Teaching children about school shootings

Gillian Tett:

Last week, my daughters experienced a very modern American childhood ritual. The teachers at their Manhattan school suddenly locked the classroom door and told everyone to hide under their desks, or inside the cupboard. Then somebody walked along the corridor outside, banging on the doors in a menacing manner, shouting, “Let me in.”

The teacher kept the door shut and told the children to silently crouch down, as part of a so-called Code Red drill. “It was very scary,” one of my daughters observed. “But this is what we have to do if a stranger comes into school.”

Welcome to one of the quirks of America in 2014. When I was a child at a British school 30 years ago, I often took part in fire drills, to prepare for the remote risk of a fire. But these days, American schools are not just conducting fire evacuations. In the wake of recent attacks on educational establishments – such as the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut in late 2012, or the attacks on a California college last week – they are actively drilling children on how to respond to violent attacks as well.

These drills vary across the country. In some American schools, teachers have decided that they want “realistic” drills, so children huddle in places such as the gym while somebody fires a blank gun. In other establishments, teachers keep the threat relatively vague. Meanwhile, in the trendier parts of Brooklyn, the schools are so worried about psychological distress that they offer counselling to pupils after the drills.

New Orleans Public Schools go 100% Charter

Lyndsey Layton:

The second-graders paraded to the Dumpster in the rear parking lot, where they chucked boxes of old work sheets, notebooks and other detritus into the trash, emptying their school for good.

Benjamin Banneker Elementary closed Wednesday as New Orleans’ Recovery School District permanently shuttered its last five traditional public schools this week.

With the start of the next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a milestone for New Orleans and a grand experiment in urban education for the nation.

Locally, Madison continues with its agrarian era school structure, unchallenged.

Is Harvard really better than Yale? This startup may have the answer

Leo Mirani:

When American high school students—and foreign students keen on studying in the US—survey their choice of universities, they can consult one of any number of rankings and listings. Or they can trudge through the websites of dozens on colleges to make up their own minds. Either way, it’s a bit of a chore.

The website Onlyboth.com seeks to may make that process easier with a program that crawls through the thicket of available data and pulls out useful insights and comparisons. The startup’s co-founders, Raul Valdez-Perez, formerly a research faculty member at Carnegie Mellon’s computer science department, and his colleague Andre Lessa, collected data from several sources, chiefly the federal government, to create a database of each US university’s special characteristics. Type in a college name, and the website shows how it compares to its neighbors and peers, as well across lists.

I will send my children private if I can’t get them into a (UK) grammar

Sally & Richard Greenhill:

As grammar schools come under scrutiny yet again – this time for creating an “unequal society” – one alumna of the state-school system argues that the answer is really to create more of them

The latest row to embroil the Education Secretary, Michael Gove – whether he did or didn’t want Of Mice and Men taken off the GCSE syllabus – took me juddering back to my schooldays.

That slender volume was a standard text at my comprehensive. I’d always had the suspicion that, being a novella, it was chosen because it was easier to read than, say, a weighty Dickens tome. And far easier to teach, too, when it was common for staff to spend up to two-thirds of a 50-minute lesson performing crowd control.

Madison Governance Status Quo: Teacher “Collective Bargaining” Continues; West Athens Parent Union “Bargains Like any other Union” in Los Angeles

Ben Austin, via a kind email:

Last week was an important moment in the Parent Power movement.

On Friday, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy came to West Athens Elementary School in South LA to sign a groundbreaking Partnership Agreement with the leadership of the West Athens Parents Union, called the “Aguilas de West Athens” (AWA) – all without the parents having to gather a single Parent Trigger petition.

This negotiated Partnership Agreement is the result of collaboration and cooperation on the part of both the school district and parents. It invests $300,000 in new staffing positions (including a school psychologist and psychiatric social worker) to address issues of school climate and student safety; increases focus on Common Core implementation and professional development for teachers; and commits to strengthening parent voice and parent power in the school over the coming year.

There has been a ton of good media coverage (which you can read on our blog here), but we thought you might be most interested in hearing directly from the parents themselves who have led this effort. Below is a short video from Winter Hall, one of the parent leaders from West Athens, sharing her story about why she got involved and how the Parents Union was able to win these changes for their kids:
Winter Play

The efforts at West Athens are an important barometer of where the idea and the movement behind parent trigger are heading in California. As more and more districts come to terms with the political power and moral authority that organized parents now possess, we will continue to see more and more proof points of parents able to use their power to create “kids first” reforms at their school, regardless of whether or not they actually use the law to “trigger” the change.

Thank you again for your support. We will continue to keep you updated on everything happening at West Athens Elementary and elsewhere.

Parent Revolution

Related MTI (Madison Teachers, Inc.) Red Fills Doyle Auditorium; Collective Bargaining to Begin.

Related links:

Oconomowoc & Madison.

Madison’s Distastrous Reading Results.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.

2008: Commentary & Links on Madison’s reading results.

Efforts to Curb College Costs Face Resistance Schools, Lawmaker Balk at Rules on Career Training, New Rating System

Josh Mitchell:

Obama administration initiatives intended to help restrain soaring college costs are facing resistance from schools and from a bipartisan bloc of lawmakers looking to protect institutions in their districts.

Groups representing colleges and universities this week formally opposed the administration’s plan to more tightly oversee programs that officials say leave students in steep debt but with weak job prospects. The new rules cover for-profit schools along with career-training programs—those that lead to certificates, but not degrees, in a given field, such as mechanics or cosmetology—at public schools and nonprofits. A bipartisan group in Congress is seeking ways to kill the plan, which the administration wants to have in place by November.

At the same time, the administration is planning to delay the rollout of its signature higher-education initiative: a college-rating system that would score institutions based on their affordability and quality. Education Department officials, hoping to have that proposal in place by late 2015, said they need more time to draft the rules after criticism from school officials unnerved by the prospect of federal officials’ making value judgments on a school’s worth.

Stop subsidizing student loans. That one move will solve many problems.

From Invisible to Visible: Being Able To “See” the Crisis in Learning

Rukmini Banerji:

Engagement and Understanding: The First Step in Assessment and Action

The group of mothers sitting in the sun in a village in north India was happy to chat. We talked about children and about their school. “Are they going to school?” I asked. “Of course,” said the mothers proudly. Some went further to say, “we even send them for private coaching after school.” “How are they doing with their education?” The common word for education in Hindi is the same as reading-writing. The chatter stopped. One mother looked at me sternly and said, “How do we know? We are illiterate. Anyway, that is the business of the school and of the teachers.”

For decades it has been assumed that schooling leads to learning. This is the assumption that has been widely held by parents and practitioners, policymakers and public. It is also assumed that “more is better”—more years of schooling are better than less. It is only recently that the world is beginning to realize that schooling does not necessarily lead to learning. For many in India and in other countries, at ground level and at higher levels, this is a new learning. Accustomed to years of measuring inputs and expenditures, the switch to measuring outcomes—especially learning outcomes—is new and still unfamiliar. We are just beginning to figure out how to think about learning beyond, and in addition to, schooling.

MOOCs’ disruption is only beginning

Clayton M. Christensen and Michelle R. Weise:

JOURNALISTS, AS 2013 ended, were busy declaring the death of MOOCs, more formally known as massive open online courses. Silicon Valley startup Udacity, one of the first to offer the free Web-based college classes, had just announced its pivot to vocational training — a sure sign to some that this much-hyped revolution in higher education had failed. The collective sigh of relief from more traditional colleges and universities was audible.

The news, however, must have also had the companies that had enthusiastically jumped on the MOOC train feeling a bit like Mark Twain. When newspapers confused Twain for his ailing cousin, the writer famously quipped, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Undoubtedly pronouncements over MOOCs’ demise are likewise premature. And their potential to disrupt — on price, technology, even pedagogy — in a long-stagnant industry is only just beginning to be seen.

How important is disruption in higher education? Tuition costs have been ballooning faster than general inflation and even faster than health care. And what do we get in return? Nearly half of all bachelor’s-degree holders do not find employment or are underemployed upon graduation. At the same time, employers have not been satisfied with degree candidates. Two recent Gallup polls showed that although 96 percent of chief academic officers believe they’re doing a good job of preparing students for employment, only 11 percent of business leaders agree that graduates have the requisite skills for success in the workforce. And this is all occurring while higher education leaders were convinced that they were innovating all along.

Family, Edgewood High School at odds over alleged racial harassment

Jessica Arp:

A local family is fighting with officials at Edgewood High School over allegedly failing to stop racial harassment.

The family is asking for tuition money back, while school officials said they handled things appropriately.

Blake Broadnax spent two and a half years as a student at Edgewood High School, played on the basketball team and was active in school events. But he said that throughout that time, he was the victim of racially motivated harassment, which escalated into his junior year. Blake and his mother Rena told their story to News 3 from their new home in Indiana.

“I think the worst situation for me, out of everything that had happened, was in public speaking,” Blake Broadnax said. “I had asked a kid to edit my speech and he gave it back to me and crossed out my name, Blake Broadnax, and wrote ‘My little niglet.’ Then he wrote the n-word on the paper about 10 more times.”

Documents provided by Edgewood High School to the Broadnax family attorney detail the incident in March of last year. The student was pulled from classes, given an out of school suspension, required to apologize and put on disciplinary probation.

But Blake Broadnax said this was not the only incident. In November, he walked out of school after a student allegedly discussing rhyming vocabulary words told him that “trigger” and the n-word rhymed. Blake claims he’d been hearing the n-word every day for months.

“I expected racial things to happen so much that I would be relieved when it did happen because then I could go on with my day,” Blake Broadnax said.

Is College Worth It? It Depends on Whether You Graduate

Ben Casselman:

In The New York Times on Tuesday morning, David Leonhardt took on the “Is college worth it?” question. His answer? An unequivocal yes. The college wage premium — how much more college grads earn than everyone else — is the widest it’s ever been, Leonhardt wrote. Graduates are much more likely to find jobs than nongraduates. And despite mounting fears about student debt levels, the average student’s loan burden pales in comparison to the long-term benefits of a bachelor’s degree.

“For all the struggles that many young college graduates face,” Leonhardt wrote, “a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.”

That’s probably true. Sure, some people end up with unmanageable debt loads, and not everyone who earns a bachelor’s degree easily gets a job, let alone a good one (all points that Leonhardt acknowledges). But on average, college graduates are much better off than nongraduates.

Machines v. Lawyers As information technology advances, the legal profession faces a great disruption.

John McGinnis:

Law schools are in crisis, facing their most substantial decline in enrollment in decades, if not in the history of legal education. Applications have fallen over 40 percent since 2004. The legal workplace is troubled, too. Benjamin Barton, of the University of Tennessee College of Law, has shown that attorneys in “small law,” such as solo practitioners, have been hurting for a decade. Attorney job growth has been flat; partner incomes at large firms have recently recovered from the economic downturn, but the going rate for associates, even at the best firms, has stagnated since 2007.

Some observers, not implausibly, blame the recession for these developments. But the plight of legal education and of the attorney workplace is also a harbinger of a looming transformation in the legal profession. Law is, in effect, an information technology—a code that regulates social life. And as the machinery of information technology grows exponentially in power, the legal profession faces a great disruption not unlike that already experienced by journalism, which has seen employment drop by about a third and the market value of newspapers devastated. The effects on law will take longer to play themselves out, but they will likely be even greater because of the central role that lawyers play in public life.

Statistics Examinations reading list

Royal Statistical Society:

We provide reading lists for each of the papers of our professional examinations, to assist candidates preparing for them. In some cases, there is one reading list that covers two papers.

The reading lists provide a choice of books and it is not suggested that you should buy all (or even most) of them. You might for example find that you can easily locate one or two books on a list in an academic library, or even a public library, and perhaps those books would suffice – or at least would give you an indication of other areas that you need to try to cover. Some of the lists are annotated with specific advice about particular books.

Finns beat U.S. with low-tech take on school

Caitlin Emma:

At the start of morning assembly in the state-of-the-art Viikki School here, students’ smartphones disappear. In math class, the teacher shuts off the Smartboard and begins drafting perfect circles on a chalkboard. The students — some of the highest-achieving in the world — cut up graphing paper while solving equations using their clunky plastic calculators.

Finnish students and teachers didn’t need laptops and iPads to get to the top of international education rankings, said Krista Kiuru, minister of education and science at the Finnish Parliament. And officials say they aren’t interested in using them to stay there.

Teacher content knowledge surely trumps tech gizmos and endless grant driven schemes.

A New Entry in the Annals of Academic Cravenness

Joseph Epstein:

For those who have not yet caught up with it, in the academic world the phrase “trigger warning” means alerting students to books that might “trigger” deleterious emotional effects. Should a Jewish student be asked to read “Oliver Twist” with its anti-Semitic caricature of Fagin, let alone “The Merchant of Venice,” whose central figure is the Jewish usurer Shylock? Should African-American students be required to read “Huckleberry Finn,” with its generous use of the “n-word,” or “Heart of Darkness,” which equates the Congo with the end of rational civilization? Should students who are ardent pacifists be made to read about warfare in Tolstoy and Stendhal, or for that matter the Iliad? As for gay and lesbian students, or students who have suffered sexual abuse, or those who have a physical handicap . . . one could go on.

Pointing out the potentially damaging effects of books began, like so much these days, on the Internet, where intellectual Samaritans began listing such emotionally troublesome books on their blogs. Before long it was picked up by the academy. At the University of California at Santa Barbara, the student government suggested that all course syllabi contain trigger warnings. At Oberlin College the Office of Equity Concerns advised professors to steer clear of works that might be interpreted as sexist or racist or as vaunting violence.

Movies have of course long been rated and required to note such items as Adult Language, Violence, Nudity—ratings that are themselves a form of trigger warning. Why not books, even great classic books? The short answer is that doing so insults the intelligence of those supposedly serious enough to attend college by suggesting they must not be asked to read anything that fails to comport with their own beliefs or takes full account of their troubled past experiences.

You’re probably using the wrong dictionary


The way I thought you used a dictionary was that you looked up words you’ve never heard of, or whose sense you’re unsure of. You would never look up an ordinary word — like example, or sport, or magic — because all you’ll learn is what it means, and that you already know.

Indeed, if you look up those particular words in the dictionary that comes with your computer — on my Mac, it’s the New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd Edition — you’ll be rewarded with… well, there won’t be any reward. The entries are pedestrian:

example /igˈzampəl/, n. a thing characteristic of its kind or illustrating a general rule.

How a college with 340 students lost $220 million in five years

Jon Marcus:

The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, with its sleek, glass-walled buildings around a peaceful grass oval, has earned glowing international attention for the successful ways it has pioneered the teaching of undergraduate engineering.

Built from scratch with hundreds of millions of dollars from a private foundation and a commitment to charging no tuition, 12-year-old Olin has attracted standout faculty, even though it does not give tenure. Top companies recruit its high-achieving students, who graduate at enviable rates into jobs with above-average starting salaries.

Behind the accolades, however, Olin has been bleeding red ink.

Colleges Are Buying Stuff They Can’t Afford and Making Students Pay For It

Michelle Chen:

With tuition costs more than doubling over the past generation, and student debt now exceeding $1 trillion, everyone knows the cost of college is too damn high. About 40 million people nationwide are weighed down by education debts that often reach into the tens of thousands. But those numbers are just a sliver of the bleak shadow that Wall Street casts over higher education.

A new study on debt across the higher education system reveals that the massive debts borne by both students and their institutions has climbed to about $45 billion per year. So the debt-related payments to the financial sector—including Wall Street investors, institutional lenders and the mammoth federal student loan system—drive about one tenth of all spending on higher education nationwide. These debt-servicing costs are tied to tuition lending as well as financial debts accrued by schools themselves, which finance investments of all kinds, from professors’ salaries to libraries to indulgences like sports teams and administrators’ bonuses.

According to researchers with University of California–Berkeley’s Debt & Society Project, a project of the Center for Culture, Organizations, and Politics with research support from the American Federation of Teachers, the a key factor in the rising cost of college is driven by expenditures largely unrelated to either the quality of the education, teaching or maintaining campus facilities. Rather, college is getting unimaginably expensive for both institutions and students because it costs so much to finance the business of education, thanks to Wall Street lenders. While there are many controversial budget items in higher education—critics lament bloated administrations and the cost of sports teams and flashy amenities—the report focuses on debt itself, and the massive volume of borrowing, as a major overlooked burden on institutions.

The 3 Questions To Ask In Any Classroom

Steve Drummond:

It’s a frequent complaint in education journalism: Reporters should spend less time at school board meetings and get into a classroom to find out what’s really going on.

For reporters, though, that’s a challenge and a risk, because lots of good journalists don’t know what to look for in a busy classroom. How do you know if what you’re seeing is “good” or not? After all, reporters aren’t professional educators. And they’re often under deadline.

Sometimes, this can even backfire — when a quick visit to add “color” to a story leads to shortcuts or hasty conclusions. What if a reporter shows up without knowing, for instance, that a fire drill that morning completely distracted the students and got them all excited? Or that 12th-graders in the period right after lunch are way more boisterous and engaged than the sleep-deprived zombies that stumble into 8 a.m. homeroom?

A College Degree is No Guarantee

Janelle Jones & John Schmitt:

The Great Recession has been hard on all recent college graduates, but it has been even harder on black recent graduates.

This report reviews evidence on the labor-market experience of black recent college graduates during and after the Great Recession.

Key findings include:

In 2013 (the most recent full year of data available), 12.4 percent of black college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 were unemployed. For all college graduates in the same age range, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.

Between 2007 (immediately before the Great Recession) and 2013, the unemployment rate for black recent college graduates nearly tripled (up 7.8 percentage points from 4.6 percent in 2007).

In 2013, more than half (55.9 percent) of employed black recent college graduates were “underemployed” –defined as working in an occupation that typically does not require a four-year college degree. Even before the Great Recession, almost half of black recent graduates were underemployed (45.0 percent in 2007).

Black recent college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors have fared somewhat better, but still suffer from high unemployment and underemployment rates. For example, for the years 2010 to 2012, among black recent graduates with degrees in engineering, the average unemployment rate was 10 percent and the underemployment rate was 32 percent.

In part, these outcomes reflect the disproportionate negative effect of economic downturns on young workers and, in part, they reflect ongoing racial discrimination in the labor market. A college degree blunts both these effects relative to young black workers without a degree, but college is not a guarantee against either set of forces.

Master’s degrees are as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the ’60s

Libby Nelson:

It’s graduation time, an occasion for commencement speakers, academic regalia, and celebrating achievement. One achievement has become a lot more common over the past few decades: the master’s degree, the fastest-growing college credential in the US.

More than 16 million people in the US — about 8 percent of the population — now have a master’s, a 43 percent increase since 2002.

And as master’s degrees have grown, so has the debt that comes with them. The typical total debt for a borrower with an undergraduate and graduate degree is now more than $57,000, up from $40,200 in 2004. (This includes medical and law degrees.)

What went wrong at Clarke Street School? Everything

Alan Borsuk:

I was there when dozens of heavily armed men descended on Clarke Street School, bringing life inside the school and in the surrounding neighborhood to a halt.

This was good. They were members of the Secret Service and the Milwaukee Police Department. And they were there because the president of the United States had come in person to N. 27th St. and W. Center St. to sing the praises of the school.

George W. Bush watched as students demonstrated their reading ability in a classroom and then spoke to about 200 students and adults in the gym. He called Clarke Street “a center of excellence.” It was a school having the kind of success Bush argued could occur in similar schools across the nation.

That was May 2002. Now it’s May 2014 and no one comes to Clarke Street to sing its praises any more. On the playground — a place where I’ve stood and watched kids play — a 10-year-old Clarke Street student, Sierra Guyton, was shot and severely wounded in daylight last week, innocent victim of others’ fights and stupidity.

In the fall of 2001, I wrote a long piece for this newspaper about the recipe for the success of Clarke Street, which consistently outscored not only MPS but the state in reading and math. Clarke had no entrance standards, no specialty program, and not much parent involvement.

Little Children and Already Acting Mean

Sumatha Reddy

Children still in kindergarten or even younger form cliques and intentionally exclude others, say psychologists and educators who are increasingly noticing the behavior and taking steps to curb it.

Special programs are popping up in elementary schools to teach empathy as a means of stemming relational aggression, a psychological term to describe using the threat of removing friendship as a tactical weapon. Children also are being guided in ways to stand up for themselves, and to help others, in instances of social exclusion. Though both boys and girls exhibit relational aggression, it is thought to be more common among girls because they are generally more socially developed and verbal than boys.

“I think it’s remarkable that we’re seeing this at younger and younger ages,” said Laura Barbour, a counselor at Stafford Primary School in West Linn, Ore., who has worked in elementary schools for 24 years. “Kids forget about scuffles on the playground but they don’t forget about unkind words or being left out.”

MTI (Madison Teachers, Inc) Red Fills Doyle Auditorium; Bargaining to Begin

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

Board of Education meetings on May 12 and 15 were a sea of red, as MTI members produced an overflow crowd, calling for Contract negotiations for the 2015-16 school year. Numerous MTI members, supported by four past-presidents on the Board of Education, State Representatives Melissa Sargent, Dianne Hesselbein and Chris Taylor, spoke to the Board. Congressman Pocan sent a strong statement of support for MTI which was read into the record by Rep. Sargent.

Rep. Sargent also read into the record a petition calling for negotiations. It was signed by Senators Jon Erpenbach, Mark Miller, Fred Risser and Representatives Sargent, Hesselbein, Taylor, Pope, Berceau and Kahl. The petition stated, in part:

“We all share a common interest in making sure every child has access to a quality public education and in supporting our teachers’ efforts to create the best public schools in the state and nation. When teachers are prohibited from coming to the bargaining table, our public school children and schools suffer. Our teachers’ firsthand experience in the classroom gives them a unique perspective in developing best practices and firsthand knowledge of the needs of our public school children.

In Dane County, we have seen 50 years of positive and productive labor relations. This benefits our children and helps create strong schools and communities. Positive employee relations are developed, in part, through the collective bargaining process where employers and employees create the best possible working environment together. Unfortunately, Act 10 eroded the ability to negotiate in good faith.

Guaranteeing that teachers have a voice in what goes on in their classrooms is critically important in ensuring every child is learning in the best possible environment.”
Congressman Pocan’s statement, in part, follows: “Employees are the most important component to the success of any employer, and working with these unions makes good sense, as the employees have the institutional knowledge of the operation. Collective bargaining is an opportunity to address important issues together.”

Also stepping up to the plate in calling for negotiations was the District’s Student Senate. Led by Student BOE representative Luke Gangler (Memorial), they submitted a petition to the Board which stated, in part, “… Whereas, international courts and human rights organizations have since identified collective bargaining as a fundamental right of workers; and Whereas, the right of school staff to collectively bargain has a direct impact on the learning environment of students … Resolved, that the MMSD Student Senate recommend that the MMSD Board of Education approve extensions of employee contracts with MTI, AFSCME, and the Building Trades Council through 2015-16.”

Bargaining will begin today. Those represented by MTI, in all five bargaining units, are reminded to watch the MTI website and MTI Facebook for an urgent call to a Contract ratification meeting. Notice will be sent to all members for whom MTI has a personal email address. Notice will also be sent to the members of all MTI Boards of Directors & Bargaining Committees, MTI Faculty Representatives and EA-MTI Building Representatives.
The presentations to the Board can be viewed on the District’s website.

I wonder if parents have used the “crowd a meeting” tactic successfully? Fascinating.

Universities have been progressing from providing scholarship for a small fee into selling degrees at a large cost.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This is the natural evolution of every enterprise under the curse of success: from making a good into selling the good, into progressively selling what looks like the good, then going bust after they run out of suckers and the story repeats itself … (The cheapest to deliver effect: “successful” cheese artisans end up hiring managers and progress into making rubber that looks like cheese, replaced by artisans who in turn become “successful”…).

Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Making School Lunches Healthier Doesn’t Mean Kids Will Eat Them

Olga Khazan:

Los Angeles Unified, the country’s second-largest school system, is home to more than 650,000 students, and 42 percent of them are overweight or obese. In 2011, the district decided healthier school lunches were the best way to help them not be.

At that point, Los Angeles was already on the julienning edge when it came to fighting childhood obesity through food: It outlawed sodas in schools in 2004, banned selling junk food on campus, and swapped the bulk of its canned and frozen produce for fresh.

But the new menus were the most austere measure yet, cutting kid-friendly favorites like chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and nachos. Instead, little Jayden and Mia would dine on vegetarian curries, tostada salad, and fresh pears.

A student rebellion ensued—kids brought Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school rather than much on quinoa salad—and L.A. Unified was forced to settle for a middle ground between Alice Waters and Ronald McDonald.

“Dear White People” The majority population needs a sense of urgency in addressing Madison’s racial disparities

Rebecca Ryan:

We need to talk about the Race to Equity report, the project launched to reduce racial disparities in Dane County. No, I’m not talking about talking about the data. Or whether we’re surprised by the data. We need to talk about our role in this. Forty years of crappy outcomes for Black people didn’t happen overnight. If you’re north of thirty years old and have lived in Madison as an adult, it’s happened on our watch. We share responsibility.

I have wrestled with this thought since I read the report last fall: I am complicit in these results. And it’s time for us, the majority culture, to face this head-on. We can’t sit idly while Reverend Alex Gee’s Black caucus designs a way forward. And Madison schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham isn’t going to solve this for us, either.

We, the majority population, need our own focused response to improve outcomes for Black citizens. Black Madisonians have a sense of urgency; they’ve been living in the narrows of opportunity for two generations. White people don’t have the same now-or-never attitude. Over forty years, we’ve allowed and enabled these issues to grow silently, like an undetected cancer, through our community.

There are so many things we whites must do to move in a better direction for all Madisonians. Here are some that I’ve been thinking about.

UW-Superior cuts nearly half of graduate programs as deficit looms

Associated Press:

The University of Wisconsin-Superior is cutting nearly half of its graduate programs as it deals with a looming deficit.

Chancellor Renee Wachter said this week that 11 of 25 graduate programs will be suspended, meaning the programs won’t admit any more students, but those currently enrolled will graduate. The programs include masters’ degrees in art history and communication, and masters’ degrees in education for reading and library media specialists.

The theater program is also under review, Wachter said.

Wachter said the university has to make up $4.5 million with either budget cuts or additional revenue in the next five years.

The university began a self-study in the fall of 2013 to identify areas for potential cost reductions.

School’s Out Forever Photos from Chicago’s shuttered public schools.

Jessica Rodrigue:

A handful of cities across the country are becoming laboratories for an invigorated school reform movement—the result, depending on whom you ask, either of great political courage or massive budget shortfalls. Since 2005, the number of students in charter schools in Chicago has more than tripled, and Philadelphia has replaced traditional public schools with a new arrangement in which a mix of public and privately run schools are overseen by a central entity. “If we don’t make these changes, we haven’t lived up to our responsibility as adults to the children of the city of Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last year of his plan to overhaul the Windy City’s sprawling school system.

But these reform efforts are not without casualties, as the number of shuttered schools in urban communities from New Orleans to Newark can attest. In the past year alone, 24 schools have been closed in Philadelphia and 50 have been closed in Chicago—the largest number of any school district in the country. Last week, community activists filed three federal civil rights complaints in Newark, New Orleans and Chicago, charging that students of color have been disproportionately affected by the wave of school closures. Jessica Rodrigue, a Chicago-based photographer, visited the schools in her own city last summer to document the closures. Her photos of moving boxes, empty auditoriums and papered-over signs reflect the suddenness of the change that threw so many young lives into uncertainty.

Teaching Economic Concepts with a Bag of Chocolate: A Classroom Experiment for Elementary School Students

Nicholas Rupp

This paper describes a classroom experiment suitable for elementary school students in which participants are actively engaged in making trading decisions. Students are provided an endowment of gum and are asked to make trading decisions to acquire chocolate. As the op- portunity cost of acquiring a piece of chocolate rises, fewer students are willing to make trades. This interactive classroom exercise illustrates three fundamental economic concepts: the law of demand, opportunity costs, and gains from trade. Assessement test results reveal that two days after this classroom exercise, fifth grade students register significant improvements in their understanding of three fundamental economic concepts.

The Ripple Effects of Rising Student Debt

Phyllis Korkki:

What are the roads not taken because students must take out loans for college? A collection of studies shows that the burden of student debt may well cause people to make different decisions than they would otherwise — affecting not just individual lives but also the entire economy.

For one thing, it appears that people with student loans are less likely to start businesses of their own. A new study has found that areas with higher relative growth in student debt show lower growth in the formation of small businesses (in this case, firms with one to four employees).

The correlation makes sense. People normally have only a certain amount of “debt capacity,” said Brent W. Ambrose, a professor of risk management at Pennsylvania State University and a co-author of a preliminary paper on the research along with Larry Cordell and Shuwei Ma of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Presiding Over a College’s Final Days

Julia Schmalz

The president of Saint Paul’s College, Millard (Pete) Stith, has the unusual mandate of selling his institution. He took over management after the historically black college was unable to pay its debts, lost its accreditation, and closed in 2013. Along with a staff of 22, he maintains the campus in hopes that another college will purchase it during a sealed-bid auction, on June 25.


MILLARD (PETE) STITH: I’d like for them to come just live with me for a week and see what you have to do when your school is about to go belly-up. There’s no course you can take. You know everyday you are making a decision that you never thought you’d have to make in your life.

(TEXT) 1888: Saint Paul’s College was founded by Rev. James Solomon Russell in Lawrenceville, Virginia.

(TEXT) 2013: Unable to overcome financial difficulties the school closed its doors to students.

MILLARD (PETE) STITH: Saint Paul’s was started in 1888. It was an elementary and high school, and then, in the 1940s, the General Assembly gave him permission to start a college, a four-year college.

Why Is Academic Writing So Academic?

Joshua Rothman:

A few years ago, when I was a graduate student in English, I presented a paper at my department’s American Literature Colloquium. (A colloquium is a sort of writing workshop for graduate students.) The essay was about Thomas Kuhn, the historian of science. Kuhn had coined the term “paradigm shift,” and I described how this phrase had been used and abused, much to Kuhn’s dismay, by postmodern insurrectionists and nonsensical self-help gurus. People seemed to like the essay, but they were also uneasy about it. “I don’t think you’ll be able to publish this in an academic journal,” someone said. He thought it was more like something you’d read in a magazine.

Was that a compliment, a dismissal, or both? It’s hard to say. Academic writing is a fraught and mysterious thing. If you’re an academic in a writerly discipline, such as history, English, philosophy, or political science, the most important part of your work—practically and spiritually—is writing. Many academics think of themselves, correctly, as writers. And yet a successful piece of academic prose is rarely judged so by “ordinary” standards. Ordinary writing—the kind you read for fun—seeks to delight (and, sometimes, to delight and instruct). Academic writing has a more ambiguous mission. It’s supposed to be dry but also clever; faceless but also persuasive; clear but also completist. Its deepest ambiguity has to do with audience. Academic prose is, ideally, impersonal, written by one disinterested mind for other equally disinterested minds. But, because it’s intended for a very small audience of hyper-knowledgable, mutually acquainted specialists, it’s actually among the most personal writing there is. If journalists sound friendly, that’s because they’re writing for strangers. With academics, it’s the reverse.

Professors didn’t sit down and decide to make academic writing this way, any more than journalists sat down and decided to invent listicles. Academic writing is the way it is because it’s part of a system. Professors live inside that system and have made peace with it. But every now and then, someone from outside the system swoops in to blame professors for the writing style that they’ve inherited. This week, it was Nicholas Kristof, who set off a rancorous debate about academic writing with a column, in the Times, called “Professors, We Need You!” The academic world, Kristof argued, is in thrall to a “culture of exclusivity” that “glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience”; as a result, there are “fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.”

Analysis of Over 2,000 Computer Science Professors at Top Universities

Jeff Huang:

As part of a class assignment in my human-computer interaction seminar, students used crowdsourcing to collect information about the computer science professors from 5 universities each. This information comprised the names, institution, degrees obtained, and when they joined the university, for professors in the traditional role that involves both research and teaching. The data excludes lecturers, professors of practice, clinical, adjunct, affiliate, or research professors; only because we were constrained by time and resources. My Ph.D. student Alexandra Papoutsaki worked with a handful of students in the course to correct, normalize, and merge the data, and has posted it along with some descriptive information.

The posted data includes 51 top universities in the United States and is already useful for students planning to apply to graduate schools, but there are some interesting insights that we can still draw from a more aggregate analysis. This analysis is meant to supplement the data and Alexandra’s report, and looks more at:

From The Ivy League To State Schools, Demand For Computer Science Is Booming

Colleen Taylor:

For years, people in the tech industry have worked to persuade more young people in the United States to become interested in studying computer science. It now looks like they’ve finally gotten the message.

Demand for computer science classes and programs is booming at universities across the U.S., according to data presented this past week at the NCWIT summit for Women in IT by Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, and Stanford Computer Science professor Eric Roberts.

At Lazowska’s own school, the number of incoming freshman who plan to major in computer science is soaring — the graph below, published earlier this week by Geekwire, speaks for itself:

School spyware in coursebooks

Jean-Marc Liotier:

Recently, a number of schools have started using a program called CourseSmart, which uses e-book analytics to alert teachers if their students are studying the night before tests, rather than taking a long-haul approach to learning. In addition to test scores, the CourseSmart algorithm assigns each student an “engagement index” which can determine not just if a student is studying, but also if they’re studying properly. In theory, a person could receive a “satisfactory” C grade in a particular class, only to fail on “engagement

This immediately reminded me of Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel, Snow Crash where a government employee’s reading behavior has been thoroughly warped into simulacrum by a lifetime of overbearing surveillance:

Y.T.’s mom pulls up the new memo, checks the time, and starts reading it. The estimated reading time is 15.62 minutes. Later, when Marietta does her end-of-day statistical roundup, sitting in her private office at 9:00 P.M., she will see the name of each employee and next to it, the amount of time spent reading this memo, and her reaction, based on the time spent, will go something like this:

Fat-Cat University Administrators at the Top 25

New York Times:

Confronted with punishing state budget cuts, the public colleges and universities that educate more than 70 percent of this country’s students have raised tuition, shrunk course offerings and hired miserably paid, part-time instructors who now form what amounts to a new underclass in the academic hierarchy. At the same time, some of those colleges and universities are spending much too freely on their top administrators.

A report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a research group, says that the presidents at the 25 public universities that pay their presidents the most have seen their compensation soar since 2008. The average pay for presidents at all public research universities is hardly shabby, increasing by 14 percent, to $544,554, between 2009 and 2012. But average compensation for the presidents at the 25 highest-paying universities increased by a third, to $974,006.

Related: Financial Aid Leveraging.

UK Book Rhetoric

Sian Griffiths:

THE John Steinbeck novella Of Mice and Men, and other American classics including Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird, have been dropped from new English literature GCSEs after Michael Gove, the education secretary, insisted teenagers had to study works by British writers.

Three-quarters of the books on the governmentdirected GCSEs, which will be unveiled this week, are by British authors and most are pre-20th century.

“Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90% of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past,” said OCR, one of Britain’s biggest exam boards. “Michael Gove said that was a really disappointing statistic.”

On the other hand.

25.62% of Madison’s $402,464,374 2014/2015 budget to be spent on benefits; District’s Day of Teacher Union Collective Bargaining; WPS déjà vu

The Madison School Board

Act 10 duckduckgo google wikipedia

Madison Teachers, Inc.

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

School Board Decisions on Employee Health Insurance Contributions Could Further Reduce Wages

Under MTI’s various Collective Bargaining Agreements, the District currently pays 100% of the health insurance premiums for both single and family coverage, but retains the ability to require employees to contribute up to 10% of the monthly premium for both single and family coverage.

District management has recommended to the Board of Education that they adopt a Budget which would allow for up to a 5% increase in health insurance premiums to be paid by the District. If the Board agrees, this would require employees to pay any increase above 5%, and insurance carriers of District plans currently propose premium increases greater than 5%. The Board is currently discussing whether to require the employee to pay the increase. If the Board does, that would further decrease employees’ take-home pay. Even a 2% employee premium contribution would cost employees over $120 per year for the least expensive single coverage, and over $300 per year for the least expensive family coverage, i.e. any increase would compound the loss of purchasing power described above.

2014-2015 budget documents, to date.

Several articles on the legal controversy regarding Wisconsin “collective bargaining”:

WILL to Madison School Board: Comply With Act 10 or Face Lawsuit

Mary Burke (running for Governor) votes for labor talks with Madison teachers.

Madison School Board nearing extension of union contracts.

Madison School Board flouts the law in favor of teachers union.

Liberals look to one last chance to overturn Scott Walker’s reforms, in a judicial election.

The Madison School District’s substantial benefit spending is not a new topic.

How Children What?


John Holt and Paul Tough are a half-century apart. Both were interested in children and how they learned. One wrote a book called How Children Learn, the other a book called How Children Succeed. Their juxtaposition has a lot to tell us about how we think about and treat our young people.

In 1967, John Holt published How Children Learn. In 2013, Paul Tough published How Children Succeed.

Holt was following up on the publication of his 1964 book, How Children Fail. Beginning in 1952, Holt taught elementary and middle school—first in Colorado, then Boston. For eleven years, Holt kept a journal of his experiences. This journal grew into his first books, How Children Fail and How Children Learn. The first explored how children, “used their minds badly.” The second explored what it looked like for children to “act as bold, effective learners.” Both were grounded in Holt’s own, concrete stories and experiences. The fundamental thesis of both is that learners’ motivation is essential and that because this cannot be forced, we must trust learners, working with them and their interests if they are to grow into empowered adults. Semiotically, Holt now parses as hippie, especially given his position as father of the United States homeschooling movement.

Tough is a journalist who has covered education, child development, and poverty for the past decade. Tough has never taught. After writing about Geoffery Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone in Whatever It Takes, he felt dissatisfied with his understanding of why only some children go on from such programs to succeed. Tough sought out researchers, economists, neuroscientists, psychologists, doctors, and the occasional teacher or administrator to find his answer. The fundamental thesis of How Children Succeed is that kids will be more successful in school and more secure in life if we focus on developing their ‘non-cognitive skills,’ like the ability to persevere or maintain healthy emotional hygiene. Semiotically, Tough parses as a pragmatic journalist uncovering heroic possibilities for education reform.

Typical high school student survey

Grant Wiggins:

Let’s have our first look at constructed response, in closing this post. Students were asked on the last question: if you could ask your teachers to make one change to make classes more interesting, what would you say? Here is what the “A” students said (I have selected these answers randomly by just selecting the middle 20+):

Try something creative when teaching something new

To not talk the entire time and give us more hands on things to do /work on.

Provide more opportunities for the students to learn for themselves, without just providing them with everything.

Only talk as much as you need to and leave most of the investigative discussions to the class


I would say to make sure everything is clear for the students

Get a better grading scale and do more variety of things because in biology we do the same thing every unit and then just have a test randomly

Have students teach for once to see if they know what they’re doing.
Don’t make tests or assignments just about memorization, because then no one will actually understand it.

Well, some teachers are great and teach me very well. It’s the few teachers that really need to step it up. Also they have to realize that we can’t prioritize their work first if every teacher wants their work prioritized.
The teachers should slow down their teaching a little bit when asked to because by not slowing down, it’s not helping students learn to their best ability.

To relate assignments more to the students and make them less busywork and more in terms of variety. They should provide variety in class every week to keep things interesting

Make projects more fun to do by giving us more options and more visuals in class because some people learn better that way.

To help those even if they have advanced thinking, and teachers should put more energy in paying attention to children, and fix the situation where those who are good kids get yelled at more often than those who fool around on a daily basis.

Make sure the students fully understand what’s being taught before moving on to something new. Try to get to know students and talk to them before class or something to make everyone feel comfortable around you. So you’re not the “mean” teacher.
Slow down and teach the subject more instead of assuming we know and understand the material.

Just be more understanding and try to put themselves in the students shoes.

The Problem with Outcome-Oriented Evaluations

David Cohen:

Imagine I observe two poker players playing two tournaments each. During their first tournaments, Player A makes $1200 and Player B loses $800. During her second tournament, Player A pockets another $1000. Player B, on the other hand, loses $1100 more during her second tournament. Would it be a good decision for me to sit down at a table and model my play after Player A?

For many people the answer to this question – no – is counterintuitive. I watched Player A and Player B play two tournaments each and their results were very different – haven’t I seen enough to conclude that Player A is the better poker player? Yet poker involves a considerable amount of luck and there are numerous possible short- and longer-term outcomes for skilled and unskilled players. As Nate Silver writes in The Signal and the Noise, I could monitor each player’s winnings…

Educating the educators University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Willingham, PhD, is dedicated to helping schools and families determine which new educational tools and strategies are scientifically supported and worth adopting

Amy Novotny:

There are myriad books and professional development materials devoted to the study of learning styles. The problem, says University of Virginia cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, PhD, is that most of them don’t rely on good science.

“If you talk to teachers frequently, they’re surprised there isn’t a firm research base for different learning styles,” says Willingham, author of the books “When Can You Trust the Experts?” and “Why Don’t Students Like School?”

That lack of good information is among the reasons Willingham has devoted his work to researching the application of cognitive psychology and neuroscience to K–12 education — and popularizing the information for the general public. In addition to providing commentary about science and education on the education blog RealClearEducation.com, he is working to help schools and families determine which educational approaches — from games and software to training programs and workbooks — are scientifically supported and worth adopting.

Willingham spoke with the Monitor about the importance of offering students a challenging curriculum and providing motivation and praise to help struggling students.
What are some of the other unfounded beliefs teachers have about what works in the classroom?
One example is so-called neuromyths, or beliefs that some educators may have about the brain. For example, the characterization of left-brain versus right-brain thinking is not well-supported and really never has been.
The truth is that most teachers in my experience really have a lot of common sense. There are ideas that are peddled to them that are wrong, but most teachers are pretty skeptical of them. They’re in the classroom every day, so they have a sense of what works and what doesn’t work with kids.

The One Percent at State U

Andrew Irwin & Marjorie Wood:

State universities have come under increasing criticism for excessive executive pay, soaring student debt, and low-wage faculty labor. In the public debate, these issues are often treated separately. Our study examines what happened to student debt and faculty labor at the 25 public universities with the highest executive pay (hereafter “the top 25”) from fall 2005 to summer 2012 (FY 2006 – FY 2012). Our findings suggest these issues are closely related and should be addressed together in the future.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, executive pay at “the top 25” (see Appendix 2) has risen dramatically to far exceed pre-crisis levels. From fall 2005 to fall 2011, low-wage faculty labor and student debt at these institutions rose faster than national averages. In short, a top-heavy, “1% recovery” occurred at major state universities across the country, largely at the expense of faculty and students.

Key Findings:

How Education Drives Inequality Among the 99%

Brenda Cronin:

Recent hand-wringing about income inequality has focused on the gap between the top 1% and everyone else. A new paper argues that the more telling inequities exist among the 99%, primarily driven by education.

“The single-minded focus on the top 1% can be counterproductive given that the changes to the other 99% have been more economically significant,” says David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and author of the study.
His paper, “Skills, Education and the Rise of Earnings Inequality Among the ‘Other 99 Percent’,” comes as something of riposte to French economist Thomas Piketty, whose bestselling “Capital in the 21st Century” has ignited sales and conversation around the world with its historical look at the fortunes of the top 1%.

What happened to the idea of the Great Society?

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson unveiled his vision of the “Great Society”. This would be one in which no child would go unfed and no youngster unschooled; a society in which the ancient evils of racism and injustice would be combated; a society, above all, in which the state would deliver justice and opportunity.

Most anniversaries pass unnoticed, and rightly so. But this one matters. The era of the Great Society was perhaps the last time Americans thought government could improve their lives. The 1964 election pitted Johnson against Barry Goldwater, an unapologetic advocate of a minimal state. Johnson won in a landslide.

The 1960s were also the heyday of the European welfare state, first outlined by Fabians such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb. Their ideas at first failed to take flight in America. But after the Great Depression and the collectivist success of the second world war, state planning was finally in fashion. Johnson’s Great Society was the Democrats’ version of the British Labour party’s New Jerusalem. Even the phrase, the “Great Society”, was stolen from a British Fabian, Graham Wallas.

Today US politics is in a stalemate and the “big government liberalism” of Johnson is in retreat. Ever since the 1970s, when the Great Society began to lose its “wars” on poverty, crime and inequality (and North Vietnam), American voters have embraced conservatives such as Ronald Reagan, who said government was the problem, not the solution; and Democrats such as Bill Clinton, who proclaimed the era of big government over. Only one in 10 Americans trusts politicians to do the right thing, compared with 60 per cent in Johnson’s time.

How Do We Teach Digital Literacy to Digital Natives?

CJ Kettler:

Is it possible for our students to be both digital natives and digitally unaware?

Young people today are instant messengers, gamers, photo sharers and supreme multitaskers. But while they use the technology tools available to them 24/7, they are struggling to sort fact from fiction, think critically, decipher cultural inferences, detect commercial intent and analyze social implications. All of which makes them extremely vulnerable to the overwhelming amount of information they have access to through the digital tools they use—and love!—so much.

In fact, teachers surveyed in a recent Pew Study say they worry about “students’ overdependence on search engines; the difficulty many students have judging the quality of online information; and the general level of literacy of today’s students.” In total, 83% of teachers surveyed agreed that the amount of information available to students online is overwhelming, and 60% agreed that today’s digital technologies make it harder for students to track down and use credible sources.

Five myths about Brown v. Board of Education

Imani Perry

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education opinion, the Supreme Court declared that state laws requiring segregation in public schools were unconstitutional. But change didn’t come easily, nor are schools all that integrated today. Sixty years after Brown, let’s examine some myths about the landmark court decision.

1. Brown v. Board of Education was only about school segregation.

It’s true that the case concerned segregation in public schools, but its impact went far beyond education. Brown overturned the 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson , which declared that segregated train cars did not violate the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment. While it wasn’t immediately clear, Brown would eventually dismantle segregation in all public facilities such as train cars, restaurants, department stores and more. The case emboldened civil rights protesters, who, for the first time in nearly 100 years of struggle and defeat, found the federal courts on their side.

Spinning the Idea of the University As We Know It

Susette Min:

On March 11, 2014, at around 5:30am, students installed three sets of banners about student debt around the UC Davis campus. Three hours later, one set of banners was taken down, and two hours after that, another set had disappeared. The students, eager to retrieve the banners they worked many hours to design and create, asked around, only to be answered with a wall of smoke and mirrors from an administration that in short can be described as a complicated, top-heavy structure of managers, marketers and messengers of all sorts. The students pressed their case, and the banners were found in the possession of Grounds and Landscaping Services. The removal of the banners was ordered after a complaint from someone in the Administration: why some, but not all of the banners were taken down remains a mystery.

The location and motivation for the installation of the banners were not a mystery. Part of an assignment for an art history course on curatorial methods that I teach at UC Davis, the banners were part of an exhibition on the student debt crisis. AHI 401 introduces students to exhibition-making. The course, in addition to provoking thought about how an exhibition functions as a space and relation, engages students’ interest in a growing and intellectually demanding field by challenging them to take the lead in producing and displaying not only objects but also visual information. The final assignment for the course is to curate an exhibition either at the Richard L. Nelson gallery or somewhere else on the UCD campus. This quarter, one group of students curated an exhibition, Art as Translation, that included prints and lithographs drawn from the University’s art collection.

The other group curated an exhibition on student debt, which required them to construct both the frame and its contents.

The primary stated aim of One University One Debt was to create awareness about the trillion dollar student debt crisis—what it means for students to be in debt and in default—in addition to serving as a platform that could complicate and invite discussion about and possible solutions to this growing crisis.

College is a promise the economy does not keep

Sarah Kendzior

In 2000, New York Times columnist David Brooks published a sociological study of the United States that now reads like science fiction. Bobos in Paradise chronicled how a new upper class of “Bobos” – bourgeois bohemians – struggled to navigate life’s dazzling options in a time of unparalleled prosperity. As presidential candidates Al Gore and George W Bush debated how to spend the projected $5trn government surplus, Brooks took on the micro crisis: How would baby boomers handle the psychic strain of making money at fulfilling jobs?

“This is the age of discretionary income,” Brooks declared, noting that liberal arts majors were “at top income brackets” and journalists made “six-figure salaries”. The WASP aristocracy that had long ruled the US had been replaced with a meritocracy based on hard work and creative prowess. Anyone could join – provided he or she had the right education.

Therein lay the hidden anxiety. According to Brooks, baby boomers had surmounted class and ethnic barriers through the accumulation of credentials. A degree from Harvard now carried more prestige – and provided more opportunity – than the bloodlines that had propelled the Protestant elite.

But the appeal of a college degree was also its fatal flaw: Anyone could get it. The formula could only work once. The same educational system that created new elites now threatened the prospects of their heirs.

“Members of the educated class can never be secure about their children’s future,” Brooks wrote. “Compared to past elites, little is guaranteed.”

He claimed the burden of maintaining success fell on the children themselves, who would have to “work through school” just like their parents.

As it turned out, there was another way.

Cronyism blamed for half of Univ. of Texas law school grads’ inability to pass the bar

David Ferguson:

A mushrooming scandal at the University of Texas has exposed rampant favoritism in the admissions process of its nationally-respected School of Law.

According to Watchdog.org, Democratic and Republican elected officials stand accused of calling in favors and using their clout to obtain admission to the law school for less-than-qualified but well-connected applicants.

US Spent $595,000,000,000 on K-12 Education in 2012, down .08% from 2012

Caroline Porter:

Funding for U.S. public elementary and secondary schools decreased by $4.9 billion in fiscal year 2012, the first recorded drop since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting the data in 1977, according to a report released by the bureau Thursday. Total funding of nearly $595 billion was down 0.8% from the previous year.

An approximate 19% downturn in federal dollars from the previous year—to about $60 billion in 2012 from about $74 billion in 2011—explains the shortfall for schools, according the Census Bureau. Revenue from state and local sources went slightly higher—about $270 billion and almost $265 billion respectively—in the same time frame.

Fiscal year 2012 represents roughly the same time period as the 2011-2012 school year.

The decrease in school funding reflects changes in revenue patterns during and after the recession, according to Mike Griffith, a school finance consultant for the Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan research group.

“What we saw was the phase out of the additional federal dollars in stimulus funding,” said Mr. Griffith. “Those dollars had helped prop up state budgets during the recession. We saw state budgets recuperate in 2011-2012 at same time as federal money was disappearing…but states hadn’t recovered enough to make up for the federal dollars lost, so overall funding dropped.”

The largest slice of 2012 spending was for instructional salaries, which totaled about $207 billion, or nearly 35% of total spending.

“Expenses grow every year,” said Mr. Griffith, referring in part to teacher salaries and benefits. “The decrease in revenue is a problem for school districts because they will have to make cuts.”

Student Debtors Slide Deeper into Peonage

Malcolm Harris:

On May 7, the federal government conducted its regularly scheduled auction of new Treasury bills, a monthly ritual in which investors compete to lend the state money. This, however, was no ordinary auction. Last year, after much debate, Congress tied federal student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note’s each year’s pre-June rate at auction, finally linking student and government borrowing costs.

The results of May’s auction have serious and possibly lifelong consequences for the students on the other end of this year’s 20 million government higher education loans. When all the paddles were down, the Treasury sold $24 billion in 10-year notes at a yield of 2.61 percent — good news for bond traders, bad news for student borrowers.

Last year, an unusually low Treasury yield of 1.81 percent pushed down student loan interest rates — which Congress retroactively included in the 2013 deal — to their lowest levels, but this year’s 0.8 percentage point increase directly affects the linked loans, pushing them back up. This 0.8 percentage point represents a 20 percent increase in the rate charged to undergraduate borrowers, boosting it from 3.9 to 4.7 percent. Six years after the government nationalized the student loan industry, when so many Americans are rightly worried about the escalating costs of higher education, why is the government raising the cost of borrowing money to go to college?

There were three main issues at play in the 2013 Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act: How to anchor the interest rates, how much add-on for each category (undergraduate, graduate and parent loans) and where (or if) to cap the rates. After a long game of chicken with other people’s children, Congress ended up attaching the interest rates to the 10-year Treasury notes, with 2.05, 3.60 and 4.60 percentage point markups and 8.25, 9.5 and 10.5 percent caps, respectively. The bill looked most like the proposals from Rep. John Kline, R-Texas, and Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., whose ideas weren’t that far off from President Barack Obama’s plan. Kline’s proposal (attached to 10-year rates, with 2.5, 2.5 and 4.5 point markups and 8.5, 8.5 and 10.5 percent caps) was found by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to generate more new revenue on the backs of students: $3.7 billion. That the final bill’s interest schedule was even harsher than Kline’s proposal points to how little daylight there is between the major parties on this issue.

University of California Bait and Switch Part Two

Bob Samuels:

In my last post, I discussed how UC was fulfilling its obligation to accept every eligible Californian student by admitting them to Merced instead of Berkeley and UCLA. I also pointed out that some campuses are cashing in on the new policy that allows schools to keep all of the tuition dollars they generate. The end result of this system is that some campuses have a huge incentive to accept a high number of non-resident and international students and reject a great number of students from California.

During recent meetings with state officials, I warned that we will see a backlash from Californian residents who feel that their deserving children are being shut out of an institution the parents have helped to support, and in fact, there has been a constant stream of editorials and letters voicing this concern. In one recent article, we are told the following: “As more California high school seniors fight for spaces at popular UC campuses, the universities have flung open their doors to students from other states and countries, more than tripling the ranks of out-of-state freshmen in the past five years. Freshmen from outside the Golden State now make up almost 30 percent of their class at UC Berkeley and UCLA, up from just over 10 percent four years earlier.”

When I presented these statistics to state officials, I was told that the implicit arrangement was that UC had to maintain its current number of in-state students even though the governor has removed enrollment targets from his recent budgets. However, recent statistics so that it is unclear if this deal is being upheld: “The UC system enrolled about 700 more California freshmen in 2013 than in 2009, a 2 percent increase, and nearly 5,000 more freshmen from other states and countries — a 273 percent increase. About 57 percent of the added spots went to international students, and 30 percent to students from other states, while about 12 percent went to Californians. UC Berkeley enrolled 800 fewer California freshmen this academic year than in 2009, but it accepted about 580 more from other states and about 500 more from other countries.” Although we still do not know about actual enrollments, it should be clear that UC has changed its admission priorities.

On Robert Birgeneau and free speech

Noah Kulwin:

The day after a November 9 “Day of Action” on which police arrested seven Occupy activists, the atmosphere was tense. A video of police armed with batons and riot gear beating students had gone viral. This prompted a now infamous press release from the administration, calling the actions of the student protesters (“linking arms and forming a human chain”) “not non-violent civil disobedience.”

The incident would later be rehashed on national news, The Colbert Report, and elsewhere. Former U.S. Poet Laureate and Berkeley professor Robert Hass wrote a moving op-ed for The New York Times. For more details on the whole saga, The Daily Californian has since put together a great post aggregating their coverage.

At the time of the November 9 protests, then-Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was traveling in Asia. He later claimed to be in “limited contact” with campus officials while the police were drawing their batons. The ACLU submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, and learned a couple months later that Birgeneau had in fact lied. Birgeneau “was told that campus police had used batons, and … he did not call for a more passive approach” in dealing with the protestors, the majority of whom were students.

Scathing report could shut UK Muslim school for promoting Salafi beliefs

Richard Adams:

Ofsted inspectors have harshly criticised an independent Muslim school for promoting Salafi fundamentalist beliefs and rated the school as inadequate, in a possible prelude to it being closed or taken over by the Department for Education.

In their unpublished draft report, the inspectors said the school – the Olive Tree primary school in Luton – fails to prepare its pupils “for life in modern Britain, as opposed to life in a Muslim state”, and that its library contains books that are “abhorrent to British society” in their depiction of punishments under sharia law.

“Some books in the children’s library contain fundamentalist Islamic beliefs (Salafi) or are set firmly within a Saudi Arabian socio-religious context. Some of the views promoted by these books, for example about stoning women, have no place in British society,” the report argues.

Congratulations, class of 2014: You’re totally screwed. College costs more and more, even as it gets objectively worse. Only people worse off than indebted grads: adjuncts

Thomas Frank:

Welcome to the wide world, Class of 2014. You have by now noticed the tremendous consignment of debt that the authorities at your college have spent the last four years loading on your shoulders. It may interest you to know that the average student-loan borrower among you is now $33,000 in debt, the largest of any graduating class ever. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, carrying that kind of debt will have certain predictable effects. It will impede your ability to accumulate wealth, for example. You will also borrow more for other things than people without debt, and naturally you will find your debt level growing, not shrinking, as the years pass.

As you probably know, neither your parents nor your grandparents were required to take on this kind of burden in order to go to college. Neither are the people of your own generation in France and Germany and Argentina and Mexico.

But in our country, as your commencement speaker will no doubt tell you, the universities are “excellent.” They are “world-class.” Indeed, they are all that stands between us and economic defeat by the savagely competitive peoples of Europe and Asia. So a word of thanks is in order, Class of 2014: By borrowing those colossal amounts and turning the proceeds over to the people who run our higher ed system, you have done your part to maintain American exceptionalism, to keep our competitive advantage alive.

Here’s a question I bet you won’t hear broached on the commencement stage: Why must college be so expensive? The obvious answer, which I’m sure has been suggested to you a thousand times, is because college is so good. A 2014 Cadillac costs more than did a 1980 Cadillac, adjusting for inflation, because it is a better car. And because you paid attention in economics class, you know the same thing must be true of education. When tuition goes up and up every year, far outpacing inflation, this indicates that the quality of education in this country is also, constantly, going up and up. You know that the only way education can cost more is if it is worth more.

Why do people persist in believing things that just aren’t true

Maria Konnikova:

Last month, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth, published the results of a study that he and a team of pediatricians and political scientists had been working on for three years. They had followed a group of almost two thousand parents, all of whom had at least one child under the age of seventeen, to test a simple relationship: Could various pro-vaccination campaigns change parental attitudes toward vaccines? Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked. The first leaflet—focussed on a lack of evidence connecting vaccines and autism—seemed to reduce misperceptions about the link, but it did nothing to affect intentions to vaccinate. It even decreased intent among parents who held the most negative attitudes toward vaccines, a phenomenon known as the backfire effect. The other two interventions fared even worse: the images of sick children increased the belief that vaccines cause autism, while the dramatic narrative somehow managed to increase beliefs about the dangers of vaccines. “It’s depressing,” Nyhan said. “We were definitely depressed,” he repeated, after a pause.

Race, Disability and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Julianne Hing:

Editor’s note: Our series “Life Cycles of Inequity” explores the ways in which inequity impacts the lives of black men. Each month, we focus on a life stage or event in which that impact has been shown to be particularly profound. This article is part of a package focused on implicit bias in schools.

Enikia Ford-Morthel speaks of Amo (a pseudonym) with the fondness of an auntie talking about a beloved nephew. She recalls watching Amo at his fifth-grade graduation from Cox Academy in Oakland two years ago. The memory of him walking across the stage still fills her with emotion. “He looked so cute in his little white suit, with his jewelry on,” Ford-Morthel says of his graduation. “I just cried.”

Ford-Morthel and Amo are not actually each other’s family. Ford-Morthel was Amo’s principal at Cox Academy, a charter school in a particularly rough section of East Oakland. Nor did they always share such closeness. Amo, an African-American boy, arrived at Cox as a fourth-grade terror. “He was hell on wheels,” Ford-Morthel says of those early days. On his very first day Amo was in class for just 10 minutes before he got sent to Ford-Morthel’s office for starting some kind of trouble, and for the month after that he was never in class for longer than half an hour before he started swearing at his teacher or otherwise interrupting instruction.

He was headed for the discipline track, Ford-Morthel says, and even as a fourth grader, he would easily have been suspended for his behavior in many other schools. “But we sat with him and we had to figure out how to learn him,” she says. It turned out that Amo’s parents had split up and his dad had a new girlfriend with whom Amo’s mom didn’t get along. “Most of his experience with adults was them not working together, so he didn’t respect very many adults,” Ford-Morthel says. “He had huge trust issues, and his academics were horrible—which of course they were, because he was never in class.”

Empty classrooms expose flaws in UK private colleges boom

Shiv Malik, Andrew McGettigan and John Domokos:

A private college in north London is offering government-funded places to people who “blatantly” don’t have the skills, recruiting candidates off the street and from countries in eastern Europe – and in at least one case lecturing to a class with no students.

So serious are the problems that the London School of Science and Technology (LSST) in Wembley has been called the “cashpoint college” or “the ATM” by students who believe they can obtain loans and grants of up to £11,000 a year and then not show up to learn.

The higher education institution has taken £6.5m in public money in the last three years, and has tripled in size since ministers relaxed controls over student loans in 2012. Even if these full-time students take out the loans and do no work, LSST benefits from the increased numbers paying £6,000 a year in tuition fees.

The chaotic organisation of LSST demonstrates serious flaws in the planned expansion of privately run higher education colleges that was unveiled by David Willetts, the higher education minister, in 2011. Little-known private colleges were allowed to recruit unlimited amounts of students so they could compete with established universities.

Taxing a Professor’s Privilege

Megan McArdle:

I’ve been reading Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” You’ll have to wait on my thoughts on the book until they’re a bit more fully formed. As I’ve been reading, though, I keep returning to a question I heard at an economics conference a couple of months back: If we did implement a wealth tax, should it tax tenure?

Professorial tenure is, after all, a valuable asset. As long as you show up and teach your classes, and you don’t make passes at your students or steal from the department’s petty cash drawer, you can draw a paycheck for the rest of your working life. And since the abolition of mandatory retirement ages, that working life can be as long as you like.

Ah, you will say, there are risks: Your school could go out of business, or you might get ill and be unable to work, or inflation could eat away at the value of that paycheck. Just so. All assets are risky. That doesn’t make them worthless; it just means that the price has to take the potential downsides into account.

Why single out professors? you ask. Isn’t this just more academic-bashing? You’re quite right: We shouldn’t single out professors. Everyone with civil-service protections or similar employment guarantees should probably have that asset taxed.

“We don’t have too many seats for students but too many seats for administrators.”

Ry Rivard:

To avoid enrollment shortfalls heading into the summer, some tuition-dependent private colleges are changing how they package financial aid for students.

Some colleges are offering more aid upfront to try to avoid shortfalls altogether. Others adjusted swaths of aid packages as it became clear they were unlikely to enroll as many students as they had planned by May 1, the traditional but decreasingly relevant decision day for students going to selective colleges.

Even colleges that have successfully met their enrollment goals are worried about poaching by others still looking to meet their goals, and are beginning to offer more tuition discounts to lure students.

All are signs of the continued challenges faced especially by tuition-dependent and smaller private colleges, some of which remain under the weather for a variety of reasons, including the rebound of public university budget and the wariness of some students to graduate with liberal arts degrees that don’t seem to offer a clear career path.

How Academia and Publishing are Destroying Scientific Innovation: A Conversation with Sydney Brenner

Elizabeth Dzeng:

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Professor Sydney Brenner, a professor of Genetic medicine at the University of Cambridge and Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. My original intention was to ask him about Professor Frederick Sanger, the two-time Nobel Prize winner famous for his discovery of the structure of proteins and his development of DNA sequencing methods, who passed away in November. I wanted to do the classic tribute by exploring his scientific contributions and getting a first hand account of what it was like to work with him at Cambridge’s Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Laboratory for Molecular Biology (LMB) and at King’s College where they were both fellows. What transpired instead was a fascinating account of the LMB’s quest to unlock the genetic code and a critical commentary on why our current scientific research environment makes this kind of breakthrough unlikely today.

It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of Professor Brenner and his colleagues’ contributions to biology. Brenner won the Nobel Prize for establishing Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of roundworm, as the model organism for cellular and developmental biological research, which led to discoveries in organ development and programmed cell death. He made his breakthroughs at the LMB, where beginning in the 1950s, an extraordinary number of successive innovations elucidated our understanding of the genetic code. This code is the process by which cells in our body translate information stored in our DNA into proteins, vital molecules important to the structure and functioning of cells. It was here that James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double-helical structure of DNA. Brenner was one of the first scientists to see this ground-breaking model, driving from Oxford, where he was working at the time in the Department of Chemistry, to Cambridge to witness this breakthrough. This young group of scientists, considered renegades at the time, made a series of successive revolutionary discoveries that ultimately led to the creation of a new field called molecular biology.

To begin our interview, I asked Professor Brenner to speak about Professor Sanger and what led him to his Nobel Prize winning discoveries.

Madison School District proposes using screening test to predict teachers’ impact on student success

Molly Beck:

The Madison School Board is considering spending $273,000 on a screening program its creators say can better predict whether prospective teachers will improve student achievement.

The proposed three-year contract with Chicago-based TeacherMatch would provide the district with a system to track and recruit applicants, ask teacher candidates a timed series of questions and assign each applicant a professional development profile to show principals or human resources staff what kind of help applicants may need once hired based on their answers, said Ron Huberman, executive chairman of TeacherMatch.

One board member is concerned that the program puts too much emphasis on the impact candidates may have on student test scores and that the public won’t be able to scrutinize how the screening program judges prospective teachers. And the leader of the local teachers union says computer-based screening tools don’t work as well as personal interviews.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Jersey pension system beyond saving at any reasonable cost

Steve Malanga:

For three years now PSI has been warning (see here and here ) that New Jersey had neglected its government employee pension system for so long that the state’s 2010 and 2011 reforms were inadequate to save the system. At some point we said (numerous times) the state would have to admit it could not possibly keep to the refunding schedule it had set for itself.

Yesterday Gov. Christie declared as much when he announced he would help erase the state’s current budget deficit by paring back its pension contributions. But even the payments that Christie announced he couldn’t afford to make amount to about half of what it would cost the state every year to adequately fund its pension system. The numbers, quite frankly, are staggering.

Christie said he would make a nearly $700 million pension payment this year, instead of the $1.6 billion the state originally committed to, and he’s planning to cut next year’s payment to $681 million, from a projected $2.25 billion. The lower figures are what the state estimates it costs to pay for pension benefits that state workers are earning this year; the additional costs are to pay back what Christie describes as the sins of past neglect.

Here Is What I Would Tell the Rutgers Graduating Class of 2014…

PJ O’Rourke

I hear Condoleezza Rice stood you up. You may think it was because about 50 students—.09 percent of your student body—held a “sit-in” at the university president’s office to protest the selection of Secretary Rice as commencement speaker. You may think it was because a few of your faculty—stale flakes from the crust of the turkey pot pie that was the New Left—threatened a “teach-in” to protest the selection of Secretary Rice.

“Sit-in”? “Teach-in”? What century is this?

I think Secretary Rice forgot she had a yoga session scheduled for today.

It’s shame she was busy. You might have heard something useful from a person who grew up poor in Jim Crow Alabama. Who lost a friend and playmate in 1963 when white supremacists bombed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Who became an accomplished concert pianist before she tuned her ear to the more dissonant chords of international relations.

Secretary Rice was Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Denver and received a B.A. cum laude in political science—back before the worst grade a student had ever heard of was a B-.

6 Disturbing Things I Learned Writing Your Textbooks

J.F. Sargent, T.K. Pennywhistle:

Academic textbooks are wildly overpriced. We can pretty much all agree on that. If you’ve ever spent rent money on the required reading materials for your class on the socioeconomic impact of ALF, you know the pain of which I speak. But what most of you probably never imagined is how misinformed, lazy, and opportunist many textbook companies are. I’ve written textbooks for two years. I’ve covered every subject, and I’m here to tell you that …

#6. The Writers Are Unqualified and Probably Have No Interest in the Topic

Ahh, academia — the land of rigorous research standards and carefully thought-out conclusions. Surely this is where our knowledge comes from, handed down on high from those who have spent countless hours with their noses buried in books instead of coke and the genitals of strippers, and who have thus achieved the highest academic accolades. Right?

What HBO Can Teach Colleges About ‘Trigger Warnings’

Conor Friedersdorf:

Collegians all over the country are calling for “trigger warnings,” or “explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them,” the N.Y. Times reports. The wisest activists favor narrowly drawn alerts intended to spare veterans and sexual assault victims from post-traumatic stress. Others want students warned about any content that might stoke anxiety or trauma. Critics of the “trigger warning” movement include academics who worry that requiring alerts in the classroom would chill speech and erode academic freedom. Others argue that the alerts are condescending, showy, or useless.

Strange as it may seem, reflecting on The Sopranos can help us here. The HBO series was as graphically violent as you’d expect of a mob drama: arms and legs are broken to extort protection money; gamblers who can’t cover debts are brutally pummeled; a couple seasons in, I’d seen aggravated assaults, extreme domestic abuse, and more murderous gunshots to heads, chests, and guts than I can recall. Hence my surprise that Season 3, episode four was preceded by a warning I’d never seen. HBO uses standard Pay TV Content Descriptors. I’d been tipped off countless times about “adult content” and “graphic violence.” What I hadn’t known till just prior to that episode is that there’s a special designation for rape:

The Class of 2014 Just Made History in the Worst Imaginable Way

Zak Cheney-Rice:

The news: Congratulations, class of 2014!

Not for graduating — though that’s nice, too — but for earning one of the more dubious distinctions in recent memory: You’ve officially been named “the most indebted class ever.”

According to the Wall Street Journal and data compiled by analyst Mark Kantrowitz, the average loan-holding 2014 college graduate will have to pay back $33,000. That’s up from around $31,000 in 2013 and under $10,000 in 1993:

Digital education could make Americans more competitive, close achievement gap

Sarah Garland:

To technology advocates, these are visions of how technology could transform U.S. classrooms. With a desktop or portable computer, a tablet or even a smartphone available to every student and every teacher, the idea is that school will be better tailored to students’ needs and also better able to prepare them for the sorts of high-skilled, technology-centric jobs that will dominate in the future. It could even help close the achievement gap for disadvantaged students.

“If a teacher has class of 30 students and they don’t have technology, the very best teachers are bouncing from student to student,” said Karen Cator, president of Digital Promise, a nonprofit working with individual school systems that are going high tech. “When students have technology they can be helping themselves in some sense, and the teacher can come in when they’re most needed.”

Fresh Thinking On Public Education: 100 SF School Principals Heading To Deloitte University For Leadership Boost

Tom Foremski

Deloitte, the giant audit and consulting group, is planning to send as many as 100 principals of San Francisco public schools to its Deloitte University in early June, for a three-day leadership program in a bid to help struggling public schools create a generation of highly motivated and college-bound students.

I spoke with Teresa Briggs, vice chair of Deloitte and head of its Western Region, about the venture and what it hopes to achieve. Here are some notes from our conversation:

– Deloitte wanted to help public schools create a college-bound culture as part of its philanthropic activities in giving back to communities. There are studies that show student performance is influenced and connected to the leadership abilities of school principals. Deloitte knew that its leadership courses were very effective for business leaders, why not offer the same to public school principals.

Indicting Education Crimes

Michelle Renee Matisons. & Seth Sandronsky:

You act like we’re in a state of martial law. You act like you deployed the army on us…

–Natasha Allen, mother of a Newark high school junior, to Newark School Superintendent Cami Anderson

It is exciting, and rare, to see politicians who really represent people triumph over corporate sponsored sycophants who only represent their backers’ bank accounts. Democrat Ras Baraka’s May 13, 2014 mayoral victory over Democrat Shavar Jeffries in Newark, New Jersey is especially important because one major issue emerged to dominate the election: local control over public education. While corporate education reformers unabashedly push their anti-democratic agenda nationally, Baraka’s victory is a reminder that participatory democratic values and common sense principles (such as local control and economic justice) can win over education reformers’ criminal activities.

As Newark voters just reminded us, educational sovereignty is not an abstraction–but a concrete necessity. Parents know when their children are being denied, neglected, and abused. Teachers know when they are being used and discarded: their jobs are reduced to rote mouthpieces for profiteering edu-speak. Children feel their futures being stolen from them. They feel more alienated from schools, teachers, lesson plans, and standardized tests. Baraka’s victory is about creating the educational climate–supported by larger goals of racial/ economic justice–that are required for thriving students.

The Teacher Evaluation Test

Mike Antonucci

A lot of arguments in public education revolve around how to marry the measurable and the unmeasurable. Teachers have seniority provisions in their contracts – a measurable factor – because they don’t trust administrators to use unmeasurable and subjective means to evaluate them.

On the other hand, teachers also distrust a host of measurable factors that might be used to evaluate them, most notably student test scores.

They have a point. No one wants to be judged on the performance of others. Still, they’re not teaching in a vacuum. If quality teaching doesn’t result in quality learning, what good is it?

The problem for teachers’ unions is to enunciate a viable means to evaluate teaching that doesn’t sound like a dodge. Ted Nesi, a political reporter for WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island, interviewed the three candidates for president of the Providence Teachers Union and asked them the same simple question: “ Should teacher evaluations be tied to student performance? If no, how would you like to measure a teacher’s success? ”

All three had serious reservations – to varying degrees – about judging teachers on student performance. But it was the second question that elicited the most illuminating answers.

Chile President Sends Education Reform to Congress

Luis Andres Hernando:

The bill heading to Congress on Tuesday would cut subsidies to for-profit schools and forbid government-backed primary schools and kindergartens from rejecting students on the basis of tests or interviews.

Funds now used for the subsidies would go instead to lower or eliminate the fees that parents pay at other institutions.

Still to come is a proposal that would make university education free in Chile. That measure is to be sent to Congress later this year.

Many teachers face a retirement savings penalty when leaving the profession

Andy Rotherham & Chad Aldeman:

Americans are struggling to save for retirement at a time of still-high unemployment rates, rising college costs and stagnant wages. For many workers, individual circumstances lead to inadequate savings. But for public school teachers, poorly structured retirement policies hinder their future security.

At more than 3 million, teachers are the largest class of U.S. workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Unfortunately, policymakers are undermining the future retirement security of this large and important group of workers. In our recent paper, “Friends Without Benefits: How States Systematically Shortchange Teachers’ Retirement and Threaten Their Retirement Security,” we used pension-plan assumptions for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to estimate that, in the median state, more than half of all teachers won’t qualify for even a minimal pension. Fewer than one in five teachers will work a full career and reach the pension plan’s “normal retirement age.” Most will leave their public service with little retirement savings.

This story doesn’t fit with the popular perception of teacher pensions as more generous than private-sector retirement benefits. That’s because the real story of teacher pensions today involves a small number of relatively big winners and a much larger group of losers.

A Math App That Offers an Unusual Human Touch

Kenneth Chang:

Tabtor is an expensive iPad math-teaching app for kindergartners through sixth graders. Although free to download and try for two weeks, thereafter it costs $50 a month per child.

At first glance, Tabtor — the name is “tablet tutor” mashed together — does not look particularly different from the hundreds of other math offerings in Apple’s app store and the gazillion math-drill software programs on personal computers.

For each problem, there is space on the touch screen to scribble calculations with a finger or a stylus before punching in the answer on an on-screen keypad. A green check mark and a pleasing clanging sword sound greet a correct answer; a wrong one gets a red “X” and a less pleasing clang. There is a second chance to get the problem right.

So what does the $50 a month buy? Unlike any other math teaching app I’ve encountered, it comes with a human being.

Review of the First Three Johns Hopkins Coursera Data Science Courses

Jeff Heaton:

I am currently working towards the Johns Hopkins Data Science Specialization at Coursera. I am now complete with the first three courses. I posted my initial, and very positive, impressions when I was about half-way through the first four-week block. My impressions are still very favorable at completion. Now that the course is complete, I can post my complete thoughts for the first three courses.

There are a total of nine courses, and a capstone. After completing all 10 requirements you earn the “specialization”. After you complete a course you are given an “online certificate”. You can link this to your Linked In page, or other social media. You can see my first three certificates here.

Big bucks: Up to $80m for technology upgrades and free computers for kids in Santa Fe

Rob Nikolewski:

As a result, the Santa Fe school board recently passed a $55 million Digital Learning Plan that promises to integrate technology for students and teachers, upgrade computer infrastructure and eventually give personal computers to each of the 14,000 students in the district.

Just two years ago, Santa Fe voters approved a bond to provide $12.7 million per year for six years to fund construction and technological enhancements. That comes to $76.2 million. Included in that amount was $2.4 million to buy Apple computers and technology for students in the summer of 2012.

Carl Gruenler, the SFPS chief business officer, told New Mexico Watchdog the majority of the $76.2 million is going to building maintenance, and “approximately 25-33 percent has been spent for technology infrastructure and equipment since 2012.?

So what happened to the $2.4 million for Apple computers?

Report: Achievement gaps smaller among Florida charter school students

Travis Pillow:

Achievement gaps are smaller for Florida’s charter school students than for their peers in traditional public schools, according to the state Department of Education’s latest state-mandated report comparing their student achievement.

Like previous years’ reports, the latest results show charter schools outperforming their district-run counterparts on a range of measures, scoring higher and making larger gains in most of the department’s comparisons. Of the 177 comparisons in the report, more than 150 gave charter schools an edge.
But the report shows school districts gaining ground in some areas. For example, unlike in previous years, traditional public schools matched the learning gains charter schools achieved in math for the student population as a whole.

Why can’t we solve poverty, or solve it through schools?

Jake Seliger:

I’m not that old, and I’ve already seen a lot of proposals for solving “poverty” come and go. Many—think Head Start—are tied up in education. The current debate around education tends to run in two directions: one group wants to improve parenting, or ameliorate poverty, or something along those lines, having seen innumerable correlative studies demonstrating that rich kids on average do better than poor kids at school. The other group—the one I belong to—tends to think that we could do a lot for schools, and especially big urban schools, through some combination of charters, vouchers, and/or weakening the power of teachers’s unions. For more on why the latter group thinks as we do, see the many links in this post.

This has a lot to do with education because, as I noted in the first paragraph, people who are relatively okay with the educational status quo tend to want to address things outside of school first. Diane Ravitch is a great leader for this group. I’ve read two of Ravitch’s books on education—Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education—and to read her work is to respect her knowledge and erudition. She moved from a strong educational reformer who favored charter schools to someone who… I don’t know how to characterize her current position other than to say she doesn’t favor charters or vouchers. She does observe the many ways particular charter schools haven’t done very well, but in my view they haven’t been worse than the urban schools they competed with, and some have done much better.

Overall, Ravitch wants to reduce poverty, but as noted above I’m skeptical of social or government forces to do so. In Reign of Error, her most recent book—I’m not all the way through it—she says that public schools are better than they’re commonly depicted. She’s somewhat right: relatively wealthy suburban schools are okay. But that pretty much leaves urban schools (L.A., Chicago, New York, Newark) to languish, and those are the areas and schools that are most promising for vouchers.

The final thing I’ll note is that a lot of people favor “more” money for schools. Overall, inflation-adjusted funding has roughly doubled on a per-pupil basis, per the New Yorker article, and overall funding is quite high—including in screwed up districts like Washington D.C.’s. The Great Stagnation also discusses this dynamic. So while “more” money for school districts may or may not be a good thing, it’s apparent that more money does not automatically lead to better results.

A Mississippi School Striving for Excellence

Deborah Fallows:

One warm and misty May morning in Columbus, Mississippi, the lobby of the classroom building at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) (more) was full of teen-agers milling about, waiting for morning classes to begin.

In one corner of the glassy space was a grandfather clock, probably about 8 feet tall, constructed by one of the students out of brightly colored plastic pieces. (Right.) On the hour, a little white ball would roll down a chute, tripping levers to ring a small chime. Upstairs in one of the science rooms was a 3-D printer, a rough-and-ready contraption that, with a little more luck, is approaching the final stages of actually printing something. Another of the students, a senior, had made it himself. I recognized several other students whom I had seen performing in an after-school stage production, one dressed as Eco-Man in blue and green tights, cape, and mask.

MSMS is a public boarding school in Columbus, occupying a few of the more modest buildings on the grounds of the elegant Mississippi University for Women, is called “The W”. The men who have enrolled at The W since it became co-ed, say they always have a time explaining themselves to those not in the know.

What ‘Hard Work U’ Can Teach Elite Schools

Stephen Moore:

Looking for the biggest bargain in higher education? I think I found it in this rural Missouri town, 40 miles south of Springfield, nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The school is College of the Ozarks, and it operates on an education model that could overturn the perverse method of financing college education that is turning this generation of young adults into a permanent debtor class.

At this college the tuition is nowhere near the $150,000 to $200,000 for a four-year degree that the elite top-tier universities are charging. At College of the Ozarks, tuition is free. That’s right. The school’s nearly 1,400 students don’t pay a dime in tuition during their time there.

So what’s the catch? All the college’s students—without exception—pay for their education by working 15 hours a week on campus. The jobs are plentiful because this school—just a few miles from Branson, a popular tourist destination—operates its own mill, a power plant, fire station, four-star restaurant and lodge, museum and dairy farm.

Some students from low-income homes also spend 12 weeks of summer on campus working to cover their room and board. Part of the students’ grade point average is determined by how they do on the job and those who shirk their work duties are tossed out. The jobs range from campus security to cooking and cleaning hotel rooms, tending the hundreds of cattle, building new dorms and buildings, to operating the power plant.

Spot on. Related: Financial Aid Leveraging (or, leveraging students).

Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities with Highest Paid Administrators

Tamar Lewin:

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

New Jersey Per Student $pending up 5% in the past year, Average is $18,891!

Laura Waters:

“New Jersey schools spent an average of $18,891 to educate each student last year, an increase of $866, or almost 5 percent, from 2012,” says the Star Ledger, according to the State’s annual “Taxpayer’s Guide to Education Spending.” On average, costs are up 5% from last year. The highest cost per pupil district is Avalon School District at $43,775 per student and the lowest spending district is Rockaway Borough at $12,587 per student. Also see coverage from The Record, The Press of Atlantic City, and NJ Spotlight.

Children of parents in technical jobs at higher risk for autism

Deborah Mann Lakr:

Children of fathers who are in technical occupations are more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

The findings will be presented Friday at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Atlanta.

During participation in the LoneStar LEND program, first author Aisha S. Dickerson, Ph.D., a researcher at UTHealth’s Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, used the United States government’s Standard Occupational Classification system. Parents were divided into those who had more non-people-oriented jobs (technical) or more people-oriented jobs (non-technical).

Fathers who worked in engineering were two times as likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those who worked in finance were four times more likely and those who worked in health care occupations were six times more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum.

On Education Reform: Spending & Structure

Paul Campos:

The law school reform movement gets a boost from an unexpected source:

It is no mystery what has prompted the current calls for a two-year law degree. It is, quite simply, the constantly increasing cost of legal education . . . If I may advert to my own experience at Harvard, once again: In the year I graduated, tuition at Harvard was $1,000. To describe developments since then, in the words of a recent article:

Over the past 60 years, tuition at Harvard Law School has increased ten-fold in constant, inflation-adjusted dollars. In the early 1950s, a year’s tuition at the school cost approximately $5,100 in 2011 dollars. Over the next two decades this figure more than doubled, so that by 1971 tuition was $11,664 in 2011 dollars. Tuition grew at a (relatively) modest pace over the course of the 1970s, so that by 1981 it was $14,476 in 2011 dollars. Then it climbed rapidly again, rising to $25,698 in 1991, $34,484 in 2001, and nearly $50,000 in 2011, again all in constant dollars.

What’s Your Major? 4 Decades Of College Degrees, In 1 Graph

Quictrung Bui:

In honor of college graduation season, we made a graph. It answers a few questions we had: What is the mix of bachelor’s degrees awarded today, and how has the mix changed over the past several decades?

A few notes:

The persistence of business. Business majors, which include accounting, marketing, operations and real estate, grew even more popular over the past several decades. One in 5 college grads now gets a degree in the field.

The decline of the education major. The education degree saw a dramatic decline, falling from 21 percent of all graduates in 1970 to just 6 percent in 2011. Does this mean there’s a huge shortage of teachers? Not necessarily — it just means that far fewer students who go on to be teachers actually graduate with an education degree. According to the Department of Education, as recently as 1999 roughly two-thirds of new teachers graduated with an undergraduate degree in education. By 2009, that figure fell to just half.

Student Perspectives on Race and Education in Tuscaloosa

Amanda Zamora:

“Skin color doesn’t define your intelligence.”

“I am not what society thinks.”

“Looking forward, not to the past.”

These are just a few of the six-word essays written by high school students in Tuscaloosa, Ala., when asked to describe their perspectives on race and education in America today.

The essays are all the more poignant when paired with photographs by the same students documenting everyday life at two schools on very different sides of the resegregation equation. Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawed official segregation, nearly one in three black students in Tuscaloosa now attends a school more reminiscent of the Jim Crow South.

When my colleague Nikole Hannah-Jones set out to report the story of the dismantling of court orders, closed-room deals and school district decisions that paved the way for resegregation in Tuscaloosa, she knew some of the most important voices would be from students living the consequences of those decisions. So we hatched a plan to enlist them in telling their own stories. As the engagement editor at ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative newsroom, my job is to help build an audience for our work and get the community to participate in our journalism. We wanted the students’ stories to be a vital part of this story from the start.

Intervention with low achieving students: who gets to graduate?

Paul Tough:

For as long as she could remember, Vanessa Brewer had her mind set on going to college. The image of herself as a college student appealed to her — independent, intelligent, a young woman full of potential — but it was more than that; it was a chance to rewrite the ending to a family story that went off track 18 years earlier, when Vanessa’s mother, then a high-achieving high-school senior in a small town in Arkansas, became pregnant with Vanessa.

Vanessa’s mom did better than most teenage mothers. She married her high-school boyfriend, and when Vanessa was 9, they moved to Mesquite, a working-class suburb of Dallas, where she worked for a mortgage company. Vanessa’s parents divorced when she was 12, and money was always tight, but they raised her and her younger brother to believe they could accomplish anything. Like her mother, Vanessa shone in school, and as she grew up, her parents and her grandparents would often tell her that she would be the one to reach the prize that had slipped away from her mother: a four-year college degree.

There were plenty of decent colleges in and around Dallas that Vanessa could have chosen, but she made up her mind back in middle school that she wanted to attend the University of Texas at Austin, the most prestigious public university in the state. By the time she was in high school, she had it all planned out: She would make her way through the nursing program at U.T., then get a master’s in anesthesiology, then move back to Dallas, get a good job at a hospital, then help out her parents and start her own family. In her head, she saw it like a checklist, and in March 2013, when she received her acceptance letter from U.T., it felt as if she were checking off the first item.

Five months later, Vanessa’s parents dropped her off at her dorm in Austin. She was nervous, a little intimidated by the size of the place, but she was also confident that she was finally where she was meant to be. People had warned her that U.T. was hard. “But I thought: Oh, I got this far,” Vanessa told me. “I’m smart. I’ll be fine.”

Thousands of Toddlers Are Medicated for A.D.H.D., Report Finds, Raising Worries

Alan Schwarz:

ATLANTA — More than 10,000 American toddlers 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outside established pediatric guidelines, according to data presented on Friday by an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which found that toddlers covered by Medicaid are particularly prone to be put on medication such as Ritalin and Adderall, is among the first efforts to gauge the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. in children below age 4. Doctors at the Georgia Mental Health Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta, where the data was presented, as well as several outside experts strongly criticized the use of medication in so many children that young.

Reflections on the Future of the Legal Academy: Increased Faculty Workload & Less Pay

The Honorable Antonin Scalia: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States:

What I want to discuss with you briefly—and I promise to be brief—is whether (to be blunt about it) you have essentially wasted one of your three years here, and could have done the job in two.

It is a current proposal for reform that law students should be permitted to sit for the bar exam and otherwise be eligible to practice law after only two years of study. To be sure, this is not a new idea. In New York, for example, between 1882 and 1911, college graduates needed to complete only two years of law school to sit for the New York bar; only non-graduates had to do the extra year.1 But then, in 1911, the New York Court of Appeals changed the rule to three years—which remains the rule today in almost all jurisdictions. But, now and again, it has been a source of controversy. In the 1970s prominent educators from President Derek C. Bok of Harvard University to President Edward H. Levi of the University of Chicago said publicly that switching to two years was at least worth a try.2 Then in 1999 Judge Richard Posner embraced the idea.3 As did the President of the United States just last year, saying that third-year students would be “better off clerking or practicing in a firm.”4 Finally, joining the chorus—and this was a surprise, at least to me—was the American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, which suggested in January of this year that “bar admitting authorities could create paths to licensure with fewer hours than the [current] Standards require by devices such as: (1) accepting applicants who . . . have fewer hours of law-school training than the Standards require; or (2) accepting applicants with two-years of law school credits plus a year of carefully-structured skills-based experience, inside a law school or elsewhere.”5

I vigorously dissent. It seems to me that the law-school-in-two-years proposal rests on the premise that law school is—or ought to be—a trade school. It is not that. It is a school preparing men and women not for a trade but for a profession—- the profession of law. One can practice various aspects of law without knowing much about the whole field. I expect that someone could be taught to be an expert real- estate conveyancer in six weeks, or a tax advisor in six months. And maybe we should train such people—but we should not call them lawyers. Just as someone might become expert in hand surgery without knowing much about the rest of the human body, so also one can become expert in various segments of the law without knowing much about the rest. We should call the former a hand surgeon rather than a doctor; and the latter a real-estate conveyancer, or H&R Block—but not a lawyer. Those of you who have walked the streets of Paris may have noticed (as I have) signs here and there—“Jurisconsult,” for example—advertising the services of people who give legal advice but are not avocats (lawyers). I am not even sure whether one must pass an exam or have any special training to work in such a capacity.

Education Automation, Freeing the Scholar to Return to His Studies

Forward by Charles Tenney:

My feeling about today’s meeting with you is first, that it is a tremendous privilege as a human being to stand with other human beings who are concerned fundamentally and deeply, as you are, with the process and further implementation of education and to be allowed to disclose to you what I think I have discovered regarding education’s trending evolutionary needs. I am quite confident that the Southern Illinois University’s new Edwardsville Campus studies are uniquely important.

Because President Morris has mentioned it in his introduction of me to this meeting, let me begin with some of my own student experiences at Harvard, for what I have to offer to you today springs from my several educational experiences. I am a New Englander, and I entered Harvard immaturely. I was too puerilely in love with a special, romantic, mythical Harvard of my own conjuring‹an Olympian world of super athletes and alluring, grown-up, worldly heroes. I was the fifth generation of a direct line of fathers and their sons attending Harvard College. I arrived there in 1913 before World War I and found myself primarily involved in phases of Harvard that were completely irrelevant to Harvard’s educational system. For instance, because I had been quarterback on a preparatory school team whose quarterbacks before me had frequently become quarterbacks of the Harvard football team, I had hoped that I too might follow that precedent, but I broke my knee, and that ambition was frustrated. Just before entering college I was painfully jilted in my first schoolboy into-love-falling. Though I had entered Harvard with honor grades I obtained only “good” to “passing” marks in my college work, which I adolescently looked upon as a chore done only to earn the right to live in the Harvard community. But above all, I was confronted with social problems of clubs and so forth. The Harvard clubs played a role in those days very different from today. The problems they generated were solved by the great House system that was inaugurated after World War I. My father died when I was quite young, and though my family was relatively poor I had come to Harvard from a preparatory school for quite well-to-do families. I soon saw that I wasn’t going to be included in the clubs as I might have been if I had been very wealthy or had a father looking out for me, for much of the clubs’ membership was prearranged by the clubs’ graduate committees. I was shockingly surprised by the looming situation. I hadn’t anticipated these social developments. I suddenly saw a class system existing in Harvard of which I had never dreamed. I was not aware up to that moment that there was a social class system and that there were different grades of citizens. My thoughts had been idealistically democratic. Some people had good luck and others bad, but not because they were not equal. I considered myself about to be ostracized or compassionately tolerated by the boys I had grown up with. I felt that my social degradation would bring disgrace to my family. If I had gone to another college where I knew no one, it would not have mattered at all to me whether or not I was taken into some society. It was being dropped by all those who had been my friends that hurt, even though I knew that they had almost nothing to do with the selecting. I became panicky about that disintegration of my idealistic Harvard world, went on a pretended “lark,” cut classes, and was “fired.”

Are affirmative action preferences “worse” than other sorts of admissions preferences?

David Bernstein:

My article on the Schuette case was written before the Supreme Court decided the case, but it will still be useful to those interested in the constitutional and policy debate over affirmative action preferences. Careful readers will note that some of my criticisms of the Sixth Circuit decision also apply to Justice Sotomayor’s dissent. Here’s the abstract:

The question presented to the Supreme Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is, “Whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause by amending its constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions.” Given that the Supreme Court barely tolerates affirmative action preferences, it is exceedingly unlikely to endorse a lower court ruling that overturns a state ban on them.Nevertheless, it is worth examining the reasoning of the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Schuette, because it exemplifies many interesting nuances regarding the debate over the constitutionality of affirmative action preferences, nuances that were mostly ignored in the dissenting opinions. Judge Cole’s opinion demonstrates (1) that despite decades of jurisprudence permitting state university affirmative action preferences only if used for “diversity” purposes, its legal advocates, including federal judges, still act under the assumption that the purpose of preferences is to benefit students who are members of underrepresented minority groups; (2) some affirmative action advocates cling to an obsolete model of American politics that posits that African Americans and members of other minority groups lack any substantial political power; (3) some affirmative action advocates tend to discuss the issue as if the only groups affected are African Americans and whites, neglecting both that Asian Americans tend to be harmed by university admissions’ preferences, and that African Americans are a shrinking minority of those eligible for preferences, with Hispanics a significantly larger and faster-growing demographic group; and (4) affirmative action advocates tend to be dismissive of the claim that race is different and more problematic than other criteria that university officials may consider in admissions, for moral, historical, and practical reasons. While not unassailable, these reasons seem to provide a significant non-arbitrary rationale for state voters to ban official reliance on race and ethnicity.

Commentary & Votes on The Madison School Board’s Collective Bargaining Plans

Pat Schnieder:

Maybe the formal deliberations on strategy don’t start until a closed session of the Madison School Board on Thursday, May 15, but engagement over a proposed extension of the teachers contract already has begun.

School board member Ed Hughes is stirring the pot with his remarks that the contract should not be extended without reconsidering hiring preferences for members of Madison Teachers, Inc., extended under the current contract.

John Matthews, executive director of MTI, replies that Hughes probably didn’t mind preference being given to internal transfers over external hires when he was in a union.

“When Ed was in the union at the Department of Justice, I doubt he would find considering outsiders to have preference over an internal transfer to be satisfactory,” Matthews said in an email.

Members of MTI are planning to offer their arguments for extending the contract when the school board meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Doyle Administration Building, 545 W. Dayton St.

Mary Burke votes for labor talks with Madison teachers. Matthew DeFour weighs in as well.

Congratulations to Class of 2014, the Most Indebted Ever

Phil Izzo:

As college graduates in the Class of 2014 prepare to shift their tassels and accept their diplomas, they leave school with one discouraging distinction: they’re the most indebted class ever.

The average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000, according to an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at student-marketing company Edvisors. Even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago.

UCLA prof says stats prove school’s admissions illegally favor blacks

Maxim Lott:

Public universities in California are barred from using race as a factor in admitting students, but a UCLA professor who once served on its admissions oversight team says he has proof they do it anyway.

While the first round of admissions consideration is handled fairly, African-American students are nearly three times as likely to make it out of the “maybe” pile than equally-qualified white students, and more than twice as likely as Asians, according to Tim Groseclose, a political science professor at the school and author of a new book titled, “Cheating: An Insider’s Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA.”

“UCLA is using racial preferences in admissions,” Groseclose, who made his case using data from 2006-2009, told FoxNews.com.

After a first look results in most applications being either accepted or rejected, a handful of senior university staff sift through those marked for further consideration, according to Groseclose. That’s where the alleged bias happens. He found black applicants were accepted at a 43 percent rate in the second round, while whites were accepted at a 15 percent rate and Asians at an 18 percent rate.

Common App: Admissions Collusion?

Scott Jaschik:

Colleges may soon have a new reason — an antitrust lawsuit — to think twice about their relationship with the Common Application.

CollegeNET, which provides a variety of admissions-related services to college, some in direct competition with the Common Application, sued Common App last week in federal court, charging antitrust violations. And while the suit is only against Common App, it states that some of the 500 colleges that are members have been “co-conspirators” in some of the alleged violations.

When CollegeNET issued a news release last week about having sued Common Application, some admissions leaders were scratching their heads about how a service to process applications could violate antitrust law. The press release provided few details.

Related: Financial Aid Leveraging.

Confessions of a Grade Inflator Between the grubbing and the blubbering, grading fairly is just not worth the fight.

Rebecca Schumann:

n the classroom, I can be formidable: I’ve been known to drill-sergeant lethargic students out of their chairs and demand burpees; I am a master of the I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed scowl. And yet, when it comes to assigning an end-of-semester letter value to their results, I am a grade-A milquetoast. It’s grading time once again, and I’m a softie as usual: Of my current 33 students, 20 are getting either A’s or A-minuses.

It’s not that I just “give” students good grades. Each course I teach has a meticulous assessment breakdown, taking into account participation, homework, quizzes, and essays—and for the latter, I grade with a rubric, which both minimizes griping and allows me to be slightly fair. But even with all of these “hard-ass” measures, the ugly truth is that to get below a B+ in my class, you have to be a total screw-up. I’m still strict with my scale—it’s just that said scale now goes from “great” to “awesome.” It’s pathetic, I know. But when you see what professors today are up against, maybe you’ll understand.

If I graded truly fairly—as in, a C means actual average work—the “customers” would do their level best to ruin my life. Granted, there exist professors whose will to power out-powers grade-gripers. There are stalwarts who remain impervious to students’ tenacious complaints, which can be so single-minded that one wonders what would happen if they had applied one-fifteenth of that focus to their coursework. I admire and cherish those professors, but I am not one of them. You know why? Because otherwise, at the end of every semester, my life would become a 24-hour brigade of this: