturing part of this increase in federal loan funds and using it to pay for high-cost expenditures–such as research labs, student amenities, and administrators–that are then passed on to students in the form of higher tuition and fees. Since colleges are guaranteed funding for students who demonstrate need, they are insulated from the consequences of raising prices.
Therefore, student loan reform needs to introduce competitive pressure into the student loan system. De-linking the cost of specific colleges from decisions on loan awards is one way of achieving this goal. Instead, colleges could offer every eligible student four possible loan awards based on financial need and the median cost of college. This reform would force colleges to compete for students’ loan money by demonstrating the actual value that their education provides. And since colleges would no longer be shielded from market pressures, they would be forced to become more cost-conscious.

Parents cast their votes in voucher debate

Chris Rickert:

Jim Bender, of the pro-voucher group School Choice Wisconsin, said there are a range of legitimate reasons parents choose voucher-funded private schools, but that the rising number of voucher students proves parents want that choice.
That’s probably what you’d expect to hear from a leader in what voucher critics see as a national effort to privatize — and profit from — education.
Of course, what you hear from Democratic lawmakers and a DPI run by a Democratically leaning state superintendent — who rely for political support on teachers unions — is about what you’d expect to hear from those with a vested interest in public schools’ hegemony.
Vouchers might be one of those childhood-related policy debates that has less to do with what children need than with what lawmakers and their special interests want.
And if what children need is to be ignored, the next best thing might be to pay a little more attention to what parents say their children need.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Skipping Campus

Ry Rivard:

Students seeking online degrees might soon resemble traditional on-campus students, according to a new survey sponsored by two companies involved in online education consulting.
The survey, in its second year, continues to show the typical student seeking a degree or certification online is a married middle-aged white woman, but the new results suggest the overall population of online learners is beginning to include more students who are of traditional college age, but not going to a college campus. The survey is only of students who have taken, are taking or plan to take courses from an online program.
“It’s obvious that more and more people from traditional college-age populations are electing to do their college online — they are just skipping the campus,” said David Clinefelter, a co-author of the study and the chief academic officer at the Learning House, Inc., which advises colleges on online education ventures.

Written Chinese collides with the digital age in Asia

Agency France Press:

As a schoolboy, Akihiro Matsumura spent hundreds of hours learning the intricate Chinese characters that make up a part of written Japanese. Now, the graduate student can rely on his smartphone, tablet and laptop to remember them for him.
“Sometimes I don’t even bother to take notes in seminars. I just take out my tablet to shoot pictures of what instructors write on blackboards,” he said.
Like millions of people across East Asia, 23-year-old Matsumura is forgetting the pictographs and ideographs that have been used in Japan and greater China for centuries.
While some bemoan what they see as the loss of history and culture, others say the shift frees up brainpower for more useful things, like foreign languages, and even improves writing as a whole.

Wisconsin school staffing holds steady after years of decline

Bill Lueders:

Newly released data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction show that staffing levels at state public schools held steady last year, despite fears that changes initiated by Gov. Scott Walker would prompt additional losses.
The number of employees did drop in some program areas and in some districts, according to the DPI’s summary report. And overall staffing remains significantly lower than five years ago.
“District job losses as the result of budget cuts have stabilized, and in some cases become one-year positive readjusts,” DPI spokesman John Johnson said. Despite this rebound, he said, many districts are still hurting for staff, “and student services programs have been cut dramatically.”
The data, released this week, tally staff levels for the 2012-13 school year as they existed on the third Friday in September.
They show that the state’s 424 school districts had 99,265 full-time equivalent positions in 2012-13. That’s up 25 positions from 2011-12, but down a total of 5,200 FTE positions since 2008-09.

U.S. education gap narrows between whites and minorities: report

Stephanie Simon:

The achievement gap between white and minority children has narrowed considerably in recent decades, as black and Hispanic students have posted strong gains on math and reading tests, according to a new report out Thursday.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card,” found that minority students at all ages tested – 9, 13 and 17 years old – have made substantial progress on standardized tests since the early 1970s.
Black and Hispanic students made up a third to half of the gulf that had separated their average reading scores from the average scores of white students, the report found. The progress was nearly as good in math.
Proficiency at specific skills also grew over the decades. In math, for instance, 13-year-olds of all races tested in 2012 were far more likely than their counterparts from the 1970s to be proficient at interpreting data from a table and factoring numbers. In reading, 9-year-olds were more adept at making inferences from nonfiction texts and grasping figures of speech.

Is the labor market return to higher education finally falling?

considers that possibility in his recent column. About one in four bartenders has some kind of degree. Orszag draws heavily on this paper by Beaudry and Green and Sand, which postulates falling returns to skill. It’s one of the more interesting pieces written in the last year, but note their model relies heavily on a stock/flow distinction. They consider a world where most of the IT infrastructure already has been built, and so skilled labor has not so much more to do at the margin. This stands in noted contrast to the common belief — which I share — that “IT-souped up smart machines” still have a long way to go and are not a mature technology. You can’t hold that view and also buy into the Beaudry and Green and Sand story, unless you think we have suddenly jumped to a new margin where machines build machines, with little help from humans.
Rather than accepting “falling returns to skill,” I would sooner say that education doesn’t measure true skill as well as it used to.

Automated Coach to Practice Conversations

Mohammed (Ehsan) Hoque:

We present a real-time system including a 3D character that can converse, capture, analyze and interpret subtle and multidimensional human nonverbal behaviors for possible applications such as job interviews, public speaking, or even automated speech therapy. The system works in a personal computer and senses nonverbal data from video (i.e., facial expressions) and audio (i.e., speech recognition and prosody analysis) using a standard webcam. We contextualized the development and evaluation of our system as a training scenario for job interviews. Using user-centered design and iterations, we determine how the nonverbal data could be presented to the user in an intuitive and educational manner. We tested efficacy of the system in the context of job interviews with 90 MIT undergraduate students. Our results suggest that the participants who used our system to improve their interview skills were perceived to be better candidates by human judges. Participants reported that the most useful feature was being given feedback on their speaking rate, and overall they reported strong agreement that they would consider using this system again for self-reflection.

Cheating to Learn: How a UCLA professor gamed a game theory midterm.

Visakan Veerasamy:

On test day for my Behavioral Ecology class at UCLA, I walked into the classroom bearing an impossibly difficult exam. Rather than being neatly arranged in alternate rows with pen or pencil in hand, my students sat in one tight group, with notes and books and laptops open and available. They were poised to share each other’s thoughts and to copy the best answers. As I distributed the tests, the students began to talk and write. All of this would normally be called cheating. But it was completely okay by me.
Who in their right mind would condone and encourage cheating among UCLA juniors and seniors? Perhaps someone with the idea that concepts in animal behavior can be taught by making their students live those concepts.
Animals and their behavior have been my passions since my Kentucky boyhood, and I strive to nurture this love for nature in my students. Who isn’t amazed and entertained by videos of crafty animals, like Betty the tool-making crow, bending wires into hooks to retrieve baskets containing delicious mealworms? (And then hiding her rewards from a lummox of a mate who never works, but is all too good at purloining hard-won rewards of others?)

Much more on Visakan Veerasamy, here.

Is Personalization in Education About Students or Profit?

Chris Thinnes:

The end-run of the logic of the “free market model” of education–and its application to schools–is simple: the repudiation of schools as we have come to know them; the abandonment of democratic principles on which they are based; and the service of a technocratic vision of education as matrix of individual relationships with private providers. In recent years, this vision takes the form of crude assertions that online learning platforms might not only extend or enrich the learning that takes place in schools, but might obviate the need for the “school” as we know it.
This claim is supported by politicians, pundits, and policy wonks–the vast majority of whom would make vitally different decisions for their own children’s education, than they might for yours or mine. It’s obvious to educators that we should embrace the opportunities provided by digital tools, services, and platforms to supplement and to inform the learning that takes place in a school, but we should beware the growing and disturbing focus on the replacement of the school by those technologies.
We have known for many decades in schools that differentiation, individuation, and responsiveness to student voice and choice are hallmarks of effective schools’ support of each learner in a school community. Now, however, the discussion of vaguely related imperatives is dressed in the language of “personalization” of products, content, and services, as though this represents a new-found metaphor for redefining education as we know it. We lay faith–lazily, or purposefully, and even in the most sophisticated and insightful writing about mutations in 21st century capitalism–in the promises of private corporations that mimic this language, extolling selfless commitments to service our individual needs.

These are the 100 smartest cities in America (study)

Sean Ludwig:

Ithaca, N.Y. is a relatively small college town, but one thing that might make up for its size is its brain power. That’s because Ithaca tops a new list from Lumosity that ranks U.S. cities by their raw cognitive performance.
San Francisco-based Lumosity creates brain-training exercises and has raisedmore than $70 million in funding to date from Discovery Communications, Menlo Ventures, and others. Since it launched back in 2007, Lumosity claims to have amassed the world’s largest dataset of human cognitive performance, with data and insights collected from more than 40 million people.

The study is available here.

English is no longer the language of the web

Ethan Zuckerman:

Conventional wisdom suggests that English is becoming “the world’s second language,” a lingua franca that many forward–looking organizations are adopting it as a working language. Optimists about the spread of English as a global second language suggest it will enable collaboration and ease problem solving without threatening the survival of mother tongues. Pointing to hundreds of thousands of Chinese children who learn English by shouting phrases back at teachers, the American entrepreneur Jay Walker offers the idea that English will be a language of economic opportunity for most speakers: they’ll work and think in their mother tongue, but English will allow them to communicate, share, and transact.
Cultural-preservation organizations like UNESCO aren’t as confident of this vision. They warn that English may crowd out less widely spoken languages as it spreads around the world through television, music, and film. But something more subtle and complicated appears to be going on. While English may be emerging as a bridge language, a wave of media is being produced in other languages, in newspapers, on television, and on the Internet. As technologies make it easier for people to communicate to broad and narrow audiences in their native languages, we’re discovering that linguistic difference is surprisingly persistent.

A Case for the Humanities Not Made

Stanley Fish:

The humanities and social sciences “enable us to participate in a global economy that requires understanding of diverse cultures and sensitivity to different perspectives.”
In each of these sentences, and many others that might be instanced, the key words — “framework,” “context,” “complex,” “meaningfully,” “understanding,” “diverse,” “sensitivity,” “perspectives” — are spectacularly empty; just where specificity is needed, sonorous abstraction blunts the edge of what is being asserted, rendering it unexceptionable (no one’s against understanding, complexity and meaningfulness) and without bite.
Then there are the recommendations.
“Increase NEH funding.” Fine idea, but only political efforts of a kind not mentioned here will do that trick. College teachers should “reach out” to their colleagues in K-12. Sure, let’s have a joint bake sale or a dance. “Embrace the chance to connect with the larger community.” What exactly does “connect with” mean and where does the “chance” reside? “Deepen knowledge of other cultures.” Add “deepen” to the list of words that say nothing. Develop “intercultural skills.” First tell me what they are and how they differ from mono-cultural skills. “Expand the pool of qualified teachers.” Wait a moment while I wave my magic wand. “Promote Language Learning.” Yes, that’s something we could and should do, but it will take money, and money has systematically been withdrawn from public higher education for decades.
The report alludes to this unhappy fact, but doesn’t take it up. Nor does it take up the converging factors that accelerate the rush to vocationalism and short-term payoffs — the mania for online education, unsupportable student debt, rising costs in every area of a college’s operation, the Internet’s preference for chunked-up bits of information, the elimination or radical downsizing of French, Russian, German, religious studies, theater and other programs because they cannot be justified under zero-based budgeting assumptions.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wages Fall At Record Pace

David Cay Johnston:

Breaking news alert! Wages fell at the fastest rate ever recorded during the first quarter of this year, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Hourly wages fell 3.8 percent in the first quarter, the biggest drop since the BLS began tracking compensation in 1947. Productivity rose half a percentage point. The result was that what economists call “labor unit costs” fell 4.3 percent.
In plain English, that means paychecks overall shrank, but work output grew. If you are a business owner, that is news worthy of a toast with a bottle of the finest Cristal champagne, which at $595 is more than the $518 that a median-wage worker earns in a week.
If you have not heard this news about plummeting wages, it is not surprising. Except for right-wing websites, and an item at the liberal Huffington Post, the June 5 announcement went unreported.
The networks and the major newspapers all have staffs of business reporters, yet they missed the third paragraph of the official government announcement that contained this important news.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős — great kids’ book

Cory Doctorow:

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated kids’ biography of Paul Erdős, the fantastically prolific itinerant mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history.
Boy is written by Deborah Heiligman, with illustrations by Leu Pham, and the pair really worked to weave numbers and mathematics through the text, with lively, fun illustrations of a young Erdős learning about negative numbers, becoming obsessed with prime numbers and leading his high-school chums on a mathematical tour of Budapest. They also go to great lengths to capture the upside and downside of Erdős’s legendary eccentricity — his inability to fend for himself and his helplessness when it came to everyday tasks like cooking and doing laundry; his amazing generosity and brilliance and empathy in his working and personal life.
Ultimately, this is a book that celebrates the idea of following your weird, wooing the muse of the odd, and playing to your strengths rather than agonizing over your weaknesses. It’s an inspiring and sweet tale of one of humanity’s greatest mathematicians, and a parable about the magic of passion and obsession.

Much more on Paul Erdős, here.

Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District has the money to improve low-income and minority student achievement but needs to reorganize its central administration to put more resources in the classroom, according to a group of local and national education experts who conducted a district review.
“We’re recommending the system turn on its head,” said Robert Peterkin, the former director of Harvard University’s Urban Superintendents Program who led the review team.
New Madison schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, a graduate of the Harvard program, organized the team of experts as part of her transition. She plans to consult their recommendations before releasing next month a set of specific strategies and 2013-14 budget proposal.
According to the team’s analysis, students need to be at the top of the “power pyramid” rather than district administration, with the focused goal of turning out graduates ready to attend college or start a career.
Central office administrators need to spend more time in the classroom and cut down on new programs that contribute to what teachers call “initiative fatigue.”
Principals should have more input into hiring a more diverse staff. Teachers need more focused professional development. And all district employees need specific goals that can be measured and used to hold them accountable.
Students also need “demand parents” who take an active role, not only in school bake sales and sports, but in understanding the curriculum and educational goals for their students.
“Resources even in this environment can be brought to bear from existing dollars to your more focused set of goals and activities, rather than supporting proliferation of those activities,” Peterkin told the Madison School Board on Monday night.
Cheatham said the review team had not taken a deep enough look at district finances to conclude that funding is available, but based on her assessment of the budget so far, she said the conclusion was “fairly accurate.”
“The recommendations from the transition team warrant a deep look at the central office organization and our allocation of resources,” she said.

The “Transition Team” Report (3MB PDF) and Superintendent Cheathem’s “Entry Plan” summary.
Madison’s disastrous long-term reading results.
Deja Vu: A Focus on “Adult Employment” or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.
Madison has long spent more per student than most districts. The most recent 2012-2013 budget, via a kind Donna Williams and Matthew DeFour email is $392,789,303 or $14,496.74 per student (27,095 students, including pre-k).

U.S. spends big on education, but results lag many nations: OECD

Stephanie Simon:

The United States is one of the world’s biggest spenders when it comes to education, but with much of the money flowing to the wealthiest students, the country is losing ground to other nations from pre-school through college, according to a report released on Tuesday on educational progress around the world.
The United States spends 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education from pre-kindergarten through the university level, according to the report, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The rate, which encompasses both public and private spending, is the fifth highest in the world. But the results don’t match the spending.
America used to have one of the highest college completion rates for young adults in the world. It has now dropped to 14th place, behind countries including Korea, Russia, Ireland and Canada, according to the OECD report .
The United States also falls behind in early childhood education. Just half of 3-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2011 compared with more than 90 percent in nations such as France, Italy and Norway, according to the report.

New generation of elite universities rises around the globe

Stephanie Simon:

Watch out Ivy League, there’s a new generation of elite universities on the rise around the globe, according to a new “100 Under 50” report from Times Higher Education magazine.
The report, published on Wednesday, ranks the best young universities – defined as those founded no more than 50 years ago – in categories including research prowess, student-to-faculty ratio and international reputation.
South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology came out on top. Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale of Lausanne ranked second, followed by another rising Asian star, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
Britain had 18 institutions in the top 100, more than any other nation. Other countries with strong showings included France, Spain and Taiwan.
Eight American institutions made the list – all of them public universities. Two University of California campuses, Irvine and Santa Cruz, cracked the top 15, as did the University of Texas at Dallas. Rounding out the list of U.S. upstarts: The University of Illinois at Chicago, George Mason University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Are You Smart Enough to Be a Citizen? Take Our Quiz

Eric Liu:

To become a citizen of the United States, naturalizing immigrants must take a test. Many native-born Americans would fail this test. Indeed, most of us have never really thought about what it means to be a citizen. One radical idea from the immigration debate is the repeal of birthright citizenship–guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment–to prevent so-called anchor babies. Odious and constitutionally dubious as this proposal may be, it does prompt a thought experiment: What if citizenship were not, in fact, guaranteed by birth? What if everyone had to earn it upon turning 18, and renew it every 10 years, by taking an exam? What might that exam look like?

The CIA Wants Your Kids

Micah Zenko:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is a sprawling network of roughly 210,000 civilian and military employees across seventeen agencies as well as approximately 30,000 private contractors. With a budget of $75 billion between the national and military intelligence programs, the IC is authorized to carry out a range of activities and programs, including monitoring suspected nuclear weapons programs, killing suspected terrorists, and analyzing ongoing events for everyone from President Obama to soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.
In an effort to counter some myths and misperceptions, create positive associations, and recruit future employees, eleven of the seventeen agencies of the IC have web pages dedicated to “kids,” which are equal parts informative, entertaining, creepy, and borderline inappropriate. (Beware that some of these pages have broken links, depriving American children fascinated by the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency.)
Most U.S. government agencies also have websites for children, which are intended to provide useful information in an entertaining format. For example, the Consumer Products Safety Commission features a self-described “goatboy!” named Kidd Safety: “I’m eleven years old and live in Goatlahoma. Don’t try to find it on a map. It is in the middle of nowheresville.” Kidd Safety emphasizes wearing safety gear during playtime, and gives tips on ways to make your home less dangerous. A related “Hey Kids!” page includes this daunting challenge for young children: “Find out how to help save lives and protect yourself and your family.”

GOP complaint: Poll tests possible gubernatorial run by Madison School Board Member Mary Burke

Matthew DeFour

A Democratic poll testing gubernatorial candidates asks respondents their opinions about Madison School Board member Mary Burke, a complaint with state regulators says.
In one of the strongest signs yet that Madison School Board member Mary Burke is considering a run against Gov. Scott Walker in November 2014, a polling firm is apparently testing her favorability rating among potential voters.
The poll came to light Tuesday after the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board regarding a telephone poll that included questions about the former Trek Bicycle executive and Commerce Secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
The Associated Press also reported Tuesday that online records show that on June 12, the day before the poll was conducted, six Internet domain names that point toward a Burke candidacy were registered anonymously, including: Burkeforwisconsin.org, Burkeforwisconsin.com, Maryburke.org, Burkeforgovernor.com, and Burkeforgovernor.org.
Burke did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The GOP complaint, filed against Burke and the state Democratic Party, alleges a telephone pollster asked questions about Burke and whether certain statements would influence the respondent’s vote.

The PDF complaint (1.2MB).
Not much, if anything has changed within our public schools over the past year that Mary has been on the Board. There is plenty to do, starting with the District’s long-term, disastrous reading scores.

Chinese students and families fight for the right to cheat their exams

Malcolm Moore:

Beijing: What should have been a hushed scene of 800 Chinese students sitting their university entrance exams erupted into siege warfare after invigilators tried to stop them cheating.
The relatively small city of Zhongxiang in Hubei province has always performed suspiciously well in China’s tough ”gaokao” exams, winning a disproportionate number of places at the country’s elite universities.
We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.
Last year, the city was cautioned by the province’s education department after it discovered 99 identical papers in one subject.
This year, a pilot scheme was introduced to enforce the rules.
When students at the No.3 high school in Zhongxiang arrived to sit their exams this month, they were dismayed to find that they would be supervised by 54 randomly selected external invigilators.
The invigilators used metal detectors to relieve students of mobile phones and secret transmitters, some of them designed to look like pencil erasers.
A team of female invigilators was on hand to intimately search female examinees, the Southern Weekend newspaper reported.

Charter Schools Receive a Passing Grade: Overall Reading Gains Stronger Than on Regular Public Campuses, but Results Vary Widely by State

Stephanie Banchero:

Students attending publicly funded, privately run charter schools posted slightly higher learning gains overall in reading than their peers in traditional public schools and about the same gains in math, but the results varied drastically by state, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of U.S. charter schools.
The study [PDF], published Tuesday by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter students in Rhode Island, for example, gained the equivalent of an additional 86 days of reading comprehension and 108 days of math comprehension annually compared with peers in traditional public schools. In Nevada, however, charter students had 115 fewer days of learning in reading and 137 fewer in math annually, the study found.
Overall, the new study found that charter students gained an additional eight days of reading, while the math gains were identical. Low-income Hispanic and African-American students did much better in charters than their peers in the traditional school option, while white children did worse in charters.
The researchers and some charter proponents said the results suggest some states need to be more particular about which groups they award charters, and more aggressive about shutting low-performers.

Center for Research on Education Outcomes Press Release:

According to the 26-state study:

  • Students in poverty, black students, and those who are English language learners (ELL) gain significantly more days of learning each year in both reading and math compared to their traditional public school peers. Performance differences between charter school students and their traditional public school peers were especially strong among black and Hispanic students in poverty and Hispanic students who are ELL in both reading and math.
  • Charter school enrollment has grown among students who are in poverty, black students, and Hispanic students.
  • The 11 new states added marginally to the mathematics gains seen since the 2009 study, but more so to gains in reading.

More from Stephanie Simon.
Related:One year in, Oconomowoc High School staff, students adjusting to change and May, 2012: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
A majority of Madison school board members rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in 2012.
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading scores.

University of Michigan looks to out-of-state students to subsidize low in-state tuition increase

Kellie Woodhouse:

University of Michigan has adopted its lowest in-state tuition increase in three decades — and it’s doing so in part by putting an additional cost burden on out-of-state students.
During a public meeting Thursday afternoon, the school’s eight-member governing board in a 6-2 vote approved a 1.1 percent increase for underclassmen residents, bringing the in-state rate to $13,142, and a 3.2 percent increase for out-of-staters, bringing the non-resident rate to $40,392 for freshmen and sophomores.
“The people of Michigan have made an investment in the university over a long period of time and I think that creates an equity that makes it fairer to do what we can to make in-state tuition go up at a slower rate than out-of-state,” U-M regent Larry Dietch said in an interview. “And the data would indicate, at least at this point, that there is elasticity in terms of the demand from out-of-state and the ability of people to pay.”

Putting your own kids at risk for an ideal Advice from a parent already trying to lead a ‘textured life’

Esther Cepeda:

In his revealing book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” Charles Murray spends hundreds of pages using statistics to illustrate the rising inequality that is increasingly putting the white working class on the path toward generational poverty.
Murray concludes by suggesting that the “new upper class” — which increasingly is cloistered in pockets of rich, highly educated super-neighborhoods — move into the communities of “regular” people.
“Age-old human wisdom has understood that a life well lived requires engagement with those around us,” writes Murray, who himself lives in what he describes as an increasingly troubled “blue-collar and agricultural region of Maryland.”
He closes: “A civic Great Awakening among the new upper class can arise in part from the renewed understanding that it can be pleasant to lead a glossy life, but it is ultimately more rewarding — and more fun — to lead a textured life, and be in the midst of others who are leading textured lives.”
Murray’s invocation sprung to mind a few weeks ago as I was reading stay-at-home dad Andy Hinds’ “Why I Want to Choose the ‘Disadvantaged’ Local School (and Why I Might Not)” on The New York Times’ “Motherlode” blog.
Hinds describes the gut-wrenching choice he has to make about whether to put his “mixed-race, socioeconomically advantaged, English-proficient twin girls” into the good school where his neighbors’ kids go or into the troubled school only a five-minute walk from his home. His idealism makes him wonder if he and a group of caring, motivated parents could change a school with 100% poverty and a predominantly Hispanic student body. Ultimately, such participation could make a difference for the whole community.

New state budget continues to support some bad voucher schools

Alan Borsuk:

It’s been an excellent state budget season for lousy voucher schools.
Of course, it’s been an excellent budget season for all private schools that want public financial support — statewide expansion of vouchers, tax deductions for those who pay tuition to elementary and high schools, big jumps in state payments for each voucher student a year from now, some last-minute helpful surprises.
But the lousy operators must be feeling especially good. Why? Because nothing was done to drive them to improve or stop taking state money. Come this fall, a cluster of low performing, poorly run voucher schools will still enroll thousands of kids and take millions of dollars in state money.
Even the most adamant voucher supporters agree that there are schools in Milwaukee that don’t merit public support. There is a large range of quality among the 110+ schools that take voucher students. Some are excellent, many are of average quality. And some really stand out when it comes to being bad.
Somehow, a solution that promotes quality and responsible use of public money seems off the table in Wisconsin.
I regard myself as one of the few people on Earth who has no pro or con position on vouchers. A professional obligation — I’m neutral. But I’ve followed the program closely for 15 years and visited something around 100 voucher schools. I’m not neutral when it comes to quality.

Do we apply the same governance standards to all publicly funded schools?

A Wretched Defense of the Humanities

Peter Wood:

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has just issued the Heart of the Matter, a 61-page report (plus appendices) aimed at persuading Congress to spend more money on the humanities. This is one of the report’s immediate goals, phrased of course in the financial imperative, “Increase investment in research and discovery.” The report as a whole is presented as a response to a “bipartisan request from members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives” in 2010. The American Academy took up this request and appointed a 54-member commission to figure out what “actions” are needed to “maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship.”
Let’s see. That works out to 1.1296 pages of report per commissioner. Many of the commissioners also appear in a 7-minute accompanying video, which begins with the actor (and commissioner) John Lithgow explaining that the humanities are the “beautiful flower” at the end of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math.) With a piano softly playing Christian Sinding’s Rustles of Spring in the background and a camera exploring the petals of a yellow gerbera, Lithgow continues, “Without the blossom, the stem is completely useless.” Cut to George Lucas, Rustling Spring pianissimo: “The sciences are the how and the humanities are thewhy.” Cut to the Milky Way with Lucas’s voiceover, segueing to architect Billie Tsien, “The measurable is what we know and the immeasurable is what the heart searches for.”

76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck

CNN Money:

Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.

The solution to US public schools is not corporate America

Daniel Denvir:

America’s K-12 schools are being hollowed out, dismantled and converted to private management. It’s the ultimate outsourcing of our children’s futures.
In Philadelphia, one of America’s largest school districts, layoff notices were recently delivered to 3,859 teachers, aides, administrators and other staff. In Chicago, 850 teachers and staff are being let go. Nationwide, a staggering 335,100 teachers and other local public school jobs have been lost from June 2009 to May 2013, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
It’s easy to blame those layoffs on the sour economy, but that’s only part of the story. The education “reform” movement, a code for privatizing schools, has been using the economic crisis to push its agenda. After the public schools have their budgets and staff cut, private management companies offer to come in and save the day.

The Heart of Texas: Why Colleges Admit the Way They Do

Louis Menand:

The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit, which had earlier ruled in the University’s favor, with instructions to give “strict scrutiny” to the admissions policy–that is, to investigate whether the (legitimate) educational goal of racial diversity could not be achieved by a race-neutral admissions process. The vote was 7-1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the only one to uphold the Fifth Circuit’s decision. Justices Scalia and Thomas said that they would have gone further and voted to overturn the precedent on which U.T. relied, a case called Grutter v. Bollinger, decided in 2003. (Justice Kagan recused herself.)
Grutter concerned the admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School. In an opinion by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court affirmed Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion for the Court in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in 1978.
Powell said that setting racial quotas (as done by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine, to which Allan Bakke, who was white, had applied) is unconstitutional, but that race may be counted as a “plus” factor in college and university admissions. Powell cited the “Harvard plan,” a statement of holistic application evaluation adopted by the admissions office at Harvard University, where I teach, as a constitutional model.

Summary of UW System Teacher Preparation in Early Reading and Struggling Reader Curricula

National Council On Teacher Quality: Teacher Prep Report, June, 2013 (PDF) and National Council On Teacher Quality: Teacher Prep Details, June, 2013 (PDF):

via a kind Wisconsin Reading Coalition email:

Earlier this week we provided a link to the teacher preparation report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality. We have pulled out the ratings for UW system schools in the areas of preparing teachers to teach early reading and struggling readers.
On the summary attachment, you can see which five schools scored zero stars for early reading, which 2 schools scored 1 star, which two schools scored 3 stars, and which school received the maximum 4 stars. You can also see which two schools scored 4 stars in the area of struggling readers, and which 10 schools received zero stars.
On the detail attachment, you can read the NCTQ comments on why each school received certain scores.

Much more on the recently released NCTQ teacher quality study, here.
Related: Teacher Training’s Low Grade.

The soft sciences matter as much as ever

James Cuno:

A report released this week bears out what many educators have been predicting: Amid rising college tuition, increased global economic competition and a job market that disproportionately rewards graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, students are seeking degrees in what they and, indeed, many in our nation view as lucrative business and hard-science disciplines. The study is from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, on which I serve.
Some institutions have responded by cutting budgets in the arts and humanities and directing those funds elsewhere. That’s the wrong thing to do. The humanities — the study of languages, literature, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, comparative religion, ethics, social sciences — and the arts are vital to our future. We should be investing more funds, more time and more expertise, not less, into these endeavors.
What detractors of the “soft” subjects miss is that the arts and humanities provide an essential framework and context for understanding the wider world. Studying the humanities strengthens the ability to communicate and work with others. It allows students to develop broad intellectual and cultural understanding; it nurtures creativity and deepens participation in public discourse and modern democracy.

Seattle Superintendent Evaluation

Seattle Schools:

Each year, the Board of Directors performs a formal evaluation of the Superintendent’s performance. The evaluation is based upon goals adopted by the School Board in November 2012.
These evaluation criteria focus on five areas:
Hire, Develop and Strengthen Leaders: Teacher/Principal and Central Staff evaluations; Hire quality leadership to fill vacant positions; professional development
Raising expectations and improving academic performance and opportunities of all students: narrow achievement gaps, growth for English Language Learners; implementation of Common Core State Standards;
Building relationships with selected stakeholders to connect them to our schools: Family engagement, Labor Partners and community based organizations.
Governance Team Priorities and Areas of Continuing Emphasis: Develop a plan for BEX IV and EP&O levies; a framework and process for collective bargaining; bring professional growth and Evaluation system to scale; develop community outreach for the strategic plan; develop the Equitable Access Framework; develop student support strategies; expand the transparency of district decision-making
Core Competencies: Collaboration; Getting Results, Decision Quality and Problem Solving, Integrity, Accountability, and Fiscal Responsibility
The Superintendent was evaluated based upon the agreed on evaluation criteria. The Superintendent issued a report to the Board, which is attached, detailing performance during the last year.
The District retained Robin Boehler, of Mercer Island Group, to facilitate the evaluation process. Ms. Boehler interviewed each Director, as well as the key senior staff.
The evaluation ratings of Mr. Banda were evaluated using a numeric rating system. These are the same ratings used for classified employees in the District. The ratings were made using a five point rating system with a numeric rating of five as “Outstanding”; four is described as “Exceeds Expectations”, three is described as “Meets Expectations”, two is “Below Expectations” and one is “Unsatisfactory”.

Melissa Westbrook has more.

Reflections on teaching 11 year old girls web development

Asha Elizabeth Gupta:

I spent the past 7 weeks teaching middle school girls to build websites as part of an after school program, CodeEd.
We didn’t teach anything too fancy, just basic HTML. Our goal was to introduce girls to the wonderful world of programming and technology and dispell some common myths: programming isn’t scary or impossibly hard, and programming can be creative and expressive.
We took a project-based approach: the girls spent their time building a site on any topic their heart desired, which this semester, turned out to be music, fashion, cats and Sims FreePlay.
Here’s what surprised me:
1. helloworld.html BLOWS THEIR MIND (creating an html file with a silly sentence and then seeing it in their browser). I think the realization is twofold: “whoa the internet is actually just made by people writing text in files”, and “whoa, this is something that I can do”. One girl immediately exclaimed,”Oh I’m going to show my mom that. She won’t believe it.”

Wisconsin Private Schools Consider Whether to Join Voucher System

Matthew DeFour:

“If you have 10 students on vouchers in your school, are the test scores for those 10 going to be used for a report card when you’ve got 200 or 300 in your school?” Lancaster said.
The Legislature has yet to introduce a bill that would bring private voucher schools into the state’s public school accountability system, though the budget requires those schools to receive report cards a year after linking to the state’s student information system.
Walker said earlier this year he hoped to sign a bill with the details before the budget passed, which won’t happen. His office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he expects legislators to make progress on a proposal this summer and pass a bill during the next fall or spring session.
Lancaster said many schools were concerned about paying $900 to sign up for the program, only to not make the top 25. Last week the Assembly addressed that concern with a budget amendment that ensures the registration fee would be reimbursed to schools that don’t make the cut.
Some schools in the rural and suburban parts of the diocese don’t expect to have large enough low-income student populations to make it into the top 25, Lancaster said.

Much more on vouchers, here.

North Korean schools in Japan

The Economist:

A TOKYO schoolyard is an unlikely venue to find North Korea’s red star fluttering in the wind. Children inside the Tokyo Korean Middle and High School study textbooks in Korean beneath portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. When classes end, the girls shed their traditionaljeogori dresses for anonymous teenage clothes and blend back into the city.
This school and around 70 more like it in Japan are an unusual legacy of Japan’s difficult relationship with Korea. Large numbers of Koreans came or were brought to Japan during the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1905 and 1945. At the end of the second world war, about 700,000 of them stayed on rather than return to their homeland, which was by then sliding into the Korean war that would split the country into two bitterly opposed states. They were stateless for 20 years until 1965 when Japan recognised South Korea, at which point Koreans in Japan could become South Korean. Those who didn’t became North Korean by default and went to North Korean schools. The schools are an accident of history, often more about continuing a connection to the homeland than about ideological indoctrination.

The Decline and Fall of the English Major

Verlyn Klinkenborg:

In the past few years, I’ve taught nonfiction writing to undergraduates and graduate students at Harvard, Yale, Bard, Pomona, Sarah Lawrence and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t.
They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them — no.
That kind of writing — clear, direct, humane — and the reading on which it is based are the very root of the humanities, a set of disciplines that is ultimately an attempt to examine and comprehend the cultural, social and historical activity of our species through the medium of language.
The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times. So says a new report on the state of the humanities by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and so says the experience of nearly everyone who teaches at a college or university. Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.

In Dallas, 3-Year High School Diploma Would Expand Preschool

Morgan Smith:

The senior year of high school, a time when students sometimes seem more focused on social pursuits than academics, may soon be a thing of the past for some Texas students.
Dallas Independent School District, the state’s second largest, is developing a voluntary three-year high school diploma plan that is likely to start in the 2014-15 school year and would funnel cost savings to finance prekindergarten.
A bill passed in the recently concluded legislative session, sponsored by two Dallas Democrats, Representative Eric Johnson and Senator Royce West, will allow the district to use savings that occur when students in the new plan graduate early. Under current Texas law, districts get state funding on a per-pupil basis, and the Dallas I.S.D. would have lost state aid for a senior year for students who graduated early.
“It’s a way to start thinking about the system differently,” said Mike Morath, the Dallas district trustee who promoted the three-year concept. “Do we view education as schools and buildings and first grade and second grade and third grade? Or do we view education as a way to enrich the lives of young people, and do we start taking these institutional blinders off and thinking about it more creatively?”

The 4 arrows of education reform

Neerav Kingsland:

In my contribution to the AEI-coordinated book A Roadmap for Education Reform, I outlined how Recovery School Districts can accelerate the three primary strategies of Relinquishment: (1) letting educators operate schools (2) giving families choice amongst these schools and (3) promoting sound government regulation over performance and equity.
Writing this chapter got me thinking: What if we were to create a roadmap not for immediate implementation but to guide us over the next couple of decades? This train of thought was further spurred on by a conversation I had with Seth Andrew, founder of Democracy Prep – where Seth told me that he’s sold on Relinquishment but that we need more arrows in our quiver if we want to significantly increase student achievement. I, of course, agreed.
So, to answer Seth’s question, what are the other arrows? Or, to put it another way, if in thirty years the United States develops an improved educational system, how will this have occurred?
My best guess: It will because of the following Four Arrows.

Federal Workers Get Millions in Student Loan Relief

Paul Singer:

The perk was designed to make government jobs more appealing to those who might earn more in the private sector. But a debate is brewing about whether it’s due for the chopping block.
Congress may let student loan interest rates double July 1, but some federal workers and congressional staff likely are protected from the impact by a taxpayer-funded benefit that provided more than $20 million last year for them to pay down their college debts.
Congress created the benefit more than 10 years ago to make government jobs more appealing to job candidates who could get higher-paying jobs in the private sector. Meanwhile, a 2007 law that cut student loan interest rates in half will expire July 1, and Congress has been unable to reach a deal to extend it.
A review of congressional spending records by USA TODAY and the non-profit Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group, showed that the House of Representatives spent almost $15 million last year to pay down staffers’ student loans, while the Senate spent almost $6 million. Members of Congress are not eligible for the program.
Federal agencies — which provide more detailed information — spent about $72 million in 2011, the last year for which data are available, to pay down student loans for 10,134 federal workers.

The Future of Education Can Be Found in The (Really Distant) Past

Andre Plaut:

It’s time to retire the blackboards and go back to the town squares.
Over the last 30 years, the United States has increased education funding dramatically: from around $11 billion to $77 billion (source: Dept. of Education) but it seems like we’re no closer to figuring out a solution to bettering the quality of educational.
Nothing about education is straight-forward, even its origins. Education “began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770” says Dieter Lenzen (source: Wikipedia) and yet we’re still asking some fundamental questions about how to best approach it: how do you measure it? How do you scale it? Is it a right? Is it a privilege? How do people learn best?
The education field hasn’t changed much since its supposed origins in 1770, but technology has finally begun to shine its spotlight on those who seek a learning experience. The result has been a bloom of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), online learning tools, and so forth. But, I’m not sure if those hold the answer.

An Update on the Madison Schools’ Administrator Contracts

Robert Nadler (PDF):

The list of administrators who are receiving a non-extension of contract is extensive due to the decision to move from rolling two-year contracts to straight two-year contracts and the desire to have approximately half of the administrators on odd-year contracts and half on even-year contracts. Other than the normal one-year contracted administrators, volunteers were solicited from the group of administrators who would have normally received a one-year contract extension to accept a non- extension this year and then accept a two-year contract for 2014-16. After the volunteers were accounted for, a lottery was held.
There is a group of 33 administrators in their first two years of employment with the district who are on one-year contracts. These contracts were approved in January 2013 and are not reflected on the attached lists (REVISED Appendix 000-12-5).

Deja Vu: A Focus on “Adult Employment” or the Impossibility of Governance Change in the Madison Schools.

South Korea Tries to Curb Parents’ Education Spending

Cynthia Kim

Housewife Ahn Jee Eun began looking for a job to supplement her husband’s income after the cost of sending their twin 3-year-old daughters to preschool pushed the family’s bank account into the red. “My husband and I are spending about half of our income on education,” says Ahn, who pays more than 1.7 million won ($1,500) a month on tuition. Ahn says she’d rather spend less on groceries than pull her girls out of their exclusive kindergarten, where the other kids are from wealthy families and the mothers know which schools and tutors are the best.
In the latest quarter, private consumption in South Korea fell the most since the 2009 global recession. Heavy spending on schools and tutors had an impact. “The cost of education is the biggest contributor to the decline in household spending after household debt,” says Lee Ji Sun, an economist at the LG Economic Research Institute. “Worse, some are taking out new loans to pay for schooling.”
In mid-June, President Park Geun Hye set up a task force to scale back a common practice in Korean high schools: teaching material not required by national curriculum standards and thus forcing one high school student in five to seek help from private tutors. The Ministry of Education said on June 14 that out of 17,158 private schools or tutors investigated by regulators over the past three months, almost 1,900 had broken some or all of the rules regulating the fees parents pay for extra schooling, as well as the 10 p.m. curfew after which private schools and tutors cannot teach students.

LA to give every student an iPad; $30M order

Peter Svensson:

Los Angeles’ school system, the second largest in the United States, is ordering iPads for all its students, handing Apple a major success in its quest to make the tablet computer a replacement for textbooks.
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday approved the purchase of $30 million worth of iPads as the first part of a multi-year commitment. It found that the iPad was the least expensive option that met its specifications.
The initial order is for more than 31,000 iPads, Apple said. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more than 640,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The textbooks will be delivered through an application from Pearson, a major publisher, rather than through Apple’s own iBooks. Apple and its publisher partners launched a suite of textbooks for iBooks in early 2012.
According to biographer Walter Isaacson, changing the textbook market was a pet project of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, even in the last year of his life. At a dinner in early 2011, Jobs told News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch that paper textbooks could be made obsolete by the iPad. Jobs wanted to circumvent the state certification process for textbook sales by having Apple release textbooks for free on the tablet computer.

Pathway to success for Milwaukee schools

American Enterprise Institute & Wisconsin Policy Research Institute:

For Milwaukee schools to experience widespread improvement, fundamental changes must be made from top to bottom, Hess and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj write in “Roadmap for Education Reform in Wisconsin,” one of the project’s essays.
The eight other essays focus on:

  • New schools and innovative delivery
  • Rigorous quality control measures
  • Opportunities for creating a recovery school district
  • A comprehensive approach to talent management
  • Human capital strategy
  • Efficient management of financial capital
  • Robust research and development efforts
  • Effective governance and central management

Among the findings: Schools must be laboratories of innovation, not implementers of rigid rules and regulations; and they must do a better job of empowering their teachers to maximize their impact on students.
One reason decades of MPS “reform” have fallen short is that underlying systems, regulations, policies and practices have been difficult to eliminate or change – until now. At the end of June, for the first time in almost 50 years, the Milwaukee Public Schools will no longer be subject to collectively bargained union contracts. New powers given to the MPS school board, the approved statewide No Child Left Behind Waiver, and the significant market-share of non-traditional options puts Milwaukee in a unique position to enact positive change.
“Education leaders in city schools – traditional as well as choice and charter schools – have an opportunity here,” said Lightbourn. “But the ultimate power shaping the condition of Milwaukee schools is in the hands of the public that needs to hear a more persuasive case for both systemic and very specific change. This volume of research can help accomplish that.”
Read individual Pathway chapters here:

More, from Erin Richards: MPS needs more non-union charter schools, other reforms, report says

University of Minnesota Support for spatial research


Research universities create mountains of data, and more and more, that data is tethered to a place in the world. The world is, after all, spatial–and information is not an island.
The technology and field behind that spatial data are called Geographical Information Sciences (GIS). The University of Minnesota has embarked on a visionary endeavor, called U-Spatial, to develop a network to support spatial research across the University, in fields ranging from nursing to watershed restoration. By using expert consultants and providing training and support in spatial research, U-Spatial is making research more meaningful and usable to researchers and society. It’s also reducing redundancy in support for spatial science research.
A leader in GIS
For more than 50 years, the University of Minnesota has been a national and international leader in spatial research. The U helped create one of the first geographic information systems in the 1960s, and offered the first professional degree program in GIS in the United States. As the world makes the “spatial turn,” as some have called the GIS revolution, the U is the place to be.
More than Google Maps
GIS is growing, and it will play an ever-increasing role in the future. If you’ve used Google Maps, you’ve used an element of GIS, but it is much more than this. Society uses spatial data, for example, in responding to disease outbreaks or climate change, and in resource management, transportation, and more. The U.S. Department of Labor identifies spatial technology alongside nanotechnology and biotechnology as high growth industries in the 21st century.

Madison Schools’ Mental Health Task Force Recommendations

Nancy Yoder (PDF):

The Mental Health Task Force completed its work in May 2013, culminating in the development of a comprehensive vision and strategic roadmap entitled, The Plan for a School and Community Integrated Model for Children’s Mental Health in Madison. This plan embodies the collective vision and tireless work of hundred of individuals representing families, children and youth, policymakers, advocates and key systems including mental health, education, health, child welfare, violence prevention and juvenile justice. These groups recognize and support the need to prioritize the social emotional well-being of our children and ensure that all students have access to the mental health services they need to support the achievement of their full potential as healthy and contributing community members. This Plan is presented to the Board with the resounding support of the Task Force and offered as a springboard for moving forward the recommendations that have been created with a high level of collective energy, engagement and commitment.

3 Teachers, 3 Classrooms, Same Insight

Asha Elizabeth Gupta:

These three expert pedagogical experimenters,
Maria Montessori, Italian school teacher and founder of the teaching method by the same name,
Sugata Mitra, creator of the esteemed “Hole in the Wall” experiment and winner of the 2013 Ted Prize, and
Paul Anderson, a high school biology teacher, 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year, and creator of over 300 biology videos on Youtube, all speak of a similar insight about learning:
The need for exploratory learning environments, where students can tinker, investigate and discover central concepts for themselves.
Maria Montessori, spoke of the “Prepared Environment” that allows a child to discover concepts like reading, writing, colors and numbers. Her Sandpaper Letters are a wonderful example: each letter is cut from sandpaper and pasted on a smooth card. The tactile difference between the letter and the surrounding card acts as a natural writing guide for a kid. Kids are able to ‘discover’ the motion of writing on their own just by tracing the sandpapered letter with their finger.
Sugata Mitra’s Hole-in-the-wall is another example. Mitra setup computers in public places in impoverished neighborhoods in India and South Africa. Within weeks, children who had never touched a computer before were able to learn basic computer skills just by exploring the machine amongst themselves. No formal lessons required. Further, discovery and exploration is fun, so kids were self-motivated and dedicated to learning.

Feds investigating Durham school suspension rates

Jane Porter:

The federal government has begun investigating a complaint that Durham Public Schools suspends black and disabled students at disproportionately high rates, a group that filed the complaint said Thursday.
Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of UCLA filed the complaint against DPS in April with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
In the 2009-2010 school year, 14.1 percent of black students were suspended while 3.3 percent of white students were; 17 percent of disabled students were suspended while 8.4 percent of non-disabled students were, according to the complaint.
It describes the experiences of two students identified only as “N.B.” and “T.H.” Both are black and both spent years in DPS; both were suspended from school repeatedly.
“N.B.,” a 17-year-old student diagnosed with several mental health issues, wasn’t evaluated for her eligibility for special education and related services by DPS until she was well into high school. “T.H.” has been diagnosed with behavioral disabilities; instead of addressing those issues which the complaint says contributed to his falling behind in school, “(his school) responded punitively with out-of-school suspension.”

iPads in Los Angeles & TCO

Larry Cuban:

One of the downsides of raising questions about the classroom effectiveness of new technologies is when a school district buys tablets and laptops, journalists call to ask for my view of the purchases.
That happened yesterday when the Board of Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)-the second largest school system in the nation-approved a $30 million contract with Apple Inc. to buy iPads for every student in 47 schools in the first phase of a district-wide plan to have 655,000 students equipped with tablets. Funds for these iPads come from two bond referenda aimed at construction and maintenance of facilities in LAUSD.
Called The Common Core Technology Project, each iPad costs the district $678, higher than the price of an iPad bought in an Apple store, but it comes with a case (no keyboard, however) and an array of pre-loaded software aimed at preparing students for the impending Common Core standards and the state online testing system. The Board of Education and Superintendent John Deasy want each student to have access to an iPad. With mostly Latino and poor students in LAUSD, the eventual cost of this contract with Apple Inc. could run over $400 million.

Improving the Quality, Efficiency and Access to Basic Education in Djibouti

The World Bank:

Djibouti is one of the poorest countries in the world, where roughly 74 percent live below the poverty line and 42.2 percent suffer from extreme poverty. The country also has some of the lowest enrollment (39 percent) and illiteracy rates (70 percent) in the world, with women comprising 85 percent of the illiterate population. Although some encouraging progress had been achieved under Projet d’Amélioration d’Accès aux Écoles (PAAE I), Djibouti’s education system continued to face serious challenges that called into question the country’s ability to achieve the education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Despite the government’s effort to expand access, demand still outpaced supply, and the quality of education continued to face persistent issues, such as a shortage of qualified teachers, outdated pedagogic modules, insufficient numbers of textbooks, high repetition and dropout rates, and overcrowded classrooms. Finally, in spite of the substantial government budget allocation to the education sector (6.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004), there was little financial margin to improve education quality.
The objectives of the Second School Access and Improvement Projectawere increasing access to basic education equitably, improving the quality of education and increasing the efficiency of the education system, which were integral parts of the Government of Djibouti’s master plan. The project was divided into three main components with the following objectives: 1) increase student enrollment and retention with a special focus on girls and children with special needs, and provide adequate facilities for them to complete primary education; 2) improve the quality of education service provision so that it would be conducive to quality learning and teaching, and help reduce repetition and dropout rates; and 3) improve the management of the education system for a more efficient utilization of sector resources.

Montana leads nation in increasing college grads with 2-year degrees

Associated Press:

President Barack Obama set a goal early in his first term for the U.S. to turn out more college graduates than any other nation, but there hasn’t been much progress as most states have stumbled in their attempts to improve.
Montana, however, stands apart.
By investing in junior colleges, the Treasure State boasts a 6 percent rise in adult graduation rates over a span where the rest of the country showed an increase of less than 1 percent, according to census data.
Montana, and the nation, still has a long way to go to accomplish the president’s objective by his 2020 deadline. It would take roughly a 50 percent increase in graduation rates to hit Obama’s target. Meanwhile, the percentage of degree-holders has decreased in 15 states since the president’s 2009 announcement, and other states have seen only marginal bumps.

Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

John Horgan:

What’s the point of the humanities? Of studying philosophy, history, literature and “soft” sciences like psychology and poly sci? The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, consisting of academic, corporate, political and entertainment big shots, tries to answer this question in a big new report to Congress. The report is intended to counter plunging enrollment in and support for the humanities, which are increasingly viewed as “luxuries that employment-minded students can ill afford,” as The New York Times put it.
Titled “The Heart of the Matter,” the report states: “As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic–a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common. They are critical to a democratic society and they require our support.”
I find this a bit grandiose, and obscure. I have my own humble defense of the humanities, which I came up with a couple of years ago, when I started teaching a new course required for all freshmen at Stevens Institute of Technology. The syllabus includes Sophocles, Plato, Thucydides, Shakespeare, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, William James, Freud, Keynes, Eliot–you know, Greatest Hits of Western Civilization.

Wisconsin DPI & Data Politics

Jason Stein:

In the most recent release of schools data by DPI, the agency gave the information to the media ahead of time — a practice known as an embargo that gives journalists time to properly digest the data with an agreement not to publish until a certain deadline.
But DPI highlighted all the voucher students’ scores against all the Milwaukee Public Schools’ students scores, instead of separating out the scores of low-income MPS students and comparing only those to the voucher students. That data was not included in the initial release. As a result, it was not included in the stories that the media initially wrote about the results, but was addressed in follow-up stories.
The DPI said the income limit was moot because of a GOP-led law change that allowed more mixed-income children to use vouchers, meaning it was fair to compare all the students in voucher schools to all the children in public schools. Voucher advocates said DPI had an agenda and made their students’ scores appear lower than they would have been against those of only the low-income MPS students.
Other data that can be requested from DPI about voucher schools include: school policies, accreditation status, hours of instruction, the number of applications they have accepted and not accepted, their waiting list numbers, application numbers and payment amounts.

“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”

Entry Plan Report summarizes strengths, challenges, and planning efforts

Madison Times:

After two months on the job, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has released a report summarizing what she’s learned during her entry process and previewing the district’s planning work going forward.
“I’d like to thank our staff, parents, students and the Madison community for helping me build a shared understanding of our district’s strengths and challenges,” Cheatham said. “The work ahead will take urgency, determination and tenacity, but my experience over the past two months has made me so confident because I know that all of the ingredients for success are here in Madison.”
Over the past two months, Superintendent Cheatham has visited all 48 MMSD schools, as well as several after-school programs, alternative programs, community early childhood care and education centers, and the district’s alternative high school. Each visit included a meeting with teachers and staff, classroom observations and a meeting with the principal and members of their leadership team. In high schools, visits also included discussions with students and culminated in community meetings. The superintendent also met with parents, elected officials, community leaders, university partners, religious leaders, business leaders and union leaders.

Much more, here.

Stronger teacher preparation needed to improve schools

Gloria Romero:

We Californians like to think our state is the national leader in policy change and innovation, that new ideas are born here and other states follow our lead.
In one area, I am sad to say, that is not the case.
California is short-selling too many of its public school students because of education programs that inadequately prepare the next generation of teachers. A new review from the National Council on Teacher Quality that evaluates educational institutions, state by state, produced some sobering results for anyone who cares about what’s going on inside California schools of education.
Among the more disturbing findings from the institutions that provided data:

  • Half of 72 programs for elementary school preparation failed the evaluation, a higher failure rate than programs in any other state.
  • California’s secondary certification structure combined with inadequate coursework requirements, particularly in the sciences and social sciences, showed that only 17 percent of programs adequately prepared secondary teaching candidates in core subjects. That compared with 34 percent nationally.
  • Coursework in a majority (63 percent) of California elementary programs did not mention a single strategy for teaching reading to English language learners.
  • Of the 139 elementary and secondary programs that were evaluated on a four-star rating system, 33 programs earned no stars and only three earned as many as three. Not a single program earned four stars.

Related: Richard Askey: Examinations for Teachers Past and Present:

I have written about the problem in mathematics and hope that some others will use the resouces which exist to write about similar problems in other areas.
In his American Educational Research Association Presidential Address, which was published in Educational Researcher in 1986, Lee Shulman introduced the phrase “pedagogical content knowledge”. This is a mixture of content and knowing how to teach this content and is the one thing from his speech which has been picked up by the education community. However, there are a number of other points which he made which are important. Here is an early paragraph from this speech:

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Round and Round Way: Federal waver from waver for State Teacher Evaluation Systems…

Andrew Rotherham

It’s starting to look like Tommy James and the Shondells might be the new theme music over at the Department of Education. Federal elementary and secondary education policy, already a barely cohesive mess because of the Administration’s waiver program, just got even more complicated. Yesterday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that – if they apply for a waiver from their existing waiver – states can delay consequences for their new teacher evaluation systems until the 2016-2017 school year. He also announced a sensible step to avoid double-testing of students during the transition from existing assessments to new ones as part of Common Core implementation. Although critics are understandably jumping all over them for the waiver waivers, the Administration’s plan is not entirely indefensible because it’s aimed at a real issue. But it is quite problematic. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
– This is a big political win for AFT President Randi Weingarten. It’s not her moratorium per se but it’s awfully close and does hit the pause button on the issue that matters most to her members. And while state chiefs like Tony Bennett in Florida are already saying they won’t apply for a waiver waiver, many chiefs are going to face a lot of political pressure to do so. As you might expect there was a lot of behind the scenes back and forth on this and some state leaders worried this step would pull the rug out from under them. The Department is hoping that the September 30 deadline for applying for a waiver wavier will help stem the tide but the pressure will be intense.

The Glaring Hypocrisy of the NCTQ Teacher Prep Institution Ratings

Bruce Baker:

But, given that NCTQ has just come out with their really, really big new ratings of teacher preparation institutions… with their primary objective of declaring teacher prep by traditional colleges and universities in the U.S. a massive failure, I figured I should once again revisit why the NCTQ ratings are, in general, methodologically inept & vacuous and more specifically wholly inconsistent with NCTQ’s own primary emphasis that teacher quality and qualifications matter perhaps more than anything else in schools and classrooms.
The debate among scholars and practitioners in education as to whether a good teacher is more important than a good curriculum, or vice versa, is never-ending. Most of us who are engaged in this debate lean one way or the other. Disclosure – I lean in favor of the “good teacher” perspective. Those with labor economics background or interests tend to lean toward the good teacher importance, and perhaps those with more traditional “education” training lean toward the importance of curriculum. I’m grossly oversimplifying here (perhaps opening a can of worms that need not be opened). Clearly, both matter.
I would argue that NCTQ has historically leaned toward the idea that the “good teacher” trumps all – but for their apparent newly acquired love of the Common Core Standards.
Now here’s the thing – if the content area expertise of elementary and secondary classroom teachers and the selectivity and rigor of their preparation matters most of all – how is it that at the college and university level, faculty substantive expertise (including involvement in rigorous research pertaining to the learning sciences, and specifically pertaining to content areas) is completely irrelevant to the quality of institutions that prepare teachers? That just doesn’t make sense.

Much more, here.

Unpaid Internship? Some Colleges Pick Up the Tab

Melissa Korn:

The plight of the unpaid intern is improving. Not because businesses are paying more for summer helpers, but because colleges are stepping in to pay when companies can’t, or won’t, compensate student hires.
Schools have long granted stipends for stints in nonprofits and the arts, where unpaid labor is common, but now they are paying the way for students to work at profit-making enterprises, including a New York money-management firm, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm and even a General Motors Co. GM -0.32% plant.
Colleges’ job-placement rates have come under intense scrutiny as cost-conscious families, stung by rapidly rising tuition, want proof that universities can deliver on both academic and career fronts.

Tenure’s Fourth Rail

Colleen Flaherty:

Collegiality can be a dirty word in higher education — particularly in regard to tenure or promotion, where it frequently becomes a catchall for likability and other subjective qualities that some faculty advocates say can be used to punish departmental dissenters. But two researchers are trying – through data-based definitions and metrics – to sanitize collegiality enough for it to be a viable, fourth criterion in personnel decisions.
In academic departments, “what we want is productive dissent,” Robert Cipriano, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of recreation of leisure studies at Southern Connecticut State University, and author of Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education: Strategies for Success, said during the American Association of University Professors’ annual meeting Thursday (where their push to formalize the role of collegiality in faculty employment decisions drew some skepticism from the assembled professors). “As passionate as the discussion is, it has to be respectful. You go to lunch and it’s over.”

NYU’s ‘Toxic’ Expansion Prioritizes Marketing Over Debt-Saddled Students, Professors Say

Ben Hallman:

n a time of growing alarm over soaring student loan debt, New York University — which graduates the most indebted classes of students in the country — has embarked on an ambitious real estate expansion that could make the school even more expensive.
A vocal group of professors has mounted a rebellion aimed at halting the university’s plans, which call for the addition of 6 million square feet of new space over the next two decades. NYU’s administration has refused to publicly disclose the cost, but faculty critics point to estimates that the build-out could run several billion dollars.
“The situation is so toxic right now,” said Adam Becker, an associate professor of religious studies at the university, and a member of the faculty opposition movement. “People are angry at the place. We feel like we have been pushed into the corner.”
Like many of its students, NYU will need to finance its ambitions through borrowing. The plan’s critics argue that these costs will surely get passed along to future classes in the form of higher tuition and less financial aid.
“I think they should put more money back into scholarships for students instead of expanding,” said Sashika Gunawardana, who graduated from NYU in 2012 with about $150,000 in student loans.

Wisconsin Leglislative Fiscal Bureau Budget Memo on Fund 80 and School Related Changes

Bob Lang, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (PDF):

Prohibit a district from levying more for community service activities in 2013-14 and 2014- 15 than it did in the most recent year preceding 2013-14 in which the district levied for those activities. Provide that if a district wishes to exceed the limit on the community service levy, the school board could adopt a resolution to exceed the limit by a specified amount and submit the resolution to the electors of the district for approval. Specify that the limit otherwise applicable to the district would be increased by the amount approved by a majority of those voting on the question.
Under ASA 1, a school district would be prohibited from levying more for community service activities in 2013-14 and 2014-15 than it did in 2012-13.
Specify that under the ~xpandedchoice program outside of Milwaukee and Racine, a private school would be required to give preference to a pupil who satisfies either of the following: (a) the pupil was enrolled in a public school in the school district in the previous year and is applying to attend the school in grades 2 through 8 or 10 through 12; or (b) the pupil was not enrolled in school in the previous school year.
Under current law, choice schools must select pupils on a random basis, except that they may give preference in accepting applications to siblings of pupils selected on a random basis. Under ASA 1, schools would be allowed to give preference in accepting applications to any of the following: (a) pupils who attended the school under the choice program during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made; (b) siblings of pupils who attended the school during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made and to siblings of pupils who have been accepted to the school for the school year for which the application is being made; and (c) pupils who attended another school under a parental choice program during the school year prior to the school year for which the application is being made.
Require DPI, when publicly releasing data related to, but not limited to, enrollment of, standardized test results for, applications submitted by, waiting lists for, and other information related to pupils participating in or seeking to participate in parental choice programs, to release the data all at the same time, uniformly, and completely. Provide that DPI may selectively release portions of the information specified above only to the following: (a) the school district or an individual school; and (b) an entity requesting the information for a specific participating school or the school district, provided that the entity is authorized to obtain official data releases for that school or the school district.
Modify current law that specifies that a teacher in a choice school have a bachelor’s degree, to also allow a degree or educational credential higher than a bachelor’s degree, including a masters or doctorate.

Big “take-aways” about teacher preparation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Elementary Teacher Prep Rating Distribution

Wisconsin Secondary Teacher Prep Rating Distribution

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Highly rated programs — The undergraduate secondary program at the University of Wisconsin – Stout is on the Teacher Prep Review’s Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars. Across the country, NCTQ identified 21 elementary programs (4 percent of those rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.
Selectivity in admissions — The Review found that 32 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Wisconsin restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. Countries where students consistently outperform the U.S. typically set an even higher bar, with teacher prep programs recruiting candidates from the top third of the college-going population.
Some worry that increasing admissions requirements will have a negative effect on the diversity of teacher candidates. By increasing the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher preparation the profession will attract more talent, including talented minorities. This is not an impossible dream: 83 programs across the country earn a Strong Design designation on this standard because they are both selective and diverse, although no such programs were found in Wisconsin.
Early reading instruction — Just 25 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Wisconsin are preparing teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, an even lower percentage than the small minority of programs (29 percent) providing such training nationally. The state should find this especially alarming given that Wisconsin now requires elementary teacher candidates to pass one of the most rigorous tests of scientifically based reading instruction in the country.
Elementary math — A mere 19 percent of evaluated elementary programs nationwide provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics, training that mirrors the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore and South Korea. 25 percent of the evaluated elementary programs in Wisconsin provide such training.
Student teaching — Of the evaluated elementary and secondary programs in Wisconsin, 58 percent entirely fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. 71 percent of programs across the country failed this standard.
Content preparation — None of Wisconsin’s elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation, compared to 11 percent of elementary programs nationwide. At the high school level, 23 percent of Wisconsin secondary programs earn four stars for content preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide. The major problem at the secondary level is that programs’ requirements for general science or general social science certifications do not ensure that candidates are prepared in the content of every subject they will be licensed to teach, since the states licensing test requirements do not provide this assurance.
Outcome data — None of the evaluated programs in Wisconsin earn four stars for collecting data on their graduates, compared to 26 percent of evaluated programs in the national sample. In the absence of state efforts to connect student achievement data to teacher preparation programs, administer surveys of graduates and employers or require administration of teacher performance assessments (TPAs), programs that fare poorly on this standard have not taken the initiative to collect any such data on their own.

Related: “Transparency Central” National Review of Education Schools and Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review.
Erin Richards

  • Some of the education programs in Eau Claire, Platteville, River Falls, La Crosse and Madison received between two and two and a half stars.
  • Other programs in Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior and Whitewater received between one and one and a half stars.
  • About 1 in 3 teacher training programs reviewed restrict admission to the top half of the college-going population.
  • About 1 in 4 elementary education programs reviewed prepare teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction
  • About 1 in 4 elementary ed programs reviewed provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics. That’s better than the national average of 19% of elementary education programs that offer strong math prep.
  • No Wisconsin programs evaluated earned any credit for collecting data on their graduates, compared with 26% of programs that did so in the national sample.

Nationally, more than 200,000 candidates graduate from teacher preparation programs each year, then enter systems where teacher quality has long been a point of debate.

Finally, Wisconsin recently adopted Massachusett’s elementary teacher content knowledge licensing (English only, not math) requirements beginning in 2014 (MTEL).

More US Schools Go International

Stephanie Banchero & Caroline Porter:

An educational curriculum that originally catered to the children of globe-trotting diplomats is making rapid inroads in K-12 public schools across the U.S., boosting test results and academic readiness even at inner-city schools.
An educational curriculum designed for the children of globetrotting diplomats is making rapid inroads in K-12 schools across the U.S., showing surprising improvements in test results and academic readiness even at inner-city schools. Caroline Porter has details.
Houston, Chicago, Tampa, Fla., and other cities are embracing the International Baccalaureate [SIS IB Link] program as a way to overhaul low-performing schools, attract middle-income families who might otherwise favor private schools, or offer more choice.
“It’s not a program for the elite,” said Samuel Sarabia, who runs the IB program for Houston Independent School District, where 10 schools have IB programs, including two where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Five more low-income schools are in the midst of an IB conversion process run by the nonprofit International Baccalaureate group.
The program began in Geneva in the 1960s as a two-year high-school diploma offering for the children of diplomats and itinerant business executives. It later expanded into elementary- and middle-school programs.
Today, there are 1,651 IB programs in the U.S.–including 1,493 public schools–up from 503 in 2003. About 90% of them are in public schools, and most are aimed at U.S. students, not the children of diplomats.
Officials tout the programs’ emphasis on critical thinking. Unlike the traditional model of teachers imparting knowledge in a lecture format, IB programs emphasize individual and group projects governed by a philosophy of “international mindedness.” Students are required to take a second language.

The Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school in 2012, largely sponsored by the local Urban League.

How Poor Students Subsidize Unworthy College Sports

Richard Vedder:

As parents and students struggle to keep up with rising college tuition and take on greater burdens of debt, universities are being challenged to justify the ballooning athletic fees they tack on to the bill.
In the 2010-11 academic year, the 227 public institutions in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association collected more than $2 billion in athletic fees from their students — or an average of more than $500 per enrollee — according to research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
These fees, which can exceed $1,000 a year, are often itemized as a “student activity” or “general” expense. That may explain why separate research, by David Ridpath of Ohio University, found that students were only dimly aware of the extent of the fees, and weren’t pleased once they found out how much they were paying.
Worse yet, institutions with high proportions of poorer students carrying substantial education debt appeared to be charging the highest fees. While all students must pay the costs of maintaining athletic programs, few actually benefit from the services they subsidize. In this sense, the fees are comparable to a regressive tax — and one that is more onerous for lower-income students than for the more affluent, who are able to attend schools where athletic fees are lower.

Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America

Rebecca Strauss:

Averages can be misleading. The familiar, one-dimensional story told about American education is that it was once the best system in the world but that now it’s headed down the drain, with piles of money thrown down after it.
The truth is that there are two very different education stories in America. The children of the wealthiest 10 percent or so do receive some of the best education in the world, and the quality keeps getting better. For most everyone else, this is not the case. America’s average standing in global education rankings has tumbled not because everyone is falling, but because of the country’s deep, still-widening achievement gap between socioeconomic groups.
And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap. The majority of other advanced countries do things differently, at least at the K-12 level, tilting resources in favor of poorer students.

Data Suggest Boomer Faculty Are Putting Off Retirement

Colleen Flaherty:

At the height of the financial crisis, it was unclear how diminished 401(k)s and general economic uncertainty would impact retirement trends for baby boomer professors. But new data suggest that professors are either significantly – or indefinitely – putting off retirement, and not just for financial reasons. Experts say the trend is forcing institutions to rethink traditional faculty models.
Some 74 percent of professors aged 49-67 plan to delay retirement past age 65 or never retire at all, according to a new Fidelity Investments study of higher education faculty. While 69 percent of those surveyed cited financial concerns, an even higher percentage of professors said love of their careers factored into their decision.
“While many would assume that delayed retirement would be solely due to economic reasons, surprisingly 8 in 10 — 81 percent — cited personal or professional reasons for delayed retirement,” said John Rangoni, vice president of tax exempt services at Fidelity. “Higher education employees, especially faculty, are deeply committed to their students, education and the institutions they serve.”

Our Schools, Cut Off From the Web

Luis Ubinas:

ON June 6, at a middle school in Mooresville, N.C., President Obama set a goal of high-speed Internet in nearly every public school in America in five years. It was a bold and needed pronouncement — except that in 1996 President Clinton said virtually the same thing, calling for libraries and classrooms to be “hooked up to the Information Superhighway by the year 2000.”
Many people reading this article are probably doing so on a smartphone, tablet or computer. They might not know that half of Americans don’t own a smartphone, one-third lack a broadband connection and one-fifth don’t use the Web at all.
Since 2007, when I was named president of the Ford Foundation, we’ve given $44.5 million to dozens of organizations — like Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Mozilla Foundation and the Media and Democracy Coalition — to make the Internet more accessible, affordable and mindful of privacy.

Sesame Street Creates a Muppet Whose Dad Is in Jail. Way Too Many Kids Relate.

Amanda Marcotte:

Grab your hankies: To help kids coping with a parent in prison, Sesame Street created a Muppet whose father can’t play with him because he’s in jail.
Sesame Street has always made it part of its larger mission to address all children, not just the ones with traditional families or easily digestible experiences. In the latest move toward that goal, the popular children’s program created an online toolkit, titled “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration,” for those struggling to raise a child who has an incarcerated parent. Released just in time to help kids in need get through Father’s Day, the toolkit has its detractors. Alex Jones naturally went into full-blown conspiracy theory mode, calling it a “propaganda program designed to help children accept the fact that daddy is in jail” by dangerously telling kids that “all you have to do is talk about your feelings, draw a few pictures, write letters to your dad, and toddle off to visit him in jail every now and then and everything will be all rainbows and lollipops.” (Better to tell them … what?) Mike Riggs at Reason was also angry, though not at Sesame Street but at the U.S. government for incarcerating so many people that these kinds of materials are necessary. He points out that nearly 7 million people are under correctional supervision in this country, writing, “congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail.”
Obviously, Sesame Street can’t do anything about the growth of the police state or the war on drugs that has resulted in the massive incarceration numbers in this country. The show is just trying to help innocent children deal with the repercussions. But Riggs is absolutely right: That this even has to exist in the first place shows how much pointless damage our prison system does not just to people who are caught up in the overly punitive, often racially biased justice system, but also to their families. As Jill Filipovic writes in the Guardian:

School ignores advice from learning disability experts

Jay Matthews:

Stacie Brockman is the Prince George’s County mother of lively twin 9-year-old boys. Her sons were born two months premature. She has done everything possible to deal with the disabilities that often impede the progress of such children.
She took them to the developmental pediatricians at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, one of the top U.S. providers of care for children with learning disabilities. They gave the boys many tests. They diagnosed mixed expressive/receptive language disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dysgraphia (a writing disability) and dyslexia (a reading disability).
The doctors told Brockman that her sons need to be in small classes with research-based reading instruction and intensive math and language remediation. As the law requires, administrators at Potomac Landing Elementary School set up an individualized education program (IEP) team, which meets with Brockman.
As sometimes happens, these meetings have not gone well, Brockman said. Learning disability issues appear to be one of the greatest sources of friction between parents and schools. Brockman’s account reveals how clumsy educators can be in communicating to parents what they are doing with their children, and why.
Both boys have IEPs, Brockman said in an e-mail, but the team chairperson dismissed some Kennedy Krieger assessments, “saying that all of KKI’s reports say the kids are dysgraphic and dyslexic, thus suggesting that the reports have little or no validity.”

When words are not enough: The dying art of professional letter writing

Xenia Chan and Hedy Bok:

Professional letter writers were once a common sight on Hong Kong’s streets, but today only a few survive. In the latest episode of our Uniquely Hong Kong series, we talk to Pun Tse-ching about the dying art
Pun Tse-ching, 73, performs a role which is dying out in Hong Kong. He is a professional Chinese letter writer.
As is that case with so many other industries, the rise of modern technology, coupled with higher rates of literacy, have led to a sharp fall in the number of letter writers.
Once they performed a vital role in Chinese society. During the 1950s, for example, they were needed because Hong Kong only had a literacy rate of about 60 per cent.
A professional letter writer or “se seun lou” (寫信佬) writes formal letters for customers in Chinese characters. These can include business letters or correspondence to family and friends abroad.Usually well-educated and highly literate, they were skilled in writing and performed the role of professional secretary. As well as writing letters, they also had to read letters to their customers.

Graduates from low-performing D.C. schools face tough college road

Emma Brown:

Johnathon Carrington grew up on the sixth floor of a low-income D.C. apartment complex, a building most recently in the news for a drive-by shooting that injured 13.
His parents told him early on that education could be his escape, and Carrington took them at their word. He graduated Friday as the valedictorian of his neighborhood school, Dunbar High, and against all odds is headed to Georgetown University.
But Carrington, 17, is nervous, and so are his parents. What if Dunbar — where truancy is chronic and fewer than one-third of students are proficient in reading — didn’t prepare him for the rigors of college? What if he isn’t ready?
“I don’t think I’m going to fail everything,” Carrington said. “But I think I’m going to be a bit behind.”
It’s a valid concern. Past valedictorians of low-performing District high schools say their own transitions to college were eye-opening and at times ego-shattering, filled with revelations that — despite taking their public schools’ most difficult classes and acing them — they were not equipped to excel at the nation’s top colleges.
When these students arrived on campuses filled with students from high-flying suburban public schools and posh privates, they found a world vastly different from the one they knew in their urban high schools.
For Sache Collier, it meant writing her first research paper. For Darryl Robinson, it meant realizing that professors expected original ideas, not just regurgitated facts. For Angelica Wardell, who grew up going to school almost exclusively with African American students, it meant taking classes with whites and Asians.

Evidence suggests voucher expansion won’t lift education

Karl Dommershausen:

I started out against the voucher program in Wisconsin, even organizing a letter from the Janesville School Board to our lawmakers opposing this effort. Later, I decided to research vouchers/charters and their tax credits/scholarships to understand them better. I didn’t study existing private schools, unless they were involved with vouchers.
Gov. Tommy Thompson started Wisconsin’s voucher system in 1990 in Milwaukee. It has grown, and other programs have emerged throughout the country. With thousands of voucher programs in 20 states, solid evidence for evaluation should exist. From Florida’s scholarship programs, Texas’ charter schools, Indiana and Louisiana’s charter-to-voucher adjustments, Tennessee’s Muslim question, and other adaptations, I searched for answers. Surprisingly, very little documentation of results exists, and what is available appears to be selectively picked.
Private companies and their associations have created the “mantra of choice and competition” for the impoverished, challenged and underperforming. This method focuses on the hopes and fears of parents. It also labels public schools and teachers as culprits, while ignoring social-economic factors, dwindling funding, or lack of parental involvement and responsibility.

Much more on vouchers, here.

The Voucher Boondoggle in Wisconsin

Barabara Miner:

When Gwen Moore walked into Milwaukee’s North Division High School in September 1965, she was terrified.
“North was seen as this jungle,” she explains more than 40 years later. “All black, segregated, inferior.”
Moore had wanted to attend West Division high School, a “white” school closer to home. When she tried to register at West, school officials told her she had to go to North Division. (It would be another decade before the federal courts would order the desegregation of Milwaukee’s schools.)
“My mom was in Texas at a Baptist convention, and I talked to her and said, ‘Mom, they wouldn’t let me go to West,’ ” Moore remembers.
“Gerrymandering,” her mom muttered.
“Gerry who?” Moore asked.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Getting Real Value Out of An Engineering Education

Eric Evenchick:

Succeeding in most engineering courses is a matter of memorizing material and passing an exam. Some courses will have lab exercises, but most of these boil down to following a predefined list of instructions as closely as possible, and collecting the highly predictable results.
To me, engineering is about applying knowledge to solve problems. Memorizing equations wont help you much with this, nor will repeating a list of steps. To get experience solving problems, you need real problems to solve.
This is where engineering student teams come in. These teams usually operate as extracurriculars, with only a handful of students participating.
These teams tackle problems that range from building a race car to designing nano-robotics. They need support with everything from software development to business and fundraising. My experience with student teams has been the most valuable part of my undergraduate education.

ESF teacher’s quest to visit every province in China

Simon Parry:

The strangeness of English Schools Foundation teacher Chris Taylor’s quest to visit every mainland province dawned on him as he sat down on a bench in a town square in Ningxia – an obscure northwestern chunk of China most foreigners have never heard of, let alone considered visiting.
Alone and nearly 2,000 kilometres away from his family in Hong Kong and his job as head of senior school at Sha Tin College, the 43-year-old suddenly found himself surrounded by a throng of locals. “They just sat really close to me and stared and stared,” he recalls.
“As soon as I did anything like get my notebook out, everyone would be really interested and lean over and stare. I distinctly remember just wanting to be left alone and sitting there doing nothing until people finally dispersed and gave me a bit of space.”
Being the object of intense curiosity is an experience Taylor relived in different ways throughout 10 years visiting all 27 provinces and five autonomous regions of the mainland, an adventure recounted in his newly published book, Riding the Dragon.

Half of Americans below or near poverty line

Paul Bucheit:

The Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.
1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009
Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.
2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later
Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.
3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.
The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.
Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.

Experts’ wrong way to pick best principals

Jay Matthews:

Anyone involved with schools has noticed that many governors, legislators and school boards think business practices can improve education. There is little proof of this. It’s a fad. If we leave it alone, it will go away.
But sometimes the latest business idea is too foolish to ignore. Take, for instance, this recent commentary piece in Education Week, “We Need a New Approach to Principal Selection,” by Ronald J. and Bill J. Bonnstetter.
“Identifying an effective principal requires a clear vision of the job duties, expectations and required personal attributes,” they wrote. “While most selection committees would agree with these criteria, the present selection system ends up being filled with personal biases and status quo mentalities. That’s why we recommend using benchmarking.”
Ronald Bonnstetter is professor emeritus of science education at the University of Nebraska. He now works as senior vice president of research and development for his brother Bill, chairman of Target Training International, a private company that does human behavior and skill assessments for businesses and groups in 90 countries. The Bonnstetters know much about business and education, but they fail in this piece to consider the importance of finding out how well principal candidates have done with students.

America’s worst Charities

Kris Hundley & Kendall Taggert:

Across the nation, hundreds of charities take your donations in the name of cancer patients, dying children and homeless veterans. But the real beneficiaries are the charity founders themselves and the for-profit companies they pay to run boiler rooms that dial for dollars. To tell the stories of America’s worst charities, reporters reviewed thousands of charities and charted their finances going back a decade. These charities use deception, and in some cases outright lies, to persuade donors to give. Then they spend as much as 90 cents of every dollar raised to generate more donations. Regulators have proven powerless to stop the cycle of waste and deceit.

My mother was named teacher of the year: Her job is to get students college-ready

Michael Alison Chandler:

My mother, Rebecca Worthen Chandler, was named Teacher of the Year at a charter school in North Carolina where she teaches English, bringing an unexpectedly buoyant end to what has been one of the toughest years of her 36-year career.
The award “floored” her, she said, because by the last day of school, all she could think about was what she wished she had accomplished. She didn’t give personal feedback on all her students’ papers. She wasn’t able to set up individual writing conferences for everyone. She never made it to the games.
“You know in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ where the Queen says she thinks about six impossible things before breakfast?” she said. “I feel like teachers do six impossible things and probably don’t have breakfast.”
For most of her career, she taught middle-school English at a private girls school in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where class sizes were small and college ambition was assumed, and where she was able to make a first-rate education affordable for my sisters and me (and to be our eighth-grade English teacher.)

Race vs. class in college admissions: A false dichotomy or not?

Valerie Strauss:

The Supreme Court will soon hand down its verdict in a case that challenges racial preferences in admissions at the University of Texas. In this post, Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the nonprofit public policy research organization The Century Foundation, and a proponent of class-based affirmative action in higher education admissions, looks at the issue. This appeared on the foundation’s blog.
By Richard Kahlenberg
Sherrilyn A. Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., just wrote a New York Times op-ed in defense of race-based affirmative action. The future direction of such policies is likely to be decided at some time in the next two weeks when the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling in a challenge to racial preferences in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.
In particular, Ifill is concerned that “an alarming number of scholars, pundits and columnists–many of them liberal–have declared that economic class, not race, should be the appropriate focus of university affirmative-action efforts.” As a longtime proponent of class-based affirmative action (author of a 1996 book, “The Remedy: Class, Race and Affirmative Action,” coauthor a 2012 Century Foundation report, “A Better Affirmative Action: State Universities that Created Alternatives to Racial Preferences”) and a liberal, to boot, let me explain why I disagree with the four central arguments Ifill advances in favor of racial preference policies.

Mexico’s Spoiled Rich Kids

David Luhnow:

You can spot them prowling the streets of Mexico City’s wealthy enclaves in sports cars. The guys wear their hair slicked back and designer shirts with the top three buttons open. The women have expensive bags and sunglasses. They are nearly always followed by a black SUV packed with armed bodyguards.
They are known in Mexico as “Juniors”–the sons and daughters of the country’s elite, young people whose love of brand names is surpassed only by their sense of entitlement. Juniors grow up to dominate the upper echelons of business and politics. They live behind high walls, travel in private jets and seem utterly untouchable–and out of touch in a country that struggles with poverty and violence.
For the first time, though, Mexico’s Juniors are coming under fire. In April, Andrea Benitez, the daughter of a well-connected politician, turned up at a trendy restaurant in Mexico City without a reservation and threw a fit when she was not given the table she wanted. So she called inspectors at Profeco, the government’s consumer protection agency–which happened to be run by her father. Inspectors promptly shut down the restaurant.

Big data meets the Bard

John Sunyer:

Here’s some advice for bibliophiles with teetering piles of books and not enough hours in the day: don’t read them. Instead, feed the books into a computer program and make graphs, maps and charts: it is the best way to get to grips with the vastness of literature. That, at least, is the recommendation of Franco Moretti, a 63-year-old professor of English at Stanford University and unofficial leader of a band of academics bringing a science-fiction thrill to the science of fiction.
For centuries, the basic task of literary scholarship has been close reading of texts. But for digitally savvy academics such as Moretti, literary study doesn’t always require scholars actually to read books. This new approach to literature depends on computers to crunch “big data”, or stores of massive amounts of information, to produce new insights.
Who, for example, would have guessed that, according to a 2011 Harvard study of four per cent (that is, five million) of all the books printed in English, less than half the number of words used are included in dictionaries, the rest being “lexical dark matter”? Or that, as a recent study using the same database carried out by the universities of Bristol, Sheffield and Durham reveals, “American English has become decidedly more ’emotional’ than British English in the last half-century”?

A wallflower becomes a confident leader

Doug Erickson:

Myles Strong didn’t want to be noticed in middle school.
He kept to himself and never spoke in class. He wore bland polo shirts to avoid drawing anyone’s eyes.
“The Myles in middle school would not recognize this person. He’d think this was an alternate version of himself,” Strong, 19, said of himself Thursday at Madison East High School, where he is one of 360 seniors graduating Friday. La Follette High School also holds commencement exercises Friday, and ceremonies for Memorial and West are scheduled for Saturday.
High school is meant to stretch and push students. Strong’s transformation was particularly pronounced, faculty members say, turning a wallflower into a confident leader.
“This is one top-notch young man here,” East Principal Mary Kelley said Thursday when she ran into him in a school hallway.
Kelley was Strong’s principal at Black Hawk Middle School. By coincidence, they transitioned together to East four years ago.
Strong was so shy at Black Hawk he wouldn’t give his opinions in public, Kelley said. Strong puts it more pointedly: “I was living inside myself.”

A Ripon Graduation Speech

Retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

The first speech was at a family dinner following that graduation ceremony 44 years ago. My father told me the most important thing to remember was to choose my career carefully. He said that I should do something I loved because 40 years is a long time doing something you don’t like or you don’t care about.
That’s Lesson #2: “Work is a 4-letter word,” my father said, “but so is the word play. Find a job that brings playful joy every day and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Not that it hasn’t had its ups and downs, but being an educator has been a labor of love for me, and I’m thankful that I followed my father’s advice. Now it’s your turn to find your own labor of love.
My mother then said, “Not so fast, young man,” as she leaned over, elbowing my father lovingly in the process. “It’s not all about enjoying yourself,” she said. “It’s not all about you–that’s selfish and useless.” She insisted, “Find something that will make the world a better place than you found it.” Although my mother was not a camper, and never saw an insect that she didn’t run from, she believed in the good camper rule. “Always leave your campsite better than you found it,” and she preached it constantly.
That’s Lesson #3: Make a positive difference for others. When you look back at your life, you won’t be proud of the money you made or the stuff you’ve accumulated or even the fun times you had for yourself. No, you’ll look back and be most proud of what you did for others. You will feel your life was worth living because you made the world a better place for others. Then, my mother told me to stop chewing with my mouth open and to save room for dessert, and the speeches were over.

I hope that Zimman stats active on education issues.