Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results

Joanne Lippman:

I had a teacher once who called his students “idiots” when they screwed up. He was our orchestra conductor, a fierce Ukrainian immigrant named Jerry Kupchynsky, and when someone played out of tune, he would stop the entire group to yell, “Who eez deaf in first violins!?” He made us rehearse until our fingers almost bled. He corrected our wayward hands and arms by poking at us with a pencil.
Today, he’d be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated: Forty years’ worth of former students and colleagues flew back to my New Jersey hometown from every corner of the country, old instruments in tow, to play a concert in his memory. I was among them, toting my long-neglected viola. When the curtain rose on our concert that day, we had formed a symphony orchestra the size of the New York Philharmonic.
I was stunned by the outpouring for the gruff old teacher we knew as Mr. K. But I was equally struck by the success of his former students. Some were musicians, but most had distinguished themselves in other fields, like law, academia and medicine. Research tells us that there is a positive correlation between music education and academic achievement. But that alone didn’t explain the belated surge of gratitude for a teacher who basically tortured us through adolescence.
We’re in the midst of a national wave of self-recrimination over the U.S. education system. Every day there is hand-wringing over our students falling behind the rest of the world. Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. trail students in 12 other nations in science and 17 in math, bested by their counterparts not just in Asia but in Finland, Estonia and the Netherlands, too. An entire industry of books and consultants has grown up that capitalizes on our collective fear that American education is inadequate and asks what American educators are doing wrong.

My finest teachers were certainly the toughest. Of course, they also knew the curriculum inside and out.

Four decades of failed school reform

Patrick Welsh:

Erika Dietz was overwhelmed when she started teaching English at T.C. Williams High School two years ago. Not because the 24-year-old struggled to connect with students or to handle the workload. Relentless, yet also patient and charming, she quickly became one of the most popular teachers at the Alexandria school, and in June 2012 she received a state-funded Titan Transformer Award for “outstanding work toward the goal of transformation” of T.C.
What bothered her was everything that went along with that goal: the consultants, the jargon, the endless stream of new reform initiatives. “It felt like every buzzword or trend in education was being thrown at us at once,” she told me over the summer, shortly after moving to Texas. “When something didn’t work right away, it was discarded the next year or even midyear.”

Mao 101: A remote, ramshackle Henan school is teaching its dwindling student body that only the Great Helmsman himself can save the People’s Republic. Xu Donghuan meets a principal who dances to his own, old tune.

South China Morning Post:

As far as Xia Zuhai is concerned, Mao Zedong is more than a desperately missed, great leader. The Henan province school principal thinks of the late chairman as a Buddha-like figure.
When the rain eases on the morning of September 9, the 37th anniversary of Mao’s death, Xia, 49, leads a Buddhist ceremony in honour of the Great Helmsman at his village school, on the outskirts of Sitong town, in Zhoukou city, 900 kilometres south of Beijing. In front of a huge painting of Mao on a tiled wall in the centre of the campus, he has set up a shrine with offerings of snacks, fruit and Mao’s favourite red chillies, as well as a small stack of publications, including a copy of the People’s Daily, a Southern Weekend weekly newspaper and a Yanhuang Chunqiu monthly magazine. The latter two are known for having a liberal stance.
“You should never underestimate Chairman Mao. He wouldn’t be annoyed by the criticisms inside,” Xia says, with a chuckle. After lighting a cigarette for Mao and putting it on the edge of the incense burner, Xia is joined by his 15-year-old daughter, Yuanyuan, and the two kneel side by side on a bamboo mat and kowtow 81 times.

Didn’t Ace the SAT? Design a Microbe Transplant Instead

Ariel Kaminer:

High school seniors with poor grades and even worse SAT scores, you may be just what one of the nation’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges is looking for.
You need not be president of the debate club or captain of the track team. No glowing teacher recommendations are required. You just need to be smart, curious and motivated, and prove it with words — 10,000 words, in the form of four, 2,500-word research papers.
The research topics are formidable and include the cardinal virtue of ren in Confucius’s “The Analects,” “the origin of chirality (or handedness) in a prebiotic life,” Ezra Pound’s view of “The Canterbury Tales,” and how to design a research trial using microbes transplanted from the human biome. If professors deem the papers to be worthy of a B+ or better by the college’s standards, you are in.
The college is Bard, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., and it says the new option, which has not previously been announced but is to begin this fall, is an attempt to return the application process to its fundamental goal: rewarding the best candidates, rather than just those who are best able to market themselves to admissions committees.

Colorado State University Bets on a Stadium to Fill Its Coffers

Rachel Bachman:

Colorado State University has seen the future of higher education, and it has goal posts and end zones.
Faced with declining state funding, CSU is raising money to build a $246 million, 40,000-seat football stadium on its Fort Collins campus. University President Tony Frank says the new facility will help build a winning football team while advancing one of the school’s highest priorities: attracting more out-of-state students paying higher tuition.
Skeptics, including some alumni and faculty, see the project as a boondoggle–especially for a team that plays in a relatively low-profile athletic conference and doesn’t sell out its current 32,500-seat stadium off campus. The debate has sparked dueling websites, animated letters to the editor and arguments about the role of sports at a university.

Tuition Hikes, Ahoy!

Michael Meranze:

As we all prepare for the Napolitano era, the Regents are heading to their favorite meeting place at UCSF (safe from undergraduates) with time to stop off at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. There are any number of items to be discussed but first and foremost is the question of the UC budget. There the crucial meeting is Wednesday’s Finance Committee Session. Among other items, the Finance Committee is to hear about the long-range budget plan, the expected 2014-2015 budget, and the wondrous accomplishments of the “working smarter initiative.” Although we won’t know in detail what UCOP is proposing until they actually make their presentations, it is possible to see the general strategies and narratives that UCOP is proposing for budgetary planning and decision-making.
As ever, UCOP appears not to know what it wants to say; as a result it continues to alternate in what it is asking of the State and from the University community. But appearances can be deceiving.
If you turn the budget presentations into a narrative it would go something like the following:
After long years of budgetary cuts, Governor Brown has, through his handling of the state’s debt, his success in achieving passage of proposition 30, and his willingness to commit to a series of funding increases over the next several years succeeded in staunching the bleeding of budget cuts. In the new state budget UC’s general fund increases total $256M in unrestricted funds although $125M of those go for a tuition buy-out. In this way, the state is now in the words of OP: “signify the welcome, necessary return of the State to being a true partner with UC.” (3) BUT this “true partnership” is, notable for its stability more than its adequacy. Indeed, at the heart of OP’s narrative is the argument that although the State has agreed to helpful increases in funding it is also preventing the University from functioning properly by restricting its ability to raise tuition.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Fed has become a creature of politics

George Will:

ZIRP, which Yellen ardently supports, is trickle-down economics: Money, searching for yields higher than bonds offered under ZIRP, floods into stocks, the rising value of which supposedly creates a “wealth effect” — feelings of prosperity that stimulate spending and investing among the 10 percent who own about 80 percent of all stocks.
ZIRP also makes the Fed an indispensable enabler of big government. By making borrowing, and hence deficits, cheap, ZIRP facilitates the political class’s bipartisan strategy of delivering current benefits while deferring costs. ZIRP also provides cheap credit to big government’s partner, big business.
Originally, in 1913, the Fed’s mission was price stability — preserving the currency as a store of value. In 1977,Congress created the “dual mandate,” instructing the Fed to maximize employment. This supposedly authorizes the Fed to manipulate the stock market, part of Bernanke’s inflation of the dual mandate into “promoting a healthy economy.” Is a particular distribution of income unhealthy? The Fed will tell us.

Interestingly, the Madison School Board recently passed a 2013-2014 budget that features a 4.5% property tax increase, after a 9% increase two years ago.

Being Privileged Is Not A Choice, So Stop Hating Me For It

Kate Menendez:

What do you suggest I do about it?
I’m sick of feeling self-conscious every time someone brings up the burden of student loans. I dread being asked what I plan to do after graduation about paying them back. Sometimes I lie. Sometimes I make up a line about praying I find a great job or can pay off my loans by working for the government.
But I’m sick of lying. I’m sick of feeling ashamed for being privileged.
I am in graduate school and am debt free. I have Baby Boomer parents who work hard and did much better than they ever expected in their careers. They wanted to pay for my college and graduate school. They demanded to pay for my college and graduate school.

Khan Academy’s Discovery Lab: Summer Camp Where STEM Meets PBL

Minli Virdone:

Khan Academy is primarily known as an online portal of videos and exercises (we have delivered over 207 million lessons to date). We believe that online learning goes hand in hand with hands-on, project-based learning — and that’s why we decided to run a summer camp, the Discovery Lab, to try out the deeper explorations that can be done in a physical space. As we fine-tune the lessons that work in this setting, we will try to integrate them more deeply into the core Khan Academy platform, so students and teachers around the world have the infrastructure and tools to fully explore their creativity.
The Discovery Lab summer camp had 66 campers, ranging from those entering 5th grade all the way to those entering 8th. They participated in a variety of different activities across the two-week camps. We were so glad that we could share our excitement about the topics with them!

Cyber schools flunk, but tax money keeps flowing

Stephanie Simon:

Taxpayers send nearly $2 billion a year to cyber schools that let students from kindergarten through 12th grade receive a free public education entirely online.
The schools, many managed by for-profit companies, are great at driving up enrollment with catchy advertising. They excel at lobbying. They have a knack for making generous campaign donations.
But as new state report cards coming out now make clear, there’s one thing they’re not so good at: educating kids.
In state after state, online school after online school posts dismal scores on math, writing and science tests and mediocre scores on reading. Administrators have long explained their poor results by saying students often come to their schools far behind and make excellent progress online, even if they fall short of passing state tests.

Abandoning E.R.B. Test May Also Put End to a Status Symbol

Winnie Hue & Erik Spencer:

When other preschool parents bragged that their children had aced the admission test for New York City private schools with a top score of 99 in every section, Justine Oddo stayed quiet. Her twin boys had not done as well.
“It seemed like everyone got 99s,” recalled Ms. Oddo as her sons, now 7, scampered around a playground near Fifth Avenue. “Kids you thought weren’t that smart got 99s. It was demoralizing. It made me think my kids are not as smart as the rest of the kids.”
Her sons’ scores? Between them, they had one 99 and the rest 95s, which would still put them in the top 5 percent of all children nationwide.

How Heroin Is Invading America’s Schools

Julia Rubin:

What have I become?” 23-year-old Andrew Jones asked his mom shortly before he died. “What’s happened to me?” A star high school athlete who went on to play Division I football for Missouri State University, Andrew was an honors student whom friends described as outgoing, charismatic, and loyal. He was also a heroin addict.
Never even a recreational drug user, Andrew had been the first to discourage friends at his Catholic high school from smoking pot. But his story is frighteningly typical of the current heroin epidemic among suburban American youth. It’s an issue made all the more timely by the recent heroin-related death of Glee star Cory Monteith, best known and beloved for playing squeaky-clean high school football star Finn Hudson.
What Cory and Andrew expose is that heroin isn’t at all what it used to be. Not only is the drug much more powerful than before (purity can be as high as 90 percent) but it’s also no longer limited to the dirty-needle, back-alley experience so many of us picture. Now it’s as easy as purchasing a pill, because that’s what heroin has become: a powder-filled capsule known as a button, designed to be broken open and snorted, that can be purchased for just $10. And it regularly is–on varsity sports teams, on Ivy League campuses, and in safe suburban neighborhoods.

Salovey, speak out on drinking

Geng Ngarmboonanant:

Last April, when the Yale College Council asked then-President Richard Levin to publicly support lowering the drinking age, the student body laughed. It was absurd, silly, ill-timed. It wouldn’t happen, we thought — and if it did, our voice would certainly sink in the big pond of national politics.
But after the inauguration of Peter Salovey — who has since used his pulpit to speak out on federal issues like immigration, research funding and wealth inequality — we should no longer laugh too hard.
The YCC’s proposal was not preposterous; in fact, it is now right. If our president is indeed serious about making Yale “a leader in reducing high-risk drinking” — which he said just this past week — then he cannot duck when it comes to fully committing our school to the big fight on the national stage.

In This Battle Arena, Warriors Are Armed With Algorithms

Alexandra Stevenson:

Six years ago, at a Foxconn plant in Guangdong, China, Mr. Chang used data analysis to figure out that the unusually cold weather outside had led to a high failure rate of the computer chips on the factory floor. The finding saved the company from significant revenue losses.
Today, he runs a hedge fund in Cambridge, Mass., that analyzes not only weather, but news and shipping reports, to make investment decisions.
To find more math whizzes who can apply their knowledge of other fields to the financial world, BattleFin’s co-founders, Tim Harrington and Brian Tomeo, have created a start-up that they hope will grow into an incubator that organizes finance tournaments and provides capital to “give the little guys a chance.”
“By creating a tournament, we’re able to find these guys who are not on the radar screen of the larger seeders,” Mr. Tomeo said.
Hedge funds have long sought out super brains who could apply mathematical concepts to financial markets. The “quant” approach was made famous in the 1970s by Robert C. Merton, Fischer Black and Myron S. Scholes. Their Black-Scholes model, which predicts the future value of stocks and bonds, spawned the growth of hedge funds.

What inner city kids know about social media, and why we should listen

Jacqui Cheng:

Teenagers know a lot more about privacy than we think, so what are they trying to tell us when they post?
I know which of my teenage students smokes weed in the park after class on Fridays, and which other students are with him. I know which ones are struggling with making friends in their first few weeks at college, and which ones aren’t. I know which of my students chafe against overly strict parents on a regular basis. I know which one spends every weekend in the hospital due to a chronic condition. I know which ones got arrested last night.
I know all these things because I follow them all on various social media services. And they know I know; this isn’t some kind of stolen glance into the online life of teenagers that no one is supposed to see. Contrary to popular belief among adults, these teenagers are not oblivious to privacy settings and do care a good amount about who can see what online. If anything, most of them have consciously chosen what they want to show to me and the rest of the world through social media. And what they’re telling us is who they are and what they need from us as mentors.

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Julia Ryan:

Of the 1.66 million high school students in the class of 2013 who took the SAT, only 43 percent were academically prepared for college-level work, according to this year’s SAT Report on College & Career Readiness. For the fifth year in a row, fewer than half of SAT-takers received scores that qualified them as “college-ready.”
The College Board considers a score of 1550 to be the “College and Career Readiness Benchmark.” Students who meet the benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, more likely to earn a GPA of a B- or higher their freshman year, and more likely to complete their degree.
“While some might see stagnant scores as no news, the College Board considers them a call to action. These scores can and must change — and the College Board feels a sense of responsibility to help make that happen,” the report said.
The report also offered insights into why some students graduated high school prepared for college and others didn’t. Students in the class of 2013 who met or exceeded the benchmark were more likely to have completed a core curriculum, to have taken honors or AP courses, and to have taken higher-level mathematics courses, like precalculus, calculus, and trigonometry.
Although the SAT takers in the class of 2013 were the most diverse group of test takers ever, the report showed that minority students’ scores have only slightly improved in the past year.

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and wisconsin2.org

A bachelor’s degree could cost $10,000 — total. Here’s how.

Dylan Matthews:

A couple years ago, Rutgers historian David Greenberg noticed a defect endemic to books about social, political and economic problems: The last chapter always sucks. “Practically every example of that genre, no matter how shrewd or rich its survey of the question at hand, finishes with an obligatory prescription that is utopian, banal, unhelpful or out of tune with the rest of the book,” Greenberg noted.
And it’s not just books. I’ll be the first to admit that the possible fixes with which I finished off my series on the alarming rise in college tuition were pretty vague and utopian. But helpfully, the good folks at Third Way have noticed that the conversation about how to reign in tuition has gotten a little too small-minded. “For both parties, in particular Democrats, our solution to the problem of rising cost of college has been to subsidize the rising cost,” the think tank’s president, Jonathan Cowan, says. “That’s been our official policy, to subsidize the rising cost, and that has to be seen as a fairly intellectually bankrupt approach. We need a dramatically different approach that is about driving down the rising price.”
To that end, Third Way is publishing a new report by Anya Kamenetz, one of the most interesting writers on higher ed innovation in the game, that lays out a detailed plan for pushing the total cost of a public bachelor’s degree down to $10,000. Not $10,000 a year, mind you: $10,000 total. She’s not the first to have this idea, as Govs. Rick Perry (R-Tex.), Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have all proposed $10,000 degrees.

Wealthy Chinese seek U.S. surrogates for 2nd child, green card


Wealthy Chinese are hiring American women to serve as surrogates for their children, creating a small but growing business in $120,000 “designer” American babies for China’s elite.
Surrogacy agencies in China and the United States are catering to wealthy Chinese who want a baby outside the country’s restrictive family planning policies, who are unable to conceive themselves, or who are seeking U.S. citizenship for their children.
Emigration as a family is another draw – U.S. citizens may apply for Green Cards for their parents when they turn 21.
While there is no data on the total number of Chinese who have sought or used U.S. surrogates, agencies in both countries say demand has risen rapidly in the last two years.
U.S. fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies are creating Chinese-language websites and hiring Mandarin speakers.

Is 25 the new cut-off point for adulthood?

Lucy Wallis:

“The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” says child psychologist Laverne Antrobus, who works at London’s Tavistock Clinic.
“My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.”
Child psychologists are being given a new directive which is that the age range they work with is increasing from 0-18 to 0-25.
“We are becoming much more aware and appreciating development beyond [the age of 18] and I think it’s a really good initiative,” says Antrobus, who believes we often rush through childhood, wanting our youngsters to achieve key milestones very quickly.

From China to Chicago, K12 Inc. markets more than virtual schools

Stephanie Simon:

The bipartisan education reform movement sweeping the nation calls for opening up public schools to free-market competition. That has meant sending billions of tax dollars to private, for-profit companies to educate kids.
But the companies do more than pay teachers, develop curriculum and buy supplies with all that revenue.
They use it as a launchpad for new products, new brands and new markets.
Consider K12 Inc

A Report Card on Education Reform

David Leonhardt:

I sat down last week in Washington with Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, and Mitch Daniels, the former Indiana governor and current Purdue University president, after they had met with several dozen chief executives of big companies to talk about education. Their meeting was at the office of the Business Roundtable, the corporate lobbying group, and joining us for the conversation was John Engler, the former Michigan governor who runs the Business Roundtable.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images, for The New York Time Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Mr. Duncan is a Democrat, of course, and Mr. Daniels and Mr. Engler are Republicans. But they all sympathize with many of the efforts of the so-called education reform movement. I asked them whether the country’s education system was really in crisis and what mistakes school reformers had made. A lightly edited version of the first part of our conversation follows; the second part will appear on Economix on Thursday.
Leonhardt: You always hear we’re in crisis. But what is the bad news, and what is the good news, and are we making any progress?
Duncan: I do think we have a crisis. I do feel tremendous urgency. If you look at any international comparison – which in a global economy is much more important than 30 or 40 years ago – on no indicator are we anywhere near where we want to be. Whether it’s test scores or college graduation rates, whatever it is, we’re not close. So we’ve got a long way to go. That’s the challenge.
Why I am hopeful is we have seen some real progress. Some things are going the right way. The question is how do we accelerate that progress. College graduations rates are up some. High school graduation rates are up to 30-year highs, which is a big step in the right direction.
The African-American/Latino community is driving much of that improvement, which is very, very important. There is a huge reduction in the number of kids going to dropout factories. We are seeing real progress. The question is how do we get better faster.
Daniels: I am glad that the secretary didn’t pull any punches. I don’t know any other way to read it. In Indiana, we just had, by far, the best results we’ve ever seen in our state. Everything was up. The high-school graduation rate is up 10 percent in just four years. Test scores, advanced-placement scores too. But we’re just nowhere near where we need to be. And the competition is not standing still. So we need many more years of progress at the current rate, and it still maybe too slow. I’m afraid this is a half-empty analysis, but I think it’s an honest one.
Engler: The president of Purdue and the president of the Business Roundtable – we are the consumer groups here at the table. All the products of K-12 system are either going to go to the university or they are going to the work force. The military is not here, but they’re not very different.

Related: Madison’s long time disastrous reading scores and wisconsin2.org

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The American Dream, RIP?

The Economist:

COULD America survive the end of the American Dream? The idea is unthinkable, say political leaders of right and left. Yet it is predicted in “Average is Over“, a bracing new book by Tyler Cowen, an economist. Mr Cowen is no stranger to controversy. In 2011 he galvanised Washington with “The Great Stagnation”, in which he argued that America has used up the low-hanging fruit of free land, abundant labour and new technologies. His new book suggests that the disruptive effects of automation and ever-cheaper computer power have only just begun to be felt.
It describes a future largely stripped of middling jobs and broad prosperity. An elite 10-15% of Americans will have the brains and self-discipline to master tomorrow’s technology and extract profit from it, he speculates. They will enjoy great wealth and stimulating lives. Others will endure stagnant or even falling wages, as employers measure their output with “oppressive precision”. Some will thrive as service-providers to the rich. A few will claw their way into the elite (cheap online education will be a great leveller), bolstering the idea of a “hyper-meritocracy” at work: this “will make it easier to ignore those left behind”.

Why attracting teachers with higher GPAs shouldn’t be N.J.’s top priority

Laura Waters:

The New Jersey Department of Education has proposed raising the required college GPA for new teachers to 3.0, or a “B” average. The higher cut-off — NJ currently requires a 2.5 -will “ensure [that] all novice teachers meet a minimum bar for knowledge and pedagogical skills before entering the classroom,” explained the DOE in a memo circulated last week.
Simple, right? Raise the bar for selection of teachers and, thus, raise teacher quality.
It should be so easy. The DOE’s proposal is not simple but simplistic, a facile sound-bite, (remember, it’s election silly-season) that does nothing to elevate the teaching profession.
Of course we all want to recruit and retain great teachers. But can we glean the potential of prospective educators from their college transcripts? Is a 3.0 at an undistinguished school that liberally distributes “A’s” equivalent to a 3.0 at, say, Rutgers or College of New Jersey? Are GPAs lenses for discerning teacher potential? And, given all the slings and arrows thrust by the Christie Administration towards public school staff — stiffening of tenure laws, data-driven evaluations, Common Core implementation — is the timing right for a gratuitous barb?

College Football: Declining Student Attendance Hits Georgia

Ben Cohen:

The scene at home football games here at the University of Georgia is almost perfect. The tailgate lots open at 7 a.m. Locals brag of the bar-per-capita rate. The only commodities in greater abundance than beer are the pro-Bulldogs buttons that sorority girls wear.
There’s just one problem: Some students can’t be bothered to come to the games.
Declining student attendance is an illness that has been spreading for years nationwide. But now it has hit the Southeastern Conference, home to college football’s best teams and supposedly its most fervent fans, giving athletics officials reason to fret about future ticket sales and fundraising.
As it turns out, Georgia students left empty 39% of their designated sections of Sanford Stadium over the last four seasons, according to school records of student-ticket scans. Despite their allocation of about 18,000 seats, the number of students at games between 2009 and 2012 never exceeded 15,000.

Green Bay representative drafting physical activities bill

Andrea Anderson:

Wisconsin spends approximately $3.1 billion annually in health care costs related to obesity, the state’s adult obesity rate has doubled since 1990, and one in four Wisconsin high school students are overweight or obese, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Rep. Chad Weininger, R-Green Bay, is drafting a bill that he said could help change these “unfortunate” statistics by increasing the amount of physical activity required of students during the school week as early as the 2014-2015 school year.
Currently, students in kindergarten through sixth grade have scheduled physical education classes three times a week while students in seventh and eighth grade have the class once a week. High schoolers must earn 1.5 credits of physical education in order to graduate.
“What we’re seeing is that’s really not working anymore. Society is changing,” Weininger said.
Weininger said pickup games of basketball, like the ones he used to have after school, are a thing of the past because parents work longer days and children go home, grab a snack and sit in front of the television until their parents arrive, contributing to the current obesity rate.

Downloading Is Mean! Content Industry Drafts Anti-Piracy Curriculum for Elementary Schools

David Kravets:

Listen up children: Cheating on your homework or cribbing notes from another student is bad, but not as bad as sharing a music track with a friend, or otherwise depriving the content-industry of its well-earned profits.
That’s one of the messages in a new-school curriculum being developed with the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the nation’s top ISPs, in a pilot project to be tested in California elementary schools later this year.
A near-final draft of the curriculum, obtained by WIRED, shows that it comes in different flavors for every grade from kindergarten through sixth, to keep pace with your developing child’s ability to understand that copying is theft, period.
“This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,” says Mitch Stoltz, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who reviewed the material at WIRED’s request.
“It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission,” Stoltz says. “The overriding message of this curriculum is that students’ time should be consumed not in creating but in worrying about their impact on corporate profits.”

Census: State and Local Income, Sales, Motor Fuel, Motor Vehicle, and Alcoholic Beverage Taxes Hit All-Time Highs in 2nd Quarter

Terence P. Jeffrey:

Revenues from state and local individual income taxes, general sales and gross receipt taxes, motor fuel taxes, motor vehicle taxes and taxes on alcoholic beverages each hit all-time highs in the second quarter of this year, according to data released today by the Census Bureau.
That means that in no quarter of any year since the Census Bureau first started tracking state and local tax revenues in 1962 have Americans paid more in each of these categories of state and local taxes then they did in the quarter that ran from April through June of 2013.
Americans paid a record of $114.032 billion in state and local individual income taxes in the second quarter of this year, according to the Census Bureau. That was up $7.787 billion–or 7.3 percent–from the previous all-time record of $106.245 billion in state and local individual income taxes that Americans paid in the second quarter of 2008.

College Board ‘Concerned’ About Low SAT Scores

Claudio Sanchez (NPR)
The College Board, sponsor of the SAT, says that roughly six out of 10 college-bound high school students who took the test were so lacking in their reading, writing and math skills, they were unprepared for college level work.
The College Board is calling for big changes to better prepare students for college and career.
Stagnant Scores
The average SAT score this year was 1498 out of a possible 2400. It’s been roughly the same for the last five years.
“And we at the College Board are concerned,” says David Coleman, the board’s president.
In a conference call with reporters, Coleman said his biggest concern is the widening gap in scores along racial and ethnic lines. This year Asian students had the highest overall average scores in reading, writing and math, followed by whites, and then Latinos. Black students had the lowest average scores. Coleman said it’s time to do something about it, not just sit back and report how poorly prepared students are for college and career.
“Simply put, the College Board will go beyond simply delivering assessments to actually transforming the daily work that students are doing,” Coleman says.
Coleman wants to work with schools to make coursework tougher and make sure students have access to more demanding honors and advanced placement courses, because right now, most students don’t. Most worrisome of all, Coleman says, “minority students, underrepresented students, have less access.” more

Profiling High-School Students with Facebook: How Online Privacy Laws Can Actually Increase Minors’ Risk

Ratan Dey, Yuan Ding & Keith Ross (PDF):

The authors investigate three high schools’ student bodies’ presence on social media; one of the more interesting findings, in a nutshell: Because some kids lie about their age to get Facebook accounts early, Facebook incorrectly perceives them as adults, while they’re still minors in high school… that provides others with more access to information about them than FB would normally reveal for a child, including information about other minor friends who hadn’t misstated their ages.

The Traditional University Lecture Is Dead

Selena Larson:

Why pay thousands of dollars to sit in a stuffy university lecture hall as a professor drones away in front of bored students when you could instead take some of the world’s greatest courses online? For free?
A handful of startups and university-backed nonprofits are starting to deliver on that proposition–one that could upend higher education, not to mention the plans of millions of students who are aiming to position themselves for employment in today’s digital economy. Of course, the trend is still in its infancy, with big challenges ahead where student retention, university cooperation and business models are concerned.
But proponents of the online-education revolution aren’t shy about their ambitions. Sebastian Thrun, a former Stanford professor who co-founded the startup Udacity two years ago, reportedly believes that in 50 years, there will only be 10 institutions in the world providing higher education–with Udacity, of course, potentially one of them.

The 7 Top Habits of High Achievers

Swati Chauhan:

What separates the high achievers from the also ran’s, the scorers from the mediocre, the successful from the ordinary. The answer greatly lies in the habits practiced by them over and over again so much so that they become intertwined with their personality.
Do you find it difficult sometimes to even achieve your most conservative goals? Have you worked really hard for a goal, burnt the midnight oil and toiled for months over it and still didn’t achieve it. It’s a horrible feeling to have tried and failed, it really sucks but the important takeaway is to know what you lacked and identify the stone you left unturned to make sure your next effort meets success.

What worries a real defense expert these days? The state of American education

Eve Hunter

Norm Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, former Pentagon official, former just about everything defense-related, was invited earlier this month to tackle the topic of the greatest threats to the United States. Speaking to the Johns Hopkins Rethinking Seminar Series, he delivered a forceful critique of the U.S. education system.
For the most part, he cited the figures we have oft heard but choose to not think about due to the herculean nature of reform. Test scores this year have reached a record low. U.S. students from the Class of 2011 ranked 32nd out of 34 OECD countries participating in the international PISA test. California has raised tuition and fees for higher education by 65 percent in the past three years.

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Janesville School District looking to expand international student-exchange program

Margo Spann:

Smiley and seven other district leaders will head to China next month to continue developing relationships with schools there. Their goal is to recruit students and fill open desks due to declining enrollment over the last decade in the district.
“Last year was the first year that we started to trend upward just a little bit. But declining enrollment means declining funds,” said Dr. Karen Schulte, Janesville School District superintendent.
The international students would help the district financially because the students would pay tuition to the district instead of paying a private company to come to the United States.
“Out tuition for the School District of Janesville is around $9,000, between $9,000 and $10,000. So if we’re charging upwards of $20,000-$30,000, you can see the possibility of generating some revenue,” said Schulte.
Board member Bill Sodemann said he supports the program because it will help graduates compete in a global economy. The district currently has 400 students enrolled in Chinese language courses.


Boys punished for airsoft guns in yard Has zero tolerance gone too far?

Andy Fox:

Aidan’s father, Tim Clark, told WAVY.com what happened next lacks commons sense. The children were suspended for possession, handling and use of a firearm. On Tuesday, that offense was changed by school officials to possession, handling and use of an airsoft gun.
Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo, thinks it is ridiculous the Virginia Beach City Public School System suspended her 13-year-old son and his friends because they were firing a spring-driven airsoft gun on the Caraballo’s private property.
“My son is my private property,” she said. “He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school.”
The bus stop in question is 70 yards from the Caraballo’s front yard.
Solangel Caraballo was not at home when this incident occurred. She was taking her younger son to a Head Start class. She left her 16-year -old daughter in charge.

Why the S in STEM Is Overrated: Government and college officials love to sing the praises of scientists. How do they explain why so many young science majors are so poorly paid?

Mark Schneider:

Do we really need more science grads?
It’s an easy question to answer for politicians, university officials, conference speakers, and just about anybody whose job is to talk about American competitiveness for money. It’s rote that we need more STEM students – more science, technology, engineering and math grads – sprinting off American campuses into the labor force. But according to the data, employers don’t like paying science grads quite as much as we like talking about them.
Is STEM one letter too long?
Wage data in several states show that employers are paying more — often far more — for techies (i.e.: computer science majors), engineers, and math grads. But no evidence suggests that biology majors, the most popular science field of study, earn a wage premium. Chemistry graduates earn somewhat more than biology grads, but still don’t command the wages that are quite TEM-quality.
This conclusion is based on detailed information from Texas, Colorado and Virginia. All three states have linked data about graduate programs with wage data from their unemployment insurance systems through College Measures. Very important to note upfront is that these wages are early career earnings. Many science students go on to medical school or continue with doctoral studies. Biology majors that go on to become, for example, anesthesiologists will be very rich, indeed. But the number of advanced degrees in these fields is dwarfed by the flood of science bachelor’s (and associate’s and master’s degrees).

Freebies for the Rich

Catherine Rampell:

Max Russell had always been a conscientious student, but when his father died during his junior year of high school, he had to take on a 25-hour-per-week job to help his family pay the bills. The gig inevitably ate into the time he spent on homework, and Russell’s G.P.A. plummeted from 3.5 to 2.5, which complicated his ability to get the aid he needed to attend a four-year college. So he ended up at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. Last year, after finally qualifying for student loans and cobbling together some grant money, he transferred to Purdue University, one of the state’s top public schools.
At Purdue, Russell reconnected with Christopher Bosma, a friend from high school. Bosma’s family was considerably wealthier, but his entire tuition was free — as will be medical-school costs. An outstanding high-school student, he received a prestigious merit scholarship that covered both. Russell told me that he believed the two friends are about “equivalent in intelligence” but acknowledged that Bosma studied much harder in high school. He was unusually driven, he said, but it probably didn’t hurt that Bosma had the luxury of not having to help support his family.
Over the years, many state-university systems — and even states themselves — have shifted more of their financial aid away from students who need it toward those whose résumés merit it. The share of state aid that’s not based on need has nearly tripled in the last two decades, to 29 percent per full-time student in 2010-11. The stated rationale, of course, is that merit scholarships motivate high-school achievement and keep talented students in state. The consequence, however, is that more aid is helping kids who need it less. Merit metrics like SAT scores tend to closely correlate with family income; about 1 in 5 students from households with income over $250,000 receives merit aid from his or her school. For families making less than $30,000, it’s 1 in 10.
Schools don’t seem to mind. After years of state-funding cuts, many recognize that wealthy students can bring in more money even after getting a discount. Raising the tuition and then offering a 25 percent scholarship to four wealthier kids who might otherwise have gone to private school generates more revenue than giving a free ride to one who truly needs it. Incidentally, enticing these students also helps boost a school’s rankings. “The U.S. News rankings are based largely on the student inputs,” said Donald Heller, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education. “The public universities in general, and the land grants in particular, are moving away from their historical mission to serve a broad swath of families across the state.”

Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind

Stephen Burd (PDF):

With their relentless pursuit of prestige and revenue, the nation’s public and private four-year colleges and universities are in danger of shutting down what has long been a pathway to the middle class for low-income and working-class students. This report presents a new analysis of little-examined U.S. Department of Education data showing the “net price” — the amount students pay after all grant aid has been exhausted — for low-income students at thousands of individual colleges. The anal- ysis shows that hundreds of colleges expect the neediest students to pay an amount that is equal to or even more than their families’ yearly earnings. As a result, these students are left with little choice but to take on heavy debt loads or engage in activi- ties that lessen their likelihood of earning their degrees, such as working full-time while enrolled or dropping out until they can afford to return.

Judging college by graduates’ paychecks

Libby Nelson:

To determine if a college degree is worth the money, states, private companies and the federal government are looking less to diplomas and more to pay stubs.
The Obama administration and a growing number of states have embraced the idea that graduates’ earnings in the years after graduation can measure the quality of a college or major. Systems to display wages by college and program are gaining steam and growing in sophistication. They could transform how Americans evaluate the value of a college education — and, eventually, whether state and federal governments will pay for it.

The Politics Of Silence

Eliza Schultz:

Johns Hopkins avoids controversy.
We reaffirmed this fact two weeks ago when the University attempted to remove faculty member Matthew Green’s blog post regarding the National Security Administration, an act of censorship to which Johns Hopkins students responded with negligible dialogue. While the incident occurred on September 9, the campus newspaper The News-Letter did not publish a related article until September 12, a shameful four days after the story surfaced, and failed to write an editorial response for yet another day. In an age in which we are accustomed to news access as it unfolds, delayed and limited coverage is dangerous, as it perpetuates a problem on our campus whereby students do not recognize the actions of the administration, and as a result become complicit in them.
Beyond this act of academic censorship, the University has a disturbing record of evading controversy. For many years, the administration deliberately reported zero cases of sexual assault in the Annual Campus Security Report, a claim that is statistically impossible given that the Department of Justice estimates that one in four college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before graduation. The University does not publicize the Report out of its own volition; it is federally mandated to do so under the Clery Act.
Only in the past academic year did the University begin to publish any evidence of sexual assault in its report. The sole case reported that year was perpetrated by a University non-affiliate. As such, the incident did not reflect poorly on campus dynamics; the administration was able to cast blame onto the surrounding city.

Midday nap helps pre-school children learn, new study finds

Ian Sample:

A midday nap can help pre-school children remember what they learned in the morning, according to a study by psychologists in the US.
The research suggests that carers and nurseries that phase out after-lunch sleeps may be harming children’s ability to learn, by disrupting the way their brains store memories.
Pre-schoolers who went without a midday sleep fared worse on memory tests than those who napped. They also failed to improve their scores even after a good night’s sleep, the researchers found.
The findings highlight the crucial role of sleep in consolidating memories, a process that underpins the brain’s ability to learn new information.
The children who benefited most were “habitual nappers” who would sleep when carers encouraged them to, rather than more mature children who had outgrown the need for a nap.

Bobby Jindal: War with feds over school vouchers still on

Caitlin Emma:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday that regardless of what the Department of Justice is claiming, his state is no closer to a resolution in a school voucher lawsuit that has appalled high-profile conservative school choice advocates.
The Justice Department sent a letter Tuesday to House Speaker John Boehner, saying the state has agreed to hand over information that the federal government has wanted for a while about the voucher program’s effect on the racial makeup of participating schools. That move might bring both parties closer to a resolution over the August suit, the letter said.
“…Louisiana agreed to provide information on the voucher program that the department had originally requested in May 2013 and that the state had, up until now, largely withheld. This is thus a major step forward and puts the parties on a path to resolving the primary issue that motivated the department’s court filing in the first place,” the DOJ letter to Boehner reads. “We are pleased that Louisiana finally has agreed to provide the necessary information to the department. It is only regrettable that the department had to resort to court involvement in this case in order to obtain it.”

Teen Punished for Stopping Bullies From Harassing a Special Needs Girl

Jenny Inglee:

A Florida high school student made a stand against bullying and is now in the hot seat with school officials. For months, 18-year-old Stormy Rich witnessed a girl with special needs being bullied by her peers on the way to school. “They would be mean to her, tell her she couldn’t sit on certain spots on the bus…just because she doesn’t understand doesn’t mean that should be happening to her,” Rich told WOFL-TV.
Rich says she reported the incidents to the bus driver and school officials. When they didn’t take action, she stepped in and confronted the bullies; but instead of being praised for her efforts, Rich ended up being labeled as a bully, and her bus-riding privileges were revoked. A spokesperson for the school district said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right” and that the girl with special needs never complained about being bullied.

Employers can help win the war on bad grammar

Michael Skapinker:

While the British summer sun was shining more brightly than it had in years, a stormy email arrived about English grammar.
“The whole downward process could well be becoming virtually irreversible,” my correspondent said. “My experience is very much that the teachers, anyway in England (and I expect it is even worse in the US), now are incapable of teaching grammar and the proper writing of English, having themselves never been taught it.”
Commenting on a column I wrote asking why parents were not more worried about their children’s poor writing, he said: “I am not really surprised . . . So many of them – probably virtually all of them – will not have been taught grammar and writing, possibly at all but anyway properly, when they were at school, and therefore will have little or no idea of the importance and benefits of it.”
My emailer was NM Gwynne, author of a popular book called Gwynne’s Grammar. A former businessman, Mr Gwynne is now a teacher of everything from Latin to starting your own business, but is particularly in demand to teach English grammar to pupils aged “from two years old to over 70”.

D.C. officials’ choice allowed math tests to show gain

Emma Brown

The four-point gains D.C. public school students achieved citywide on the most recent annual math and reading tests were acclaimed as historic, as more evidence that the city’s approach to improving schools is working.
But the math gains officials reported were the result of a quiet decision to score the tests in a way that yielded higher scores even though D.C. students got far fewer math questions correct than in the year before.
The decision was made after D.C. teachers recommended a new grading scale — which would have held students to higher standards on tougher math tests — and after officials reviewed projections that the new scale would result in a significant decline in math proficiency rates.
Instead, city officials chose to discard the new grading approach and hold students to a level of difficulty similar to previous years’, according to city officials as well as e-mails and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Act 10 Subject to Further Judicial Ruling, WERC Chastised

Madison Teachers, Inc., via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

MTI prevailed last year in a Circuit Court decision in which Judge Juan Colas found much of Act 10, what Governor Walker referred to as his “bomb” on public employee unions, to violate the Constitution. That decision is on appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Walker administration and his appointed Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has simply thumbed their nose at Colas’ ruling and vowed to continue forcing unions to conduct annual elections, wherein a union is decertified if it does not receive 50%+1 of those eligible to vote, not just 50%+1 of those voting as in every other election.
In a September 17, 2013 ruling, Judge Colas told Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission’s commissioners that a Circuit Court decision, while they may not like it or agree with it, is precedential and must be followed throughout the State. Colas said, “The question here is not whether other courts or non-parties are bound by this court’s ruling. It is whether the defendants are bound by it.” WERC was a named defendant in MTI’s suit, so as all defendants to a lawsuit are, and in a case in which the statute was found facially unconstitutional, they (WERC) are barred from enforcing Act 10 under any circumstances, against anyone.

The Post-Lecture Classroom: How Will Students Fare

Robinson Meyer:

If college professors spent less time lecturing, would their students do better?
A three-year study examining student performance in a “flipped classroom” — a class in which students watch short lecture videos at home and work on activities during class time — has found statistically significant gains in student performance in “flipped” settings and significant student preference for “flipped” methods.
The study, provided exclusively toThe Atlantic, is one of the first to examine a “flipped” classroom in the current state of its technology. Russell Mumper, a Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, conducted the study, and two separate articles based on its findings are now in press in the journals Academic Medicine and The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. The education technology company Echo360, whose technology was used in the classes examined, funded the study with a $10,000 grant.

How American HomeSchoolers Measure Up

Top Masters in Education

Once upon a time, all children were homeschooled. But around 150 years ago states started making public school mandatory and homeschooling eventually became illegal. It wasn’t until the 90’s that all states made it legal again. Today, with more than 2 million homeschoolers making up 4% of the school-aged population, it’s the fastest growing form of education in the country.
1840: 55% of children attended primary school while the rest were educated in the home or by tutors.
1852: The “Common School” model became popular and Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory attendance law. Once compulsory attendance laws became effective, America eventually relied entirely on public and private schools for educating children. Homeschooling then became something only practiced by extremely rural families, and within Amish communities.
1870: All states had free primary schools.
1900: 34 states had compulsory attendance laws.
1910: 72% of children attended primary school.
1960: Educational reformers started questioning public schooling’s methods and results.
1977: “Growing Without Schooling” magazine was published, marking a shift from trying to reform public education to abandoning it.
1980: Homeschooling was illegal in 30 states.
1983: Changes in tax law forced many Christian Schools to close which led to soaring homeschooling rates.
1993: Homeschooling become legal in all 50 states and saw annual growth rates of 15-20%.

Waiting for Recovery: New York Schools and the Aftermath of the Great Recession

Rajashri Chakrabarti and Max Livingston

A key institution that was significantly affected by the Great Recession is the school system, which plays a crucial role in building human capital and shaping the country’s economic future. To prevent major cuts to education, the federal government allocated $100 billion to schools as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly known as the stimulus package. However, the stimulus has wound down while many sectors of the economy are still struggling, leaving state and local governments with budget squeezes. In this post, we present some key findings on how school finances in New York State fared during this period, drawing on our recent study and a series of interactive graphics. As the stimulus ended, school district funding fell dramatically and districts across the state enacted significant cuts across the board, affecting not only noninstructional spending but also instructional spending–the category most closely related to student learning.

Death of an adjunct Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor of French for 25 years, died underpaid and underappreciated at age 83

Daniel Kovalik:

On Sept. 1, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor who had taught French at Duquesne University for 25 years, passed away at the age of 83. She died as the result of a massive heart attack she suffered two weeks before. As it turned out, I may have been the last person she talked to.
On Aug. 16, I received a call from a very upset Margaret Mary. She told me that she was under an incredible amount of stress. She was receiving radiation therapy for the cancer that had just returned to her, she was living nearly homeless because she could not afford the upkeep on her home, which was literally falling in on itself, and now, she explained, she had received another indignity — a letter from Adult Protective Services telling her that someone had referred her case to them saying that she needed assistance in taking care of herself. The letter said that if she did not meet with the caseworker the following Monday, her case would be turned over to Orphans’ Court.

Bring Back Social Studies The amount of time public-school kids spend learning about government and civics is shrinking.

Jen Kalaidis:

The most obvious and well-reported casualties of the last decade in program-slashing educational policy include traditional elective courses like art, music, and physical education. But these are not the only subjects being squeezed out or eliminated entirely from many public K-12 curriculums.
Social studies–a category that includes courses in history, geography, and civics–has also found itself on the chopping block. Whereas in the 1993-1994 school year students spent 9.5 percent of their time in social studies, by 2003-2004 that percentage had dropped to 7.6, despite an increase of total instructional time.
Why has a traditionally “core subject”, which was ranked in the same academic hierarchy as English, science, and math for decades, been sidelined in thousands of American classrooms?
The shift in curriculum began in the early years of the Cold War. While U.S. military and technological innovation brought World War II to a close, it was a later use of technology–the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957–that historian Thomas A. Bailey called the equivalent of a “psychological Pearl Harbor” for many Americans. It created deep feelings of inadequacy and a belief that the U.S. was falling behind in developing new technology and weapons, which led to the passage of the 1958 National Defense Education Act. This legislation pumped $1 billion over four years into math and science programs in both K-12 schools and universities.

Sun Prairie teachers help Myanmar (Burma) educators

Pamela Cotant:

athryn Fishnick said she has more empathy for her Horizon Elementary School students who are not native English speakers after taking a trip to Myanmar this summer to help evaluate the country’s educational system.
“We can talk to our students about putting yourself in other people’s shoes,” added Ali Armstrong, a school counselor and another participant on the trip.

Poverty Can Trump a Winning Hand of Genes

Alison Gopnik
Changes in our environment can actually transform the relation between our traits and the outside world.
We all notice that some people are smarter than others. You might naturally wonder how much these differences in intelligence depend on genes or upbringing. But that question, it turns out, is impossible to answer. That’s because changes in our environment can actually transform the relationship among our traits, our upbringing and our genes.
The textbook illustration of this is a dreadful disease called PKU. Some babies have a genetic mutation that makes them unable to process an amino acid in their food, and it leads to severe mental retardation. For centuries, PKU was incurable. Genetics determined whether someone suffered from the syndrome, which gave them a low IQ. Then scientists discovered how PKU works. Now, we can immediately put babies with the mutation on a special diet. Whether a baby with PKU has a low IQ is now determined by the food they eat–by their environment.
We humans can figure out how our environment works and act to change it, as we did with PKU. So if you’re trying to measure the relative influence of human nature and nurture, you have to consider not just the current environment but also all the possible environments that we can create. This doesn’t just apply to obscure diseases. In the latest issue of Psychological Science, Timothy C. Bates of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues report a study of the relationship among genes, SES (socio-economic status, or how rich and educated you are) and IQ. They used statistics to analyze the differences between identical twins, who share all DNA, and fraternal twins, who share only some.
When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly “heritable”–that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. Differences in the environment, like whether you lucked out with a good teacher, seemed to be much more important.
In the new study, the Bates team found this was even true when those children grew up. IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised. The explanation is that IQ is influenced by education. Historically, absolute IQ scores have risen substantially as we’ve changed our environment so that more people go to school longer.
Richer children have similarly good educational opportunities, so genetic differences among them become more apparent. And since richer children have more educational choice, they (or their parents) can choose environments that accentuate and amplify their particular skills. A child who has genetic abilities that make her just slightly better at math may be more likely to take a math class, so she becomes even better at math.
But for poor children, haphazard differences in educational opportunity swamp genetic differences. Ending up in a terrible school or one a bit better can make a big difference. And poor children have fewer opportunities to tailor their education to their particular strengths. How your genes shape your intelligence depends on whether you live in a world with no schooling at all, a world where you need good luck to get a good education or a world with rich educational possibilities. If we could change the world for the PKU babies, we can change it for the next generation of poor children, too.

California College Tells Student He Can’t Hand Out Copies Of The Constitution On Constitution Day (Free Speech)

Tim Cushing:

The blue on that map should represent areas where you can exercise your right to free speech. Unfortunately, for many college students, their “Free Speech Zone” shrinks considerably when on campus. One out of every six major colleges have designated “Free Speech Zones” where students are “permitted” to “enjoy” this Constitutional right, and even then there are restrictions. In these colleges, exercising your right to free speech means asking permission at least a couple of days in advance as well as having the administration “approve” your speech.
The latest example of confined and controlled speech comes to us courtesy of Modesto Junior College. As FIRE.org reports, a student found his exercise of free speech shut down on one of the worst days of the year for a college to assert its negative attitude towards the First Amendment.

In a stunning illustration of the attitude taken towards free speech by too many colleges across the United States, Modesto Junior College in California told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the student center on September 17, 2013–Constitution Day. Captured on video, college police and administrators demanded that Robert Van Tuinen stop passing out Constitution pamphlets and told him that he would only be allowed to pass them out in the college’s tiny free speech zone, and only after scheduling it several days or weeks ahead of time.

After 10 minutes of handing out these pamphlets, Van Tuinen was approached by a campus police officer. After some discussion regarding the ridiculousness of shutting down free speech on Constitution Day and Van Tuinen’s repeated assertion of his rights, the campus cop tells him to take it up with administration.

Grandpa’s Age Linked To Autism

Emily Willingham:

Results of a study in a Swedish population have linked grandpa’s age to an increased risk of autism in grandchildren. More specifically, the study authors found that men who sired children at age 50 or older were almost twice as likely as younger fathers to have an autistic grandchild.
According to the report, published in JAMA Psychiatry (full text here), lead author Emma Frans and colleagues looked at births in Sweden beginning in 1932. Among the tens of thousands of births, the database they used had information about grandparental age for almost 6000 autism cases and for almost 31,000 controls (families with no autistic children). Grandpas who had a daughter when they were 50 or older were 1.79 times more likely to have an autistic grandchild, and if they had a son at age 50 or older, the grandfathers were 1.67 times more likely to have an autistic grandchild. It didn’t seem to matter if grandpa was on the mother’s side or the father’s side of the family.

Stories of first-generation students: ‘I felt dumb, poor and confused’

Dhiya Kuriakose:

Half of US college students are the first in their family to go to university. We asked them to tell us about their experiences.
Last week, Julia James wrote about the challenges of being a first-generation college student – and how being the first in her family to attend university shaped her academic experience. As a part of our growing series Opening Up,we asked other first generation college students to weigh in, and tell us about their struggles, and what support colleges need to provide students like them.
Here are their stories:
‘The idea of going to college was alien’
Name: Kyle Brown
Degree: Computer Science, California State University, Chico
Age: 47
Challenges: Getting started was the biggest single issue – the idea of going to college was alien. Problem number one was the idea of going to school for an extended time. It was just not in my family’s culture. My mom suggested it while I was on disability, wondering what next. Community college was an easy first step. From there, I transferred to Chico for a four-year degree. All very new and alien.
Financial assistance: Finances worked themselves out. It was never a serious issue, even though my family was quite poor. Financial aid covered maybe 50% of costs, disability payments maybe 30%, and family members (thanks grandma!) helped with the rest.
Benefits: I make comfortably more money than anyone else in my family. Secondarily, it has changed the culture in the family. Extended education is not alien anymore, and is an option that gets serious consideration by everyone.

The Ph.D.-Industry Gap

Chand John:

Imagine you’re a brand-new Porsche in 2011. You’re sitting in a dealership, being test-driven by many enamored consumers but never purchased. Later you hear that the 2011 Toyota Camry outsold the Lexus 1.5 to 1, the Cadillac 2 to 1, and the Porsche 10 to 1. You ask yourself: Was it worth being an impressive, expensive car, if no one ever buys you?
That ironic situation is very real for many Ph.D.’s. I faced it myself after getting my master’s and doctorate in computer science from Stanford University, where I built software that revolutionized the study of human movement, became an early expert and core developer of software featured inScientific American, and was one of four Ph.D.’s chosen from Stanford’s engineering school for a research award.
Having learned after numerous discussions with professors that an academic career wasn’t realistic for my area of focus, I turned my attention to industry. Stanford’s tech-oriented departments drill into their students the idea that they will have no trouble getting a job in industry: The average Ph.D. student gets three job offers.

Wealthy Folks Try to Take Over the Seattle School Board, Again. It is something about human nature.

Cliff Mass:

It is something about human nature.
An individual does fabulously well in some endeavor, often gaining great wealth and power, and they assume their competencies extend to other areas. Like education. And as I will show, a bunch of wealthy folks are determined to ensure that the Seattle School Board follows their “corporate-ed” ideas.
A critical race is now occurring for an opening in the Seattle School Board. On one hand there is Suzanne Estey, with very little experience in Seattle School affairs, but enjoying the deep support of the ultra wealthy and powerful interests. On the other, there is Sue Peters, with a decade-long record of working in Seattle Public Schools, a stellar background in pushing for better math curriculum, a record of independence, and grass roots financial support. For reasons described below, I am strongly supporting Sue Peters, with whom I have worked for several years.

When Media Companies Try to Become Education Companies

Todd Tauber:

Soon, you’ll be able to learn zombie apocalypse survival skills from AMC’s The Walking Dead. The University of California at Irvine is offering an eight-week online course in partnership with the series. AMC isn’t the first media company to push into education. At least two dozen others have tried before. They won’t be the last, either. Forbes and Atlantic Media, which owns The Atlantic, are also gearing-up to launch online learning programs.
Most media companies getting into education wind up learning some hard lessons themselves: Education is a very different business from media. And succeeding takes a lot more than having a well-known brand, built-in audience and high-quality content.

Can Your Kid Hack It in Kindergarten?

Melinda Wenner Moyer:

Last week, two of my neighbors sent their 5-year-olds on the school bus for the first time. The families were excited but also mildly terrified. I look back fondly on kindergarten–I remember soaring around the playground as an eagle with my friend Kathleen–but kindergarten today is a vastly different beast than it was 30 years ago. Many schools have ditched play-based exploratory programs in favor of direct instruction and regular testing, in part thanks to the pressure to improve grade-school test scores. As many experts I spoke to for this column told me, kindergarten is the new first grade.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that an estimated 9 percent of parents don’t send their 5-year-olds to kindergarten anymore. They wait a year so that their savvy 6-year-olds can better handle the curriculum. This so-called “academic redshirting,” a nod to the practice of keeping young athletes on the bench until they are bigger and more skilled, is highly controversial. The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists and the National Association for the Education of Young Children fiercely oppose it, saying that redshirting “labels children as failures at the outset of their school experience.” Studies that have evaluated how well redshirted kids fare compared to their schooled-on-time peers conclude that redshirting provides no long-term academic or social advantages and can even put kids at a disadvantage.

That’s not autism: It’s simply a brainy, introverted boy

I have followed William in my therapy practice for close to a decade. His story is a prime example of the type of brainy, mentally gifted, single-minded, willful boys who often are falsely diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when they are assessed as young children. This unfortunate occurrence is partly due to defining autism as a “spectrum disorder,” incorporating mild and severe cases of problematic social communication and interaction, as well as restricted interests and behavior. In its milder form, especially among preschool- and kindergarten-age boys, it is tough to distinguish between early signs of autism spectrum disorder and indications that we have on our hands a young boy who is a budding intellectual, is more interested in studying objects than hanging out with friends, overvalues logic, is socially awkward unless interacting with others who share identical interests or is in a leadership role, learns best when obsessed with a topic, and is overly businesslike and serious in how he socializes. The picture gets even more complicated during the toddler years, when normal, crude assertions of willfulness, tantrums, and lapses in verbal mastery when highly emotional are in full swing. As we shall see, boys like William, who embody a combination of emerging masculine braininess and a difficult toddlerhood, can be fair game for a mild diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, when it does not apply.

Do American public schools really stink? Maybe not

Stephanie Simon:

The drumbeat is hard to miss: Our schools are failing. Public education is in crisis. Our students are falling further and further behind.
The rhetoric comes from the left and right, from educators and politicians and lobbyists and CEOs and even Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The deep dysfunction of our public schools is said to threaten not only America’s economy but also its national security.
But a vocal group of contrarians is challenging that conventional wisdom. The latest weapon in their arsenal: A new book out this week by education historian Diane Ravitch, who argues that the biggest crisis facing public education is the relentless message that public education is in crisis.
It’s a debate with broad power to shape the nation’s $600-billion-a-year investment in public education. Where’s the truth? That’s not always easy to discern. Here’s a look at four key talking points — and the facts (and spin) behind them.
1. China is eating us for lunch
A a new video about the failures of public schools making the rounds on social media starts by introducing viewers to “the most important number in all of education…32!”
Why 32?

What if a school district evades its own rules?

Jay Matthews:

Any parent who has fought a local school or school system, or thought about doing so, can learn from Bill Horkan and his battle with the transportation department of the Loudoun County Public Schools.
In June, schools notified the parents of 3,500 children that they were not eligible for bus service. They did not qualify under LCPS manual section 6-21: “Transportation shall be provided for all elementary students living more than eight-tenths (0.8) of a mile walking distance from their assigned elementary schools.”
Horkan, a Fairfax County high school math teacher with a love of precision, researched the matter and concluded that the rule does apply to many of those children, but not to his fifth-grade daughter and several other Algonkian Elementary School children in his Sterling neighborhood. It appeared the shortest route his child could walk from his house to the school was 0.93 miles, with six street crossings.
He was slightly off. The measurement had to be from the closest point on the parent’s property to the closest point on the school’s property, and not where the student would be dropped off. That distance was still more than eight-tenths of a mile. A transportation department official he called said the district’s data put it at exactly 0.8221 miles.

Daring Arlington County public school requires AP or IB courses for all students

Jay Matthews:

Two Arlington County ninth-graders told Washington-Lee High School Principal Gregg Robertson they had made a mistake. Advanced Placement world history, a college-level course, was too much for them. They wanted to switch to the regular world history course.
Robertson pointed to a banner in his office: “The only way out is through,” it said, inspired by an Alanis Morissette song. He made a deal with the students. If they stuck with AP through the end of the first semester, they could switch if they still wanted to. When the time came, they had adjusted to the heavy writing and reading load. They stayed and did well in the course.
With such stories in mind, Washington-Lee teachers, counselors and administrators are attempting something never done in any non-magnet suburban Washington school. If they succeed in their efforts, next spring every Washington-Lee graduating senior will have taken at least one AP or International Baccalaureate course and test.
This is exceptionally ambitious. A few magnets, such as Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and private schools, such as Washington International in the District, have full participation in college-level courses. But I know of only one neighborhood school in the country in which that’s the case.

Hong Kong schools woo cross-border pupils in battle to survive

Jennifer Ngo:

Hong Kong schools worried that falling pupil numbers will force them to close are courting children across the border in a bid to avoid the axe.
The move comes despite the children facing an hours-long commute to and from school each day – something that puts off many parents.
Schools in North district, where commuting is easier, have little trouble filling their classrooms and even struggle to accommodate pupils from nearby Shenzhen.
But with Hong Kong’s low birth rate leading to falling enrolments, those elsewhere without enough pupils face closure.
Yesterday schools in old urban areas further south such as Pokfulam and Chai Wan – at the far western and eastern ends of Hong Kong Island – were chasing potential entrants in Shenzhen. The schools are among more than 20 Hong Kong kindergartens, primary and secondary schools attending a three-day exhibition in the border city this weekend to promote themselves to parents with Hong Kong-born children living on the mainland.

Moving to the rhythm ‘can help language skills’

Melissa Hogenboom:

Moving in time to a steady beat is closely linked to better language skills, a study suggests.
People who performed better on rhythmic tests also showed enhanced neural responses to speech sounds.
The researchers suggest that practising music could improve other skills, particularly reading.
In the Journal of Neurosciencea the authors argue that rhythm is an integral part of language.
“We know that moving to a steady beat is a fundamental skill not only for music performance but one that has been linked to language skills,” said Nina Kraus, of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Youngest Kid, Smartest Kid

Maria Konnikova:

When the Harvard sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman was expecting her first child, one thing worried her: her due date, January 3rd. It was uncomfortably close to January 1st, an often-used age cutoff for enrollment in academics and sports. “I was determined to keep him in until after January 1st,” she said. And if the baby came early? “I actively thought about redshirting,” she said. Given the choice, she wanted him to be the oldest kid in his class, not the youngest.
Redshirting is the practice of holding a child back for an extra year before the start of kindergarten, named for the red jersey worn in intra-team scrimmages by college athletes kept out of competition for a year. It is increasingly prevalent among parents of would-be kindergartners. In 1968, four per cent of kindergarten students were six years old; by 1995, the number of redshirted first- and second-graders had grown to nine per cent. In 2008, it had risen to seventeen per cent. The original logic of the yearlong delay is rooted in athletics: athletes who are bigger and stronger tend to perform better, so why not bench the younger, smaller ones for a year? The logic was popularized in “Freakonomics,” in which the authors, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, pointed out that élite soccer players were much more likely to have birthdays in the earliest months of the year–that is, they would have been the oldest in any group of students that used a January 1st cutoff for enrollment.
On the surface, redshirting seems to make sense in the academic realm, too. The capabilities of a child’s brain increase at a rapid pace; the difference between five-year-olds and six-year-olds is far greater than between twenty-five-year-olds and twenty-six-year-olds. An extra year can allow a child to excel relative to the younger students in the class. “Especially for boys, there is thought to be a relative-age effect that persists across sports and over time,” said Friedman. “Early investment of time and skill developments appears to have a more lasting impact.” Older students and athletes are often found in leadership positions–and who can doubt the popularity of the star quarterback relative to the gym-class weakling?

UP Academy Boston and UP Academy Leonard student achievement results from the spring 2013 MCAS.

Infographic, via a kind reader email:

After two years of operation, we are setting a new level of academic and behavioral expectations for our nearly 500 students. Today, our school environment promotes an atmosphere of rigor and joy and leads students to internalize important, positive lifelong values. We are proud of the progress that we have made, as we have many achievements to celebrate.
While we are excited about the work of our students and teachers in year two, we are poised to move from a turnaround school to a truly excellent school. Our mission is still alive: We will work with urgency until all of our students acquire the knowledge, skills and strength of character necessary to succeed on the path to college and to achieve their full potential. The 2013-2014 school year will be an extraordinary and critical one for our school community, as UP Academy aspires to do whatever it takes to create responsible and independent scholars.

Related: Comparing Boston, Long Beach and Madison schools, and the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

Madison elementary art teacher posts students’ anti-Walker cartoons

Ryan Ekvall, via a kind reader email:

Some kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders in Madison public schools are apparently preparing for futures in either political cartooning or time on a psychiatrist’s couch.
Kati Walsh, an elementary art teacher at the Madison Metropolitan School District in July posted some of her students’ drawings of Gov. Scott Walker in jail. Walsh suggests her young Rembrandts’ ideas for their sketches popped up out of thin air.
“One student said something to the effect of ‘Scott Walker wants to close all the public schools’… So the rest of the class started drawing their own cartoons and they turned very political. They have very strong feelings about Scott Walker,” the teacher wrote on her blog.

Remarkable. I am in favor of a wide ranging, free thinking education for our future generations, after they have mastered reading….. Some teachers deal with ideology very well, others not so much.

MuckReads Podcast: The Story Behind ‘The Child Exchange’

Mike Webb:

Last week, Megan Twohey of Reuters published a major investigation about how American families use Internet message boards to abandon difficult children adopted from other countries. Twohey showed how exasperated families use Yahoo and Facebook groups to find new parents for the children they swore to take care of. And far too often, these children end up in homes where the guardians have not been approved to take care of children, where they can be sexually abused or put in surroundings that are dangerous for their well-being.
ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen sat down with Twohey to get the story behind the story of piecing “The Child Exchange” together. Asked to describe how she got started, Twohey said, “One of the most valuable things I think about this project is I worked with our database team. We basically did a deep dive on one of the Yahoo groups where this – it’s called re-homing – activity takes place. And we scraped all 5,000 messages going back five years and built a database where we were able to quantify what was going on. We logged every single offer of a child that was being made over a 5-year period and we found that on average a child was being offered up once a week.”
Twohey added, “It’s interesting to note too that the term ‘re-homing’ was first used to describe people seeking new owners for their pets. And some of the ads read remarkably similar to the ads that you’d see for people trying to find a new home for their pet. Some of the ads would describe kids as being obedient, eager to please, or talk about them being pretty.”

Wisconsin school spending grew 10.2% during 2008-11, compared to 2.9% nationally, according to newly available Census figures


Despite cuts to state school aid in 2010, and slower growth of school revenue limits in 2010 and 2011, Wisconsin per student spending increased 2.6% in 2010 and 3.6% in 2011. Wisconsin school spending averaged $11,774 per student in 2011, 15th highest nationally and 11.5% above the national average ($10,560).
What is not yet known (since federal data have a two year lag) is how Wisconsin will stack up with other states in light of state budget actions in 2011-13. However, researchers from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) estimate that the 5.5% cut in 2012 Wisconsin school revenue limits will trim spending to $11,126 per student, potentially shrinking the gap between school spending here and nationally. WISTAX is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization dedicated to policy research and citizen education.
The new federal figures for 2011 show that, unlike Wisconsin, many states saw declining combined aid (state and federal) to schools during 2009-11; 11 states in 2009, 17 in 2010, and 22 in 2011. By contrast, state-federal support in Wisconsin rose 3.3% in 2009, 0.4% in 2010, and 2.7% in 2011.
The difference in aid trends between Wisconsin and the nation was reflected in per pupil expenditures. U.S. school spending grew 2.3% in 2009 and 1.1% in 2010, before falling 0.5% in 2011. In Wisconsin, however, per student spending during those years rose 3.7%, 2.6%, and 3.6%, respectively.
Many states trimmed school spending during 2009-11. Two states made cuts in all three years, and another seven cut spending in both 2010 and 2011. As national figures have already suggested, retrenchment did not occur in Wisconsin until 2012.

Related: A Look at Property Taxes Around the World and Madison’s 16% increase since 2007; Median Household Income Down 7.6%; Middleton’s 16% less and Madison School Board Passes 2013-2014 Budget, including a 4.5% Property Tax Increase.

Brazilian city model tackles schools shortage

Samantha Pearson:

The residents of Belmonte, a poor neighbourhood on the northern outskirts of Brazilian mining city Belo Horizonte, have heard and seen it all. Between May and July, police arrested 14 gang members suspected of operating a “dial-a-drug” delivery business in the region. One of the gang was a military police officer, who allegedly used the code word “barbecue” to warn the others when his colleagues were planning a raid.
But when workers started erecting a “flat-pack” school among the neighbourhood’s makeshift houses early this year, curiosity got the better of even the most world-weary of locals, says Danilo Andrade, the project’s chief engineer. “Many people came to see what was going on,” he says, casting his eye over the angular red and turquoise structure, topped with a distinctive cone spire.
The building is the first of 32 state nursery schools, known by the abbreviation Umei (municipal infant education units), to be delivered over the next 16 months under a new public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.

To Recruit More Black Male Teachers, Retain Those You Have

Chase Neisner:

New research sponsored by the National Academy of Education seeks a deeper understanding of why there are so few black male teachers in U.S. public schools.
The backdrop for the work by Travis Bristol of Teachers College, Columbia University and Ron Ferguson of the Harvard Achievement Gap Initiative is the startling fact that black males, who are six percent of the U.S. population, makeup less than two percent of the nation’s public school teachers.
In LA Unified, the numbers are slightly above the national average. Here, black male teachers accounted for 2.9 percent of all teachers in the 2012-13 school year, a total of 743, according to district data. With 31,320 black male students, that’s a ratio of 42 to 1, compared with the ratio of white male students to white male teachers of 9 to 1.
Noting the efforts of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his department’s “Black Men to the Blackboard” recruitment campaign begun in 2011, Bristol and Ferguson hypothesize that this dearth of black male teachers, especially in urban areas, is as much an issue of retainment as recruitment.

My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me

Karl Tao Greenfield:

Memorization, not rationalization. That is the advice of my 13-year-old daughter, Esmee, as I struggle to make sense of a paragraph of notes for an upcoming Earth Science test on minerals. “Minerals have crystal systems which are defined by the # of axis and the length of the axis that intersect the crystal faces.” That’s how the notes start, and they only get murkier after that. When I ask Esmee what this actually means, she gives me her homework credo.
Esmee is in the eighth grade at the NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies, a selective public school in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. My wife and I have noticed since she started there in February of last year that she has a lot of homework. We moved from Pacific Palisades, California, where Esmee also had a great deal of homework at Paul Revere Charter Middle School in Brentwood. I have found, at both schools, that whenever I bring up the homework issue with teachers or administrators, their response is that they are required by the state to cover a certain amount of material. There are standardized tests, and everyone–students, teachers, schools–is being evaluated on those tests. I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind. What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed. During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep.

End of an Error? Can Diane Ravitch’s new book reshape the nonsensical debate about our public schools?


I first met Diane Ravitch when she was in Boston to promote her last book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System. The editor of a newspaper for AFT Massachusetts, I planned to interview Ravitch for the final issue of the school year. But I harbored a shameful secret: I had not read the book. You see, “editor” doesn’t quite describe the job that I held. I was responsible for producing a monthly newspaper-entirely by myself. By the time Ravitch arrived, I was on my ninth paper of the school year, and completely fried.
But I had a plan. I’d skim the book on the train then, channeling my many years of graduate school, I’d wing it. Except that Ravitch turned out to be rather more formidable than I’d expected. This had the effect of causing the few questions I’d prepared to tumble out in a nervous rush, while her answers seemed to be of the short, definitive variety. When one of the event organizers poked her head into our conference room, summoning me out into the hall, I breathed a sigh of relief. There’d been a change of plans, she explained, and Ravitch’s next interview had been canceled. Did I mind keeping her entertained for the next two hours?
Reader: I can assure you that I have read her latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. I tore through it, and I predict that you will too. I followed the man to whom I’m *technically* married around our house, reading aloud from Ravitch’s fiercely clear account and for once he didn’t pretend to be on a conference call. In fact, he asked to read the book when I’d finished. But it’s too late.Reign is even now hurtling towards southern Illinois where my sister has just begun her 23rd year as an elementary school teacher. She asked me to send it overnight mail.

A New Resource to Fight the “Ed Reform Machine” and Save Public Schools

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

As school resumes, The Progressive Magazine is revving up the movement to save public schools. On their new web site, created specifically for the anti-voucher/save public schools project, www.publicschoolshakedown.org, The Progressive is pulling together education experts including Diane Ravich (education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education), activists, bloggers, and concerned citizens from across the country.
PUBLIC SCHOOL SHAKEDOWN is dedicated to EXPOSING the behind-the-scenes effort to privatize public schools, and CONNECTING pro-public school activists nationwide.
“Public School Shakedown will be a fantastic addition to the debate”, says Diane Ravitch. “The Progressive is performing a great public service by helping spread the word about the galloping privatization of our public schools.”
“Free public education, doors open to all, no lotteries, is a cornerstone of our democracy. If we allow large chunks of it to be handed over to private operators, religious schools, for-profit enterprises, and hucksters, we put our democracy at risk”, Ravitch adds.
That’s where Public School Shakedown comes in. While there are already groups such as the National Education Policy Center doing terrific research on education privatization and its effects, and bloggers writing pointed, hilarious reports, there is still not a great deal of understanding in the general population of how the education privatization movement works.
Teachers understand that the attack on public education is an attack on the very heart of our democracy. Yet the “school choice” movement has succeeded in setting the terms of the conversation. To the unknowing layperson, “school choice” and “education reform” sound like benign policy goals that aim to improve children’s access to high-quality education.
The time is right for a journalistic platform like The Progressive to put the pieces together.
From its base in Madison, The Progressive has made the attack on public schools a primary focus of its reporting.
Wisconsin is ground-zero for the school voucher movement. The first school voucher program started in Milwaukee back in 1990. But the last few years of the Walker Administration really brought home the importance of this issue.
The 2011 protests called attention to the public as to how much is at stake – a great public school system, open to all, and a democracy – not just a pay-as-you-go system of winners and losers that leaves the poor and middle classes behind.

The Case Against High-School Sports

Amanda Ripley:

Every year, thousands of teenagers move to the United States from all over the world, for all kinds of reasons. They observe everything in their new country with fresh eyes, including basic features of American life that most of us never stop to consider.
One element of our education system consistently surprises them: “Sports are a big deal here,” says Jenny, who moved to America from South Korea with her family in 2011. Shawnee High, her public school in southern New Jersey, fields teams in 18 sports over the course of the school year, including golf and bowling. Its campus has lush grass fields, six tennis courts, and an athletic Hall of Fame. “They have days when teams dress up in Hawaiian clothes or pajamas just because–‘We’re the soccer team!,’ ” Jenny says. (To protect the privacy of Jenny and other students in this story, only their first names are used.)
By contrast, in South Korea, whose 15-year-olds rank fourth in the world (behind Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong) on a test of critical thinking in math, Jenny’s classmates played pickup soccer on a dirt field at lunchtime. They brought badminton rackets from home and pretended there was a net. If they made it into the newspaper, it was usually for their academic accomplishments.

More here.

Madison school board to examine racial disparity in suspensions, expulsions

Pat Schneider:

African-American students in the Madison Metropolitan School District were eight times more likely to get an out-of-school suspension than white students last school year, according to district data.
Multiracial students were four times more likely to be suspended than white kids and Hispanic students were nearly twice as likely. Asian students, though, were only half as likely to be suspended as white kids.
Of the 3,863 out-of-school suspensions last year, 53 percent involved students from low-income families and nearly 24 percent involved students in special education programs, according to a district report on student behavior last school year.
Racial disparity in expulsions is evident too. African-Americans, who made up 19 percent of the school district population last year, were the subject of 60 percent of the 146 expulsion recommendations eventually resulting in 24 expulsions.

Bookless Public Library Opens In Texas

Bill Chappell:

An all-digital public library is opening today, as officials in Bexar County, Texas, celebrate the opening of the BiblioTech library. The facility offers about 10,000 free e-books for the 1.7 million residents of the county, which includes San Antonio.
On its website, the Bexar County BiblioTech library explains how its patrons can access free eBooks and audio books. To read an eBook on their own device, users must have the 3M Cloud Library app, which they can link to their library card.
The app includes a countdown of days a reader has to finish a book — starting with 14 days, according to My San Antonio.
The library has a physical presence, as well, with 600 e-readers and 48 computer stations, in addition to laptops and tablets. People can also come for things like kids’ story time and computer classes, according to the library’s website.

Educational apartheid a disgrace

Peggy Schulz:

On Sept. 21, concerned Milwaukeeans will gather for the Public Education is a Civil Right March and Rally. Participants will assemble at Milwaukee High School of the Arts and then march to Forest Home Avenue School for a rally.
It’s been nearly 60 years since the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. That decision declared “separate but equal” was not a valid construct when it came to public education. In that case, the separation was between racial groups.
Apartheid, the government-enforced system of racial segregation in South Africa, endured for almost 50 years until the election of the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela.
So, why is it that in 2013, we in Milwaukee can’t grasp the fact that many of our city’s students, often the most needy ones, do not have the same access to a free, quality education as their peers in the suburbs? In other words, separation by socioeconomic status.
President John F. Kennedy spoke to the vital importance of truly public education.
“Modern cynics and skeptics …see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”
Kennedy unknowingly presaged the current budget battles when he added: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”
Milwaukee is a city where public schools once were nearly as much a given as the right to exist or even to breathe. The native language of many of Milwaukee’s first residents contributed the idyllic word “kindergarten,” meaning “children’s garden,” to our vocabulary.

What if a typical family spent like the federal government? It’d be a very weird family.

Brad Plumer:

The idea here seems to be that the U.S. government is taking on a lot of debt. True, the typical American family also takes on lots of debt through mortgages and the like — the median debt burden is about $70,000 — but U.S. government borrowing is even more massive than that.
Fair enough. This analogy seems incomplete, though. We should take it further. If the typical family — let’s call them the Smiths — really did spend like the federal government, a few other things would also be true:
— The Smiths would spend 20 percent of their budget, or $12,800 each year, on an arsenal of guns, tanks and drones to defend their house against threats or to invade the occasional neighbor over lawn-pesticide disputes and access to the gas station.
— The Smiths would spend another third of their income financing retirement and health care for Grandma and Grandpa. Part of that would have been prepaid by money that Grandma and Grandpa socked away while they were working, but some of it would be paid for by the parents and kids who are chipping in.
— Actually, come to think of it, the Smiths spend nearly half their money — 43 percent — operating a massive insurance conglomerate whose main beneficiaries are family members.

Google teams up with Harvard and MIT to develop education site

Hannah Kuchler:

Google has partnered with EdX, the platform founded by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to develop an online education site where anyone can create and post courses.
Open EdX will allow businesses, governments and individuals, as well as universities, to build massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, where tens of thousands of students from anywhere in the world can enrolin the same class.
Anant Agarwal, president of EdX, compared the new site, which will launch next year, to YouTube, Google’s online video platform. The technology company’s developers would assist with building the site, host it on its cloud computing service and help the organisation work out how to generate revenue, he said.
“It is very exciting that the leader inthe MOOC movement and the leader in the web space are teaming up to help online education. I think it is a really good thing for the world,” he added.

Virtual Schools & Academic Honesty


As virtual education continues to expand, teachers, administrators, and principals are constantly seeking ways to improve rapidly changing programs. While virtual schools provide students the opportunity to learn at an individualized pace, to attend school at a flexible location, and to fill in gaps in learning, educators are still working to decipher the best way to ensure academic integrity and to combat cheating.
In-person exams are one safeguard for academic integrity. Another safeguard is requiring students to have a licensed proctor facilitate major assessments for virtual courses.
Surprisingly, students are not the only ones culpable for the lack of academic integrity in virtual learning. While virtual schools often require parent involvement and guidance, there is a fine line between monitoring and “dishonest intervention.” Some schools require parents to have their own login, allowing them to follow children without actually submitting work for them.
“If you look across the range of full-time online learning programs … there are different parent roles, and some programs involve the learning coach and parent at a much higher level, said International Association for K-12 Online Learning President Susan Patrick. “Each of those programs is developing their own guide for parents in terms of [their] role.”

Oregon State Board of Education orders school district to end use of “seclusion cells”

Chris Lehman:

The Oregon Board of Education (OBE) has directed the Portland school system to remove four so-called “seclusion cells,” says Northwest Public Radio. The rooms are used as a place to calm down students who are out of control. Oregon lawmakers this year voted to ban the starkest versions of these rooms
Supporters of the legislative restrictions specifically point to the seclusion cells at Pioneer School in northeast Portland, which serves students with severe behavioral and mental health issues. The Portland school system had previously decided not to use the seclusion cells during the current academic year.

Baraboo teacher named state’s middle school teacher of the year

Bill Novak:

An area English language arts teacher has been named Wisconsin’s middle school teacher of the year.
Jane McMahon was honored on Monday in a surprise ceremony at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo.
McMahon will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.
“For our students to succeed, we need great educators in our schools,” said Tony Evers, state superintendent of schools, in a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

California school district hires firm to monitor students’ social media

Michael Martinez:

A suburban Los Angeles school district is now looking at the public postings on social media by middle and high school students, searching for possible violence, drug use, bullying, truancy and suicidal threats.
The district in Glendale, California, is paying $40,500 to a firm to monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year.
Though critics liken the monitoring to government stalking, school officials and their contractor say the purpose is student safety.
As classes began this fall, the district awarded the contract after it earlier paid the firm, Geo Listening, $5,000 last spring to conduct a pilot project monitoring 9,000 students at three high schools and a middle school. Among the results was a successful intervention with a student “who was speaking of ending his life” on his social media, said Chris Frydrych, CEO of the firm.
That intervention was significant because two students in the district committed suicide the past two years, said Superintendent Richard Sheehan. The suicides occurred at a time when California has reduced mental health services in schools, Sheehan said.

Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement

Eleain Weiss:

This report aims to inform current policies as well as policies under debate at the federal and state levels. We hope that lessons conveyed here will encourage the adoption of the positive steps taken in a few states and districts and help states navigate challenges as they enter their final year of Race to the Top. These lessons pertain as well to the many more states that are beginning to implement requirements to attain waivers from No Child Left Behind. Finally, the lessons can help guide a stronger, more thoughtful rollout of the Common Core State Standards. President Obama would like to leave as part of his legacy substantial improvements in U.S. education. Recognizing the flaws inherent in Race to the Top, reversing the damage it has done, and enacting more comprehensive education policies in the administration’s second term could make that legacy a proud one.

London student reported to police: “Enchanted by anarchism and individualism”

Payton Alexander

A headteacher in the London borough of Camden has come under fire by bloggers for reporting one of his students to police after reading the student’s blog, which criticised the school and revealed the student’s ‘enchantment’ with the philosophies of anarchism and individualism. The student, named Kinnan Zaloom, 19, operated the ‘Hampstead Trash’ blog as an outlet for his and his classmates’ dissatisfaction with the practices of the Hampstead School and the conduct of its employees, lambasting the school’s overspending on promotional material, lack of investment in musical instruments and gym equipment, insincere attempts to listen to pupils’ views about the school, and a failure to raise GCSE results to a higher level.
The headteacher, in addition to reporting Zaloom to the police, phoned Glasgow University, where the student had applied to study, in an attempt to dissuade them from accepting him.
While the headteacher’s actions may certainly be described as an overreaction, what is more worrying is his own justification for them.
Asked what had first inclined him to contact the police, Mr. Szemalikowski said “the fact that Kinnan has mentioned the ideologies of anarchism and individualism on this blog.” Digging himself even deeper, the headteacher added, “I must do something. In the last year he has become more and more enchanted by antiestablishment ways of thinking and has even said that there is an inherent risk that every government is corrupt.”

Our era needs new words to describe new conditions

Douglas Coupland

It occurs to me that our new era requires new words to describe new conditions, so herewith follows a quick useful lexicon for 2013.
The first modern condition that springs to mind is one described by the word: smupidity (n.) smart + stupidity
Smupidity defines the mental state wherein we acknowledge that we’ve never been smarter as individuals and yet somehow we’ve never felt stupider. We now collectively inhabit a state of smupidity. Example: “Yes, I know I was able to obtain a list of all Oscar winners from 1952 in three tenths of a second, yet it makes me feel smupid that I didn’t waste two hours visiting the local library to obtain that list.” In our newly smupid world, the average IQ is now 103 but it feels like it’s 97.
One possible explanation for smupidity is that people are generally far more aware than they ever were of all the information they don’t know. The weight of this fact overshadows huge advances made in knowledge-accumulation and pattern-recognition skills honed by online searching.

How to Make School Better for Boys

Christina Hoff Summers:

I recently appeared on MSNBC’s The Cycle to discuss the new edition of my book The War Against Boys. The four hosts were having none of it. A war on boys? They countered with the wage gap and the prominence of men across the professions. One of them concluded, “I don’t think the patriarchy is under any threat.”
The MSNBC skeptics are hardly alone in dismissing the plight of boys and young men. Even those who acknowledge that boys are losing in school argue that they’re winning in life. But the facts are otherwise. American boys across the ability spectrum are struggling in the nation’s schools, with teachers and administrators failing to engage their specific interests and needs. This neglect has ominous implications not only for the boy’s social and intellectual development but for the national economy, as policy analysts are just beginning to calculate.
As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become the cornerstone of lifelong success. Women are adapting; men are not. Yet the education establishment and federal government are, with some notable exceptions, looking the other way.

Ban School Bake Sales Do American parents spend too much time volunteering at their kids’ schools?

Amanda Ripley:

American parents show up at their children’s schools. A lot. Nearly nine out of 10 attended at least one PTA or other school meeting in the 2011-12 school year, according to data released last week by the Department of Education’s National Household Education Surveys Program. Six out of 10 participated in at least one school fundraiser. American parents stay up late baking cookies for bake sales, and they leave work early for football games. It’s a remarkable investment of time and heart.
Yet over the past couple of years, as I traveled around the world visiting countries with higher-performing education systems while researching my new book The Smartest Kids in the World, I noticed something odd. I hardly saw parents at schools at all.
“My daughters’ school does not ask me or anyone else to do anything,” says Susanne Strömberg, a journalist and mother of twin daughters in public elementary school in Finland–the country where 15-year-olds rank No. 1 in the world in science and No. 2 in reading. She sounds almost wistful as she considers the absence of such solicitations. “No money donations–never!”

Idaho schools chief Luna admits to missteps in education reform plan

Bill Roberts:

Nearly a year after voters trounced Tom Luna’s Students Come First proposals in a referendum, the state schools superintendent acknowledged he did not do enough to make the plan transparent or to involve Idahoans.
“Our plan under Students Come First was a legislative plan,” Luna said Monday in a meeting with the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. “We had 105 (legislators) and one governor to convince.”
Voters saw it differently, and after lawmakers passed three sweeping laws that narrowed collective bargaining, instituted merit pay and would have put laptops in the hands of all Idaho high-schoolers, they knocked all three down last fall.
“What I learned … is that we should have been far more aware of a more broad discussion amongst the general public and not just focus on a strategy that would have legislative success,” Luna said.

Instructor offers Madison College $100,000 to rename Welcome Center

Jack Craver

He outlined his proposal in a letter to Barhorst’s successor, Jack Daniels III.
“I understand that the college is facing a budget shortfall and I have a proposal that will help alleviate that situation. I propose to purchase the naming rights to the newly constructed welcome center at the Truax Campus for $100,000.00. As such, the new name shall be: MADISON COLLEGE WELCOME CENTER. The name change shall occur by November 15 of the current year with the stipulation that I take physical possession of the discarded letters, BETTSEY L. BARHORST, that are currently used in the display.”
In an email to the Cap Times, Peterson called the Welcome Center a “decadent display of self-promotion,” at the expense of area taxpayers. Ideally, he says, the Welcome Center’s name should be “functional, not personal.”
But, he points out, if it is to be named after an MATC leader, why should it be Barhorst, whose seven year tenure, was relatively short when compared to her predecessors?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How Detroit went broke: The answers may surprise you – and don’t blame Coleman Young

Nathan Bomey and John Gallagher:

Detroit is broke, but it didn’t have to be. An in-depth Free Press analysis of the city’s financial history back to the 1950s shows that its elected officials and others charged with managing its finances repeatedly failed — or refused — to make the tough economic and political decisions that might have saved the city from financial ruin.
Instead, amid a huge exodus of residents, plummeting tax revenues and skyrocketing home abandonment, Detroit’s leaders engaged in a billion-dollar borrowing binge, created new taxes and failed to cut expenses when they needed to. Simultaneously, they gifted workers and retirees with generous bonuses. And under pressure from unions and, sometimes, arbitrators, they failed to cut health care benefits — saddling the city with staggering costs that today threaten the safety and quality of life of people who live here.
The numbers, most from records deeply buried in the public library, lay waste to misconceptions about the roots of Detroit’s economic crisis. For critics who want to blame Mayor Coleman Young for starting this mess, think again. The mayor’s sometimes fiery rhetoric may have contributed to metro Detroit’s racial divide, but he was an astute money manager who recognized, early on, the challenges the city faced and began slashing staff and spending to address them.
And Wall Street types who applauded Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s financial acumen following his 2005 deal to restructure city pension debt should consider this: The numbers prove that his plan devastated the city’s finances and was a key factor that drove Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July.

Sending Disruptive Students to the E.R. Worries Docs, Advocates

Beth Fertig:

By the city’s own count, about one fourth of all 911 calls made from New York City public schools are for “emotionally disturbed persons,” as first responders call it. In one year, 2011-12, schools made more than 3,800 calls that, in turn, led to an ambulance trip to a hospital emergency room, a mismatched solution in the eyes of many mental health experts and children’s advocates.
Dr. Michael Falk, a pediatrician in the pediatric emergency room of St. Luke’s hospital in Harlem, said there were about 136 psychiatric behavioral evaluations between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. last year for children under the age of 18 coming from public schools. He said some were sent to his emergency room because they were suicidal or assaulted a teacher. But he says many more cases aren’t nearly so dramatic.
“It’s usually involving they get into an altercation with one of the other students and then the staff tries to restrain them, and then the staff person gets hit or threatened,” he said, adding that “a fair number” are anywhere between the ages of six and 10. He said the E.R. also sees a “significant number” of kids with learning disabilities or A.D.H.D.
Very few children were admitted, he said. Instead, most were evaluated and sent home – which mental health experts say is typical. But they believe it still takes a lot of time on the part of doctors and nurses, plus the use of an ambulance that should be reserved for true emergencies.

Great Education War being waged on multiple fronts

Alan Borsuk:

I have such conflicted feelings about the war.
No, not Syria. Also not Iraq, Afghanistan or even Grenada (we won that one, remember?)
The Great Education War rages all around us. If anything, it seems to be getting more intense, and cooperation and goodwill seem to be in shorter supply.
The war has many fronts:

  • Standardized testing, how much should there be, what uses should the results be put to.
  • Private school voucher programs (the battle royal, especially in places such as Wisconsin).
  • Charter schools (actually, a hotter fight in many places than around here).
  • Teachers’ collective bargaining powers. Also teachers’ pay and pensions. Also funding and tax issues overall
  • Anything that some people see as “privatization.”

War, of course, is too strong a term, if you take it literally. There is no physical fighting (thank goodness). But there are passions and intensity, and the stakes are high and the advocacy is often conducted with bare-knuckled rhetoric and uncompromising strategy. It sort of has the feeling of war.

Alexandria school board supports lawsuit against McDonnell’s takeover law

Michael Alison Chandler

The Alexandria school board voted Thursday night to support a lawsuit waged by the Norfolk City School Board against Gov. McDonnell’s school takeover law.
In a unanimous vote, the board adopted a resolution stating that the “Opportunity Education Institution” legislation “usurps the role of local school boards in supervising and managing the public schools.”
Under the law, any school that is denied state accreditation or accredited with warning for three consecutive years can be taken into a statewide school district.
Norfolk would be the hardest hit school district initially — with as many as three schools in jeopardy of a state takeover.
In Alexandria, Jefferson Houston School would also be eligible for a state takeover.