Physicists, Generals And CEOs Agree: Ditch The PowerPoint

Alan Yu:

About six months ago, a group of physicists in the U.S. working on the Large Hadron Collider addressed a problem they’ve been having for a while: Whenever they had meetings, everyone stuck to the prepared slides, and couldn’t really answer questions that weren’t immediately relevant to what was on the screen.
 The point of the forum is to start discussions, so the physicists banned PowerPoint — from then on, they could only use a board and a marker.
 “The use of the PowerPoint slides was acting as a straitjacket to discussion,” says Andrew Askew, an assistant professor of physics at Florida State University and one of the organizers of the forum at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.

Half of U.S. Business Schools Might Be Gone by 2020

Patrick Clark:

Richard Lyons, the dean of University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, has a dire forecast for business education: “Half of the business schools in this country could be out of business in 10 years—or five,” he says.
 The threat, says Lyons, is that more top MBA programs will start to offer degrees online. That will imperil the industry’s business model. For most business schools, students pursuing part-time and executive MBAs generate crucial revenue. Those programs, geared toward working professionals, will soon have to compete with elite online alternatives for the same population.
 Lower-ranked business schools, rather than recognized names such as Harvard Business School and Wharton, are most vulnerable to this phenomenon. When the big players start offering online degrees, they’ll draw far-flung students who might otherwise have opted for the convenience of a part-time program close to home.

The poor neglected gifted child

Amy Crawford:

IN 1971, researchers at Johns Hopkins University embarked on an ambitious effort to identify brilliant 12-year-olds and track their education and careers through the rest of their lives. The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, which now includes 5,000 people, would eventually become the world’s longest-running longitudinal survey of what happens to intellectually talented children (in math and other areas) as they grow up. It has generated seven books, more than 300 papers, and a lot of what we know about early aptitude.
 David Lubinski is a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, where the project has been based since the 1990s. He and his wife and fellow Vanderbilt professor, Camilla Benbow, codirect the study and have dedicated their careers to learning about this exceptional population.

Netflix’s Reed Hastings: “Get Rid of Elected School Boards”


On March 4th, 2014, Billionaire Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings delivered the keynote speech to the California Charter School Association’s annual conference. In that keynote speech, Mr. Hastings made a shocking statement: Democratically elected school board members are the problem with education, and they must be replaced by privately held corporations in the next 20-30 years.
 Reed Hastings has just over a billion dollars, riches built on software companies and the entertainment giant Netflix. Mr. Hastings also sat on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004, when he stepped down amid controversy.
 Hastings, who sits on Rocketship’s national strategy advisory board, has invested millions in Rocketship. He’s also made significant political action committee contributions on Rocketship’s behalf, most recently, he poured $50,000 into a PAC to support pro-charter Santa Clara County Office of Education members.

Redesign helps boost math successes at Tenn. college

Community College Daily:

John Squires, associate professor of mathematics and head of the math department at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee, has become a recognized leader in the nation’s reform initiatives of mathematics.
 In the course of three years, Squires has assisted with the redesign of 12 math courses at his college. During the redesign of those courses, he worked with faculty to produce quality resources for each course, including videos and Powerpoints.
 As a result, the college’s math lab has grown from 60 to 180 computers. A continuous enrollment plan has been implemented so students who finish a course early can immediately begin the next course.


Paige Sutherland:

A new program at Tufts University hopes to remove the financial barriers keeping cash-strapped students from taking a year off after high school to travel or volunteer, offering an opportunity now typically only available to more affluent students to explore different communities and challenge their comfort zones before starting college.
 This “gap year” program launching this fall will pay for housing, airfare and even visa fees, which can often add up to $30,000 or more.
 Although gap years are more popular in Europe, they have started to gain traction in the United States. About 40,000 Americans participated in gap year programs in 2013, an increase of nearly 20 percent since 2006, according to data gathered by a nonprofit called the American Gap Year Association.

The Problem and Future of Education

Arsalan Bashir:

Almost everybody knows there is a problem with the education system, but very few can put a finger down on what that problem is. Parents, teachers, students, and even school administrators blame a fractured system for its shortcomings — but this quickly dissolves into a circular argument centered around funding and improved results.

US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, drew out a contrast between the mindset of parents in South Korea and the United States. In a few minuted of non-sugar-coated honesty, Arne pointed out a perspective that is ignored in most attempts to fix the education system — teachers and culture.

This instantly aligned with my analysis of the caveats with the system, and why even a meteoric startup culture was struggling to help. While most of the EdTech pioneers aimed to make teachers redundant, countries like South Korea and Finland focused on first choosing the best teachers, and then empowering them to drive their students to academic success.

South Korea stringently requires teachers to come from the top 5% of college programs and Finland takes this quest for qualified educators to a higher level by insisting on all teachers being Masters degree holders.

Related: When A Stands for Average.

Meet the SAT tutor to the 1%

Emily Jane Fox:

Anthony-James Green has spent nearly a decade, and amassed quite a fortune, figuring out how to ace the SAT.

But his finely honed — and expensive — methodology could be in flux now that the College Board plans sweeping changes for the college entrance exam.

Among the changes: Test takers will no longer need to commit scores of obscure vocabulary words to memory, and math sections will focus much more on real-world problem solving. College Board president David Coleman said the changes, beginning in the spring of 2016, aim to level the playing field for those who can’t afford pricey tutors and classes.

So what about Green, who’s built a business around that uneven playing field?

Over the past nine years, he’s cultivated a strategy in which he observes each client one on one and zeroes in on the student’s biggest weakness.

“Before you ever teach students anything, you need to know the enemy — what is it that they don’t get and what’s stopping them from getting their perfect score,” he said.

The responsibility of adjunct intellectuals

Corey Robin:

Jargon has been the bane of academic life since there’s been academic life. Just read Immanuel Kant. Or Thomas Hobbes, who complained that the academic writing of his day was “nothing else … but insignificant trains of strange and barbarous words.” But if scholarly journals still feature specialists writing for specialists, more academics are writing for the public than ever before. When they’re not, it has less to do with the perversity of their preferences than the precariousness of their profession.

Rethinking Education: Why Our Education System Is Ripe For Disruption

Naveen Jain:

Our education system is not broken, it has just become obsolete
 When I think of all the tremendous, seemingly impossible feats made possible by entrepreneurs, I am amazed that more has not been done to reinvent our education system. I want all entrepreneurs to take notice that this is a multi-hundred billion dollar opportunity that’s ripe for disruption.
 Our collective belief is that our education system is broken so we spend tremendous energy in trying to fix it. We conveniently place the blame on problems that stem from budget cuts, teacher layoffs, inadequate technology in our schools and our education policies. We need to recognize the fact that our education system is NOT BROKEN but has simply become OBSOLETE. It no longer meets the needs of the present and future generation.
 Our education system was developed for an industrial era where we could teach certain skills to our children and they were able to use these skills for the rest of their lives working productively in an industry. We are now living in a fast paced technological era where every skill that we teach our children becomes obsolete in the 10 to 15 years due to exponentially growing technological advances. Meanwhile, new categories of jobs are being created because of these technological advances. It’s hard to imagine that half of the jobs that exist today didn’t exist 25 years ago.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Today California teachers need to protect their pensions by dismantling Ohio manufacturers

Suzanne Berger:

In May 2013 shareholders voted to break up the Timken Company—a $5 billion Ohio manufacturer of tapered bearings, power transmissions, gears, and specialty steel—into two separate businesses. Their goal was to raise stock prices. The company, which makes complex and difficult products that cannot be easily outsourced, employs 20,000 people in the United States, China, and Romania. Ward “Tim” Timken, Jr., the Timken chairman whose family founded the business more than a hundred years ago, and James Griffith, Timken’s CEO, opposed the move.
 The shareholders who supported the breakup hardly looked like the “barbarians at the gate” who forced the 1988 leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. This time the attack came from the California State Teachers Retirement System pension fund, the second-largest public pension fund in the United States, together with Relational Investors LLC, an asset management firm. And Tim Timken was not, like the RJR Nabisco CEO, eagerly pursuing the breakup to raise his own take. But beneath these differences are the same financial pressures that have shaped corporate structure for thirty years.
 Urging Timken shareholders to vote for the split, Relational Investors argued that they should want “pure-play” companies, focused on a single industrial activity. Investors would then be free to balance their portfolios by selecting businesses in industrial sectors with varying degrees of risk and sensitivity to different phases of economic cycles. A firm such as Timken—about one-third a steel company (a materials play) and about two-thirds a bearings and power transmission business (an industrial components play)—would lock investors into a mix that, Relational Investors claimed, leads to a discount on share price.

Does the Academy Matter? Do policymakers listen? Should you get a Ph.D.? And where are all the women?

Foreign Policy:

In mid-February, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof kicked over an ivy-covered hornet’s nest when he complained that too many professors sequester themselves in the ivory tower amid “a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” The public, he wrote, would benefit from greater access to the wisdom of academics. “So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!”
 Judging by the number of submissions that Foreign Policy gets from doctors of philosophy, we suspect that more than a few are trying to break out of the abbey. But the question of academia’s isolation from the “real world” is one that FP’s editors debate as well. In fact, three weeks before Kristof’s article ran, we convened nine current and former deans from top public policy schools to discuss when and how scholarship influences policymakers — and whether academics even care if their work reaches a wider audience.

Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Seth Jovaag:

Melissa Droessler tries not to flinch when she tells people her dream of opening a charter school in Madison.

“Even the word ‘charter’ in Madison can be emotionally charged,” she says.

But Droessler, director of Isthmus Montessori Academy, is steadfast in her belief that a century-old pedagogy created in the slums of Rome could help tackle Madison schools’ thorniest problems.

Last month, the academy submitted a proposal to open Madison’s first public Montessori school in September 2015. As Madison’s fourth charter school, it would be tuition-free and open to anyone. It would also employ unionized Madison teachers, potentially avoiding a hurdle that tripped up proponents of the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school in 2011.

Perhaps most significant, Droessler and others believe the Montessori approach could raise low-income and minority student achievement.

“The achievement gap will probably be the biggest part of our pitch,” she says “We feel it’s time for this in Madison. There’s no other motive.”

Organizers want to submit a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by April 15 that could net $150,000 for planning costs next year. The Madison school board is expected to vote whether to green-light the application at its March 31 meeting, though any binding decision to establish the school is at least 10 months away, according to district policy governing the creation of charter schools.

Board member James Howard has toured the academy at 255 N. Sherman Ave. on the city’s near-northeast side. He says he’s interested in the proposal but needs to know more before forming an opinion. Ditto for board president Ed Hughes.

Related: Previous stillborn Madison charter initiatives include: The Studio School and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB school.

A 1940s Board Game for French Kids Taught Tactics for Successful Colonialism

Rebecca Onion:

Published in 1941, this “Trading Game: France—Colonies” aimed to teach French children the basics of colonial management.

Players drew cards corresponding to colony names, then had to deploy cards representing assets like boats, engineers, colonists, schools, and equipment, in order to win cards representing the exports of the various colonies. “Images on the game,” Getty Research Institute curator Isotta Poggi writes in her blog post on the document, “provide a vivid picture of the vast variety of resources, including animals, plants, and minerals, that the colonies provided to France.” Cartoons on the cards depict coal (mined by a figure clearly intended to be a “native”), rubber, wood, and even wild animals.

Along the way, players needed to avoid pitfalls like sickness, “laziness,” and intemperance (illustrated by a cartoon of a red-cheeked white man in khakis and a white hat, served by a “native” in “traditional” dress). Once the cards representing a colony’s major exports had been won, the colony was considered “exploitée,” and was out of the game.

As the map at the center of the board shows, at the time France’s empire held colonies in Africa, South America, and Asia. The postwar movements for decolonization and independence changed this picture completely. By 1962, when the eight-year-long Algerian War finally led to Algerian independence, many of the colonies marked in red on this map were no longer under French control.

Madison’s “Zero Based” Budget Update: Shift $500K to 1M from Central Office Spending to Schools (1.2% of the District’s 2013-2014 spending)

Madison School District (PDF):

This is the third in a four-part series of updates regarding development of the 2014-15 MMSD budget. As you may recall, the January update focused on the revenue side of the budget. In February, the update provided an introduction to the staff allocation process. The update this month will feature the non-personnel side of the budget for the schools. It will also include information about the MMSD budget adoption process and schedule.

1) School Non-personnel Budgets:
Our proposition is that school non-personnel budgets are under-funded and that funds should be shifted from central office accounts to the schools to correct this condition. Our zero-based budget goal is to shift at least $500,000 to the schools for non-personnel budgets (an 11% increase), with a stretch goal of shifting $1,000,000 to the schools (a 22% increase). In 2013-14, the schools received $4.5 million of local funds for non-personnel accounts. Our goal is to increase this amount to $5,000,000 or $5,500,000. This reallocation will provide additional resources for schools which can be used for a variety of activities aligned with SIP priorities, such as basic classroom supplies and materials, supplemental instructional materials, staff development, additional teacher planning time, and additional SBLT planning time.

It should not be surprising that school non-personnel budgets have been squeezed in recent years. Whenever personnel costs grow faster than school revenues, which is the case in almost all Wisconsin school districts, the non-personnel side of the budget is inevitably reduced. For example, MMSD used a two percent (2%) across-the-board decrease in all supply accounts (including central office) to help balance this years’ budget.

We are making school non-personnel budgets a priority in budget development because it will give principals slightly more local decision-making authority. In addition, there are related signs of budgetary stress in the schools which we should acknowledge, even if we can’t solve them all in one step. At the secondary level, for example, under-funded school non-personnel budgets lead to departmental requests for higher course fees. At the elementary level, it leads to ever-lengthier school supply lists for parents to fulfill. At the community level, it leads to PTO’s and Boosters being asked to supplement school budgets for routine operational needs. These are conditions we wish to remediate over the next several budget cycles.

How far will Michael Gove go? He is the busiest, spikiest, most complex – and by far the most divisive – UK education secretary in living memory

George Parker & Helen Warrell:

Under the intense gaze of Lenin and Malcolm X, Michael Gove is setting out his plan to break the grip of a bourgeois elite that has taken hold of Britain, seizing key positions in public life, including those at the heart of government – his government.

“It’s ridiculous,” splutters Gove, Britain’s education secretary, as he reflects on the immaculately connected and expensively educated inner circle of David Cameron, his friend and the country’s Conservative prime minister. Four of this exclusive group went to just one private school: Eton College, Cameron’s alma mater. “It doesn’t make me feel personally uncomfortable, because I like each of the individuals concerned,” he says. “But it’s ridiculous. I don’t know where you can find a similar situation in any other developed economy.”

Gove then draws parallels between Cameron’s team and the cabinet assembled by the supposedly nepotistic Tory prime minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil. “At the beginning of the 20th century, the Conservative cabinet was called Hotel Cecil. The phrase ‘Bob’s your uncle’ came about. It’s preposterous.”

But this is Britain in the 21st century. And Gove is burning with indignation that money can still buy the education that opens doors to the top jobs in Britain today, while the state school system allows talent to go to waste. “I don’t blame any of the individuals concerned, that would be equally silly,” he says, referring to Cameron and his team. “But it’s a function of the fact that, as we pointed out a couple of years ago, more boys from Eton went to Oxford and Cambridge than boys eligible for free school meals.”

Ucas sells access to student data for phone and drinks firms’ marketing

Lucy Ward:

Access to the data of more than a million teenagers and students and thousands of their parents is being sold to advertisers such as mobile phone and energy drinks companies by Ucas, the university applications body.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service received more than £12m last year in return for targeted advertising and sales of the emails and addresses of subscribers as young as 16.

The service, which controls admissions to UK universities and attracts 700,000 new applicants each year, sells the access via its commercial arm, Ucas Media.

Vodafone, O2, Microsoft and the private university accommodation provider Pure Student Living are among those who have marketed through Ucas, which offers access to over a million student email addresses and a market worth a claimed £15bn a year.

The Red Bull energy drink firm promoted three new drink flavours by sending sample cans to 17,500 selected students deemed to be trend-setting “early adopters” in order to create a “social media buzz”.

Applicants can opt out of receiving direct marketing, but only at the cost of missing out on education and careers mailings as well.

States Vary on FAFSA Completion Rates

Owen Phillips:

News stories covering the rising price of a higher education are disconcerting for anyone planning to attend college—but for low-income students, these stories are particularly discouraging. That’s because these students are the most likely to see rising tuition as a barrier to attending college. And although billions of dollars in federal programs exist to help low-income students afford college, many never receive assistance because they do not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submitting the FAFSA is the first step in receiving a financial aid package. Once they have that, students can begin to calculate their true costs of college, and perhaps it won’t be as expensive as news stories had led them to believe. The map below uses data released earlier this year by the Department of Education (DOE) to show the share of high school seniors in each state that completed the FAFSA*. The data show that on average, less than 55 percent of seniors complete the FAFSA in each state. That’s an especially alarming statistic given that studies demonstrate a 25 to 30 percent increase in the likelihood of low and middle-income students enrolling in college if they simply complete the FAFSA. – See more at:

UW-Madison School of Education & Madison Schools Proposed Partnership: “Forward Madison”

Powerpoint Slides (900K PDF):

Partner: University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education Term of Agreement: April 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015 (phase one)

Purpose: To craft a comprehensive induction strategy in Madison schools resulting in a workforce which can significantly impact student achievement and narrow opportunity gaps. (phase one)

Target Audience: New educators, instructional coaches, and new principals (phase one)

Much more on the UW-Madison School of Education, here.

There are alternatives to Powerpoint style “slideware”:

Jeff Bezos likes to read. That’s a dog-bites-man revelation if ever there was one, considering that Bezos is the cerebral founder and chief executive of a $100 billion empire built on books. More revealing is that the Amazon CEO’s fondness for the written word drives one of his primary, and peculiar, tools for managing his company: Meetings of his “S-team” of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team — including Bezos — consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes. (Yes, the e-ink purveyor prefers paper. Ironic, no?) They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.

Amazon (AMZN) executives call these documents “narratives,” and even Bezos realizes that for the uninitiated — and fans of the PowerPoint presentation — the process is a bit odd. “For new employees, it’s a strange initial experience,” he tells Fortune. “They’re just not accustomed to sitting silently in a room and doing study hall with a bunch of executives.” Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group’s undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. “Full sentences are harder to write,” he says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”

Four Schools & One College win more places at Oxbridge (UK) than 2000 schools combined

Sutton Trust:

Four schools and one college sent more students to Oxbridge over three years than 2,000 schools and colleges across the UK, reveals the latest report on university admissions by individual schools by the Sutton Trust.
 Between them, Westminster School, Eton College, Hills Road Sixth Form College, St Pauls School and St Pauls Girls School produced 946 Oxbridge entrants over the period 2007-09 – accounting for over one in 20 of all Oxbridge admissions. Meanwhile just under 2000 schools and colleges with less than one Oxbridge entrant a year produced a total of 927 Oxbridge entrants.
 These figures are driven primarily by stark gaps in the A-level results of the schools and colleges, but the study also reveals different progression rates to highly selective universities for schools with similar average examination results.
 The report accompanies the first ever publication of figures detailing the higher education destinations of pupils from individual schools with sixth forms and colleges in England.


The Truth About Speed Reading

Thorin Koslowski:

Speed reading has long been a skill peddled by supposed experts, and recently a slew of cheap apps claiming to teach the technique have put it back in the spotlight. So, let’s take a look at the claims of speed reading and if it’s really possible to read 1,200 words a minute.
 Most of us tend to read at about 200-400 words per minute. Speed readers claim to hit around 1000-1700 words per minute. To get a better idea of whether these claims have research to back them up, I spoke with professor and eye tracking researcher Keith Rayner from the University of California, San Diego.
 Let’s start by taking a look at different methods of speed reading before we dig into what does and doesn’t work about it.

In Search of Lost Time

Philip Nel:

As I am writing this article, I should be writing something else: an email to an editor, an email to an author, a letter of recommendation, notes for tomorrow’s classes, comments on students’ papers, comments on manuscripts, an abstract for an upcoming conference, notes for one of the books I’m working on. I cannot remember the last time I ended a day having crossed everything off my to-do list.

Why do academics work so much?

1) Part of it is habit. When we’re just starting out, we learn to say “yes” to everything. Join this panel? Yes. Send article in to special issue? Yes. Write a book review? Yes. Join committee in professional organization? Yes. Indeed, we learn to look for things to say yes to. This is how you build your C.V. Go to conferences, publish, get involved. If you don’t do it, you won’t get that elusive tenure-track job. Then, should you become one of the few who get the job, you’ll need to maintain a level of production in order to get tenure. Should you get tenure, you’ll want one day to get promoted. If that happens, and you reach full professor, well, best to keep publishing … just in case. What if your university falls on hard times? Or you need to move? Tenure is good, but portable tenure is better. So you just get on that treadmill and never get off.

The Death of American Universities

Noam Chomsky:

On hiring faculty off the tenure track

That’s part of the business model. It’s the same as hiring temps in industry or what they call “associates” at Walmart, employees that aren’t owed benefits. It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line.

The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities.

The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.

Post Recession State Higher Education Cost Shifting

Robert Hiltonsmith, Tamara Draut:

As student debt continues to climb, it’s important to understand how our once debt-free system of public universities and colleges has been transformed into a system in which most students borrow, and at increasingly higher amounts. In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system—more than seven out of 10 college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400.1 Up until about two decades ago, state funding ensured college tuition remained within reach for most middle-class families, and financial aid provided extra support to ensure lower-income students could afford the costs of college.

As Demos chronicled in its first report in the The Great Cost Shift series, this compact began to unravel as states disinvested in higher education during economic downturns but were unable, or unwilling, to restore funding levels during times of economic expansion. Today, as a result, public colleges and universities rely on tuition to fund an ever-increasing share of their operating expenses. And students and their families rely more and more on debt to meet those rising tuition costs. Nationally, revenue from tuition paid for 44 percent of all operating expenses of public colleges and universities in 2012, the highest share ever. A quarter century ago, the share was just 20 percent.2 This shift—from a collective funding of higher education to one borne increasingly by individuals—has come at the very same time that low- and middle-income households experienced stagnant or declining household income.

Viewpoint: Should charm be taught in schools?


If “charm” helps people get on business and in their personal lives, is there a case for teaching it in school, asks Stephen Bayley.
 Charm, as Albert Camus knew, is a way to get someone to say “yes” without having to ask a question. So it’s surely something worth studying. Why not at school?
 The very last remark on my own school report came from a sardonic, beetle-browed master who had despaired of ever getting me to take anything seriously. Bereft at my determination to be cheerful and my reluctance to get on with grim Latin subjunctives, he wrote: “Charm alone will not get him through.”
 It was meant to be a rebuke, but I took it as a challenge. Mind you, many years before, the very same school had told John Lennon he had “no future whatsoever”. Seems my old school was in error on both counts. Lennon’s future changed the world of subjunctives and, as for me, it seems I have done rather well out of charm alone. None of it I learned at school.

Via Horace Dediu.

How Exactly Do Colleges Allocate Their Financial Aid? They Won’t Say.

Marian Wang:

At the center of the admissions and financial-aid process is a massive information imbalance: Schools make their decisions with detailed data about each applicant that goes well beyond test scores and transcripts. Many universities have access to comprehensive financial profiles, sometimes down to the type of cars a family drives. Some analyze patterns and interpret even the most subtle indicators from students, such as the order in which schools are listed on the federal financial-aid application, or even how long a student stays on the phone with an admissions officer.

Students are not so lucky. Schools offer comparatively little information about exactly who they’re awarding aid to and for what. College-bound teens and their parents often resort to college forums, sharing their personal “stats” — their financial and academic profiles — with strangers online to get advice on which colleges are likely to be generous with aid. Once they get their financial-aid awards, some even go back to these forums to compare their aid packages in an attempt to reverse engineer colleges’ criteria.

Most colleges offer “vague and superficial” disclosures about how they allocate their financial-aid dollars, said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial-aid expert with Edvisors, which publishes websites about paying for college. “They don’t give details about the actual formulas they use.”

Take Newman University, a Catholic liberal-arts college based in Kansas.

Walker’s Act 10 Devalues Teaching in Wisconsin

Steve Strieker, via a kind Michael Walsh email:

My first teaching contract 19 years ago at a Midwest Catholic high school grossed $15,000. My retirement benefits consisted of a whopping $500 401K. Cutting into my take-home pay was a $1500 annual premium for an inadequate health insurance plan with a high deductible and 80-20 coverage on remaining family medical bills.

Money aside, I was a good Christian soldier. I taught a full load with 3 or more preps, moderated the school newspaper, ran the service program, coached baseball, drove the school bus to athletic events, and volunteered for all kinds of school activities.

Considering money, I was a naive Christian soldier. I did not think finances mattered all that much. After growing up on the lower rim of the middle class, the $15 grand I grossed in my first year of teaching felt like a million dollars. When the family budget tightened as college loans came due and the family grew, I practiced my own personal “no excuses” policy and doubled down on work by milking cows in the evening and on weekends, painting houses in the summer, and working a variety of odd jobs. While many Americans were “moving on up” during the 1990’s, my wife (also an educator) and I shuffled funds around trying to survive on less-than-professional pay.

In these conditions, my teaching suffered. My professional goal of getting my masters degree by age 30 came and went. I recycled the same lesson every year. Innovation was limited to what I could concoct late at night or each morning before school. I was a resourceful teacher, but not a developing educator.

In the midst of this mess, one of my kids became seriously ill. She did a few tours in the hospital before some highly skilled and professionally-priced specialists got a handle on her condition. The medical bills mounted. Things became desperate.

So I made a desperate move. I sold my soul and left teaching for a year. I searched for funds in other fields. In the midst of this despair came some soul-saving, professional advice from my brother teaching in Wisconsin. He coaxed my wife (also an educator) and I to move to his neck of the woods, where we could earn professional pay and benefits by teaching in Wisconsin’s public school system.

Much more on Act 10, here.

UK Universities being used as proxy border police, say academics

Alexandra Topping:

More than 160 academics have written to the Guardian to protest at being used as an extension of the UK border police, after universities have come under more pressure to check the immigration details of students.

The academics, from universities including Oxford, Warwick, Durham and Sheffield, accuse the Home Office immigration agency of “undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students”.

Unrest has been growing for months as universities have come under more pressure to prove that their students are legitimate, according to the signatories, who say matters took a “pernicious new turn” in summer 2012 when London Metropolitan University briefly lost its trusted sponsor status – a requirement for all institutions wishing to recruit overseas students.

“Since then, universities have been preoccupied with managing accountability demanded by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI – formerly the UK Border Agency), and in effect have become its proxy,” says the letter. “Academics at a number of universities in the UK and beyond have now become concerned at this state of affairs, and at the methods used to establish bona fide student status.”

How education reform drives gentrification: A Portland teachers’ contract negotiation debunks the myth of school choice, which leaves a swath of the city behind

Arun Gupta::

Public school teachers in Portland, Ore., and their students are doing a victory lap. Nearly a year after unveiling a contract proposal that would have put the squeeze on the 2,900-member Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), the Portland School Board on March 3 approved a contract that acceded to virtually every demand from the teachers’ union.

The board was acting as a stalking horse for corporate attacks on unions and public education nationwide. It initially wanted to saddle teachers with higher health care costs, fewer retirement benefits, more students and a greater workload in a city where 40 percent of teachers already work more than 50 hours a week (PDF). The board also demanded expansive management rights (PDF) and allegedly wished to link teacher evaluation more closely to standardized testing. The PAT opposed the board, arguing that low-income and minority students would pay the heaviest price as their classes grew larger, more time was devoted to testing and resources for curriculum preparation and teacher development got slashed.

Only after 98 percent of the PAT voted to strike starting Feb. 20 — and students vowed to join the picket line — did the board blink. Alexia Garcia, an organizer with the Portland Student Union who graduated last year, says students held walkouts and rallies at many of the city’s high schools in support of teachers’ demands because “teachers’ working conditions are our learning conditions.”

The deal is a big victory for the teachers’ union in a state where business interests, led by the Portland Business Alliance, call the shots on education policy. The school board had brought out the big guns, authorizing payments of up to $360,000 to a consultant for contract negotiations and $800,000 to a law firm, despite already having a full-time lawyer on its payroll. But, emulating Chicago teachers who prevailed in an eight-day strike in 2012, the PAT went beyond contract numbers, winning community support by focusing on student needs and rallying to stop school closures in underserved communities.

Most significant, the teachers helped expose the role of education reform in gentrifying the city, making it nearly impossible for every neighborhood to have a strong school. This is a process playing out nationwide, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. But it is particularly striking in Portland, so noted for quirkiness and tolerance it has spawned a hit television show, “Portlandia,” During a public forum on the contract negotiations, one teacher observed that the show was a reflection of how “we march to our own beat in Portland.” This has held true for the teachers’ approach to education.

ow public colleges were crowded out, beaten up, and failed to fight back

Karin Fischer & Jack Stripling:

t happened so slowly that no one really noticed at first. That’s the way erosion works. It is a gradual decay.

But somewhere along the line, over the past three decades or so, the deterioration of support for public higher education became hard to miss. Appropriations tanked. Tuition soared. College leaders embraced gloomy rhetoric about broken partnerships with the very people who had built these institutions from the ground up.

Now we have come to a precipice. College students and their families, who just a decade ago paid for about one-third of the cost of their education, are on track to pay for most of it. In nearly half of the states, they already do.

Behind these changes is a fundamental shift. Public colleges, once viewed as worthy of collective investment for the greater good, are increasingly treated as vehicles delivering a personal benefit to students, who ought to foot the bill themselves.

Blaming is the most medieval thing

Pedro M. Silva:

A few months ago, during a class, one of our teachers proposed as discussion: given a specific situation, with several participants, and an outcome, we would rank the level of culpability of each one.

Right now, the situation itself isn’t very important. The point is: after that class, I could not stop thinking about it. I didn’t knew why, but unconsciously I knew something was not right: it was like my subconscious already knew the answer, but refused to tell me, forcing me to get there on my own.

Society today is leaning more towards an acceptance mindset, in which we try to decipher others’ actions by putting ourselves in their shoes and seeing through their eyes. And sometimes, when others do something wrong or bad, even to us, we are able to do something wonderful called forgiving, because we are able to understand that their actions were perhaps caused by circumstances out of their control. And so we don’t blame them.

The New SAT Will Widen the Education Gap

Randolf Arguelles:

The College Board’s March 5 announcement that the SAT college-admissions exam will undergo a significant overhaul in 2016 has generated no shortage of commentary, some of it praising the changes as a “democratization” of the test. The College Board says it is expanding its outreach to low-income students and shifting from testing abstract-reasoning skills to evidence-based reading, writing and mathematical skills acquired in high school. Ultimately, the exam will look a lot more like the ACT, which has been taking away the SAT’s market share in recent years.

The goal, according to College Board President and CEO David Coleman, is to combat the advantages some students gain by costly test-preparation. His message for students was that “we hope you breathe a sigh of relief that this exam will be focused, useful, open, clear and aligned with the work you will do throughout high school.”

Shanghai teachers flown to the UK for maths (Stopping in Madison?)

Sean Coughlan:

Up to 60 Shanghai maths teachers are to be brought to England to raise standards, in an exchange arranged by the Department for Education.

They will provide masterclasses in 30 “maths hubs”, which are planned as a network of centres of excellence.

The Chinese city’s maths pupils have the highest international test results.

The announcement comes as a campaign is launched to raise adult maths skills, with warnings that poor numeracy is costing the UK economy £20bn per year.

The National Numeracy Challenge aims to improve numeracy levels for a million people.

It is providing an online self-assessment test – with help for those lacking in confidence in maths.

Financial cost
Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy, says 78% of working-age adults have maths skills below the equivalent of a GCSE grade C – and that half only have the maths skills of a child leaving primary school.

Related Connected Math and disastrous reading results in Madison.

The SAT, Test Prep, Income and Race

Alex Tabarrok:

All of this is almost entirely at variance with three facts, all of which are well known among education researchers.

First, test prep has only a modest effect on test scores, on the order of 20-40 points combined for a commercial test preparation service. More expensive services such as a private tutor are towards the high of this range, cheaper sources such as a high-school course towards the lower. Buchmann et al., for example, estimate that private tutors increase scores by 37 points while a high school course increases scores by 26 points.

The average SAT score among those with a family income of $20,000-$40,000 is 1402 while the average score among those with an income $100,000 higher, $120,000-$140,000, is 1581 for a 179 point difference. Even if every rich family had a private tutor and none of the poor families had any test prep whatsoever, test prep would explain only 20% of the difference 37/179. If rich families rely on tutors and poor families rely on high school courses, the difference in test prep would explain only 6% (11/179) of the difference in score.

The second surprising fact about test prep is that it doesn’t vary nearly as much by income as people imagine. In fact, some studies find no effect of income on test prep use while others find a positive but modest effect. The latter study finding (what I call) a modest effect finds that in their sample a 2-standard deviation increase in income above the mean increases the probability of using a private test prep course less than whether “Parent encouraged student to prep for SAT (yes or no).”

Are MOOCs Really Failing to Make the Grade?

Andrew Smith Lewis:

Since their inception, there has been a flurry of debate around the legitimacy and efficacy of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Widely recognized as game-changing in education, they offer radical reach and democratize access to education unlike anything we’ve ever seen. However, the rise of anything new and exciting is typically accompanied by criticism. In the case of MOOCs, it has been heavy. Skeptics point to uncertainty in scalability, assessment, engagement — the list goes on.

The main argument being made against MOOCs attacks the perceived lack of success as measured by their low completion rates (Mass MOOC Dropouts). The interpretation of this metric varies greatly.

Critics are obsessed with the infamous five percent rate, pointing out that “If 95 percent of students who enrolled in a residential college course dropped out or failed, that course would rightly be considered a disaster.”

Some take it further (the MOOC Racket), claiming that MOOCs are a platform for evangelizing academic rock stars to the detriment of students and teachers, and arguing that educators can’t teach tens of thousands of people at once — “that MOOCs only deliver information, but that’s not education.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Global Debt Exceeds $100 Trillion as Governments Binge, BIS Says

John Glover:

The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record low interest rates, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The jump in debt as measured by the Basel, Switzerland-based BIS in its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S.’s gross domestic product.

Borrowing has soared as central banks suppress benchmark interest rates to spur growth after the U.S. subprime mortgage market collapsed and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy sent the world into its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Yields on all types of bonds, from governments to corporates and mortgages, average about 2 percent, down from more than 4.8 percent in 2007, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Index.

“Given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers,” according to Branimir Gruic, an analyst, and Andreas Schrimpf, an economist at the BIS. The organization is owned by 60 central banks and hosts the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a group of regulators and central bankers that sets global capital standards.

Choosing to Learn: Self Government or “central planning”, ie, “We Know Best”

Joseph L. Bast, Lindsey Burke, Andrew J. Coulson, Robert C. Enlow, Kara Kerwin & Herbert J. Walberg:

Americans face a choice between two paths that will guide education in this nation for generations: self-government and central planning. Which we choose will depend in large measure on how well we understand accountability.
 To some, accountability means government-imposed standards and testing, like the Common Core State Standards, which advocates believe will ensure that every child receives at least a minimally acceptable education. Although well-intentioned, their faith is misplaced and their prescription is inimical to the most promising development in American education: parental choice.
 True accountability comes not from top-down regulations but from parents financially empowered to exit schools that fail to meet their child’s needs. Parental choice, coupled with freedom for educators, creates the incentives and opportunities that spur quality. The compelled conformity fostered by centralized standards and tests stifles the very diversity that gives consumer choice its value.

Well Worth Reading.

Universities Try a Cultural Bridge to Lure Foreign Students

Richard Perez-Pena:

As the anthropology instructor engaged her class, a fault line quickly developed. American students answered and asked questions, even offered opinions, but the foreigners — half the class, most from China — sat in silence.
 It became clear that some had understood little of the lecture here at Oregon State University and were not ready to be enrolled. In fact, they are not, at least not yet.
 Instead, those students fit into a fast-growing and lucrative niche in higher education, of efforts to increase enrollment of foreigners with transitional programs to bridge the cultural divide — often a chasm — between what it means to be a college student in their own countries and in the United States. Oregon State’s program, a joint venture with a private company, Into University Partnerships, prepares students to move into the university’s mainstream after a year, as Oregon State sophomores.

Wisconsin Senate approves more oversight for new voucher schools

Erin Richards:

During an active Senate session on Tuesday, lawmakers passed a bill that would make it harder for new private and religious schools to join Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded school voucher programs.
 To become law, a similar bill still has to pass the Assembly, which supporters expect could happen as soon as next week. The measure has bipartisan support.
 The bill changes the timeline and requirements for new private schools to get accepted to receive taxpayer money to educate students. For more than 20 years, private schools in Milwaukee could be approved to enter the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program with minimal paperwork, which opened the door for many financially unstable and poorly run programs – such as LifeSkills Academy – to receive taxpayer support.

Libraries Becoming Venues for Creation, not just Consumption

Knight Arts:

A few years ago, Knight Foundation set out to bring art and culture into people’s everyday lives by presenting surprise opera and classical ballet performances at markets, parks and airports. More than 1,000 of these Random Acts of Culture® took place in eight communities across the United States. The reaction each time was amazing to watch, as people grabbed their cellphones for pics and videos, some moved to tears, reminded of the emotional connection they have to the arts.
 Now, as we think of new ways to bring the arts to more people, Knight Foundation has turned to libraries. As libraries continue to reinvent themselves in the digital age, they have become spaces that are more about creation than collection.They are amongst the most democratic community spaces we have, used by people from every walk of life, in every age group. Spread throughout neighborhoods, we thought they were an organic way to bring the arts to all communities. All that and more makes them the perfect stage for what we’re calling Library Acts of Culture.

Why it’s not “Rain Woman”: Women have fewer cognitive disorders than men do because their bodies are better at ignoring the mutations which cause them

The Economist:

AUTISM is a strange condition. Sometimes its symptoms of “social blindness” (an inability to read or comprehend the emotions of others) occur alone. This is dubbed high-functioning autism, or Asperger’s syndrome. Though their fellow men and women may regard them as a bit odd, high-functioning autists are often successful (sometimes very successful) members of society. On other occasions, though, autism manifests as part of a range of cognitive problems. Then, the condition is debilitating. What is common to those on all parts of the so-called autistic spectrum is that they are more often men than women—so much more often that one school of thought suggests autism is an extreme manifestation of what it means, mentally, to be male. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls are. For high-functioning autism, the ratio is seven to one.

Moreover, what is true of autism is true, to a lesser extent, of a lot of other neurological and cognitive disorders. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is diagnosed around three times more often in boys than in girls. “Intellectual disability”, a catch-all term for congenital low IQ, is 30-50% more common in boys, as is epilepsy. In fact, these disorders frequently show up in combination. For instance, children diagnosed with an autistic-spectrum disorder often also receive a diagnosis of ADHD.

SIG And The High Price Of Cheap Evidence

Matthew Di Carlo:

A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released the latest data from schools that received grants via the School Improvement (SIG) program. These data — consisting solely of changes in proficiency rates — were widely reported as an indication of “disappointing” or “mixed” results. Some even went as far as proclaiming the program a complete failure.

Once again, I have to point out that this breaks almost every rule of testing data interpretation and policy analysis. I’m not going to repeat the arguments about why changes in cross-sectional proficiency rates are not policy evidence (see our posts here, here and here, or examples from the research literature here, here and here). Suffice it to say that the changes themselves are not even particularly good indicators of whether students’ test-based performance in these schools actually improved, to say nothing of whether it was the SIG grants that were responsible for the changes. There’s more to policy analysis than subtraction.

So, in some respects, I would like to come to the defense of Secretary Arne Duncan and USED right now – not because I’m a big fan of the SIG program (I’m ambivalent at best), but rather because I believe in strong, patient policy evaluation, and these proficiency rate changes are virtually meaningless. Unfortunately, however, USED was the first to portray, albeit very cautiously, rate changes as evidence of SIG’s impact. In doing so, they provided a very effective example of why relying on bad evidence is a bad idea even if it supports your desired conclusions.

The watchdog at Los Angeles Unified Schools

Los Angeles Times Editorial:

Amid allegations of overbilling, environmental hazards and spiraling costs at the Belmont Learning Center in downtown L.A. in the late 1990s, the state Legislature created a separate investigative office within the Los Angeles Unified School District. The new inspector general was authorized to issue subpoenas, and charged with examining operations in the district with a piercing and unimpeded eye. But the position was authorized for only 15 years, until the end of 2014.

The first inspector general reported on serious shortfalls in accountability and oversight at Belmont. Four employees left the school district after he made his findings known, and five were placed on extended administrative leave. Subsequent audits and investigations that went beyond Belmont uncovered costly waste in the purchase of textbooks, misuse of federal money intended to feed students and the misappropriation of $200,000 that led to the criminal conviction of a charter operator.
The relationship between the inspector general and L.A. Unified leaders has at times been understandably tense; later legislation unfortunately weakened the investigator’s authority. Still, it’s to L.A. Unified’s credit that the district is backing legislation to extend the office for an additional 10 years. The need is ongoing: The current inspector general is now examining the district’s troubling decision to purchase hundreds of thousands of iPads without first resolving major concerns.

States Continue to Examine New Teacher Licensure Requirements


A potential law in Minnesota will allow former and current military members and their spouses, the opportunity to obtain temporary teacher licenses in the state while they pursue permanent certification in the state. This proposal is considered the latest in a nationwide trend to allow degreed professionals easier paths to the classroom.

“This bill is not meant to usurp licensing boards,” explained Representative Will Morgan, “We’re simply trying to help military families who have been moved not by choice.”

Similar to new legislation in Kansas allowing private-sector professionals to teach through industry certification or career expertise benchmarks, the legislation in Minnesota aims to curtail lengthy and cumbersome hoops for potentially excellent educators.

AAE’s state chapter in Colorado, the Professional Association of Colorado Educators (PACE) surveyed its members on the issue of teacher licensure in their state, asking: Would you support a policy creating a clearer pathway into the teaching profession by granting an initial license, renewable based on performance evaluation ratings, to teacher candidates that are able to pass a background check and have three things: a bachelor’s degree, a principal willing to hire them, and a passing score on a content area exam? An overwhelming 72% of members supported this new path, further indicating a national shift in teacher licensure legislation.

On New Jersey Teacher Pensions

bury pensions:

The July 1, 2013 actuarial reports for the New Jersey pension plans are coming out and if you are of a mind to explain to your teacher friends why they will soon be seeing Detroit-type ‘adjustments’ to their pensions just point them to page 8 of the Milliman report for the Teachers Plan – TPAF – (Buck does the valuations for the other 6 plans in the system) titled ‘Risk Measures.’ Search the Buck reports and you won’t even find the word ‘risk’ mentioned but Milliman beginning with their July 1, 2009 report thought it a good idea to mention that…..

The Risk Measures exhibit on page 8 for the last five years compares the value of the liabilities* for retiree benefits to the market value of assets less the Annuity Savings Fund (accumulated member contributions). That percentage as of July 1, 2013: 50.2%.

Now compare that to July 1, 2000 (when Milliman didn’t feel the need to insert a Risk Measures exhibit). $1,159,146,402 in retiree payouts valued at $12,040,604,827 and easily covered by the $35,839,120,536 in assets even when reduced by the $5,034,537,874 in the Annuity Savings Fund. That percentage came to 255.84% and even considering the dodgy assumptions for valuing liabilities (then and now) there would have been plenty of money to annuitize retirees.

Can a scrappy little army bring down #edreform inc.?

Reader: I have a confession to make. My path has not been a righteous one. In fact the last time I attended a church service was in the 5th grade, when, as a *plus one* with my best friend’s family, I would pass a confused, incense-choked hour thinking longingly of the donuts that waited downstairs. But that all changed recently when I accompanied wonder blogger Mercedes Schneider to her southern Louisiana church. Her pastor gave a sermon about David and Goliath, so powerful, so perfect for our *2 big 2 fail* times that I have been thinking about it ever since.

Meet Goliath, Inc, Inc, Inc
In Malcolm Gladwell’s provocative study of David and Goliath (note: all references to the Gladwellian oeuvre must be preceded by *provocative*), he alleges that it was double vision that ultimately felled the giant Philistine. Our #edreform equivalent of Goliath—let’s call him *G*—suffers from a different disorder: double hearing. You see, our G lives in an echo chamber such that everything he utters is repeated back to him. He and his G-unit think in the same tanks and watch their Roth’s gently swell in the same banks. In fact, rare is the day in which they encounter a single other individual who does not share their belief that it is a matter of common sense, not to mention fierce urgency, that [INSERT BELOVED REFORMY POLICY HERE] should be implemented posthaste. In fact, in fact, only yesterday G read a brand new study affirming exactly that—well, maybe not a study exactly, more like a collection of handsomely bound talking points. But still…

Shaking Up the Classroom Some Schools Scrap Age-Based Grade Levels, Focusing on Mastery of Material

Stephanie Banchero:

There are no seventh-graders in the Lindsay Unified School District.
 Instead, in the “Content Level 7″ room at Washington Elementary, 10 students, ages 11 to 14, gather around teacher Nelly Lopez for help in writing essays. Eight sit at computers, plowing through a lesson on sentence structure, while a dozen advanced students work on assignments in pairs.
 The 4,100-pupil district at the base of the Sierra Nevada range is part of an experiment shaking up classrooms across the country. Called competency-based learning, it is based on the idea that students learn at their own pace and should earn credits and advance after they master the material—not just because they have spent a year in a certain class.

The Lindsay School District plans to spend $41,922,607 during the 2013-2014 school year for 4,130 students, or 10,150.73 per student. This is about 1/3 less than Madison’s 15K per student spending.

Allocations Delivered to Madison Schools (Pre-Budget); Changes in the Teacher Surplus and Vacancy Posting Process

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

The District has informed principals of their staffing allocations for the 2014-15 school year. Surplus notices, where the District determines such are necessary, are expected to be delivered to staff by March 19 (the Contract enables one to be declared surplus through July 1). As part of the negotiations over the 2013-14 MTI Teacher Contract, the parties agreed to significant changes to the teacher surplus reassignment and vacancy posting language. The changes were driven by the District’s desire to engage in earlier hiring.

Under the new language, teachers declared surplus will first be placed in available vacancies prior to the posting of said positions, with the goal of assigning all surplus teachers by May 1. Any positions which remain vacant as of May 1 will then be posted for voluntary internal transfer (while some vacant teaching positions in high-demand areas will be posted during the months of March and April, the majority of vacancy postings will occur on May 2). Application for voluntary internal transfer will be enabled for vacancies known by June 14. Positions becoming vacant after June 14 through the first four (4) weeks of school are not subject to posting and voluntary internal transfers are not enabled.

The benefits of the above revisions are that: 1) surplus teachers should receive earlier notice of their upcoming year teaching assignment, and; 2) by moving the “no post” date from August 1 to June 15, the District is able to offer new hires specific teaching positions approximately six weeks earlier than in the past, which the District asserts will improve their candidate pool. The potential downside to the changes is that current teaching staff will have fewer vacancies to choose from, and a shorter window of time to apply for vacancies. All MTI Faculty Representatives have received a fact sheet with information on surplus and transfer changes. Members may also call MTI Headquarters with any questions.

School allocation decisions made before the District’s budget is finalized was a controversial practice some years ago. Obviously, it continues.

The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake

Peter Wood:

The new changes, like others that have been instituted since the mid 1990s, are driven by politics. David Coleman, head of the College Board, is also the chief architect of the Common Core K-12 State Standards, which are now mired in controversy across the country. Coleman’s initiative in revising the SAT should be seen first of all as a rescue mission. As the Common Core flounders, he is throwing it an SAT life preserver. I’ll explain, but first let’s get the essentials of how the SAT is about to change.

The essay is now optional, ending a decade-long experiment in awarding points for sloppy writing graded by mindless formulae.

The parts of the test that explored the range and richness of a student’s vocabulary have been etiolated. The test now will look for evidence that students are familiar with academic buzzwords and jargon. The College Board calls this “Relevant Words in Context.” Test-takers won’t have to “memorize obscure words” but instead “will be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear.”

Montessori Is An Example Of The New Culture of Learning

Steve Denning:

A colleague, Daniel Petter-Lipstein, wrote to us and asked the pertinent question: why there was no mention of progressive models of education like Montessori? He suggests that much of what is described takes place in my view in thousands of good Montessori classrooms every day, as he wrote in his marvelous article, “Superwoman Was Already Here“:

“The Montessori method cares far more about the inquiry process and less about the results of those inquiries, believing that children will eventually master–with the guidance of their teachers and the engaged use of the hands-on Montessori materials which control for error–the expected answers and results that are the focus of most traditional classroom activity.

Read Across America Day draws some 2,000 young readers to Warwick

Lynn Arditi:

The classic children’s book by Dr. Seuss is the 6-year-old’s top choice for bedtime reading, his mother, Brittany Morales said.

So when Jamier came home from kindergarten in East Providence recently with a bookmark that read “Meet the cat in the hat” at the Warwick Mall Saturday, she knew they had to go.

The National Education Association of Rhode Island’s 17th annual Read Across America Day drew some 2,000 children based upon the 3,000 or so donated children’s books volunteers gave away, said Marie Glass, president of the NEARI’s Education Support Professionals’ caucus.

The national Read Across America Day is officially Sunday, which was Dr. Seuss’s birthday. (He was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Mass., on March 2, 1904, and died in 1991.)

Union Share of Teacher Workforce at Historic Low

Mike Antonucci:

Last week we examined how teacher unions stand in relation to the rest of the labor movement. As the number of union members overall continued its decades-long decline, teacher unions were able to add members for many years, and so became the predominant sector of organized labor.

But how have the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers fared in relation to the teaching workforce? Was teacher union growth a function of organizational effort, or simply the expansion of the teaching population? Thanks to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and, we have an answer.

BLS began tracking union data in 1983. That year there were more than 2.6 million people employed as primary, secondary and special education teachers in both public and private schools. More than 1.5 million of them were union members, for a unionization rate of 57.5 percent.

What My School Means to Me: Essays from 3 High Schoolers

Deborah Fallows:

In January, I visited the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, a public residential high school in Greenville. Artistically talented students from around the state spend two or three of their high school years in dedicated pursuit of their art—dance, drama, music, visual arts, or creative writing—along with their academic curriculum. I wrote about it here.

I asked Scott Gould, a creative writing teacher at the school, if he would ask his students to write me a short essay about their school. This was a wide-open request; I wanted to hear whatever perspective the students wanted to offer about their experience at the school. Among the essays the students submitted, here are three of my favorites, unedited and untouched. I’d like to share them with you.

Talented and gifted programs vary between divisions

Megan Williams:

A funny thing happens at McSwain Elementary School on Friday afternoons when a teacher comes over the intercom to say it’s time for “CAB,” which stands for Celebrating Appropriate Behavior and is extended recess time.

For most students, the announcement is a happy one, a reward at the end of the week. But for Christy Davis’ group of gifted third-graders it either elicits no response or assurance that what they are working on — creative enrichment projects — is way more fun than CAB.

“CAB? We haven’t done CAB in forever,” said Kayla Bullard, as she worked on a visual story involving Lego characters where she created her own text, background and props.

A fellow classmate chimed in, “Yeah, this is way funner.”

Schools That Turn Students into Outcasts Are Unamerican

Nat Hentoff:

Former Chief Judge of New York State Judith S. Kaye always makes necessary sense, as she did when she recently wrote this in the opinion pages of The New York Times:

“As universal pre-K and the Common Core standards dominate the headlines, we cannot overlook a third subject that deserves top billing: keeping children in school and out of courts” (Letters, The New York Times, Feb. 22).

Kaye was writing in response to an op-ed that had run in the Times last month. In it, Robert K. Ross and Kenneth H. Zimmerman, the respective heads of the California Endowment and the United States programs for the Open Society Foundations, wrote: “Large numbers of students are kicked out, typically for nonviolent offenses, and suspensions have become the go-to response for even minor misbehavior, like carrying a plastic water gun to elementary school …

“The Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that the number of secondary school students suspended or expelled increased by some 40 percent between 1972-73 and 2009-10 … A study of nearly one million Texas students found that those suspended or expelled for violations at the discretion of school officials were almost three times as likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year” (“Real Discipline in School,” Robert K. Ross and Kenneth H. Zimmerman, The New York Times, Feb. 17).

Mathematicians are chronically lost and confused (and that’s how it’s supposed to be)

Jeremy Kun:

A large part of my audience over at Math ∩ Programming are industry software engineers who are discovering two things about mathematics: it’s really hard and it opens the door to a world of new ideas. In that way it’s a lot like learning to read. Once you’re mildly fluent you can read books, use the ideas to solve problems, and maybe even write an original piece of your own.

Many people who are in this position, trying to learn mathematics on their own, have roughly two approaches. The first is to learn only the things that you need for the applications you’re interested in. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s akin to learning just enough vocabulary to fill out your tax forms. It’s often too specialized to give you a good understanding of how to apply the key ideas elsewhere. A common example is learning very specific linear algebra facts in order to understand a particular machine learning algorithm. It’s a commendable effort and undoubtedly useful, but in my experience this route makes you start from scratch in every new application.

Student Loans Are Ruining Your Life. Now They’re Ruining the Economy, Too

Sam Frizzell

American students are well over $1 trillion in debt, and it’s starting to hurt everyone, economists say

Chris Rong did everything right. A 23-year-old dentistry student in New York, Chris excelled at one of the country’s top high schools, breezed through college, and is now studying dentistry at one of the best dental schools in the nation.

Travelers: It’s About Damn Time Airlines Toughened Up Baggage PoliciesBeef: It’s What’s No Longer Affordable for DinnerHere’s An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostThese Disturbing Fast Food Truths Will Make You Reconsider Your Lunch Huffington PostShakira: I Had To Get My Boyfriend’s Permission to Work with Rihanna People

But it may be a long time before he sees any rewards. He’s moved back home with his parents in Bayside, Queens—an hour-and-a-half commute each way to class at the New York University’s College of Dentistry—and by the time he graduates in 2016, he’ll face $400,000 in student loans. “If the money weren’t a problem I would live on my own,” says Rong. “My debt is hanging over my mind. I’m taking that all on myself.”

Why India’s landmark education law is shutting down schools

Alays Francis

In an unauthorised colony of labourers in Delhi, a class of six-year-olds is reciting English, a language their parents hope will get them jobs in call centres and offices.

But later this month the classes will stop.

Ramditi JRN Deepalaya is among hundreds of small private schools – which have multiplied in India selling education at 100 rupees ($1.6; 96 pence) a month – that are being forced to sound the final bell because they do not comply with a law which makes education a fundamental right for children.

Teacher Gitanjali Krishnan said the school in Panchsheel Enclave would have to triple student fees to meet the demands of the law.

“Our parents are the poorest of the poor, labourers and migrant workers, they won’t be able to afford it,” she said.

When the Right To Education (RTE) law was introduced in 2009 it was hailed as a major step to bridging the cavernous gap between the education of rich and poor in India.

The Ideologue vs. the Children

Peggy Noonan:

What a small and politically vicious man New York’s new mayor is. Bill de Blasio doesn’t like charter schools. They are too successful to be tolerated. Last week he announced he will drop the ax on three planned Success Academy schools. (You know Success Academy: It was chronicled in the film “Waiting for Superman.” It’s one of the charter schools the disadvantaged kids are desperate to get into.) Mr. de Blasio has also cut and redirected the entire allotment for charter facility funding from the city’s capital budget. An official associated with a small, independent charter school in the South Bronx told me the decision will siphon money from his school’s operations. He summed up his feelings with two words: “It’s dispiriting.”

Some 70,000 of the city’s one million students, most black or Hispanic, attend charter schools, mostly in poorer neighborhoods. Charter schools are privately run but largely publicly financed. Their teachers are not unionized. Their students usually outscore their counterparts at conventional public schools on state tests. Success Academy does particularly well. Last year 82% of its students passed citywide math exams. Citywide the figure was 30%.

These are schools that work. They are something to be proud of and encourage.

Mr. de Blasio’s move has caused considerable personal anxiety and widespread public anger. The Daily News on Thursday called the nearly 200 Success Academy students who now have no place to go the mayor’s “educational orphans.” A reporter spoke to distraught families. “I wanted the best for my daughter,” said Rakim Smith, 40, a cable technician from Harlem whose daughter Dymond is a sixth-grader at Success Academy Harlem Central Middle School. “Now they’re trying to take it away.” “I don’t know where else I can send my son so that he can have the same level education,” said Fatoumata Kebe of the Bronx, whose 11-year-old son, Ousmane, goes to Harlem Central.

SAT college-entrance exam’s essay portion to become optional in 2016

Larry Gordon:

As part of a major overhaul of the SAT college entrance exam, test-takers starting in 2016 will no longer be required to write an essay, the College Board announced Wednesday.

However, an essay-writing test still will be offered, and many colleges may demand that applicants take it and submit the score.

With that change, the main SAT will be condensed to two sections from the current three, and the top possible score will be 1,600, as it was for many decades.

The current 2,400-point maximum was introduced with the start of the required essay seven years ago. The new optional essay test will be graded separately on a scale that is still under consideration, said officials of the College Board, which owns the widely used exam.

Those shifts, officials said, are part of a wider effort to better align the exam with what students learn in high school and will need in college — and away from the advantages they may gain from expensive private tutoring.

For example, the revised sections in reading will drop their most obscure vocabulary words and instead “focus on words students will use over and over again,” said College Board President David Coleman. The math problems will be less theoretical and more linked to real-life questions.

“While we build on the best of the past, we commit today that the redesigned SAT will be more focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before,” Coleman said at a meeting in Austin, Texas, that was broadcast on the Internet.

Sarah Vine praises ‘miracle’ of state education in Daily Mail column

Richard Adams:

She and husband Michael Gove became first Tory education secretary family to send offspring to state secondary school

You shouldn’t judge people by their clothes, or where they live, but by who they really are’ … Sarah Vine

Sarah Vine – the journalist and wife of education secretary Michael Gove – has written a rousing celebration of state education in England, calling it “a miracle” while describing private schools as polarising and built on principles of snobbery.

Vine told readers of her Daily Mail column that her decision to send her daughter to a state secondary school was motivated by a desire for her child to receive a broad education: “that you shouldn’t judge people by their clothes, or where they live, but by who they really are”.

“That, in my view, is the miracle of our state education system. Like the NHS, it welcomes all-comers,” Vine wrote. “The state doesn’t care where its pupils come from; all that matters is where they’re heading.”

Vine and Gove’s decision to send their daughter Beatrice to Grey Coat Hospital comprehensive school, a popular girls’ academy in Westminster, made headlines this week because it marked the first time a Conservative education secretary had chosen the state over the private sector for their child’s seconday schooling.

“I believe that at state school Beatrice will receive a far more comprehensive education – in every sense of the phrase – than at any private establishment,” Vine concluded.

We Wish We Weren’t in Kansas Anymore: An Elegy for Academic Freedom

Michael Meranze:

ONE OF THE GREAT CLAIMS of American higher education is that it protects and encourages something called “academic freedom,” a guarantee of protection for teachers and students to engage in free inquiry and exchange no matter how inconvenient or unpopular the ideas they express in their scholarship, teaching, or studies. In contrast to more repressive countries, so the story goes, US academic freedom is well established and secure. Indeed, this claim carries so much weight that some college and university administrators use it to defend opening branch campuses in repressive countries, asserting that these campuses will not only protect academic freedom, they will provide a model for their host countries. There is a problem though. These claims ignore a crucial set of facts: because of the increased privatization of public universities, the increasing managerial domination of public and private colleges and universities, and the narrowing of public employee speech rights, the legal and practical underpinnings of academic freedom are weaker than they have been in decades. Academic freedom is being hollowed out by the economic and social transformation of higher education. It needs to be rebuilt along with the colleges and universities that should provide it a home.

In December of 2013 the Kansas Board of Regents took a series of steps that may dramatically reduce academic freedom in the state’s higher education institutions. Apparently responding to political criticism over one University of Kansas professor’s anti-NRA tweet, the regents instituted a sweeping new policy regulating the proper and improper uses of social media. The policy regulates a wide range of expression and increases the power of university executives over the speech of faculty and staff. The Board defined social media broadly as “any facility for online publication and commentary, including but not limited to blogs, wikis, and social networking sites.” It declared that “the chief executive officer of a state university has the authority to suspend, dismiss or terminate from employment any faculty or staff member who makes improper use of social media.” In focusing on social media, the Kansas regents sidestepped faculty academic freedom within the classroom (although it is unclear about faculty emails with students), and by granting CEOs the power to control external expression and the right of internal electronic dissent, the Board threatens to return Kansas’s higher education system to an earlier day, 90 years ago, when administrators believed that they had the right to dismiss faculty for their opinions or expressions. That these regulations govern the terrain of electronic communication threatens to embroil both faculty and the universities and colleges in an ever-expanding structure of surveillance and censorship.

An Open Letter to Students on the Danger of Seeing School as a Trial to Survive

Study Hacks:

In an innocuous office complex, three blocks south of Northwestern University, and a short walk from Lake Michigan, you can find the Yellowbrick psychiatric treatment center. Though Yellowbrick treats the expected spectrum of mental disorders, from anxiety to schizophrenia, its mission is unique: it’s the country’s only psychiatric center dedicated exclusively to emerging adults — young people in the ever-expanding gap between adolescence and the stability of family, a mortgage, and a settled career.

Unfortunately for you, my dear student reader, business at Yellowbrick is booming.

In a recent New York Times Magazine article, journalist Robin Marantz Henig provides a haunting portrait of a typical Yellowbrick patient: he’s a young man “who had done well at a top Ivy League college until the last class of the last semester of his last year, when he finished his final paper and could not bring himself to turn it in.” This brief moment of existential despair spiraled out of control.

“The demands of imminent independence can worsen mental-health problems or create new ones for people who have managed up to that point to perform all the expected roles,” explains Henig. “[They] get lost when schooling ends and expected roles disappear.”

In other words, when you go through life thinking “if I can make it through this, things will be better later,” you eventually forget what “better” means.

Please Excuse my Grammar

Austin Walters:

This is a long story, but I feel sheds light on education in general and why academia and educational institutions function so poorly that they drive the brightest into the dark.

More than once I have told by an academic advisor that I am going to fail

2nd grade was my first brush with failure, I started young and I failed English. I remember my parents telling me that I could not pass 2nd grade without learning to read. Yet, I showed them, I passed with a D! For some reason, being the independent 6 year old I felt smug knowing I had outsmarted them and by the middle of 4th grade I was in deep trouble. At this point I had to be enrolled in an after school tutoring program, since I still did not really know how to read. This was expensive for my parents and I regret it now (realizing how childish I was when… I was a child), but at the time I thought little of it.

I remember myself sitting in a chair and speaking the first time with the overweight, scraggily haired tutor across the table. She was explaining to me how this tutoring program worked and looking back it was perfect. The tutor laid out the process of how in this tutoring program for each thing we accomplish we receive a coin, we then can use our coins to purchase items. Simple things such as candy, to things such as tents, or radios, etc. The most expensive items were probably $50 – $100, but to me this was amazing! I worked very hard, saved all of my coins, and by my last day in the program I bought out all of the items they had available that day.

For me, what was important is achieving something. In this case I wanted to do what I perceived as the hardest thing to do, to buy out all of the “prizes” for doing a good job. Thankfully, (as a happy coincidence) I learned to read.

This was just the first of many challenges I faced, largely due to the fact I chose not to learn to read until late 4th – early 5th grade.

I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests

Lisa McElroy

Deciding to opt my two daughters out of Colorado standardized testing seemed like a no-brainer. We aren’t permanent Colorado residents—we’re just here for one academic year while I’m a visiting professor at the University of Denver. My daughters, ages 13 and 14, are strong students. My husband and I see no educational benefit to the tests. My younger daughter experienced some serious test anxiety a couple of years back when taking Pennsylvania’s standardized tests.

And honestly, given three things—that, according to what a school administrator told me, Colorado law allows parents to refuse the testing on behalf of their children; that the testing enrollment forms include an option to “refuse testing”; and that we currently live in Boulder, one of the most liberal, individualistic towns in America—we truly didn’t think this would be a big deal.

Boy, were we wrong.

Civics & the Ed Schools; Ripe for Vast Improvement

I have a special interest in Civics education. My high school civics/government teacher drilled the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers into our small brains. This Vietnam Vet worked very hard to make sure that we understood how the US political system worked, or not.

While reading the ongoing pervasive spying news, including the battle between the CIA and its Senate “oversight” committee, I read with interest the recent University of Wisconsin-Madison “Associated Students of Madison” spring, 2014 election results. One piece of data somewhat surprised me: the UW-Madison School of Education lacked any declared candidates.

Conversely, Julie Underwood, Dean of the UW-Madison School of Education has been quite active in the political scene, while dealing with criticism of ed school standards and practices.

Do schools of education provide civics training, or do they assume that students learn about our government and their role as citizens in high school? A friend well steeped in the education world and with children recently remarked that “you can no longer count on the public schools to teach our kids the things they need to know”. I’ve been pondering this statement in light of the recent ASM election.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham recently jumped into the state academic standards rhetorical battle with a statement that included:

“Politicizing the creation of learning standards, while simultaneously abandoning the broadly-supported Common Core State Standards, will not serve the students of Wisconsin well. Rather, such moves will only serve to cause confusion and uncertainty,” Cheatham said.

Students would be better served if legislators focused on a fairly-funded public school system “that maintains a relentless focus on implementing consistent, rigorous standards,” Cheatham said.

Yet, education is inherently political, encompassing substantial spending with, to be charitable, challenging results.

Education spending, policies and curricular choices have long been “politicized”. The Wisconsin DPI’s decade plus implementation of the criticized WKCE reveals the challenge of improving standards for our students. How many million$ have been wasted?

It appears that Ms. Underwood and Ms. Cheatham’s landscape is ripe for vast improvement.

Effective School Maintenance Spending?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is proposing a $39,500,000 November, 2014 maintenance referendum (page 38 of 39), according to her “Strategic Framework Progress” update [1MB PDF]. Questions remain on where the money went from the $26,200,000 2005 maintenance referendum. The District has, according to page 3, launched a “zero based budget”. I am hopeful that the District will address past spending initiatives and provide a complete, easy to understand look at its finances.

Finally, bricks and mortar have their place, but nothing is more important than addressing Madison’s disastrous reading results.

Diane Ravitch Madison Presentation Set for May 1

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

Plan now to attend celebrated Professor Diane Ravitch’s presentation at the Monona Terrace on May 1. The program, commencing at 7:00 p.m., is part of The Progressive Magazine’s PUBLIC SCHOOL SHAKEDOWN ( campaign which is designed to illustrate the negative impact on public school education, because of the financial drain caused by private/parochial charter and voucher schools. While admission is free, a suggested $5 donation is requested to support the project.

The Progressive is pulling together education experts including Ravitch (education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education), activists, bloggers, and concerned citizens from across the country.

PUBLIC SCHOOL SHAKEDOWN is dedicated to EXPOSING the behind-the-scenes effort to privatize public schools, and CONNECTING pro-public school activists nationwide.

“Public School Shakedown will be a fantastic addition to the debate”, says Ravitch. “The Progressive is performing a great public service by helping spread the word about the galloping privatization of our public schools.”
“Free public education, doors open to all, no lotteries, is a cornerstone of our democracy. If we allow large chunks of it to be handed over to private operators, religious schools, for-profit enterprises, and hucksters, we put our democracy at risk”, Ravitch adds.

Colleges Need to Act Like Startups — Or Risk Becoming Obsolete

Evan Salinger & Andrew Phelps:

The Golden Age of universities may be dead. And while much of the commentary around the online disruption of education ranges from cost-benefit analyses to assessing ideology of what drives MOOCs (massively open online courses), the real question becomes — what is the point of the university in this landscape?

It’s clear that universities will have to figure out the balance between commercial relevance and basic research, as well as how to prove their value beyond being vehicles for delivering content. But lost in the shuffle of commentary here is something arguably more important than and yet containing all of these factors: culture.

Online courses can be part of, and have, their own culture, but university culture cannot be replicated in an online environment (at least not easily). Once this cultural difference is acknowledged, we can revisit the cost-benefit analysis: Is cheaper tuition worth it if it pays for education that isn’t optimized for innovation? Will university culture further stratify the socioeconomic difference MOOCs may level? And so on…

While innovation is a buzzword that’s bandied about a bit too loosely, we think this is the lens we need to use in judging the relevance of universities. It’s the only thing that prevents us from programming students as robots, a workforce whose jobs can be automated away. In fact, universities that excel at preparing students for such a creative economy prioritize the same three things that drive successful startup cultures: density, shared resources, and community

Who Needs Harvard?

Gregg Easterbrook:

Today almost everyone seems to assume that the critical moment in young people’s lives is finding out which colleges have accepted them. Winning admission to an elite school is imagined to be a golden passport to success; for bright students, failing to do so is seen as a major life setback. As a result, the fixation on getting into a super-selective college or university has never been greater. Parents’ expectations that their children will attend top schools have “risen substantially” in the past decade, says Jim Conroy, the head of college counseling at New Trier High School, in Winnetka, Illinois. He adds, “Parents regularly tell me, ‘I want whatever is highest-ranked.'” Shirley Levin, of Rockville, Maryland, who has worked as a college-admissions consultant for twenty-three years, concurs: “Never have stress levels for high school students been so high about where they get in, or about the idea that if you don’t get into a glamour college, your life is somehow ruined.”

Admissions mania focuses most intensely on what might be called the Gotta-Get-Ins, the colleges with maximum allure. The twenty-five Gotta-Get-Ins of the moment, according to admissions officers, are the Ivies (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale), plus Amherst, Berkeley, Caltech, Chicago, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, Pomona, Smith, Stanford, Swarthmore, Vassar, Washington University in St. Louis, Wellesley, and Williams. Some students and their parents have always been obsessed with getting into the best colleges, of course. But as a result of rising population, rising affluence, and rising awareness of the value of education, millions of families are now in a state of nervous collapse regarding college admissions. Moreover, although the total number of college applicants keeps increasing, the number of freshman slots at the elite colleges has changed little. Thus competition for elite-college admission has grown ever more cutthroat. Each year more and more bright, qualified high school seniors don’t receive the coveted thick envelope from a Gotta-Get-In.

But what if the basis for all this stress and disappointment—the idea that getting into an elite college makes a big difference in life—is wrong? What if it turns out that going to the “highest ranked” school hardly matters at all?

What You Learn in Your 40s

Pamela Druckerman:

IF all goes according to plan, I’ll turn 44 soon after this column appears. So far in my adult life, I’ve never managed to grasp a decade’s main point until long after it was over. It turns out that I wasn’t supposed to spend my 20s frantically looking for a husband; I should have been building my career and enjoying my last gasp of freedom. I then spent my 30s ruminating on grievances accumulated in my 20s.

This time around, I’d like to save time by figuring out the decade while I’m still in it. Entering middle age in Paris — the world’s epicenter of existentialism — isn’t terribly helpful. With their signature blend of subtlety and pessimism, the French carve up midlife into the “crisis of the 40s,” the “crisis of the 50s” and the “noonday demon” (described by one French writer as “when a man in his 50s falls in love with the babysitter”).

The modern 40s are so busy it’s hard to assess them. Researchers describe the new “rush hour of life,” when career and child-rearing peaks collide. Today’s 40ish professionals are the DITT generation: double income, toddler twins.

Home College: an Idea Whose Time Has Come (Again)

Hollis Robbins:

“Maybe you should home-college,” I joked to a highly educated Ph.D. friend—doctorate in medieval history, two master’s, several years of adjunct teaching experience in three fields. She was worried about how she would pay for her own offspring’s eventual college education on her tiny salary, if she did not soon land a full-time job, preferably on the tenure track.

As the words hung in the air, the idea’s utility seemed obvious. Thousands of qualified, trained, energetic, and underemployed Ph.D.s are struggling to find stable teaching jobs. Tens of thousands of parents are struggling to pay for a good college education for their children. Home-schooling at the secondary-school level has proved itself an adequate substitute for public or private high school. Could a private home-college arrangement work as a kind of Airbnb or Uber for higher education?

I don’t think I am overstating the qualifications of many of my fellow academics in the humanities to say that any one of them could provide, singlehandedly, a first-rate first-year college education in the liberal arts. The colleague whom I kidded about home-colleging is qualified to teach expository writing, multiple languages (introductory Latin, French, and Italian), medieval history, European history, art history, and a variety of literature courses. Another colleague could teach American history, introduction to political theory, introduction to philosophy, African-American literature, and expository writing. Another could teach Surrealism, intro to cognitive science, film, neuroscience, linguistics, and Spanish. I know others who could teach calculus, the history of science, European history, classical literature, film, and art history.

More from Walter Russell Mead.

The Global Achievement Gap

Caroline M. Hoxby:

Most Americans, whether employers or parents or people who do business internationally, recognize that our students’ achievement is mismatched with our economy. The growing sectors of our economy are highly skill-intensive, and only the shrinking sectors require unskilled laborers. Yet, as evinced by scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the share of our population that is capable of performing highly skilled jobs is no greater than it was forty years ago. Our students’ achievement is mediocre compared to the achievement of the people worldwide with whom they will have to compete for jobs in the future.

For instance, American fifteen-year-olds scored below the average in mathematics in 2009 among students in member nations of theOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They merely scored at the average in reading. Moreover, in the future, US students will not compete only with OECD students. They will compete with millions of people from countries like India and China where the number of well-educated young adults is growing very rapidly.

The recognition that American students must improve is not enough, however. The United States needs to find the methods and the resources to make the improvements. In this essay, I examine some of the methods that hold the greatest promise and argue that they are affordable with the resources we already have.

Presenting: The Baffler SAT

Jim Newell:

The College Board has announced that it’s making big changes to the SAT. By eliminating it altogether, for the sake of humanity and higher education, you ask? Sadly, no. By simply scoring the exam on a curve, based on everyone’s parents’ net worth? No, that would probably be a bad move, PR-wise.
 The biggest change the Board is making to the test is reverting its total score back to 1600 from 2400, to keep it old school—vintage, like the kids like. Other significant changes include “ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional,” as the New York Times reports. It’s pretty hard to grade essays digitally, so eliminating that part cuts down on labor costs. Phew! Because really, who’s going to do an “optional” essay? Nerds, mostly.

Citizen Oversight, Public Records & the Spokane Public Schools

Laurie Rogers:

For this sincere effort on my part to be careful, thorough and accurate, I have repeatedly been implied to be, or accused of being, a hater, a whacko, a nut job, an antagonist, a loud critic, a conspiracy theorist, a gadfly, abusive, a person who “needles” public officials, and perhaps “less than fully hinged.” In a Spokane paper, my efforts recently were placed under the heading “Friends and Enemies.”

It isn’t as if I enjoy reading records from Spokane Public Schools. They do not tend to improve my day or my mood. There is typically very little in records from the leadership that I can praise. They often contain grammatical errors, and their focus on money is near absolute. The needs of the children, particularly academic needs, are reflected almost nowhere. Reading the records through the years, it seems that many in leadership have viewed teachers, parents, children and voters as pawns in a chess game of “Get More For the Leadership” and “Do Whatever It Takes to Avoid Seeing and/or Telling the Stark Truth.”

Many people have asked me to share the records. Below is an email string between Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson and what he calls the “levy leadership team.” I’m providing this string without comment. No accusation or assumption about the records, or about those within the records, is being made or implied. The records speak for themselves.

I just think you might like to see them. And, you have a right to.
Following is a reproduction of the text of an email string I received from Spokane Public Schools; formatting issues prevent it from being an exact duplicate.

Legislature should look into the PDC’s investigation of Spokane Public Schools

On September 28, 2011, I filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) regarding election activities by Spokane Public Schools. These activities entailed a bond and levy election in 2009 and a school board election in 2011.

The complaint stemmed from public records I obtained from Spokane Public Schools in January and July 2011. In those records, I saw a clear pattern of school district officials using public resources to promote bond and levy ballot propositions, as well as evidence of certain employees using public resources to assist in the campaign of a school board candidate. There appeared to me to be multiple violations of RCW 42.17.130, a law that governed disclosure, campaign finances, lobbying and records. (The law was recodifed as RCW 42.17A.555 in January 2012.)

In the afternoon of Election Day 2011 (Nov. 8), the PDC announced it would investigate; the case was numbered 12-145. After two and a half years of investigation, PDC officials Phil Stutzman and Tony Perkins presented their findings on 12-145 to Commissioners at their Feb. 27 hearing in Olympia.
If you read through the PDC report, you might feel a cold chill down your back. There must be an immediate and thorough legislative investigation of the Public Disclosure Commission. The PDC has essentially sanctioned repeated violations of election law with respect to school district elections.

If you think I’m exaggerating, please read this article. Then, I invite you to read the PDC report.

All Cities Are Not Created Unequal

Alan Berube:

There are many ways of looking at inequality statistically; one useful way to measure it across places is by using the “95/20 ratio.” This figure represents the income at which a household earns more than 95 percent of all other households, divided by the income at which a household earns more than only 20 percent of all other households. In other words, it represents the distance between a household that just cracks the top 5 percent by income, and one that just falls into the bottom 20 percent. Over the past 35 years, members of the former group have generally experienced rising incomes, while those in the latter group have seen their incomes stagnate.

The latest U.S. Census Bureau data confirm that, overall, big cities remain more unequal places by income than the rest of the country. Across the 50 largest U.S. cities in 2012, the 95/20 ratio was 10.8, compared to 9.1 for the country as a whole. The higher level of inequality in big cities reflects that, compared to national averages, big-city rich households are somewhat richer ($196,000 versus $192,000), and big-city poor households are somewhat poorer ($18,100 versus $21,000).

5-Year-Olds Can Learn Calculus

Luba Vangelova:

The familiar, hierarchical sequence of math instruction starts with counting, followed by addition and subtraction, then multiplication and division. The computational set expands to include bigger and bigger numbers, and at some point, fractions enter the picture, too. Then in early adolescence, students are introduced to patterns of numbers and letters, in the entirely new subject of algebra. A minority of students then wend their way through geometry, trigonometry and, finally, calculus, which is considered the pinnacle of high-school-level math.

But this progression actually “has nothing to do with how people think, how children grow and learn, or how mathematics is built,” says pioneering math educator and curriculum designer Maria Droujkova. She echoes a number of voices from around the world that want to revolutionize the way math is taught, bringing it more in line with these principles.

The current sequence is merely an entrenched historical accident that strips much of the fun out of what she describes as the “playful universe” of mathematics, with its more than 60 top-level disciplines, and its manifestations in everything from weaving to building, nature, music and art. Worse, the standard curriculum starts with arithmetic, which Droujkova says is much harder for young children than playful activities based on supposedly more advanced fields of mathematics.

Educators launch defense of Common Core at Senate hearing

Erin Richards:

More than more than 100 superintendents and school board members packed a Senate chamber Thursday in opposition to a bill that could derail the transition to new educational standards in Wisconsin.

At issue are the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations for English and math instruction that most states have adopted and have been implementing for three years.

The debate came as lawmakers hustled to push through — or push aside — a host of measures, with the end of the legislative session in sight. Committees on Thursday approved bills to rewrite election rules and provide more oversight of the deaths of suspects in police custody, while a Senate leader declared a bill to limit so-called living wage rules is dead in his house.

But the hot issue of the day was Common Core.

Many Republican lawmakers fear the standards didn’t get enough input and review when they were written and adopted in 2010. They’re proposing a state standards board that could repeal Common Core and write its own standards.

Superintendents at the Senate Education Committee hearing acknowledged the Common Core standards were not perfect and that they could use more time and resources to implement them. But they argued a new committee would just politicize the process while failing to improve outcomes for students.

“(Common Core) is the basis we need to be able to make local adjustments,” said Jennifer Cheatham, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Mastery Charter Schools is a win for Camden

Laura Waters:

“All is flux, nothing stays still,” said Plato, but you’d never know that in Camden. It’s still the worst school system in New Jersey despite decades of strategic plans and revolving superintendents and money and good intentions.
 Now Mastery Charter Schools, based in Philadelphia, has had applications approved to open two new charters in Camden, right across the Delaware River. Yesterday Gov. Christie attended a ground-breaking ceremony for another approved Camden applicant, the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy.

Slaying the UK Performance Tables Monster

Icing on the cake blog:

When looking at the data available, the three things which jumped up and down demanding attention were our old friend ‘Similar Schools’, the almost total lack of historical data and the ‘Value Added Measures.’
 Oh no, those ‘not at all similar schools’ are back…
 Now, I ranted about ‘Similar Schools’ last week in the Ofsted Schools Data Dashboard. I argued that – based on the information available on the OSDD website – the similar schools measure was tosh of the highest water. As far as I can/could tell from the OSDD, Ofsted’s idea of a similar school is one in which the children who were assessed in Year 2 were assessed at similar levels. I’m still not sure about this – it may be those in year 3, or it could be all of the children in Key Stage 2 – the supporting documentation on the OSDD site is unclear. But, either way, what I have found out about the way the performance tables select ‘similar schools’ is much, much more worrying.

The American Freshman: 2013

Kevin Eagan, Jennifer B. Lozano, Sylvia Hurtado & Matthew H. Case:

Analyses of the 48th annual administration of the CIRP Freshman Survey find substantive shifts in students’ college application strategies, as students increasingly apply to more than four institutions. With fewer students enrolling in their first-choice institution, the data show that college cost and financial aid issues have become even more salient in students’ college choice process. Given the proliferation of online education in recent years, students’ partici- pation in online instruction before coming to college and expectations to enroll in online courses while in college are examined. More than a year after President Barack College cost and financial aid issues have become even more salient in students’ college choice process. Obama was re-elected, we take stock of students’ attitudes about some of the most-discussed political issues in 2013, including gun control, taxes, and gay rights. We also review the changing demographics of students’ high schools and neighborhoods, and changes in the CIRP Freshman Survey made to more accurately capture students’ cognitive and interpersonal skills associated with engaging in a diverse society.
 Finally, we analyze the impact of changes made to the 2013 CIRP Freshman Survey that expanded and revised our set of response options for students’ and their parents’ careers. The results reported in this monograph are based upon 165,743 first-time, full-time students who entered 234 four-year U.S. colleges and universities of varying levels of selectivity and type. Weights have been applied to these data to reflect the more than 1.5 million first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began college at 1,583 four-year colleges and universi- ties across the U.S. in the fall of 2013. This means that differences of one percentage point in the results published here reflect the characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes of more than 15,000 first-year students nationally. We describe the full methodology of the CIRP Freshman Survey administration, stratification scheme, and weighting approach in Appendix A.

German home-school family will not be deported from US


A family who left Germany so they could home-school their children in the US will not be deported despite being denied asylum, officials say.
 US immigration officials confirmed the Romeike family have been granted “prosecutorial discretion”.
 In Germany, parents who refuse to send their children to state-approved schools face fines, imprisonment and the removal of the children.
 The family sought asylum in the US, saying they feared persecution at home.

ICYMI: I, Too, Am Harvard

Avni Nahar, via a kind reader:

By now, many of you have probably heard about “I, Too, Am Harvard”, a photography campaign inspired by an original play about the experiences of black students here at Harvard College. The campaign includes photographs of 63 black students, each holding a board sharing a racist remark made to or about them, or a message to their peers about the microaggressions they have faced both at Harvard and outside of it. The campaign has already been picked up by Buzzfeed and Colorlines, a news site that focuses on race.
 The play that inspired the campaign, also called “I, Too, Am Harvard”, was written by Kimiko M. Matsuda-Lawrence ‘16. Created out of interviews Matsuda-Lawrence conducted last semester with 40 members of the black community on campus, the play will premiere this Friday as part of the 16th Annual Dr. Walter J. Leonard Black Arts Festival. A teaser trailer, created by Ahsante I. Bean ‘15, was released yesterday.

Student Academic Work Should Be The Focus Of College Prep

It is settled wisdom among Funderpundits and those to whom they give their grants that the most important variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality, but I have regularly pointed out that the most important variable in student academic achievement is student academic work.

Now, however, a small number of other dissenting voices have begun to speak. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, in Academically Adrift have suggested that (p. 131) “Studying is crucial for strong academic performance…” and “Scholarship on teaching and learning has burgeoned over the past several decades and has emphasized the importance of shifting attention from faculty teaching to student learning…

This may seem unacceptably heterodox to those in government and the private sector who have committed billions of dollars to focusing on the selection, training, supervision, and control of K-12 teachers, while giving no thought to whether K-12 students are actually doing the academic work which they are assigned.

In 2004, Paul A. Zoch, a teacher from Texas, wrote in Doomed to Fail:

“Let there be no doubt about it: the United States looks to its teachers and their efforts, but not to its students and their efforts, for success in education.”

More recently, and less on the fringe of this new concern, Diane Ravitch wrote in Death and Life of the Great American School System:

“One problem with test-based accountability, as currently defined and used, is that it removes all responsibility from students and their families for the students’ academic performance. NCLB neglected to acknowledge that students share in the responsibility for their academic performance and that they are not merely passive recipients of their teachers’ influence.”

There are necessarily problems in turning attention toward the work of students in judging the effectiveness of schools. First, all the present attention is on teachers, and it is not easy to turn that around. Second, teachers are employees and can be fired, while students can not. It could not be comfortable for the Funderpundits and their beneficiaries to realize that they may have been overlooking the most important variable in student academic achievement all this time.

In February, when the Associated Press reported that Natalie Monroe, a high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, had called her students, on a blog, “disengaged, lazy whiners,” and “noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS,” the response of the school system was not to look more closely at the academic efforts of the students, but to suspend the teacher. As one of her students explained, “As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything…(but) It’s a teacher’s job…to give students the motivation to learn.” (sic)

It would seem that no matter who points out that “You can lead a student to learning, but you can’t make him drink,” our systems of schools and Funderpundits stick with their wisdom that teachers alone are responsible for student academic achievement.

While that is wrong, it is also stupid. Alfred North Whitehead (or someone else) once wrote:

“For education, a man’s books and teachers are but a help, the real work is his.”

As in the old story about the drunk searching under the lamppost for his keys, those who control funds for education believe that as long as all their money goes to paying attention to what teachers are doing, who they are, how they are trained, and so on, they can’t see the point of looking in the darkness at those who have the complete and ultimate control over how much academic achievement there will be—namely the students.

Apart from scores on math and reading tests after all, student academic work is ignored by all those interested in paying to change the schools. What students do in literature, Latin, chemistry, math, and Asian history classes is of no interest to them. Liberal education is not only on the back burner for those focused on basic skills and job readiness as they define them, but that burner is also turned off at present.

This situation will persist as long as those funding programs and projects for reform in education pay no attention to the actual academic work of our students. And students, who see little or no pressure to be other than “disengaged lazy whiners” will continue to pay the price for their lack of education, both in college and at work, and we will continue to draw behind in comparison with those countries who realize that student academic achievement has always been, and will always be, mainly dependent on diligent student academic work.

Want to reform military education? An easy 1st step would be banning PowerPoint

Richard Russell:

One reform measure — which no doubt is not in the docket — would be easy to propose, extremely beneficial to PME’s quality, and of lasting intellectual benefit to graduates as future military leaders: banning PowerPoint on campus. PowerPoint has become so acculturated and institutionalized in the military writ large that it retards the quality of research, analysis, planning, operations, strategy, and decision making at all levels of command. The banning of PowerPoint in PME for use by students, faculty, administrators, and guest speakers, however, would be horrifically difficult to implement given its powerful hold over the minds and practices of today’s military.
 Numerous serious strategists, practitioners, and soldier-scholars over the years have bemoaned and warned of the dangers of the military’s PowerPoint obsession. These warnings from the lips and pens of serious strategic thinkers should squash any belittling dismissals that PowerPoint’s use is not an issue for serious curriculum reform. Marine General James Mattis, former combatant commander of Central Command and no one to mess with on the battlefield, publicly commented, “PowerPoint makes us stupid.” Accomplished conventional and unconventional warfighter, best-selling author, and soon-to-be three-star general H. R. McMaster observed, “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.”

Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

Pat Schneider:

Yet some of those strategies have been used by the school district for years, and the results have not been good, Hughes acknowledged. “The results have been disappointing not just because African-American kids are achieving at lower rates than white kids, but because our African-American kids are doing worse than African-American kids in Beloit, than African-American kids in Racine. We ought to be able to do better than that.”

Madison has long spent more per student than most Wisconsin school districts. Unfortunately, the District’s disastrous reading results continue.
Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

New York Mayor & Charter School Operator Governance Battle

Al Baker & Javier Hernandez:

She was a darling of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration, given free space to expand her charter schools from a single one in Harlem into a network larger than many New York State school districts. Along the way, her Success Academy empire became a beacon of the country’s charter school movement, its seats coveted by thousands of families as chronicled in the film “Waiting for ‘Superman.’ ”
 But eight years into her crusade, Eva S. Moskowitz is locked in combat with a new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who repeatedly singled her out on the campaign trail as the embodiment of what he saw was wrong in schooling, and who last week followed his word with deed, canceling plans for three of her schools in New York City while leaving virtually all other charter proposals untouched.
 Never was their battle more clear than in Albany on Tuesday, where each took part in simultaneous rallies — which each insisted had nothing to do with the other, but which felt like a duel nonetheless.

Passive smoking ‘damages children’s arteries’

Michelle Roberts:

Passive smoking causes lasting damage to children’s arteries, prematurely ageing their blood vessels by more than three years, say researchers.
 The damage – thickening of blood vessel walls – increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life, they say in the European Heart Journal.
 In their study of more than 2,000 children aged three to 18, the harm occurred if both parents smoked.
 Experts say there is no “safe” level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
 “This study goes a step further and shows it [passive smoking] can cause potentially irreversible damage to children’s arteries increasing their risk of heart problems in later life”
 The research, carried out in Finland and Australia, appears to reveal the physical effects of growing up in a smoke-filled home – although it is impossible to rule out other potentially contributory factors entirely.

Textbooks replaced by iTunes U downloads

Sean Coughlan:

Teachers at the independent school are making their own online library of lessons and course materials for GCSE, A-levels and International Baccalaureates.
 These are interactive resources, with video links and lesson notes, customised for the specific needs and speeds of their classes. There are extension exercises and links to further reading and ideas.
 They are made to share on iTunes U, the academic version of Apple’s iTunes download service, so pupils can access them at school or at home or anywhere else.
 There has been a huge amount of hype about online university courses – the so-called Moocs (massive online open courses).
 But here in this ancient university city, it’s a school that is really putting the idea of online courses into practice.
 “Start Quote
 In two years’ time we may have to make decisions about whether we have printed textbooks”
 Tricia Kelleher Stephen Perse Foundation principal
 It still requires excellent teachers – to make them and to make sense of them – but you can see the far-reaching possibilities of creating the exam course equivalent of a box set of a TV series.

Global Leader Pearson Creates Leading Curriculum, Apps for Digital Learning Environments

Pearson via Will Fitzhugh:

Today Pearson announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corp. that brings together the world’s leading learning company and the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions to create new applications and advance a digital education model that prepares students to thrive in an increasingly personalized learning environment. The first collaboration between the two global companies will combine Pearson’s Common Core System of Courses with the groundbreaking capabilities of the Windows 8 touchscreen environment. The Common Core System of Courses is the first curriculum built for a digital personalized learning environment that is 100 percent aligned to the new standards for college and career readiness.

“Pearson has accelerated the development of personalized digital learning environments to improve educational outcomes as well as increase student engagement,” said Larry Singer, Managing Director for Pearson’s North American School group. “Through this collaboration with Microsoft, the global leader in infrastructure and productivity tools for schools, we are creating a powerful force for helping schools leverage this educational model to accelerate student achievement and, ultimately, ensure that U.S. students are more competitive on the global stage.”

“Personalized learning for every student is a worthy and aspirational goal. By combining the power of touch, type, digital inking, multitasking and split-screen capabilities that Windows 8 with Office 365 provides with these new Pearson applications, we’re one step closer to enabling an interactive and personalized learning environment,” said Margo Day, vice president, U.S. Education, Microsoft Corp. “We’re in the middle of an exciting transformation in education, with technology fueling the movement and allowing schools to achieve this goal of personalized learning for each student.”

In addition, iLit, Pearson’s core reading program aimed at closing the adolescent literacy gap, will be optimized for the Windows 8 platform. Designed based on the proven instructional model found in the Ramp Up Literacy program, which demonstrated students gaining two years of growth in a single year, iLit offers students personalized learning support based on their own instructional needs, engaging interactivities, and built-in reward systems that motivate students and track their progress.

Milissa Crum, a teacher at Highland Middle School in Anderson, Ind., is illustrative of the ways teachers around the country are discovering iLit as a powerful tool for personalizing learning and closing the literacy gap for their students. She said, “The iLit program and curriculum provides real time data that can guide my interaction and teaching with my students everyday. The feedback from the program enables my sixth grade students to become hands on in their own learning and growing and become involved in the conversation in how to make changes in the learning and growing to increase their own performance. Making programs like this more accessible with the release of them on mobile devices would only make this already amazing program invaluable in today’s pedagogy and curriculum.”

A Windows 8 app will also be developed for Pearson’s hundreds of core and supplemental eText titles, allowing students and teachers to access the full functionality of the company’s eBook solutions on Windows 8 devices. In addition, Pearson’s innovative TestNav 8 assessment app, incorporated into Next-Generation Assessments around the United States, will support Internet Explorer 11.

The Common Core System of Courses, iLit, eText titles, and TestNav 8 are a sampling of a variety of instructional resources, assessments, professional development, virtual learning, and school improvement services delivered to millions of students around the globe.

The Pearson solutions on the Windows platform will be available for use by schools in the 2014-2015 school year.

About the Common Core System of Courses

Written from the ground-up to support the new, more rigorous learning goals, the Common Core System of Courses is a new, all-digital curriculum that’s designed for use as a system of courses. Underlying the development of the Common Core System of Courses is the belief that the teacher is the key to the quality of education provided to students. This curriculum is designed as a workshop model that engages students and teachers in a variety of activities. It provides opportunities for students to develop their ways of thinking about complex text and complex problems individually, in pairs or small groups, and then shared in a whole-class discussion. This ensures that students are developing the skills requisite for success in the digital age: deeper cognitive and meta-cognitive academic skills as well as their personal skills: communication, collaboration, problem-solving, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

About iLit

A tablet-based reading intervention for grades 4-10, iLit provides teachers with everything they need for their students to gain two years of reading growth in a single year. In an iLit classroom, each day begins with the students reading a self-selected title from the thoughtfully curated high-interest leveled library, which culls Pearson’s vast collection of Penguin, DK, Adapted Classics and other texts. The daily instruction allows for gradual release of control through explicit guided reading, modeling the fluency and meta-cognition of a successful reader while teaching important skills and strategies to fill reading deficiency gaps. By taking advantage of Pearson’s award-winning proprietary technology learning solutions, iLit provides students real-time feedback and coaching on informal summary writing and formal essays. Scaffolded hints and personalized feedback allow the students to write and re-write independently, practicing skills in a safe engaging environment before submitting for grading. It is the only reading intervention program with technology-based writing coaching.

About Pearson eText

Pearson’s eText platform is the company’s electronic book technology (eBook), designed to meet the varied requirements of learners in the classroom. Beyond providing perfect fidelity to the printed textbook, the Pearson eText platform offers easy-to-use interactive and intuitive features such as navigation controls, enhanced searchability, personal highlighting, bookmarks and note-taking.

About TestNav

Pearson’s comprehensive approach to assessment includes an innovative online delivery solution, TestNav delivers millions of secure, high-stakes assessments in K-12 schools every year. TestNav allows schools to administer tests online and on demand, securely and dependably. Today’s students are completely at home in a digital environment, where a keyboard, mouse, navigation buttons, toolbars, and point-and-click skills are familiar tools. TestNav uses these tools in a student friendly interface that employs interactive tools and innovative items, enhancing the test-taking experience for all computer literacy levels.

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, providing educational materials and services and business information through the Financial Times Group. Pearson serves learners of all ages around the globe, employing 41,000 people in more than 70 countries. For more information about Pearson, visit

Pearson Media Contact: Stacy Skelly, stacy (dot) skelly (at) pearson (dot) com, or (800) 745-8489.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public Purse Media Spending Oversight, or note…. Bread & Circuses

Compare: Three reporters assigned to the Urban League’s governance transition:

1. Steven Elbow: Madison Urban League chair: Kaleem Caire’s credit card use an ‘internal’ issue.

2. Dee Hall: Urban League head: Kaleem Caire’s ‘integrity intact’.

3. Dean Mosiman: Kaleem Caire’s departure followed concerns about credit card use, overwork.

2005 a reporter follows a story with a Madison School Board member: Susan Troller: School Board member may seek audit of 2005 referendum dollars: “For more than a year, Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak has been asking Madison school district officials for a precise, up-to-date summary of how $26.2 million in 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent over the last five years.”.

I’ve not seen any followup on the maintenance referendum spending, not to mention the tens of millions spent on Madison’s reading programs. Those programs have, to be charitable, been ineffective.

Much more on Kaleem Caire, here. Perhaps an Ash Wednesday reflection on John 8 might be in order.

Bread & circuses, indeed.

Harvard’s Exit Strategy

The Economist:

A RECENT Free exchange column looked at how online education might affect higher education. Elite institutions should be fine, we wrote, because they product they offer is completely different from the standardised, distance education that MOOCs offer. Unless, that is, they begin offering their own course material online at low prices, in the process breaking their business model. What is that model? Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby has one answer:

Elite institutions face very different circumstances, Ms Hoxby reckons. They operate like venture-capital firms, offering subsidised, labour-intensive education to highly qualified students. They aim to cultivate a sense of belonging and gratitude in students in order to recoup their investment decades later in the form of donations from successful alumni.

Ironically, these universities may have threatened their own business model by embracing MOOCs. Online courses break the personal link between students and university and, if offered cheaply to outsiders, may make regular graduates feel more like chumps than the chosen few. For top schools, the best bet may simply be to preserve their exclusivity.

The past 24 hours have provided an excellent illustration of both sides of that model. First, NPR’s Planet Money reports:

Finland working to expand early education

Michael Alison Chandler:

Finland often ranks among the highest-performing countries on international math and reading tests. The Nordic nation gets results despite one surprising fact — compulsory schooling does not start until age 7.
 As the United States pushes to improve its competitiveness through greater access to early education, with programs in the District and elsewhere that provide universal preschool to children as young as 3, this seems surprising. How do they do it?

Gove is first Tory education secretary to send child to state secondary school

Michael Gove has made history by becoming the first Conservative education secretary to send his offspring to a state secondary school. His daughter Beatrice will take up a place at Grey Coat Hospital school in London later this year.
 The Gove family is said to be delighted at the news that the academy – a diverse, highly successful school rated as outstanding by Ofsted – had offered her a place, delivered on national offer day alongside hundreds of thousands of similar decisions delivered to parents across England.
 Grey Coat Hospital was first established in 1698 as a boy’s school for the poor of Westminster but became a girls-only school in the 19th century. It is a Church of England comprehensive, with admission based on bands of ability and, in some cases, church attendance and language skills.

GO Public Film Offers Inside View of Schools

Lisa Alva Wood:

GO PUBLIC offers an authentic fly-on-the-wall perspective of a public school district that every voter needs to see. This fresh and recent documentary film gives the viewer a frank, and sometimes painful, look inside the lives of the people in Pasadena Unified Schools – and it’s a long shot from the tree-lined lawns of the famous Craftsman neighborhoods we know from Rose Parade week. This is the nitty-gritty of public school life. The focus on quality, real quality, from everyone at school, is a heartening lesson for any viewers, voters, district decision-makers and educators. Could every school district, every classroom, every office, withstand this kind of exposure? Could our own ethics pass the documentary film test?

The New College Campus

The New York Times:

Imagine meeting someone who says she works at a university. Some years ago, it would have been fairly safe to assume that she was a professor, and a member of the middle class with enviable job security. Not anymore. Two reports make clear that the nature of the college work force has changed substantially, possibly to the detriment of educational quality.
 “The Just-In-Time Professor,” released last month by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, describes a growing population of more than one million adjunct and other nontenure-track instructors. “In 1970, adjuncts made up 20 percent of all higher education faculty,” the report says. “Today, they represent half.”

Teachers union rejects Gov Christie’s gloomy outlook on pension costs

Laura Waters:

On Tuesday a gloomy Chris Christie donned a hair shirt instead of a fleece jacket and proffered his 2015 fiscal-year budget sermon to Statehouse legislators. Total state spending will come to $34.4 billion, which includes a $2.25 billion state-mandated payment towards New Jersey’s “exploding” retirement fund for public workers in order to atone for the “past sins” from “governors and legislators who paid little or nothing into the system.” We worship on “the altar of these three things: pensions, health, and debt,” Father Christie intoned hoarsely (he had a cold) and we must reform our pension system or we’ll end up in the fiscal hell of Detroit. Then he quoted Mahatma Gandhi.
 We hardly recognize the man, diminished in girth and bluster, preaching penance. But at least school funding is intact.
 Here’s the highlights: