No Child Left Untableted

Carlo Rotella:

Sally Hurd Smith, a veteran teacher, held up her brand-new tablet computer and shook it as she said, “I don’t want this thing to take over my classroom.” It was late June, a month before the first day of school. In a sixth-grade classroom in Greensboro, N.C., a dozen middle-school social-studies teachers were getting their second of three days of training on tablets that had been presented to them as a transformative educational tool. Every student and teacher in 18 of Guilford County’s 24 middle schools would receive one, 15,450 in all, to be used for class work, homework, educational games — just about everything, eventually.
There was, as educators say, a diverse range of learners in the room. Some were well on the way to mastering the tablet. Ben Porter, for instance, a third-year teacher who previously worked as an operations manager for a Cold Stone Creamery franchiser, was already adept at loading and sharing lesson materials and using the tablet’s classroom-management tools: quick polls, discussions, short-answer exercises, the function for randomly calling on a student and more. Other teachers, including a gray-bearded man who described himself as “technologically retarded,” had not progressed much further than turning it on.
Smith, the most outspoken skeptic among the trainees, was not a Luddite — she uses her Web site to dispense assignments and readings to her students — but she worried about what might be lost in trying to funnel her teaching know-how through the tablet. “I just don’t like the idea of looking at a screen and not at the students,” she said.

A Peek Inside My Son’s Head

David Mitchell:

The 13-year-old author of The Reason I Jump invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which your faculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you’re hungry, or tired, or in pain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend. I’d like to push the thought-experiment a little further. Now imagine that after you lose your ability to communicate, the editor-in-residence who orders your thoughts walks out without notice. The chances are that you never knew this mind-editor existed, but now that he or she has gone, you realize too late how the editor allowed your mind to function for all these years. A dam-burst of ideas, memories, impulses, and thoughts is cascading over you, unstoppably. Your editor controlled this flow, diverting the vast majority away, and recommending just a tiny number for your conscious consideration. But now you’re on your own.
Now your mind is a room where 20 radios, all tuned to different stations, are blaring out voices and music. The radios have no off-switches or volume controls, the room you’re in has no door or window, and relief will come only when you’re too exhausted to stay awake. To make matters worse, another hitherto unrecognized editor has just quit without notice–your editor of the senses. Suddenly, sensory input from your environment is flooding in, too, unfiltered in quality and overwhelming in quantity. Colors and patterns swim and clamor for your attention. The fabric softener in your sweater smells as strong as air freshener fired up your nostrils. Your comfy jeans are now as scratchy as steel wool. Your vestibular and proprioceptive senses are also out of kilter, so the floor keeps tilting like a ferry in heavy seas, and you’re no longer sure where your hands and feet are in relation to the rest of you. You can feel the plates of your skull, plus your facial muscles and your jaw; your head feels trapped inside a motorcycle helmet three sizes too small which may or may not explain why the air conditioner is as deafening as an electric drill, but your father–who’s right here in front of you–sounds as if he’s speaking to you from a cellphone, on a train going through lots of short tunnels, in fluent Cantonese. You are no longer able to comprehend your mother tongue, or any tongue: From now on, all languages will be foreign languages. Even your sense of time has gone, rendering you unable to distinguish between a minute and an hour, as if you’ve been entombed in an Emily Dickinson poem about eternity, or locked into a time-bending sci-fi film. Poems and films, however, come to an end, whereas this is your new ongoing reality. Autism is a lifelong condition. But even the word autism makes no more sense to you now than the word 自閉症 or αυτισµός or .

The teenage survivor refusing to submit to the Taliban

Isabel Berwick:

When I saw her for the first time, a very newborn child, and I looked into her eyes, and I fell in love with her, believe me.” These are the words of a proud father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, speaking about his daughter, Malala, in Class Dismissed. The extraordinary 2009 New York Times documentary follows Mr Yousafzai’s courageous efforts to keep his school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley open after Taliban leaders ordered an end to girls’ education. In the film, Malala, then an articulate 11-year-old with a Harry Potter backpack, says she dreams of becoming a doctor. She seems today to be following a different path.
Still 16, she has become a global campaigner for girls’ education. She is one of the world’s most recognised people – famous enough to be known only by her first name – and a remarkable survivor.
On October 9 last year, fighters from the Taliban forces in the Swat Valley district in the Northwest Frontier Province boarded her school bus. They shot her in the head and wounded two friends. Ms Yousafzai was flown to the UK, where she received emergency treatment in Birmingham. She recovered – she has a titanium plate in her skull – and her campaigning goes on. She was well enough to speak in front of 1,000 youth delegates at the UN on her birthday in July, telling them nothing had changed in her life since the attack, except that “weakness, fear and hopelessness died”.

Behind the Class of 2014, Texas’ Demographic Future

Morgan Smith:

When the high school class of 2014 graduates this spring, it will mark the beginning of a new era for Texas public schools.
The current crop of seniors will likely be among the last not containing a majority of Hispanic students. It will also, based on preliminary enrollment data from the 2012-13 school year, probably fall among the last without a majority of students from impoverished backgrounds.
Neither milestone is a surprise — they come as a result of longstanding demographic shifts in Texas public schools.
Hispanics became the majority of total public school students for the first time in 2011, growing by about 10 percentage points over the decade since 2000. Since that same year, the overall percentage of economically disadvantaged students has also grown, from less than half to 60 percent of all public school students — more than double a 20 percent increase in the public school population as a whole. But the bulk of those students are concentrated in the younger grades, with the percentage from economically disadvantaged backgrounds steadily declining to a low of 46 percent in the class of 2012, the latest year data is available. That is soon set to change as the population of students in the lower grades make their way through the school system.

College costs drive record number of high school kids to start early

Jon Marcus:

Bahiya Nasuuna hasn’t even started college, but she’s already got some academic credits in the bank that will save her time and money and give her a jump on graduating–as she hopes to–within four years.
“My parents need as much help as they can get” to cover her tuition, said Nasuuna, who lives in the outskirts of Boston, in Chelsea. She passed an Advanced Placement test in English at her public high school that she’s cashed in for college credit, using it to forgo a required introductory writing course.
In all, Nasuuna passed seven AP exams in high school, and is ready to use those, too, to keep her studies on track at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she plans to begin this fall on a path to an eventual degree in public health.
She’s one of a record number of students getting a head start on college credits while still in high school, cutting costs and speeding toward degrees–and jobs–as quickly as possible to avoid dragging out costly higher educations.
“Everyone is looking for a leg up,” said Dave Taylor, principal of the Dayton Early College Academy in Ohio, a charter high school whose students simultaneously enroll in classes at nearby Sinclair Community College to get some college credits out of the way.

Wyoming Community College Commission director calls for remedial course changes

Joan Barron

Rose threw out a number of sobering statistics during his talk.
He said one-third of merit scholars in the Hathaway Scholarship Program need remedial work when they enter college. However, the prospects for a student who takes a remedial courses in college isn’t that bright, he noted.
Rose said only two of five remedial students go on to complete a credit course in their remedial subject within one year.
He said dual and concurrent enrollment, or high school students taking college courses, is one remedy to the students’ need for remedial courses.
Some high school students already take remedial classes at community colleges to experience the secondary-level work that will be required.
Rose said the ability for high school students to earn credits for college classes can be motivational — providing a way to avoid the traditional “wasted senior year.”
Last month, Rose returned his focus toward community college commission director full-time after having pulled double-duty as interim director of the Wyoming Department of Education.

Related: Credit for non Madison School District Courses.

Discipline to follow post-game fights, school official says

Nick Sunderland-Saied, via a kind reader email:

A Madison School District official said discipline would be handed down “as quickly as possible” for athletes and students who were involved in fights at the conclusion of a football game Thursday between West and Memorial high schools at Mansfield Stadium.
Alex Fralin, the new assistant superintendent for secondary schools, said his office was “extremely disappointed” by the show of violence, but added that he was hopeful the fights were an “isolated incident.”
At least 27 officers responded after a scuffle in the postgame handshake line following Memorial’s 28-20 victory escalated into a fight between the two teams at about 10:15 p.m. on the field at Memorial High School, 201 S. Gammon Road.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said referees, coaches and school staff quickly broke up the fighting, which an officer described as “the result of an intense game where emotions were high.”


The Great Divide: Lifelines for Poor Children

James J. Heckman
What’s missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5. This is not a big government boondoggle policy that would require a huge redistribution of wealth. Acting on it would, however, require us to rethink long-held notions of how we develop productive people and promote shared prosperity.
Everyone knows that education boosts productivity and enlarges opportunities, so it is natural that proposals for reducing inequality emphasize effective education for all. But these proposals are too timid. They ignore a powerful body of research in the economics of human development that tells us which skills matter for producing successful lives. They ignore the role of families in producing the relevant skills They also ignore or play down the critical gap in skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children that emerges long before they enter school.
While education is a great equalizer of opportunity when done right, American policy is going about it all wrong: current programs don’t start early enough, nor do they produce the skills that matter most for personal and societal prosperity.

Read more here.

California Bill reforming process of firing teachers resurfaces with amendments

John Fensterwald:

A highly contested bill that potentially would make it quicker and less costly to dismiss teachers has risen from legislative purgatory with significant changes that could lead to passage by the Legislature this week.
When last we left AB 375, in July, the author, Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, was one vote shy of getting the bill out of the Senate Education Committee; the bill appeared bottled up for the year. But Buchanan has been negotiating with Sen. Carol Liu, chairwoman of the education committee, and agreed to three key amendments. With Liu’s support and crucial vote, AB 375 passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday and, after a visit to Senate Appropriations Committee, is likely headed to the Senate floor. The deadline for passing all bills is Friday.
Spurring calls for change was the case of elementary school teacher Mark Berndt, now awaiting trial on multiple molestation charges against students. Los Angeles Unified paid Berndt $40,000 in back pay and legal fees in 2012 on the condition that he not contest the district’s dismissal charges against him. Since then, the district hasagreed to pay $30 million in settlements to dozens of children whose families have filed claims against it.

This glorious and unruly English language that lets everyone in

Fintan O’Toole:

What did the English ever do for us? Unlike the Romans in The Life of Brian, not much in the way of aqueducts or wine. But even the stoutest anti-imperialist in any former British colony has to admit that the empire left us a rather wonderful language. The Man Booker prize may be one of the last shadows of that empire, evoking as it does an imagined community unchanged since 1921, when Irish independence began its demise. But the 2013 shortlist is startling evidence of what happened to the language the empire left behind. It is the great triumph of British culture – because it no longer belongs to Britain.
There is nothing new, of course, about the Man Booker list featuring novelists from the former colonies. This year’s list, though, makes a definitive statement that such writers are no longer the exotic outsiders that add colour (literally as well as figuratively) to the British norm. They are the new normal.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: This is how everyone’s been doing since the financial crisis

Brad Plumer:

The median household income in July was $52,113, according to a report by Sentier Research. That’s 6.2 percent lower than the median in September 2008, the start of the financial crisis. And there hasn’t been much growth since 2011.
That jibes with Saez’s research, which notes that incomes of the bottom 99 percent have fallen 12 percent in the recession and have grown just 0.4 percent in the recovery.

Related: Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget includes a 4.5% property tax increase after 9% two years ago.
Plenty of resources” and “the Madison School District has the resources to close the achievement gap“.

Six of world’s top 20 universities are in UK

Judith Burns:

The UK now boasts six of the world’s top 20 universities, according to a new global table.
Edinburgh and King’s College London have edged into the top 20 of the QS World University rankings.
Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and Oxford all made it into the top 10.
But John O’Leary, of QS, warned that unless the UK puts more funding into higher education its leading position could slip.
Edinburgh rose to 17th place from 21st last year and King’s College London to 19th from 26th in 2012.
US domination.

The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator

Laura Pappano:

Days before I was to meet Battushig Myanganbayar at his home in Mongolia, he sent me an e-mail with a modest request: Would I bring him a pair of tiny XBee wireless antennas? Electronic parts are scarce in Mongolia (he used components from old elevators for some of his projects), and packages ordered online take weeks to show up.
When I arrived, antennas in hand, at his apartment in the middle-class neighborhood of Khan Uul, in Ulan Bator, Battushig, 16, led me down a steep incline into the building’s underground garage to show me what they were for. Many children in the city play in their apartment buildings’ driveways, but this one seemed oriented in a particularly dangerous way. Battushig worried about his 10-year-old sister and her friends being hit by an exiting car. Standing in the concrete space, its aqua walls nicked, he pointed overhead to a white box containing a sensor from which he had run wires to a siren with a flashing red light outside in the building’s driveway. His Garage Siren gave his sister and the other children time to get out of the way when a car was coming.
Battushig, playing the role of the car, moved into the sensor’s path to show me how it worked, but it was clear he was not entirely satisfied with his design. “The use of the long wires is very inconvenient for my users,” he said, almost apologetically, clasping his hands together in emphasis. He realized that contractors would be reluctant to install the siren in other buildings if they had to deal with cumbersome wiring, so he was developing a wireless version. Thus, the antennas.

New York City Democrats embrace full speed reverse on education reforms

Stephanie Simon:

It was just a primary — and the results aren’t even final yet, with mail-in ballots still being counted to determine if there will be a runoff.
But advocates for traditional public education are jubilant that Bill de Blasio came out on top Tuesday in the Democratic mayoral race in New York City after a campaign in which he promised to yank support from charter schools, scale back high-stakes standardized testing and tax the wealthy to pay for universal preschool and more arts education.
De Blasio’s education platform boiled down, in effect, to a pledge to dismantle the policies that Mayor Michael Bloomberg enacted over the past decade in the nation’s largest school district.
Those policies, emphasizing the need to inject more free-market competition into public education and weaken the power of teachers unions, are not unique to New York City; they’re the backbone of a national education reform movement that has won broad bipartisan support. Yet the reform movement has also triggered a backlash from parents and teachers who see it as a threat to their schools, their jobs and the traditional concept of public education as a public trust.

Continuing the Voucher Debate (This Time 100% Insult-Free!): Remarkable

Madison School Board President Ed Hughes

Rick Esenberg has responded to my last blog post, which was critical of a short article he had written about the difference between supporters and opponents of school vouchers.
I wrote that Esenberg’s analysis was superficial and his characterization of voucher opponents insulting. While decrying the unflattering terms I employed, Esenberg writes that my analysis of his piece is sophomoric, cartoonish and simplistic. Okay, fine. Let’s move on.
Esenberg writes that I overlooked his principal point, which is that people’s views on vouchers are heavily influenced by their predispositions. That seems to me to be obvious. What I found more interesting about his article is that it suggested the challenge of discussing whether vouchers represent sound public policy without resorting to arguments about whether public schools or voucher schools lead to better learning outcomes or which end up costing taxpayers more. It’s not that these aren’t important considerations, but the various rhetorical thrusts and parries along these lines have been repeated almost ad nauseum and neither side is going to convince the other on either basis. Let’s explore some other arguments.

The ongoing Madison School Board voucher rhetoric is ironic, given the disastrous reading scores.

Commentary on Using Empty Milwaukee Public Schools’ Buildings

Eugene Kane:

As I regularly pass by the former Malcolm X Academy that has been vacant for years, the words of a legendary African-American educator comes to mind:
“No schoolhouse has been opened for us that has not been filled.”
Booker T. Washington said that in 1896 during an address to urge white Americans to respect the desire by most African-American parents to seek the best possible education for their children.
Fast-forward to 2013 in Milwaukee, and the issue of vacant school buildings gives a pecular spin to Washington’s words. Back then, he could never have imagined the combination of bureaucracy and politics that has some educators scrambling to find spaces to fill with African-American students.
The campaign by a local private school funded by taxpayers to buy the former Malcolm X Academy at 2760 N. 1st St. has caused some in town to question why Milwaukee Public Schools hasn’t done more to turn closed school buildings into functioning houses of learning.
In particular, some conservatives question why MPS hasn’t been willing to sell valuable resources to school choice entities that are essentially their main competition for low-income minority students.
Actually, that stance seems valid from a business standpoint; why help out the folks trying to put you out of business?

The City of Milwaukee: Put Children First!

St. Marcus is at capacity.
Hundreds of children are on waiting lists.
Over the past decade, St. Marcus Lutheran School in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood has proven that high-quality urban education is possible. The K3-8th grade school has demonstrated a successful model for education that helps children and families from urban neighborhoods break the cycle of poverty and move on to achieve academic success at the post-secondary level and beyond.
By expanding to a second campus at Malcolm X, St. Marcus can serve 900 more students.

WILL Responds to MPS on Unused Schools Issues

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Public Schools responded to WILL’s report, “MPS and the City Ignore State Law on Unused Property.” Here is WILL’s reply:
1. MPS’ response is significant for what it does not say. WILL’s report states that, right now, there are at least 20 unused school buildings that are not on the market – and practically all of these buildings have attracted interest from charter and choice schools. As far as its records reveal, MPS refuses to adopt basic business practices, such as keeping an updated portfolio of what is happening with its facilities. How is the public to know where things stand when it is not clear that MPS keeps tabs on them?
2. MPS thinks everything is okay because it has sold four buildings since 2011 and leases to MPS schools. MPS’ response is similar to a football team (we trust it would be the Bears) celebrating that they scored two touchdowns in a game – only to end up losing 55-14. Our report acknowledged that MPS had disposed of a few buildings, but when there are at least 20 empty buildings – and substantial demand for them – claiming credit for selling a few is a bit like a chronic absentee celebrating the fact that he usually comes in on Tuesdays. Children and taxpayers deserve better.

Conservative group says MPS, city not selling enough empty buildings

A conservative legal group says that Milwaukee Public Schools is stalling on selling its empty school buildings to competing school operators that seek school facility space, and that the City of Milwaukee isn’t acting on a new law that gives it more authority to sell the district’s buildings.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which supports many Republican causes, says its new report shows that MPS is preventing charter schools and private schools in the voucher program from purchasing empty and unused school buildings.
But MPS fired back yesterday, saying the legal group’s information omits facts and containts false claims.
For example, MPS Spokesman Tony Tagliavia said that this year, five previously unused MPS buildings are back in service as schools.
He said MPS has also sold buildings to high-performing charter schools. Charter operators it has sold to such as Milwaukee College Prep and the Hmong American Peace Academy are operating schools that are under the MPS umbrella, however, so the district gets to count those students as part of its enrollment.

Bill Boelter

My entire career of close to 50 years has been focused on growing a business in and close to the city of Milwaukee. This is where I have my roots. I have followed education closely over these years.
The Aug. 17 Journal Sentinel had an interesting article about conflicting opinions on what the most viable use is for the former Malcolm X School, which closed over six years ago.
The Milwaukee School Board has proposed to have the city convert the site into a community center for the arts, recreation, low-income housing and retail stores. The cost to city taxpaying residences and businesses has not been calculated. Rising tax burdens have been a major factor in the flight to the suburbs and decline of major cities across our country.
St. Marcus Lutheran School is prepared to purchase Malcolm X for an appraised fair market value. St. Marcus is part of Schools That Can Milwaukee, which also includes Milwaukee College Prep and Bruce-Guadalupe Community School. Other participating high performing schools are Atonement Lutheran School, Notre Dame Middle School and Carmen High School of Science and Technology. Support comes from private donations after state allowances for voucher/choice students.
Their students go on to graduate from high school at a rate of over 90%, compared to approximately 60% at Milwaukee Public Schools. The acquisition of Malcolm X would give an additional 800 students the opportunity to attend a high performing school and reduce waiting lists at St. Marcus.

School Jargon for Parents: Parents Left Behind How public school reforms are turning American parents into dummies

Dahlia Lithwick:

We’ve been hearing for decades about all the ways our public school system is failing our children. They’re falling further and further behind on international academic assessments, and it’s not clear that efforts to remedy the situation are succeeding. Indeed, we pretty much know things have gotten worse. But all the focus on failing schools and failing students ignores the other consequence of American public education reform: The failing parents. Because if last night’s open house night at my son’s middle school was any indication of the inexorable decline of the American parent, we are truly doomed.
Now, to be clear, I am a big fan of public education. Maybe not quite as much as some of my colleagues, but I remain fundamentally sold on the public schools enterprise. But somewhere along the line I started failing. First in small, unnoticeable ways, and then in more irremediable ones. Until it became completely clear to me that I can no longer comprehend what happens in my children’s schools.
It is now a distinct possibility that the unintended casualty of No Child Left behind is the parents who have been left behind in their stead.
I used to believe that public school open houses required little more than the obligatory clean shirt with buttons and a swipe of lip gloss. Possibly a list of semi-aspirational questions. A pen. As a parent you’d strive to show your child’s teachers that they were inheriting your charming young scion and listen attentively to their plans for the year. But at this year’s back to school night for my fifth-grader, I think it’s fair to say that I failed on every single testable metric. Starting with not knowing it was back to school night in the first place. That sin was quickly followed by tardiness, lost-ness, and also failure to ask probing questions. But all of these minor failings were soon swallowed up by a complete and total inability to show mastery of either curriculum or academic goals. The evening passed in a blur of acronyms, test names, and emendations to last year’s system. Which I also didn’t understand. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I understood significantly less at this open house than I did at my sons’ open house during a sabbatical last year, when it took place overseas and in a foreign language.

Comparing Madison, Boston & Long Beach Public Schools: Student/Teacher Ratio

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham recently cited the Boston and Long Beach Schools for “narrowing their achievement gap” during a July, 2013 “What Will be Different This Time” presentation to the Madison Rotary Club.
As time permits, I intend to post comparisons between the Districts, starting today.
Student / Teacher Ratio

Per Student Annual Spending

Boston Schools’ budget information was, by far the easiest to find. Total spending is mentioned prominently, rather than buried in a mountain of numbers.
Finally, after I noticed that Madison’s student / teacher ratio is significantly lower than Boston, Long Beach and the Badger state average, I took a look at the Wisconsin DPI website to see how staffing has changed over the past few years. Madison’s licensed staff grew from 2,273 in 2007-2008 to 2,492 in 2011-2012.
What are the student achievement benefits of Madison’s very low ratio?
Related: Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget includes a 4.5% property tax increase after 9% two years ago.
Plenty of resources” and “the Madison School District has the resources to close the achievement gap“.

“Educator Effectiveness” Presentation

Madison School District 500K PDF

Experience and research tell us that effective educators are the single most important school based factor determining student success. The DPI Educator Effectiveness Team is dedicated to guiding the training, piloting, and implementation of a Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System that will support and improve professional practice leading to improved student outcomes. This includes assuring that educators have access to quality data identifying individual areas of strength, as well as areas of needed improvement. The work of the Educator Effectiveness Team is grounded in the belief that every child in every classroom deserves to have excellent teachers and excellent building leaders who are supported in their ongoing professional growth.
Educator Effectiveness System: A Holistic Tool to Improve Professional Practice and Student Outcomes
DPI has worked with stakeholders to design the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System to improve educator professional practice in order to improve student outcomes. Several states have successfully implemented similar systems, and initial results indicate these Systems represent a vast improvement over typical educator evaluation practices. However, in order to make sure the System most positively impacts educator practice throughout Wisconsin, it is essential that educators and the public understand key aspects of the system.

Additional background at the Wisconsin DPI website and via duckduckgo.

Madison Schools’ Behavior Report: 2012-2013

Madison School District PDF:

1. Both out-of-school and in-school suspensions were less common in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. In particular, the reduction in out-of-school suspensions led to nearly 600 fewer days of instruction lost to suspensions.
2. Large disproportionalities exist between suspensions and demographics in MMSD. For example, African- American students make up 19% of MMSD’s population but received 60% of out-of-school suspensions. Low- income students make up 48% of MMSD but received 85% of suspensions.
3. There are large disparities in discipline practices between schools. For example, among elementary schools, out-of-school suspensions ranged between 0 and 98, and behavior referrals ranged between 25 and 2,319.

Related: Madison School Board discipline presentation (PDF) and a Wisconsin DPI FAQ (PDF).
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum (2005) audio & video and Police calls to and near Madison schools: 1996-2006.

The student loan bubble is starting to burst

John Carney:

The largest bank in the United States will stop making student loans in a few weeks.
JPMorgan Chase has sent a memorandum to colleges notifying them that the bank will stop making new student loans in October, according to Reuters.
The official reason is quite bland.
“We just don’t see this as a market that we can significantly grow,” Thasunda Duckett tells Reuters. Duckett is the chief executive for auto and student loans at Chase, which means she’s basically delivering the news that a large part of her business is getting closed down.
The move is eerily reminiscent of the subprime shutdown that happened in 2007. Each time a bank shuttered its subprime unit, the news was presented in much the same way that JPMorgan is spinning the end of its student lending.

The Famed Feynman Lectures, Now in HTML


Nearly fifty years have passed since Richard Feynman taught the introductory physics course at Caltech that gave rise to these three volumes, The Feynman Lectures on Physics. In those fifty years our understanding of the physical world has changed greatly, but The Feynman Lectures on Physics has endured. Feynman’s lectures are as powerful today as when first published, thanks to Feynman’s unique physics insights and pedagogy. They have been studied worldwide by novices and mature physicists alike; they have been translated into at least a dozen languages with more than 1.5 millions copies printed in the English language alone. Perhaps no other set of physics books has had such wide impact, for so long.
This New Millennium Edition ushers in a new era for The Feynman Lectures on Physics (FLP): the twenty-first century era of electronic publishing. FLP has been converted to eFLP, with the text and equations expressed in the LaTeX electronic typesetting language, and all figures redone using modern drawing software.
The consequences for the print version of this edition are not startling; it looks almost the same as the original red books that physics students have known and loved for decades. The main differences are an expanded and improved index, the correction of 885 errata found by readers over the five years since the first printing of the previous edition, and the ease of correcting errata that future readers may find. To this I shall return below.
The eBook Version of this edition, and the Enhanced Electronic Version are electronic innovations. By contrast with most eBook versions of 20th century technical books, whose equations, figures and sometimes even text become pixellated when one tries to enlarge them, the LaTeX manuscript of the New Millennium Edition makes it possible to create eBooks of the highest quality, in which all features on the page (except photographs) can be enlarged without bound and retain their precise shapes and sharpness. And the Enhanced Electronic Version, with its audio and blackboard photos from Feynman’s original lectures, and its links to other resources, is an innovation that would have given Feynman great pleasure.

Latin, Innit

The Economist:

FABRICIO FERREIRA, a 17-year-old from Brockley, in south-east London, is not a typical student of the ancient world. But his enthusiasm is infectious. “The Greeks were so messed up,” he opines, grinning beneath his thick glasses and afro. “I love Odysseus, because he’s so dodgy. He lies all of the time, he cheats, but he’s still the hero–like Batman.”
Mr Ferreira is a student at Brooke House Sixth Form College (known as BSix) in Hackney, a school where 65% of students are on some sort of government financial support. He spoke to your correspondent while attending a week-long summer school hosted by Wadham College, Oxford, but arranged by BSix as part of its East End Classics Centre programme. There, he and 17 other A-level classics students spent four full days–9am to 6pm–learning about ancient societies and practising their Greek. The students then wrote a 1,500-word essay and attended a one-to-one tutorial with an Oxford academic.

Public School Students Being Tracked Continually

Nat Hentoff:

Born in 1925, I started at Boston Latin School — both the first U.S. public school, founded in 1635, and also our oldest school — in the late 1930s for middle school. The teachers were called — and addressed as — “masters,” and discipline was tight, with a large percentage of expulsions.
But our disciplinary data was not shared with the police or the FBI (which got its name in 1935).
During these days, however, as constitutional attorney and head of the Rutherford Institute, John Whitehead, writes in “America’s Schools: Breeding Grounds for Compliant Citizens” (, Oct. 12, 2012):
“Once looked upon as the starting place for imparting principles of freedom and democracy (in our government) to future citizens, America’s classrooms are becoming little more than breeding grounds for compliant citizens.
“The moment young people walk into school, they increasingly find themselves under constant surveillance; they are photographed, fingerprinted, scanned, X-rayed, sniffed and snooped on.
“Between metal detectors at the entrances, drug-sniffing dogs in the hallways (during police raids) and surveillance cameras in the classrooms and elsewhere, many of America’s schools look more like prisons than learning facilities.”

K-12 Governance Post Act 10: Kenosha teachers union is decertified; Madison Appears to Continue the Status Quo

Erin Richards:

The union representing Kenosha teachers has been decertified and may not bargain base wages with the district.
Because unions are limited in what they can do even if they are certified, the new status of Kenosha’s teachers union — just like the decertification of many other teachers unions in the state that did not or could not pursue the steps necessary to maintain certification in the new era of Act 10 — may be a moral blow more than anything else.
Teachers in Milwaukee and Janesville met the state’s Aug. 30 deadline to apply for recertification, a state agency representative says. Peter Davis, general counsel for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, said the Milwaukee and Janesville districts will hold recertification votes in November.
To continue as the recognized bargaining unit in the district, 51% of the union’s eligible membership must vote in favor of recertification, according to the controversial Act 10 legislation passed in 2011.
With contracts that were in place through the end of June, teachers in the three large southeastern Wisconsin districts were protected the longest from the new legislation, which limits collective bargaining, requires unions to hold annual votes to be recognized as official entities, and mandates that teachers and other public employees pay more out-of-pocket for their health care and retirement costs.
“It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren’t seeking recertification, so I don’t think the KEA is an outlier or unique in this,” Brey said.
She added that certification gives the union scant power over a limited number of issues they’d like a voice in.
Sheronda Glass, the director of business services in Kenosha, said it’s a new experience for the district to be under Act 10.

Terry Flores

Contrary to some published media reports, however, the union did not vote to decertify.
In fact, no such election was ever held, according to KEA Executive Director Joe Kiriaki, who responded to a report from the Conservative Badger blog, which published an article by Milwaukee radio talk show host Mark Belling, who said he had learned that just 37 percent of the teachers had voted to reauthorize the union.
In a prepared statement, Kiriaki criticized the district for “promoting untrue information” to Belling.
Union chose to focus on other issues
Kiriaki said the union opted not to “jump through the hoops,” such as the recertification requirement, created by Act 10, the state’s relatively new law on collective bargaining.
The law, among other things required the annual re-certification of unions if they want to serve as bargaining representatives for teachers and other public workers. It also prohibits most public employees from negotiating all but base wages, limiting them to the rate of inflation.
Kiriaki cited a ruling by a Dane County Circuit Court judge on the constitutionality of Act 10, saying he believed it would be upheld.

Interestingly, Madison School District & Madison Teachers to Commence Bargaining. Far more important is addressing Madison’s long standing, disastrous reading results.
In my view, the unions that wish to serve their membership effectively going forward would be much better off addressing new opportunities, including charters, virtual, and dual enrollment services. The Minneapolis Teachers Union can authorize charters, for example.
Much more on Act 10, here.
A conversation with retired WEAC executive Director Morris Andrews.
The Frederick Taylor inspired, agrarian K-12 model is changing, albeit at a glacial pace. Madison lags in many areas, from advanced opportunities to governance diversity, dual enrollment and online opportunities. Yet we spend double the national average per student, funded by ongoing property tax increases.
An elected official recently remarked to me that “it’s as if Madison schools have been stuck in a bubble for the past 40 years”.

When High School Students Are Treated Like Prisoners Advocates call for an end to the criminalization of students in New York and around the country

Molly Knefel:

As students in New York City return to school for the fall, a coalition of youth and legal advocacy groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, has launched a campaign to address disciplinary policies that they argue criminalize students, making them less likely to graduate and more likely to end up ensnared in the criminal justice system. The “New Vision for School Safety” presented by the campaign calls for a citywide reduction of the use of police and NYPD school safety officers in schools and an increase in the power of educators, parents and students to shape the safety policies in their school communities.
Advocates argue that strict disciplinary practices, including police presence, metal detectors and “zero tolerance” policies, disproportionately target students of color, especially black and Latino youth. Although only a third of students in New York City are black, they received over half (53 percent) of the suspensions over the past decade, according to the Dignity in Schools Campaign. Of the students suspended for “profanity,” 51 percent were black, and 57 percent of those suspended for “insubordination” were black. Students with disabilities are also four times as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers. (A representative for New York’s Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.) The creeping criminalization of school spaces targeting already marginalized populations is not limited to the city of New York – as The New York Times reported earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of students around the country face criminal charges, as opposed to school-based disciplinary measures, each year. A civil suit filed earlier this year in Texas alleges that misdemeanor ticketing disproportionately targeted African American students.

The Vital Link of Education and Prosperity

Paul Peterson & Eric Hanushek:

Americans are aware of public education’s many failures–the elevated high-school dropout rates, the need for remedial work among entering college students. One metric in particular stands out: Only 32% of U.S. high-school students are proficient in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. When the NAEP results are put on the scale of the Program on International Student Assessment (PISA), the world’s best source of information on student achievement, the comparable proficiency rates in math are 45% in Germany, 49% in Canada, and 63% in Singapore, the highest performing independent nation.
The subpar performance of U.S. students has wide ramifications–and not just for individuals. On an individual level, of course, the connection between education and income is obvious. Those with a college degree can expect to earn over 60% more in the course of their lifetime than those with a high-school diploma, according to U.S. Census data. But there is a nexus between educational achievement and national prosperity as well.
According to our calculations, raising student test scores in this country up to the level in Canada would dramatically increase economic growth. We estimate that the additional growth dividend has a present value of $77 trillion over the next 80 years. This is equivalent to adding an average 20% to the paycheck of every worker for every year of work over this time period.

How well does Teach for America work in the schools?

The Economist:

IT SOUNDS as uncontroversial as apple pie. Teach for America (TFA), a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1990, places young “corps members” at schools in poor areas to teach for two years. Recruits work in 35 states, most come fresh from college, and they learn mainly on the job. Fair enough; but TFA has many critics, particularly among teachers who have spent years becoming qualified and whose jobs are now contested.
Minnesota’s Board of Teaching caused a furore this summer when it refused to give a band of TFA members group permission to teach in the state. It had done so every year since the organisation first arrived there, in 2009. The state assessed 35 applicants individually instead–eventually granting licences to all of them.
Ryan Vernoush, a board member and a former Minnesota teacher of the year, believes placing inexperienced young people in front of “marginalised students” only serves “to perpetuate the status quo of inequity”. Elisa Villanueva Beard, the co-chief executive officer of TFA, counters that her organisation is just “one source” of teachers among others. She wants principals to have a choice when looking for employees.

Requiring Civility

Colleen Flaherty:

Push and pull between administrators and faculty unions during contract negotiations is to be expected. But some faculty members at the University of Oregon say administrators in their contract negotiations are attempting to gut a particularly sacred university policy: academic freedom.
Oregon’s existing policy calls free inquiry and free speech “the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge.” The belief that an opinion is “pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or ‘just plain wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression,” it says.
In the spring, Oregon’s Faculty Senate approved a new policy on academic freedom, a near-identical version of which the United Academics, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, soon adopted for negotiation purposes. Oregon faculty voted to unionize last year and they are working on their first contract. The Senate statement on academic freedom has yet to be finalized, pending its own negotiations with the administration.

Universities challenged Barack Obama wants degrees to be better value for money

The Economist

THE cab driver boasted that his daughter had just graduated. But then he admitted that her journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin had cost $140,000. Since journalism is an ill-paid job that requires no formal qualification, this sounds like a waste of money.
Barack Obama worries that too few students are getting value for money from college. Graduates earn more than non-graduates, of course, but how much of this is because they were cleverer to begin with, rather than because college stretched their minds or taught them something useful? The average American graduate finishes college with $26,600 of debt; some with far more (see article). The proportion of student loans at least 90 days in arrears has risen from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.7% today. Many graduates are struggling.

New labour, alt-labour Believe it or not, the union movement is starting to embrace innovation

The Economist:

THERE was plenty of red meat on offer to the 5,000 delegates at this week’s AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles. Speakers proclaimed class war, bashed corporations and trade deals, and demanded fresh taxes on the rich. One, to much cheering, threatened to punch the conservative Koch brothers in the face.
America’s largest trade-union grouping, with 57 affiliated unions and 12m members, convenes just once every four years; such jamborees are an opportunity to let off steam. But this year there was furrowed-brow introspection mixed with the tub-thumping. Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, said the labour movement was in “crisis” and urged delegates to avoid the temptation of blaming outsiders.

Generation Monoglot

The Economist:

AS THE new term starts across England, schools are chewing over this summer’s results in the 16-plus exams. One trend is clear–the coalition’s emphasis on pupils achieving five core academic subjects, including a language, in its new EBACC (English Baccalaureate) qualification has raised the number of candidates taking language exams.
This marks a reversal of a long period in which English schools turned out a rising number of monoglots (see chart). The past two decades have witnessed a sharp decline in the numbers of teenagers poring over French verbs, let alone the oddities of German, which as Mark Twain, a 19th-century American writer, observed, renders a girl neuter but a turnip feminine.
In 1993 over 315,000 pupils sat the 16-plus exam in French, compared with just over 177,000 this year. German had 108,000 entrants in 1993; there are fewer than 63,000 now. Only Spanish fared better, with 91,000 GCSE entrants this year, rising from 32,000 in 1993. Largely to blame for the slump was a decision by the Labour government in 2002 to end the compulsory status of a language in secondary schools. That accelerated a longer period of modern-languages decline, as pupils switched to subjects perceived to be easier or more practical. Now the coalition is claiming that the rise in this year’s exam entries at 16 marks the first step to correcting the resulting monolingualism. Yet progress has been modest–the number of GCSE French entrants, for example, merely returned to 2010 levels, around half the numbers of the 1990s.

Preschool in Texas: Get them while they’re young

The Economist:

STARTING pre-school poses tests for any four-year-old: sitting still, the risk of a yucky lunch, missing home. The stakes are still higher for 700 small Texans due to enter pre-kindergarten centres being opened by the city of San Antonio on August 26th. They are pioneers who will be watched all the way to the White House.
Not so long ago there was broad, bipartisan support for government provision of pre-school (called “pre-K”, since it precedes kindergarten): a year of classes and play designed to ensure that children are ready for the serious business of learning. Alas, pre-K has joined the long list of issues capable of provoking partisan rage. Critics include shrink-the-government types growling about expensive “babysitting”, joined by social conservatives arguing that young children are best off when cared for by married mothers, at home.

The Best & The Brightest: Only a few countries are teaching children how to think

The Economist

BAMA Companies has been making pies and biscuits in Oklahoma since the 1920s. But the company is struggling to find Okies with the skills to fill even its most basic factory jobs. Such posts require workers to think critically, yet graduates of local schools are often unable to read or do simple maths. This is why the company recently decided to open a new factory in Poland–its first in Europe. “We hear that educated people are plentiful,” explains Paula Marshall, Bama’s boss.
Poland has made some dramatic gains in education in the past decade. Before 2000 half of the country’s rural adults had finished only primary school. Yet international rankings now put the country’s students well ahead of America’s in science and maths (the strongest predictor of future earnings), even as the country spends far less per pupil. What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in “The Smartest Kids in the World“, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe.

How to persuade your adult offspring to move out

The Economist:

ANDREW, an unemployed graduate in religious studies and creative writing, lives in Oregon with his parents. He is not alone. Some 21.6m Americans aged 18 to 31–36% of the total–still languish in the parental home, according to the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank. This figure is slightly misleading, since it includes students, who may live at home only during the holidays. Nonetheless, the share of youngsters stuck with mom and pop is the largest since surveys began in 1968.
Andrew hates his situation with “an intense passion”. It is safe and dry and warm, of course, and he appreciates his parents’ help. But he is bored and frustrated and his love life has become “limited” since he moved back in with them. (The fact that his mother won’t let him cook makes preparing romantic meals for two a challenge.)

Getting more bang for our college bucks

Daniel K. Lautzenheiser:

The cost of US higher education is at the forefront of the national consciousness. Tuition has more than doubled in real dollars since 1980, growing far faster than inflation, and total student loan debt finally cracked the $1 trillion threshold. Meanwhile, demand for higher education only continues to grow, prompted by the needs of a 21st-century economy and political rhetoric seeking to make the United States the most educated nation in the world. To meet this demand, higher education reformers must develop a bold vision for how to reduce costs. Harvard Education Press’s just-released volume Stretching the Higher Education Dollar: How Innovation Can Improve Access, Equity, and Affordability aims to explain why college has become so expensive, to offer solutions at both existing schools and via a raft of new providers, and to give policymakers new ideas for nurturing reform.
Key points in this Outlook:
US higher education has grown increasingly expensive, primarily because of a misaligned incentive structure that enables colleges to continue to raise money and because of an increasingly outdated vision of what “college” means.
Nascent reforms such as university-online partnerships, massive open online courses, and competency-based education seek to rethink the delivery of information and credentials.

The DOJ Attempt to Block School Vouchers in Louisiana Undermines Civil Rights

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst :

The U.S. Department of Justice has entered into a lawsuit opposing Louisiana’s voucher system. The state’s program, passed into law in 2012, offers a voucher to attend a private school to students from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty line attending low performing public schools. Parents apply for the vouchers and to date about 90% of the recipients are black.
The DOJ is not intervening as you might naively expect because of concerns about the constitutionality of voucher programs, or because they believe that private schools in Louisiana discriminate, or because they think the state has designed its voucher program in a way that discriminates against minorities. No. Their argument is that the voucher program will have an impact on federal desegregation orders that require certain school districts to achieve a racial distribution in each of their schools that mirrors the racial composition of the district as a whole. So, if 40% of the school-aged population in these districts is black then each school has a target of 40% black enrollment.
Here is an example the DOJ provides of the harm caused by the voucher program they are intervening to halt:

School league tables: how we are helping parents make sense of the data

Roger Taylor:

It is no surprise that parents struggle to make sense of data about schools: there is just so much of it. School league tables are among the most frequently viewed official datasets, but few of us use them to make decisions.
The Open Public Services Network aims to make the vast amounts of data now available about education, healthcare, policing and social care more useful to the people who rely on those services. Too often, the information makes sense to managers or professionals, but leaves the general public confused.
Our first project has been to look at schools and ask the question: how well does the information available to parents and children help them understand the education provided by a school? How might it be improved? We brought together a group of experts to consider this. The results of their deliberations can be found here.
One thing became clear early on in the discussions – there were some large gaps. For example the “culture of learning” within a school was seen as crucial but the information available gave limited insight into this. There was a desire to know much more about the views of parents, staff and pupils.

Public Universities Ramp Up Aid for the Wealthy, Leaving the Poor Behind

Marian Wang:

Shauniqua Epps was the sort of student that so many colleges say they want.
She was a high achiever, graduating from high school with a 3.8 GPA and ranking among the top students in her class. She served as secretary, then president, of the student government. She played varsity basketball and softball. Her high-school guidance counselor, in a letter of recommendation, wrote that Epps was “an unusual young lady” with “both drive and determination.”
Epps, 19, was also needy.
Her family lives in subsidized housing in South Philadelphia, and her father died when she was in third grade. Her mother is on Social Security disability, which provides the family $698 a month, records show. Neither of her parents finished high school.
Epps, who is African-American, made it her goal to be the first in her family to attend college.
“I did volunteering. I did internships. I did great in school. I was always good with people,” said Epps, who has a broad smile and a cheerful manner. “I thought everything was going to go my way.”

Reed and the Rankings Game

Chris Lydgate:

The Atlantic published a great article today about the hollowness of the college rankings compiled by US News and World Report. Written by retired Boston College professor John Tierney, the piece highlights the problems that plague the US News system–dubious data, arbitrary rules, and a one-size-fits-all approach, to name a few.
Of course, these were the same problems that persuaded Reed’s then-president Steve Koblik to pull out of the USN rankings back in 1995. It’s a shame to see that matters haven’t gotten much better.
Reed still doesn’t participate in USN, although the magazine insists on ranking us anyway. Which is too bad–as Tierney points out, the USN system remains surprisingly popular, despite an unrelenting stream of criticism through the decades. On the other hand, the last several years have witnessed the rise of more comprehensive alternatives. Perhaps one day they’ll supplant the USN juggernaut. In the meantime, USN has released its latest report. Like Tierney, I’ll probably peek at the rankings, but–as they say in the ads for the Oregon lottery–for entertainment purposes only.

The Crushing Racism of Low Expectations

Liz Peek:

One of the lesser-broadcast features of the most recent jobs report is that unemployment for African-Americans actually ticked higher, to 13 percent, even as the rest of the country held even at 7.3 percent.
Unemployment for Hispanics was 9.3 percent and for Asians 5.1 percent. Also worrisome, the number of African-American adults who held jobs actually declined last month, and fewer than 61 percent of blacks are working–the lowest participation rate since 1982.
While New York’s Mayor Bloomberg sees racism in the campaign of Bill deBlasio and Jay Z finds racism in the Trayvon Martin decision, I perceive racism in these jobs figures. Blacks are increasingly left behind, at least in part because their leaders do not demand better schools. The greatest source of “disparate impact” in this country, to borrow a phrase currently popular with the Justice Department, is that most black kids can’t read or write. Upward mobility for the African-American community, tenuous at best, is squashed the minute they enter kindergarten.
Too harsh? Not by half. Consider the results from the recent Common Core testing in New York, one of the first to measure how students meet the new nation-wide standards. Statewide, 31 percent of public school students in grades 3 through 8 were considered proficient in English; only 16 percent of blacks met that test, compared to 50 percent of Asians and 40 percent of whites – results which the state’s education department says reveals “the persistence of the achievement gap.”

Related: English 10 & Connected Math.

The New Test for Grads That Could Get Them a Job

Beth Braverman

CCollege seniors who thought their days of taking standardized tests were behind them might have another think coming next spring.
More than 200 schools, including some in the Texas and California state systems, have signed on to offer students the new voluntary Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) test, designed to give employers an objective way to measure entry-level candidates.
Proponents of the CLA+ say the test scores are a better way of measuring student performance and career readiness than Grade Point Averages (GPAs), which have become so inflated they’re no longer as useful to employers as they once were. The average college GPA has risen over the past few decades from 2.3 to 3.2, according to Gallup.
The compromised value of a high GPA has little impact on students from highly selective, well known colleges who are likely to land a job regardless of their GPA. But it has hurt hard-working students at schools without a marquis name, says Robert Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit Council for Aid to Education, which administers the CLA+.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California public pension payouts doubled after bump in benefits

Jon Ortiz:

The average retirement payout for new retirees in California’s biggest public pension system doubled between 1999 and 2012, according to CalPERS data, and initial monthly payments for one group nearly tripled in that period.
State and local cops and firefighters benefited the most.
In the 14 years covered by the data analyzed by The Sacramento Bee, average first-month pensions to state police and firefighters went from $1,770 to $4,978. California Highway Patrol officers’ first-month retirement payments doubled from $3,633 to $7,418, and local government safety employees’ pensions went from $3,296 to $6,867.
The figures from CalPERS’ internal annual reports, obtained by The Bee through a Public Records Act request, show how upgraded pension formulas that became fashionable during the late 1990s and early 2000s amplified the impact of pay raises to boost retirement allowances.

Philadelphia Schools Reopen Amid Financial, Academic Distress

Stephanie Banchero & Kris Maher:

As Philadelphia students returned to school this week facing larger class sizes and slimmed-down arts programs, a fight raged over how to keep the district from sinking further into financial and academic distress.
One of the nation’s most troubled school districts, Philadelphia is buckling under financial pressure and has been unable to squeeze concessions from the teachers union. Teachers started the school year Monday without a contract after failing to reach agreement by Aug. 31, and state leaders are threatening to hold up additional funding unless teachers agree to pay cuts and other changes, such as performance-based pay and a longer school day.
Wanda Cantres, whose 7-year-old son reported to Henry C. Lea Elementary School for the first time after his school was closed, said she is worried about ballooning class sizes and the financial uncertainty.
“They can build prisons and put up high rises, but they can’t get school right,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of children that slip through the cracks.”

Learning a new language alters brain development

Anita Kar:

Scientists at The Neuro find important time factor in second-language acquisition
The age at which children learn a second language can have a significant bearing on the structure of their adult brain, according to a new joint study by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro at McGill University and Oxford University. The majority of people in the world learn to speak more than one language during their lifetime. Many do so with great proficiency particularly if the languages are learned simultaneously or from early in development.
The study concludes that the pattern of brain development is similar if you learn one or two language from birth. However, learning a second language later on in childhood after gaining proficiency in the first (native) language does in fact modify the brain’s structure, specifically the brain’s inferior frontal cortex. The left inferior frontal cortex became thicker and the right inferior frontal cortex became thinner. The cortex is a multi-layered mass of neurons that plays a major role in cognitive functions such as thought, language, consciousness and memory.

College For Free

Ry Rivard:

ould public colleges be free?
Yes, says the head of the union for University of California’s 4,000 instructors and librarians.
Trim non-essential functions, redirect a bunch of money and end tax breaks that mostly benefit wealthy college-goers’ families, argues University Council-American Federation of Teachers President Bob Samuels. Of course, not everyone would agree with his definition of non-essential, particularly researchers.
Samuels’ new book says students have become “slaves to debt” because colleges have decided to get into “expensive and disorienting” endeavors – research labs funded by external dollars, luxury dorms and athletics – that have little to do with instructing students. He says American higher education costs more than it should and undergraduates are forced to pick up the tab for university mission creep. On top of that, undergrads are suffering through large, impersonal classes and left in the hands of graduate students. While Samuels wants all of public higher education to be free, many of his examples of spending cuts are generally found at research universities with big-time athletics and don’t exist at, say, community colleges, which already charge bare-bones rates.

The Wrong Kind of Education Reform

David Kirp:

The case for market-driven reforms in education rests on two key premises: The public school system is in crisis, and the solution is to let the market pick winners and losers. Market strategies–high-stakes teacher accountability, merit pay, shuttering “failing” schools–are believed to be essential if public schools are ever going to get better. And these maxims underlie the commitment to charter schools and vouchers. Freed from the dead hand of bureaucracy and the debilitating effects of school board politics, the argument runs, schools are free to innovate.
If you follow education debates, you’ve heard that again and again. Here’s what’s new: A spate of new books undercuts both propositions, simply decimating the argument for privatizing education.
Since The Death and Life of the Great American School System, her 2010 best-seller, Diane Ravitch has been the most prominent critic of the market-minded reformers. Americans love apostates, and the fact that, as assistant secretary of education in the first Bush administration, Ravitch acknowledged that she had “fallen for the latest panaceas and miracle cures and drunk deeply of the elixir that promised a quick fix,” has given her considerable credibility. Now she pops up everywhere, keynoting national conventions, urging on teachers at an Occupy the Department of Education rally, being profiled flatteringly in The New Yorker, deluging her supporters with emails, and sparring with ex-D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the darling of the privatizers, about how to “fix” education.

Madison School District & Madison Teachers to Commence Bargaining

Solidarity PDF Newsletter:

Given MTI’s victory in Circuit Court, wherein Judge Juan Colas found Act 10 unconstitutional, MTI and the District have agreed to commence Contract negotiations (PDF).
Details of this were announced in a joint letter to all District employees last Friday from Superintendent Jen Cheatham and MTI Executive Director John Matthews. Their letter stated that, “… to be successful this year and in the years to come, District employees must have a work environment that is both challenging and rewarding, and one which includes economic and employment security”. Matthews complimented the Superintendent and Board members for their progressive philosophy in recognizing the essentials in positive employment relations.
Contracts existed in all 423 school districts at the time Act 10 was passed in 2011. Currently, workers in only four school districts enjoy the wages, benefits and rights which a Collective Bargaining Agreement provides. The current Contracts for MTI’s five bargaining units expire June 30, 2014.
The State has appealed Judge Colas’ decision. The matter will be heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in November or December. In his ruling, Judge Colas stated that Act 10 was passed in a very controversial manner, skipping several steps mandated by legislative rules and Wisconsin law, and that it violated public workers’ Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, as well as the Constitutional guaranteed Equal Protection Clause.

I wonder what the sentiment across the teacher population might be? Perhaps there have been surveys?

The Adjunct Advantage

Scott Jaschik:

A major new study has found that new students at Northwestern University learn more when their instructors are adjuncts than when they are tenure-track professors.
The study — released this morning by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) — found that the gains are greatest for the students with the weakest academic preparation. And the study found that the gains extended across a wide range of disciplines. The authors of the study suggest that by looking at measures of student learning, and not just course or program completion, their work may provide a significant advance in understanding the impact of non-tenure-track instructors.
Many adjuncts will no doubt be pleased by the study’s conclusions on their teaching ability. But the study does not call for an end to the two-tiered system of academic employment between those on and off the tenure track. Rather, it says that the study may provide evidence that research universities benefit from more teaching by those who don’t have research obligations.

Send in the SEALs: Can a new generation of young, Navy SEAL-like teachers finally club the achievement gap out of existence?

Hedge funder Whitney Tilson argues that a new generation of young Navy SEAL-like teachers can club the achievement gap out of existence.
Can a new generation of young, Navy SEAL-like teachers finally club the achievement gap out of existence? That is today’s fiercely urgent question, reader, and believe it or not, I do not ask it in jest. The call to send in the SEALs comes from hedge fund manager and edu-visionary extraordinaire Whitney Tilson. When Tilson read this recent New York Times story about high turnover among young charter school teachers, he went ballistic, to use a military metaphor. After all, turnover among Navy SEALs is also very high, notes Tilson, and no one complains about that.
Bigger rigor
So how exactly is the young super teacher in an urban No Excuses charter school like a Navy SEAL? Better yet, how are such teachers NOT like SEALs? Both sign onto an all-consuming mission, the SEAL to take on any situation or enemy the world has to offer, the teacher to tackle the greatest enemy our nation has ever known: teacher union low expectations. But as Tilson has seen second-hand, being a “bad a**” warrior is exhausting, which is why SEALs, like young super teachers, enjoy extraordinarily short careers.
But the work is incredibly intense and not really compatible with family life, so few are doing active missions for their career–they move on into management/leadership positions or go into the private sector (egads!). Could you imagine the NY Times writing a snarky story about high turnover among SEALs?!
Cream of the crop
Egads! indeed, reader. In fact, now that I think of it, *crushing* the achievement gap in our failed and failing public schools is almost exactly like delivering highly specialized, intensely challenging warfare capabilities that are beyond the means of standard military forces. For one thing, the SEALs are extremely choosy about who they let into their ranks, just as we’ll need to be if we’re going to replace our old, low-expectations teachers with fresh young commandos. Only the cream of the crop make it to SEALdom, and by cream, I mean “cream” colored. The SEALs are overwhelmingly white; just 2% of SEAL officers are African American.
See the world
And let’s not forget that SEALs and new urban teachers both get plenty of opportunities to experience parts of the world they haven’t seen before. The elite Navy men train and operate in desert and urban areas, mountains and woodlands, and jungle and arctic conditions, while members of the elite teaching force spend two years combating the achievement gap in the urban schools before they receive officer status. And while Frog Men live on military bases, our commando teachers increasingly live in special encampments built just for them.
And here is where our metaphor begins to break down ever so slightly….
Of course, there are a few teeny tiny areas where the SEALs differ from the young teachers who will finally club the achievement gap out of existence. There is, for instance, the teeny tiny matter of the training that the SEALs receive: 8-weeks Naval Special Warfare Prep School, 24-weeks Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) Training, 3-weeks Parachute Jump School, 26-weeks SEAL Qualification Training (SQT), followed by 18-months of pre-deployment training, including 6-month Individual Specialty Training, 6-month Unit Level Training and 6-month Task Group Level Training before they are considered deployable. TFA, which Tilson praises for its “yeoman” work in recruiting and grooming the next generation of urban teacher hot shots, relies upon an, ahem, somewhat different approach…
Send tips and comments to
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Wisconsin should rethink its drinking age

Christian Schneider

When she rolled out of bed on the morning of Aug. 31, University of Iowa student Samantha Goudie probably didn’t expect to end the day as a national Bluto Blutarsky-style college binge drinking mascot. But after Goudie was arrested trying to run on the field during an Iowa football game, she blew an astounding .341 into a police Breathalyzer — more than four times the legal limit.
Yet Goudie (whose now-defunct Twitter handle was, appropriately, “@Vodka_samm”) was coherent enough to tweet while being arrested. Sitting in the police station, she imparted wisdom like “I’m going to get .341 tattooed on me because its so epic.” Not exactly “Letters From a Birmingham Jail.”
Not to be outdone, one 19-year old woman with a blood-alcohol content of .33 was found staggering outside Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Saturday before the Badgers football game. Another 19-year old female with a .37 blood alcohol level was found passed out on campus. “If no one called for help, this student may have died,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison police Chief Susan Riseling.

Why America’s Public Universities – And Not Just Their Students – Have a Debt Problem

Charlie Eaton and Jacob Habinek:

With growing student debt in the headlines, Washington DC policymakers have focused on the interest rates students pay on the loans they take out to cover college costs. But student loan interest payments are a symptom more than the underlying cause of rising student debt. Colleges have steadily hiked tuition, to heights that now make attendance unaffordable for many students from families of modest means.
Tuition increases have been especially sharp at public research universities that once provided an affordable world-class education. The increases have been going on for a long time, but they have accelerated recently. Average tuition and fees at public research universities increased 56% between 2002 and 2010 from $5,011 to $7,824 a year. As the cost of going to college has escalated, so has student indebtedness. According to data from the Institute for College Access and Success, student debt at graduation from public four-year colleges increased by 32% between 2004 and 2010, when it hit an average of $21,605 per student.
Why are tuition and fees at public universities rising so sharply? Universities face higher costs to pay for all of their activities, while the public funding they receive has plummeted. Tuition hikes help make up the difference. Yet there is another factor at work, especially recently – because public universities are going into debt. Working with major Wall Street players like J.P. Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of America, they issue bonds and make substantial interest payments to investors, many of whom also trade in university debt. Like their students, in short, public universities have developed a debt problem – indeed, the rising burden on the students is partly driven by the indebtedness universities have taken on.

Justice Department bids to trap poor, black children in ineffective schools

The Washington Post

NINE OF 10 Louisiana children who receive vouchers to attend private schools are black. All are poor and, if not for the state assistance, would be consigned to low-performing or failing schools with little chance of learning the skills they will need to succeed as adults. So it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due.
The Justice Department has petitioned a U.S. District Court to bar Louisiana from awarding vouchers for the 2014-15 school year to students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders, unless the vouchers are first approved by a federal judge. The government argues that allowing students to leave their public schools for vouchered private schools threatens to disrupt the desegregation of school systems. A hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

Physical Education Trend Must Be Reversed

Ken Reed:

Following this Labor Day weekend, virtually all of the nation’s students in grades K-12 will be back in school. Unfortunately, fewer of them will be participating in physical education classes and intramural sports programs.
It’s mind-boggling that at a time when overweight and obesity levels are sky-high among our young people, and physical activity levels are down, our schools are cutting physical education classes, recess and intramural sports programs.
Due to No Child Left Behind mandates and the pressures of standardized state assessment tests, many schools are cutting back on physical education and recess under the mistaken belief that kids need more desk time to improve test scores. Based on the latest research on exercise and the brain, that’s the direct opposite approach that schools should be taking.
“Overall, I don’t think there’s any doubt that schools are feeling pressure from No Child Left Behind and standardized tests,” according to Brenda VanLengen, Vice Chair of PE4life, a physical education advocacy organization.

The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part IV — How important are state higher ed cuts?

Dylan Matthews:

After voting to approve yet another tuition increase in 2011, University of California regent Bonnie Reiss lamented, “Faced with enormous financial cuts forced on us by political leaders, we only have a handful of options open to us, and all are horrible options.” Andrea Newman, a regent at the University of Michigan, agrees. Justifying her vote for higher tuition, Newman explained, “The budget cuts passed by the legislature are impossible to make up otherwise.”
The budget cuts are real. Some states, such as Arizona and New Hampshire, have cut as much of 50 percent of their per-student state spending on education since the financial crisis hit, according to a report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

Is School Enough?

tpt National Productions:

Thanks to digital media, the Internet and new advances in understanding how students learn, educators are beginning to appreciate the importance of breaking out of the classroom and into the wider world. There’s a growing understanding that learning should not just be preparation for life, but is actually “life itself.”
Is School Enough? documents vivid examples of where new modes of learning and engagement are taking hold and flourishing. Featuring nationally recognized educators and researchers, Stephen Brown’s powerful stories show that when students have the opportunity to explore real interests and problems, they step up and perform at the highest level. This new approach reaches motivated students as well as kids that educators call “the bright and bored,” helping these learners tune in rather than drop out.
Is School Enough? introduces parents, educators, and everyone passionate about learning to:

Claude Steele to speak on stereotype threat at Beloit College

Renowned social psychologist Claude Steele will visit Beloit College to give a lecture on Monday, Sept. 9. Free and open to the public, the lecture titled “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Eaton Chapel.
Steele, the I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University, will speak on the issues he presented in his 2010 book of the same name. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, the book provides an inside look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity.
During his visit to campus, Steele will also participate in a panel discussion of teaching and advising at Beloit and facilitate a discussion with students regarding social identity.
Steele, who previously served as the Provost of Columbia University, earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Ohio State University. His research focuses on the psychological experience of the individual and on the experience of threats to the self and the consequences of those threats. He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including the American Psychologist, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Review of “Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotype Affect Us” (Harvard Educational Review)
Why are students of color not graduating from college at the same rate as white students? Why might white students be reluctant to take courses with a substantial number of students of color in them? What can educators do to address these problems?
In his new book, Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, social psychologist Claude Steele helps us find answers to these questions based on findings from social psychology experiments. Steele’s book sets forth an argument for understanding how contextual factors–not individual characteristics or personal beliefs motivated by prejudice or malice–help explain so-termed “racial achievement gaps” in education and ongoing societal racial and ethnic segregation.
In an accessible, page-turning account written for a general audience, Steele explains how identity contingencies–the conditions that a given social identity forces us to face and overcome in a particular setting–affect our everyday behavior and perpetuate broader societal problems. Expanding on his prior work, he focuses on a specific type of identity contingency: stereotype threat, or the fear of what people could think about us solely because of our race, gender, age, etc. An African American male walking down the street at night, for example, faces the threat of being seen as potentially violent. Steele recounts how, to deflect this stereotype threat, African American New York Times writer Brent Staples whistled Vivaldi while walking the streets of Hyde Park at night to signal to white people that he was educated and nonviolent. Another example of stereotype threat would be a white student in a class that is predominantly nonwhite facing the threat of being perceived as racist. Steele explains how such threats follow us like a “cloud.”

Read more here.

Teacher rating systems expensive, time-consuming and maybe worthwhile

Chris Rickert:

On the one hand, it’s nice to see Wisconsin’s public schools finally moving toward a human resources model that most of the rest of the working world has been using for years — i.e., rewarding or sanctioning employees based on how well they do their jobs.
On the other, given that public education isn’t exactly inventing the wheel here, it’s puzzling that the state would need to spend so much time and money coming up with and implementing ways to gauge how well educators do their jobs.
Then there’s the question of whether the new teacher evaluations — expected to cost about $6.9 million this school year and $6.7 million the next — will produce data that’s any more useful than that produced by the old, largely pro forma teacher evaluations.
Two systems have been approved for use so far. One was created by the Department of Public Instruction, the other by the publicly supported Cooperative Educational Service Agency for region 6, or CESA 6.
To my untrained eye, they seem fair and on point. Among the highlights:
Evaluators complete a series of announced and unannounced classroom observation visits.

Race too, after all, along with Gender

Arvind Elangovan:

Since Michaela Cross’s experience was part of a study abroad program conducted annually by the University of Chicago, and I was part of the program – for three years as a graduate student assistant (for the Fall quarters of 2007-2009), and one year as faculty in the program (Fall of 2010) – I think I could most usefully contribute by highlighting a few facts about the program itself. In the process I would think aloud about some of the issues that have come up in the reception of Cross’s experience in India, especially in the responses of Rajyashree Sen and Ameya Naik. I choose Sen’s and Naik’s responses partly because they have been the most recent, but also because between them they represent the spectrum of possible positions that one could usefully take about this issue. Needless to add, there have been other responses, such as the one posted by another fellow University of Chicago student on the trip, an article titled ‘In Defence of Rose Chasm (Michaela Cross) and countless other comments, criticisms, and responses that have flooded the Internet world.
However, between Sen and Naik, the basic ends of the spectrum are quite clear. Sen contends that it is not only a white woman’s problem but an issue for all women and that some self-regulation and discipline would have gone a long way to avert the unsavory experiences if not completely eliminate their possibility. Naik, at the other end of the spectrum, points out that the expectation of preparedness or caution urged by Sen belies the possibility of questioning the pervasive culture of sexual violence, in which any cautionary attempt to be safe, is to pay merely lip service to acknowledging the crime of sexual violence, instead of combating more difficult questions about such a culture.

Ambitious schools are important, but support starts at home

Alan Borsuk:

To attend the three central city schools in the Milwaukee College Prep system is to immerse yourself in a message: I may be 5 or 7 or 9 years old, but I’m here to get ready for college.
The classrooms and hallways in the charter schools feature pennants from the colleges that teachers graduated from. Banners identify each class by the year the students would enroll in college in the normal sequence of things. The new first-graders are the Class of 2025. In fifth grade, students begin making visits to colleges.
It’s a highly ambitious message and a highly ambitious school, with results to back up its goals. (Disclosure: I have a family member who works for the schools now, but I said the same things before that was true.) And pushing the college message to students who are predominantly black and low income is in line with what is being done at the best and most ambitious schools in many other central cities.
So is it a good idea to push the college so hard so young? In my mind, the answer is almost entirely yes. There are so many kids, families and schools with lower expectations, so many students who are already on a path at a young age to stay at the bottom of the economic spectrum.
If one of the goals of education is to open doors of opportunity, a crucial element is inculcating expectations and giving kids the capacity to pursue those expectations. Milwaukee College Prep and a few comparable schools in the city are doing that.

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists

Jennifer Raff:

Last week’s post (The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google) sparked a very lively discussion, with comments from several people trying to persuade me (and the other readers) that their paper disproved everything that I’d been saying. While I encourage you to go read the comments and contribute your own, here I want to focus on the much larger issue that this debate raised: what constitutes scientific authority?
It’s not just a fun academic problem. Getting the science wrong has very real consequences. For example, when a community doesn’t vaccinate children because they’re afraid of “toxins” and think that prayer (or diet, exercise, and “clean living”) is enough to prevent bacterial infection, outbreaks happen.

Should Students Use a Laptop in Class?

Evan Salinger:

There’s a widely shared image on the Internet of a teacher’s note that says: “Dear students, I know when you’re texting in class. Seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.”
College students returning to class this month would be wise to heed such warnings. You’re not as clever as you think–your professors are on to you. The best way to stay in their good graces is to learn what behavior they expect with technology in and around the classroom.
Let’s start with the million-dollar question: May computers (laptops, tablets, smartphones) be used in class? Some instructors are as permissive as parents who let you set your own curfew. Others are more controlling and believe that having your phone on means your brain is off and that relying on Google for answers results in a digital lobotomy.

Are Learning Styles Real? Myths in Education

Purav Patel:

Outside of research, few people even mention the science of teaching and learning. When research is mentioned, it’s often flatly wrong. Psychologists Paul Kirschner and Jeroen van Merriënboer reviewed three “urban legends” in education that have no solid basis in the research literature.
The first myth reviewed has two related parts. The myth claims that modern children are “digital natives” who can learn easily from technological sources (e.g. computers). Children now have become independent and creative learners who can communicate, learn, and solve problems easily with technology. Relatedly, children are thought to be able to multitask with technology efficiently (e.g. doing homework like using social media). With regard to the digital natives claim, the authors review research that questions how tech-savvy young people are according to research. Students in many Western countries were found to have low or limited knowledge of information technology. Their skills were resticted to email, mobile phones, and basic software programs. Another study claims that students demonstrate the butterfly defect, where they click through hyperlinks without delving into the content deeply. Researchers in Finland surveyed the technological knowledge of young student teachers and also found their knowledge to be limited. Technology was used primarily for passive consumption, not active creation.

Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure?

Purav Patel:

At the 2007 American Educational Research Association (AERA) convention, scholars of education and the learning sciences debated the usefulness of constructivist versus explicit instruction. The debate inspired the writing of the book Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure? by educational psychologists Sigmund Tobias and Thomas Duffy. Each week, a post will summarize and comment on the 18 chapters in this book. By the end of this series, we’ll develop some nuance on this contentious debate.
The book’s pedagogy is itself worth noting. In most chapters, one or several researchers argue in favor or contructivism or explicit instruction. At the chapters’ end, dissenting researchers question and critique the chapter’s authors. The main authors then reply to these critiques. This cycle of critiques and replies digs more deeply into the contructivist/instructivist debate than do scholarly articles.

Why do people view teaching as a ‘B-list’ job?

Ilana Garon:

It happens a lot: I’ll introduce myself to a group of people I don’t know well, explaining that I’m a high school English teacher. And someone will invariably respond, “But you’re smart, what do you really want to do?” As backhanded compliments go, that one really rankles. What I find most irksome isn’t even the implication that my colleagues and I are typically mundane or that my work of the last decade has been a waste of my time. The most frustrating thing about hearing that I’m “too smart” for teaching is the counter-productive mentality about my profession that such a comment underscores.
In the early half of the 20th century, a bright woman’s best career option was to be a teacher. Now, thankfully, most every path is open to women, the only downside of which is the inevitable matriculation of top female graduates away from the field of teaching due to a plethora of other choices. This trend is compounded by the fact that teaching is now seen as a B-list job: Most top graduates of my college went into law, medicine, business, or academia. Those who did go into teaching, myself included, constantly encountered the assumption that this would be a short-term gig, the ubiquitous two-year foray (through Teach for America or the like) that would ultimately pad graduate school applications. For many, it was. Teaching wasn’t, and – 10 years later – still isn’t, seen as a “prestigious” career, even by liberal university graduates who would all agree that strong public education is an inviolable social good.

Dane County districts pour nearly $3 million into school security upgrades over summer

Doug Erickson:

Public schools in Dane County poured nearly $3 million into security upgrades over the summer, continuing a trend that began nearly 15 years ago with a school shooting in Columbine, Colo.
Almost all school buildings in the county will have secure entrances when classes begin this week, even in the small, rural districts of Belleville and Wisconsin Heights. All outside doors in both districts will be locked after the start of the school day, a first for both districts but a standard precaution now across much of the county.
Several districts, including Sun Prairie, added a layer of security beyond an intercom system, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to reconfigure entrances so that visitors walk directly into an office or a locked vestibule before being let into any other part of the school. At two schools in

Related: Police calls near Madison High Schools: 1996-2006.

The Most Surprising Things About America, According To An Indian International Student

Gus Lubin:

Aniruddh Chaturvedi came from Mumbai to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn., where he is majoring in computer science. This past summer he interned at a tech company in Silicon Valley.
During two years in the U.S., Chaturvedi has been surprised by various aspects of society, as he explained last year in a post on Quora.
Chaturvedi offered his latest thoughts on America in an email to Business Insider.
The most surprising things about America:

Hundreds Of Connecticut Weapons Incidents Reported During 2011-12 School Year

Denise Buffa:

Efforts to keep Connecticut schools safe have escalated since a lone gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last year and shot to death 20 first-graders and six adults. But not all threats to school safety come from outside the building.
A Courant examination of state records, coming in Sunday’s Hartford Courant and on, revealed that hundreds of Connecticut public schools reported incidents involving weapons in the 2011-2012 school year. The weapons included at least 16 handguns and at least two rifles or shotguns.
Sunday’s report will include an online database of every school that reported an incident involving a weapon and a list of weapons reported at each school.
In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 400 knives were confiscated. There were also at least 37 box cutters, 20 razor blades, 17 switchblades, eight swords or machetes and six stun guns.

Related: Police calls near Madison High Schools: 1996-2006.

The Federal Pell Grant Program: Recent Growth and Policy Options

Congressional Budget Office:

Summary The Federal Pell Grant Program was created to improve the access of low-income students to postsecondary edu- cation. Grant recipients enroll at a variety of educational institutions, including four-year colleges and universities, for-profit schools, two-year community colleges, and institutions that specialize in occupational training. Grants are awarded on the basis of financial need and aca- demic course load, and the maximum grant a student can receive for the 2013-2014 award year is $5,645. During the most recent award year for which data are available (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012), the program provided $33.6 billion in grants to some 9.4 million students at U.S. educational institutions. The cost of the program has risen dramatically in recent years.
From 2006-2007 to 2010-2011, real (inflation-adjusted) spending on Pell grants increased by 158 percent. That change resulted from an 80 percent rise in the number of recipients and a 43 percent real increase in the amount of the average grant during those four years (see Figure 1). Spending for the program declined in 2011-2012 because of a reduction in the amount of the average grant.

The New Era of Toy Robotics

Erik Sofge:

IN OLDEN TIMES, the most an ambitious young tinkerer could hope for in a toy was to be able to stick one funny-shaped piece onto another. Kids built airplanes with Tinkertoys and spaceships with Erector Sets. In large part, the joy was in the building.
But recreational tinkering has since taken a quantum leap forward. Once motors and computer processors got less expensive and the smartphone became ubiquitous, suddenly, toys could be programmed–not just remote-controlled, but given orders, even missions. Sure, it’s fun to scare your sister by hiding a toy spider in her dresser, but that’s nothing compared to outfitting a jerry-built arachnid with LED eyes and a motion-activated vibrating motor. Today, mini robots can be made to zigzag down the hall, patrol a home, greeting siblings with a friendly hello or a barrage of plastic missiles.

Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: City Budget Slows Spending Growth, K-12 School District Raises Taxes. 4.5%

Madison leaders say trimming city workers’ pay might be necessary:

Scheduled pay raises for union-represented city employees may need to be trimmed to help balance the 2014 city budget, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and City Council President Chris Schmidt said Friday.
Schmidt said he didn’t relish the step — calling city workers “already underpaid for the jobs they do” — but he argued there could be no other choice.
Revenue limits under state law, rising city costs for fuel and health insurance, and a steadfast goal to protect funding for basic city services increasingly tie the city’s hands, he said.
“It’s understandable why it’s on the table, why we’re discussing it,” he said about the possible action, in which a 3 percent raise scheduled to start in the last pay period in December could be scaled back or eliminated for many employees in March.

Andrea Anderson:

Contract talks for Madison School District employees set to start this month, letter says contract negotiations for Madison School District employees are set to begin later this month, according to a letter sent Friday to district staff by superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews.
Cheatham said in a phone interview that she and employee unions will be negotiating “as soon as we can” in order to create collective bargaining agreements that will take effect after the current contracts end in June 2014.
MTI asked the district to begin collective bargaining in May, but the new superintendent wanted to adjust to her role, become acquainted with the staff and hear their requests before bargaining with the teachers union and other employee unions.
Although the timeline is unclear, Cheatham said she expects to complete the contracts “fairly quickly” while also taking time to ensure the process is done correctly and has an outcome acceptable to all parties.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget (including a 4.5 property tax increase, after 9% two years ago), here.

Madison’s Achievement Gap Grows While the School Board and City Continue to Ignore Charter Success

Nick Novak:

On Thursday, Chris Rickert – writer for the Wisconsin State Journal – thankfully reminded us about Madison’s dirty little secret. The district has a huge problem when it comes to the achievement gap – how students from different races are learning – and little in terms of a plan to fix it.
Indeed, Madison has one of the largest achievement gaps in Wisconsin. While 86.7 percent of white students in the district graduated in 2012, only 53.1 percent of their African American classmates could say the same. That’s a graduation difference of nearly 34 percent. Even Milwaukee, the state’s most embattled district, beats Madison on this very important issue. African American students in Milwaukee Public Schools were six percent more likely to graduate than their counterparts in MMSD.
For a city that goes out of its way to preach utopian equality and the great successes of union-run public schools, Madison’s lack of an answer for the achievement gap should come as a shock.
Here’s how the district stacked up, in terms of graduation rates, with the state’s other large districts:

Related: Madison’s disastrous reading results.

Home education is just going to gain more and more traction in the coming years.

Amy Welborn:

That’s really not such a brilliant insight. The growth is already there, and constant – except when it pops up a bit.
And why is this?
Two reasons.
Parents and children are getting more and more frustrated with institutional schooling, both public and private.
Secondly, homeschooling is getting easier.
(A little easier. It’s always a challenge, but the Internet has transformed it, making it so much easier to connect with information, classes and other people)
I hesitate to even begin a post like this because the minute I do, my head explodes with a million ideas, concerns and stories, and I end up sitting here for three hours, just meandering.
I’m going to try to not wander down that road, and offer instead smaller bits and pieces.
I’ve talked before about why we’re here, doing this. That post is here.

Oberlin Revises “Secret List” No Trespass Policy

Karen Farkas:

Oberlin College has modified its “No Trespass” policy and formed a community advisory board in the wake of campus and community concerns over how it was enforced.
The college, known as one of the most liberal in the country, made several changes to the policy after questions were raised about the secret list that barred people from campus without them knowing their offense.
The new policy includes allowing security to issue a written warning, providing a list of college property, providing more written information on the trespass order, creating a one-year trespass order and creating an appeals process.
“We have approached this work with a desire to create more effective policy and procedures that balance the need for safety with greater transparency and community involvement,” Dean of Students Eric Estes said in a news release.

Parents Who Yell at Teens Can Increase Risk of Depression and Aggression

Andrea Peterson:

Parents who yell at their adolescent children for misbehaving can cause some of the same problems as hitting them would, including increased risk of depression and aggressive behavior, according to a new study.
A good, warm relationship with Mom and Dad doesn’t protect teens from the negative effects of parents’ yelling, cursing or lobbing insults, such as calling teens “lazy” or “stupid,” the study found. Conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, the study was published Wednesday on the journal Child Development’s website.
While spanking has become taboo in many U.S. communities, yelling doesn’t have nearly the same social stigma. Indeed, parents sometimes think yelling will make their charges listen and behave. But the study found the opposite to be true.
“Shouting cannot reduce or correct their problem behavior,” said Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor in the departments of education and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and a co-author of the study. “On the contrary, it makes it worse.”
Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who wasn’t involved in the study, said parents can effectively discipline kids by taking away privileges, such as screen time or the car keys.

‘For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law’ by Randall Kennedy

Gerald Early:

One would think that the last thing the American reading public needs is yet another book on affirmative action. Even by the late 1990s, library shelves were groaning with dozens of books, pro and con, on the subject. The positions are clear:
The right is opposed to affirmative action on the grounds that it denies or perverts merit; that it emphasizes the group over the individual; that it generates reverse discrimination, which is pernicious; that it insists on equal results instead of equal opportunity, a goal that is patently un-American and can be realized only through egregious social engineering; and that it intensifies racial consciousness by creating a compensatory racial caste system as a form of bourgeois patronage.

The unintended consequences of laws addressing sex between teachers and students

Betsy Karasik

There is a painfully uncomfortable episode of “Louie” in which the comedian Louis C.K. muses that maybe child molesters wouldn’t kill their victims if the penalty weren’t so severe. Everyone I know who watches the show vividly recalls that scene from 2010 because it conjures such a witches’ cauldron of taboo, disgust and moral outrage, all wrapped around a disturbing kernel of truth. I have similar ambivalence about the case involving former Montana high school teacher Stacey Dean Rambold. Louie concluded his riff with a comment to the effect of “I don’t know what to do with that information.” That may be the case for many of us, but with our legal and moral codes failing us, our society needs to have an uncensored dialogue about the reality of sex in schools.
As protesters decry the leniency of Rambold’s sentence — he will spend 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16 — I find myself troubled for the opposite reason. I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized. While I am not defending Judge G. Todd Baugh’s comments about Morales being “as much in control of the situation” — for which he has appropriately apologized — tarring and feathering him for attempting to articulate the context that informed his sentence will not advance this much-needed dialogue.

America’s Most Dangerous Football Is in the Pee-Wee Leagues, Not the NFL

Alan Barra:

This weekend, the National Football League would like you to see The Butler, We’re the Millers, or maybe The End of The World–anything but The United States of Football. Sean Pamphilon’s documentary, controversial even before its release, is about the dangers of America’s No. 1 sports obsession, football, from youth leagues to the pros. Pamphilon, a Emmy and a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker who exposed the New Orleans Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal in April 2012, has assembled nearly three years’ worth of investigative reporting on the damage football, as it’s played today at all levels, can do to the human brain.
Like the game itself, The United States of Football is, in turns, exciting, stimulating, and heartbreaking. There’s no other word but that last one to describe what too many hits to the head did to the late, great Baltimore Colts’ Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey: In 2000, when he was just 59, he became the first NFL player to be diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia. In Pamphilon’s film, Mackey’s wife Sylvia feeds him, constantly calling to him “John Mackey!” because, she says, “I don’t want him to forget his name.” The United States of Football also tells the story of Dave Duerson, an 11-year veteran, most notably of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl champions, who shot himself in the chest in 2011 at age 50. Neurologists later confirmed that Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions.

From Mr Average … to superman

Craig Davidson

The needle is 21 gauge, 1.5in. A hogsticker. Forty of them arrived in a package from Greece. Ever received a package from overseas? You get that puff of air when you rip it open – air that’s travelled thousands of miles. Foreign, like stepping into a stranger’s house. The syringe wrapper has instructions in Italian, French, Greek and Arabic – not a word of English. But it’s a needle. Operation is self-explanatory. I had put them out on my work desk a few days ago – an unignorable fact. An invitation. A threat.
Buck up, laddie. Fortune favours the brave.
What’s inside looks like oily urine. 1cc of Equipoise – a veterinary drug normally injected into beef cattle – and 2cc of Testosterone Cypionate: 10 times the testosterone a man my size produces naturally in a week.
It was going into my backside; plenty of meat there. But the sciatic nerve radiates from my hips; plus, if I hit a vein I could go into cardiac collapse. I tucked a bag of frozen corn beneath my underwear to numb the injection site. The hash marks on the syringe were smudged away by my sweaty hands. That couldn’t be a sign of quality medical equipment, could it?

The Rising Costs of a ‘Free’ Public Education

Lindsay Gellman:

The kids are back in school. And you’ve probably shelled out for pencil cases, notebooks, a new backpack–and AP French.
“Free public education” clauses are written into state constitutions nationwide. Yet at many public schools around the country it has become anything but. Schools are charging parents for programs and items that have traditionally come standard–including fees for course supplies, school-run extracurricular activities, transportation and even basic registration fees.
School districts have seen their budgets slashed over the past few years as states cut back funding amid the economic downturn. And this year is no exception, even as the economy continues to slowly improve. Thanks to the federal budget sequester earlier this year, schools nationwide have had to adjust to additional budget cuts of 5%, says Dan Domenech, executive director of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, a nonprofit public-education advocacy group based in Alexandria, Va.
Parents aren’t happy about having to cover some of the tab. And some are even fighting back.

School Choice Isn’t About Fighting for Resources, It’s About Choosing How To Learn

JD Tuccille:

On a family vacatiEmpty classroom© Valentin Armianu | Dreamstime.comon a few weeks ago, my older nephew’s unhappiness with school was a major topic of conversation. His fifth grade teacher, it turns out, required all of the kids in class to read assigned books at the same rate–sprinting ahead was strictly forbidden. For a kid who just tested at the reading level of a high school senior, this was a pointlessly morale-killing rule that contributed to a very smart boy’s growing discontent with school. Sixth grade is now underway, and so are parental negotiations for a more flexible approach toward education, or else a healthier venue, including home. It’s with this experience in mind that I read research psychologist Peter Gray’s all too accurate piece in Salon comparing modern schools to prisons–horrible, curiosity-crushing institutions that teach all the wrong lessons. His points are excellent in themselves, and provide a major insight into why the school choice debate is often so off-base.
Gray, a professor at Boston College, writes:

Higher Education in America

Derek Bok:

American higher education is the envy of the world. Students flock to this country from all over, and the most highly ranked schools tend to be here. We should be proud!
American higher education is a mess. With high costs, low graduation rates, unhappy faculty members and coddled students, our universities are about to be radically disrupted by massive, technologically driven change. A good thing, too!
How to reconcile these opposing views? At a time when ambitious business-school professors and salivating entrepreneurs predict the end of the university as we know it, and at a time when we have never been more in need of an educated workforce and citizenry, the task of understanding the evolving mission and performance of American higher education has never been more urgent. Thank goodness Derek Bok, a two-time president of Harvard and a judicious, learned analyst of education, has taken on this undertaking. His book is too long to be called a report card, but it is a detailed progress report on the challenges and opportunities facing our nation’s colleges and universities.

Birmingham library turns a decorative leaf

John Murray Brown

People’s Palace’: the £189m Library of Birmingham, which opens on Tuesday
Birmingham officially opened its new public library, one of the largest in Europe, on Tuesday.
At a time when councils across the UK are trimming library services as part of the cuts in public funding, Birmingham city council has delivered a £189m building to grace the city centre.
The building, which has won critical and popular acclaim, replaces the brutalist concrete-clad Central Library, designed by John Madin, the foremost Birmingham architect of the postwar period.
Francine Houben, the new library’s Dutch architect, described it as a “people’s palace”.

Nashville Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Charter Schools

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

In the last few years, those at the helm of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) have become increasingly hostile to the city’s fast-growing charter school sector. Last year, the school board refused (despite a directive from the state to approve) a charter application from Great Hearts Academy, a respected Arizona charter management organization. This is despite the fact that only about 40% of the district’s students in grades 3-8 are meeting proficiency standards. In the past few weeks, the relationship between the MNPS directors and charter schools has deteriorated to the point that some describe as nuclear war. Schools Director Jesse Register has engaged lawyers to argue that the decade-old charter school law is unconstitutional.
Last week, a Nashville paper called for MNPS to adopt a portfolio strategy, meaning that the district should stop trying to be a monopoly operator of schools. Becoming a portfolio district would not mean that Nashville would put all its schools out to bid to charter schools. It would mean that the district would stop treating the students in Nashville charter schools as somebody else’s responsibility and start seeing its job as ensuring that all children in the city are well served by the public schools, no matter who runs them. If a particular neighborhood was not being well served and a renowned district principal wanted to open a new school there, great. If a high-performing charter school was in a position to open a new school there, great. Portfolio districts don’t have a preference for charters or district-run schools; they prefer whatever arrangement gets good results for kids.

Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

Dave Zweifel:

The recent news release from the State Department of Public Instruction revealing that 67 percent of the applicants to the Walker administration’s expanded school voucher program are already attending private schools elicited cries of “scam” from many quarters.
And well it should have.
That two-thirds of the voucher applicants had their children already enrolled in private schools lays waste the argument by Wisconsin legislative Republicans and the governor that vouchers are needed so poor families can rescue their children from poorly performing public schools.
That has always been a spurious argument, even back in the days when Gov. Tommy Thompson shepherded the nation’s first school choice program through the Legislature for low-income Milwaukee families. It was sold based on the argument that poor families, said to be ill-served by Milwaukee’s public school system, ought to be able to send their children to private schools just as do rich people. So, in order to do that with taxpayers’ money, vouchers were devised to technically make tuition grants to the families, which in turn would use them to pay the private schools.

Dana Goldstein on Sweden’s voucher system.

Downgrading Elite Colleges

Ry Rivard:

Over the past year and a half, the credit ratings of several prestigious liberal arts colleges have been downgraded or assigned a negative outlook by Moody’s Investors Service.
(Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to note that these ratings were issued over the last 18 months, not the past several months.)
These are institutions — Haverford College, Morehouse College, Oberlin College and Wellesley College – that top students seek out, yet they are showing small but noticeable signs of fiscal stress several years after the end of the recession. Their downgraded ratings are still better than those of plenty of other institutions, and Moody’s has issued plenty of gloomy projects about colleges during the economic downturn. But the recent actions are notable because they affect colleges that are by many measures — money, prestige, history — among the most fortunate in the country.
“We do see pressure on small private colleges as a group and that’s primarily because they don’t have a lot of different things they can do, so they are primarily dependent on tuition revenue,” said a Moody’s analyst, Edie Behr.

Automated Teaching Machine: A Graphic Introduction to the End of Human Teachers

Arthur King & Adam Bessie:

“The machine lasts indefinitely. It gets no wrinkles, no arthritis, no hardening of the arteries . . . Two machines replace 114 men that take no coffee breaks, no sick leaves, no vacations with pay,” proclaims the watch-twirling, hard-hearted CEO Wallace V. Whipple in a particularly prescient 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone. Despite the emotional pleas of the workers and their union, Whipple robo-sources 250,000 factory jobs to the “X109B14 modified, transistorized, totally automated machine.” The machine – a cardboard prop filled with vacuum tubes, twirling doo-dads and feverishly blinking diodes may be hilariously outdated, laughable even. But less laughable, though, is that this cautionary tale has come to pass: Today, 50 years later, American workers need not only compete with foreign labor, but with automatons. It’s no longer science fiction, but common-sense corporate practice.
Mr. Whipple was not a warning, but rather, a muse.
Nowhere has Mr. Whipple inspired more watch-twirling CEOs of late than in the Global Education Reform Movement, which seeks to privatize public education. Last year, Adam Bessie profiled this movement – lead by billionaires, industrialists and the Wall Street elite – in a three-part comic series with graphic journalist Dan Archer “The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price ofEducation Reform” (See also episode II, and episode III).

I teach high school on Chicago’s South Side. What would you like to know

Dave Stieber:

For the last seven years, Dave Stieber has taught history and social studies at public schools in Chicago’s South Side. He currently teaches at TEAM in Englewood. Dave will be online today between 12.30pm and 1.30 ET (5.30-6.30 BST) to answer your questions. What would you like to know? Toss your questions in the comments.
My typical work day consists of me waking up at 5am, walking the dog, breakfast, and getting dressed by 5.40. Giving my son and wife a kiss then out the door by 6.10am. I’m on the bus to work and at school by 6.40am.
I’m a morning person, so I need time before kids arrive to get everything set up and prepared and make sure my plans are ready to be carried out. Students come up at 7.30am and class starts at 7.45am.
I have five classes from 7.45am – 3.08pm, with one 48-minute block for meetings, one for preparing my lessons, materials/copies and grading, and another for lunch. Most days I have to stay after school to meet with students or prepare for the next day. Some days I have meetings or a spoken-word club that I along with two other teachers run.

Lots going for Madison schools as classes begin

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison has plenty of challenges. That’s for sure. Yet the district has a lot going for it, too, as students return to classes Tuesday.
Cheatham has embraced higher standards and will publish annual progress reports. She’s a fan of using student data to measure for results and hold educators accountable.
Yet Cheatham also talks convincingly about supporting principals and teachers. She plans to focus intently on high-quality teaching practices, shared leadership and professional development. Teachers seem to appreciate her call for more consistent priorities and curriculum.
It’s almost a back-to-basics approach, using research and results to inform strategies.
Unlike her predecessor, Cheatham hasn’t proposed a long list of new spending initiatives. Money, of course, matters. Yet Madison already has lots of resources, and it does many things well. Cheatham wants to start with what’s working and build from there.
“The really exciting news is we have all the ingredients to be successful,” Cheatham said this summer.
That’s good to hear.

Seattle schools start Wednesday as teachers approve contract

Linda Shaw:

Union leaders said the pay increases are the biggest that teachers have received in five years. By some counts, the new contract will maintain Seattle as one of the top-paid districts in the Puget Sound area, although some teachers point out that the cost of living is higher here, too.
Though the district succeeded in adding 30 minutes to elementary-school teachers’ workday, putting them on par with their middle- and high-school counterparts, it compromised in how they can use that time, with teachers retaining much flexibility.
The agreement also calls for the district to work toward setting limits in the caseloads for school psychologists, speech therapists, and occupational and physical therapists, and a pledge to add more such employees.
Two other groups within the SEA approved new contracts on Tuesday, too — paraprofessionals, such as classroom aides, and school secretaries.

Madison School District students should expect visible changes this year

Andrea Anderson:

When Madison public school students go back to class Tuesday, they’ll find some lessons will be tougher, according to Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
The gradual implementation of the Common Core standards, a series of benchmarks for what students should know and be able to do, will begin this year by helping educators, students and staff understand what the standards are and how instruction will change .
Teachers will implement Close Reading, a practice used to study literacy standards , to become more familiar with the increase in rigor and standards while monitoring how the students and the teachers themselves are faring .
“The study will allow teachers to better understand the standards and learn about what it will take to plan instruction using the standards and learn more about instructional practices necessary to teach the standards and learn about” ways to assess what students are learning, Cheatham said.
An example of a Close Reading lesson would be reading a primary source document in a history class and later answering short-answer questions. Teachers would review how students performed, what challenges there were and what the teacher could do to improve.

Union leader: Pay boost for Madison educational assistants is ‘step in the right direction’

Pat Schneider

The Madison School Board is taking a “step in the right direction” in acknowledging the role of educational assistants in helping students succeed, says a union leader.
The 737 educational assistants in the district had been working without a pay raise since 2009 says Erin Proctor, president of their Madison Teachers Inc. collective bargaining unit.
The $433.6 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year approved Monday also includes a 1 percent salary hike for teachers and administrators. The budget will translate to a 4.47 percent increase in the property tax levy.
The pay increase will boost the starting base wage for educational assistants to $12.58 an hour which, with longevity increases, can rise to more than $20 an hour for some work assignments, according to the labor contract. But educational assistants typically don’t get as many work hours as most full-time workers do, Proctor says.

Much more on the Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 budget, here.

Too easy or too tough?

Nora Hertel:

Some critics of the new Common Core standards embraced by Wisconsin schools feel they set the bar for students too high too early.
Tina Hollenbeck, a former classroom teacher and homeschooler in Green Bay, believes the standards require abstract thinking that’s too hard for children in kindergarten and first grade. “That would be a huge stress that’s coming for these kids.”
Tuyet Cullen, an eighth grade math teacher in Madison, notes that Common Core has children multiplying fractions in fourth or fifth grade. Before, this skill was not usually taken up until sixth grade.
“Are their brains ready for that concept?” Cullen asked. “If (the standards) aren’t developmentally appropriate, they’re going to be too hard.”
Others argue that the standards are too easy.

Disabilities create hurdles to open enrollment

Emily Kram, via a kind reader email:

With a sigh, Michelle Janz put a hand to her face and flipped through a folder of letters, memos and official forms. She shook her head over the mass of paperwork accumulated in eight months.
Nex a sigh, Michelle Janz put a hand to her face and flipped through a folder of letters, memos and official forms. She shook her head over the mass of paperwork accumulated in eight months.
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” she said. “We should have a choice like any other student.”
Janz, who lives in Superior, had spent the better part of a year applying for open enrollment, facing rejection and working through the appeals process. Her goal was to enroll her son, Travis, in another school district.
During the 2012-13 school year, Travis was a special education student at Superior High School. Like a typical 17-year-old, Janz said, Travis loves computers. He also enjoys skateboarding and spending time with his friends.
“Everybody knows Travis,” Janz said. “He loves school, and he loves being around kids.”

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Digital Indians: Find out about the series

Ramaa Sharma:

Over the next few weeks, the BBC wants to take you on an amazing journey through digital India.
Our special Digital Indians series will tell you stories of five successful technological innovators and explore their distinct connections with India.
The tales including a home-grown entrepreneur-turned public servant, a US-born Indian who migrated to his parents’ homeland to work with farmers and a businessman’s daughter who left the country to become the first female engineer at the world’s leading social networking site.
On Tuesday, we’ll give you a short history of India’s digital evolution and introduce you to the subjects of the series.

Race & Poverty: 50 Years After the March

Vauhini Vara:

When we talk about the historic civil-rights gathering whose fifty-year anniversary will be celebrated on Wednesday, we usually call it the March on Washington. In fact, the full name of the event was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; early in his speech, Martin Luther King, Jr., lamented that black Americans lived “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” The marchers had ten demands for Congress, at least four of which were aimed at improving black people’s financial circumstances and narrowing the gulf between black and white Americans’ economic opportunities.
Fifty years later, that gulf hasn’t changed much. By some measures it has widened. In 2011, the median income for black households was about fifty-nine per cent of the median income for white households, up slightly from fifty-five per cent in 1967, according to Census dataanalyzed by the Pew Research Center. But when you considerwealth–that is, everything a family owns, including a home and retirement savings–the difference seems to have grown. Pew found that the median black household had about seven per cent of the wealth of its white counterpart in 2011, down from nine per cent in 1984, when a Census survey first began tracking this sort of data.

Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning

Alex Spiegel:

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.
“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes on paper,” Stigler explains, “and one kid was just totally having trouble with it. His cube looked all cockeyed, so the teacher said to him, ‘Why don’t you go put yours on the board?’ So right there I thought, ‘That’s interesting! He took the one who can’t do it and told him to go and put it on the board.’ ”
Stigler knew that in American classrooms, it was usually the best kid in the class who was invited to the board. And so he watched with interest as the Japanese student dutifully came to the board and started drawing, but still couldn’t complete the cube. Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the rest of the class whether the kid had gotten it right, and the class would look up from their work, and shake their heads no. And as the period progressed, Stigler noticed that he — Stigler — was getting more and more anxious.

I welcome Common Core education standards, but let’s not forget creativity

Ashley Lauren Samsa:

Across the nation, students and teachers are headed back to school. Teachers, such as myself, are furiously preparing their classrooms to welcome students and planning new lessons to ensure that this year is an educational one.
For many across the country, the planning and preparation has taken a new turn with the official adoption of the Common Core education standards – President Obama’s replacement for No Child Left Behind. The Common Core includes new definitions for school success as well as new national standards for core subjects such as reading, writing and math. Before the Common Core, states had the ability to create their own standards, meaning a student in Illinois might be held to one level of expectations while a student in Arkansas might be held to another. This caused many problems in education, especially when students moved from state to state. The Common Core now unites all of the participating states with the same standards that are both rigorous and skills-based with a focus on utilizing technology in the classroom.
In many ways, this is a great thing both for students and for teachers. Main subject classes have long been behind the curve when it comes to utilizing technology in the classroom. Being technologically competent is now considered a vital life skill, not to mention something today’s students need if they are ever going to be employable. English classes in particular have been a little lost in the digital age; when we English teachers went to school, we had been taught to teach literature as an art form for the sake of the appreciation of beauty. Now, with fewer and fewer students going on to study the humanities, we have been tasked with making our classes relevant to the masses. The Common Core’s skills based standards could help us do just that. With the focus no longer on content, we can teach whatever pieces we want in our classroom, as long as students are being taught how to read, write, and think critically.