Can We Predict Which Teens Are Likely To Binge Drink? Maybe

Maanvi Singh:

More than half of 16-year-olds in the United States have tried alcohol. While many of them learn to drink responsibly, some go on to binge on alcohol, putting themselves at risk for trouble as adults. Researchers still aren’t sure why that is.

But it may be possible to predict with about 70 percent accuracy which teens will become binge drinkers, based on their genetics, brain function, personality traits and history, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature.

And as prediction tools get better, the researchers say, we’ll be better able to warn and help those who are most at risk.

“It’s sort of a deep mystery — why do some people become addicted and others don’t,” says Hugh Garavan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and the study’s senior author.

Status Quo Governance: 9 months after development deal, Malcolm X Academy remains empty

Erin Richards:

Remember last fall when the Common Council and Milwaukee Public Schools approved plans to turn the vacant Malcolm X Academy into a renovated school, low-income apartments and commercial space?

Critics at the time said it was a poorly conceived rush job designed to prevent a competing private school, St. Marcus Lutheran School, from acquiring the building as an expansion site.

Supporters said the public-private partnership would help kids and put part of the sprawling Malcolm X building, covering almost five acres on the city’s north side, back on the tax rolls.

Nine months later, nothing has been done.

The developer hasn’t applied for tax credits, let alone bought the building. Both were key to the deal. The Common Council still must act on final development plans before permits for construction can be issued, city officials say.

MPS and one of the development partners say the deal is still on, but nobody will say — publicly, anyway — the cause for the hold-up. Both suggest the other is dragging its feet.

Meanwhile, Henry Tyson, the superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School, submitted a letter of interest for another nearby empty MPS building — Lee School. That was in May. Six weeks later, a Milwaukee teacher who works for the teachers union submitted a proposal to turn Lee into a charter school run by district staff.

“We continue to say what we’ve said before: that this is a shell game to keep usable buildings out of the hands of high-quality voucher and charter school operators,” Tyson said.

Wisconsin Court Upholds Law Curbing Unions’ Rights

Mark Peters & Caroline Porter:

Wisconsin’s highest court upheld a law ending most collective-bargaining rights for government employees in the state, a blow for public-sector unions that have been stymied in their efforts to reverse the controversial measure championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The law, passed in 2011, rocked the state, leading to mass protests and recall elections, while making Mr. Walker a favorite of conservatives across the country. The measure put Wisconsin at the center of a national debate over the role of public-employee unions, particularly in the wake of a recession that battered government finances.

Much more on Act 10, here.

Background links: Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein & Monica Davey.

Job security for teachers helps everyone

Liza Featherstone:

A New York City parents group is joining a nationwide trend — recently filing a lawsuit that challenges teacher tenure laws.
 Mona Davids of the New York City Parents Union sued in State Supreme Court in Staten Island on behalf of 11 plaintiffs who suffered in classrooms with bad teachers. A similar suit is pending in Albany by the Partnership for Educational Justice, led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who has dedicated her post-TV career to crusading against teachers’ unions.
 These actions are part of a national lawsuit wave to undermine tenure for public schoolteachers. In California, a group called Students Matter recently won a suit: The court found the state’s teacher tenure protections unconstitutional. Students Matter plans to sue in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and Oregon.
 Groups claiming to represent kids and parents shouldn’t attack the profession. Teacher unions and tenure provisions don’t hurt students. If you don’t believe me, try sending one of your kids to public school in Massachusetts and another to public school in Mississippi, and see how each fares. (Student reading and math proficiency scores are above the national average in Massachusetts, where unions and job protections are more prevalent.
 According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, reading and math proficiency lags below average in Mississippi, where teachers do not have tenure.)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Washington’s Next Big Bailout

The Wall Street Journal:

Labor unions like to promote their generous defined-benefit pensions. Yet when these benefits prove unsustainable, workers can lose their jobs and retirement savings. The kicker is that taxpayers may soon be tapped to perpetuate this double fraud.

That’s the main take-away from a new report by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which insures multi-employer pension plans for 10.4 million workers and retirees. The federal agency projects that its deficit for multi-employer plans will balloon to $49.6 billion by 2023 from $8.3 billion. Last year the PBGC forecasted a deficit of $26.2 billion in 2022, and its upward revision reflects the increasing likelihood that more plans will become insolvent and sooner.

Multi-employer plans are prevalent in industries like mining, manufacturing and construction where workers often shift among employers. Because unions collectively bargain benefits across multiple employers, workers don’t lose pension benefits when they change jobs. While unions cite portability as a selling point, it’s also a fatal design flaw because the plans require multiple businesses for support.

AFL-CIO finds hope in inequality debate

Barney Jopson and Robin Harding:

The issue is high on the US political agenda ahead of November’s midterm elections and Mr Trumka – a mustachioed former coal miner and scourge of America’s wealthiest “1 per cent” – is using it to bring new life and new allies to his organisation. “The public is in front of the policy. They’ve been talking about this before [Thomas] Piketty’s book came out,” he says, referring to the unexpected bestseller on inequality.

Stagnant wages have contributed to rising wealth disparity and Mr Trumka, who became AFL-CIO president in 2009, has underscored that its mission is fighting for higher pay. “Every place I go, that’s all people talk about,” he says. “They really don’t talk about the deficit or the Federal Reserve. They talk about wages, and how they’re stretched, and how they’re losing ground all the time, and how their kids’ college loans are eating them alive.”
Beyond the minimum wage itself, Mr Trumka lobbies President Barack Obama and Congress on a range of issues – including trade, immigration and criminal justice – with policies that he says would lift private sector pay, or at least stop corporate executives from forcing it down.

Moody’s Issues Negative Outlook for Higher Education

Don Troop:

On the heels of a similarly downcast assessment by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service has issued a negative outlook for the higher-education sector in the United States. The credit-rating agency also issued individual reports on median benchmarks for the finances of public and nonprofit private colleges, noting significant tuition-revenue declines at both types of institutions.

While American higher education faces limited growth prospects over the next 12 to 18 months, Moody’s says, positive trends like strong long-term demand for higher education and reduced household debt could help create conditions for colleges to stabilize over the next year. But Moody’s cautions that the institutions will face continued financial pressures in the near term.

Core Supporters: We’ve Just Been Too Darned Principled!

Neal McCluskey:

The argument for the Core – to the extent one has even been given – has mainly been a simple one of “build high standards and success will come.” See, for instance, this recent op-ed from former Tennessee Representative Harold Ford (D), or these superficial videos from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. For the most part, they simply assert that the Common Core represents high standards, and that’s what we need to vault near top place in the world educational and economic competition. This ignores the major empirical evidence I and many others have brought against the Core, and national standards generally, showing that standards – much less the Core itself – have demonstrated no such power. But Core supporters have very rarely engaged that crucial evidence, including before Washington did their bidding and coerced lightning-quick state adoption of the Core.

Of course, most of the pro-Core strategy has not been to rigorously defend the Core or nationalization generally, but to denigrate opponents. And perhaps there is some good news in that regard: some Core advocates are rebuking that strategy. This could simply be because the effort has not worked – indeed, much of the repentance in the Politico article seems to be a back-handed compliment about how principled and high-brow Core advocates have been – but if nothing else, at least dropping the cheap shots will make the debate a bit less acrimonious.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Abnormal brain structure in youth who commit homicide.

Cope LM1, Ermer E2, Gaudet LM3, Steele VR1, Eckhardt AL1, Arbabshirani MR1, Caldwell MF4, Calhoun VD1, Kiehl KA1.:

Violence that leads to homicide results in an extreme financial and emotional burden on society. Juveniles who commit homicide are often tried in adult court and typically spend the majority of their lives in prison. Despite the enormous costs associated with homicidal behavior, there have been no serious neuroscientific studies examining youth who commit homicide.

Here we use neuroimaging and voxel-based morphometry to examine brain gray matter in incarcerated male adolescents who committed homicide (n = 20) compared with incarcerated offenders who did not commit homicide (n = 135). Two additional control groups were used to understand further the nature of gray matter differences: incarcerated offenders who did not commit homicide matched on important demographic and psychometric variables (n = 20) and healthy participants from the community (n = 21).

Secrets of Ivy League tour guides

Liz Lian:

In McCosh Courtyard on a sunny October afternoon, Princeton students mill about between classes while my friend Sybil, a junior, stands facing her Orange Key tour group. We smile and wave at each other over the heads of the thirty or so prospective students and their parents eagerly listening to Sybil. As I walk by, I catch a snippet of her presentation: “In general,” she says, “Princeton students aren’t really concerned with GPA.”

I laugh to myself at the absurdity of her comment. In a rigorous Ivy League atmosphere where students are divided into quintiles based on GPA cutoffs, how could this be true? I texted Sybil immediately after I heard her comment: “Stop lying to your tours!!” To which she responded: “They tell us to say that!”

Over lunch a few days later, Sybil—who, like all the other tour guides quoted in this article, agreed to be included on the condition that her real name not be used—lists several more pieces of exaggerated information she shares during her tours. She once begrudgingly told a tour group, “There’s no such thing as a typical or a bad dorm room” just one day after an incident that scarred her deeply. She had killed a large insect in her fourth-floor room, and when she returned to clean it up moments later, found a three-inch cockroach eating it. With a hint of bitterness, Sybil recalls a parent from another tour who asked her what the dating scene was like. “I said, ‘You can make it what you want it to be.’ Lie!” We both laugh. Some Princeton students do date, but Sybil is hinting at her frustration—shared by many of her peers—with ephemeral relationships that mostly blossom on “the Street,” the stretch of campus where most Princeton parties occur.

An Attack on the Ivy League Is an Attack on Meritocracy Itself

Yishai Schwartz:

illiam Deresiewicz’s New Republic cover story, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” has made a stir for his indictment of elite universities as bastions of inequality and intellectual indolence. Less discussed, however, is his claim that the Ivy League’s “narrow conception of what constitutes a valid life: affluence, credentials, prestige” has become a larger cultural problem, infecting American society in general. Generations of students, Deresiewicz argues, are having their souls sucked out of them as they strive to conform to these institutions’ narrow model of the good life. So he doesn’t just attack the conduct of Ivy League colleges; he assails the entire premise of an educational meritocracy. But in doing so, Deresiewicz ignores the values of that meritocracy and displays an unjustified optimism about what might take its place.

In Deresiewicz’s hands, the word “meritocracy” becomes a canard, as he condemns the Ivy League for creating a perverse incentive-structure and credential rat-race that prevents students from “building a soul.” According to Deresiewicz, the Ivy League’s cutthroat social competition and superficial standards for success drive students (and potential applicants) in artificial, anti-intellectual, and anti-contemplative directions. Because of the Ivy League, Deresiewicz explains, high school students spend their time in SAT prep instead of reading poetry, and rather than doing meaningful volunteer-work in their local soup kitchen, they run off to Africa for college essay–driven service trips. But Deresiewicz’s critique is half caricature and half wishful thinking. He ignores the ways in which these universities do promote precisely those values and behaviors that are critical to what Deresiewicz labels “the soul.”

Do U.S. Principals Overestimate Poverty?

Amanda Ripley:

In the meantime, it does appear that U.S. principals are overestimating poverty compared to principals in other countries. Does it matter? It depends on the principal. No matter how you measure it, child poverty is high in the U.S. compared to other developed countries, so the problems are real and present in many U.S. schools. But hyper-awareness of poverty can make a mediocre principal worse—by providing a compelling explanation for education failures that conveniently shifts much of the blame to the home and society at large. And when combined with the reductionist, blame-poverty narratives propagated in many U.S. education colleges, books and blogs, this mindset can excuse all manner of in-school failures.

One of the things I noticed while interviewing principals and teachers in other countries is that they were not nearly as conscious of poverty stats as their American peers. In every country I visited (including Poland and South Korea, which have higher poverty rates than, say, Finland), I asked principals roughly what percentage of their kids would be considered disadvantaged. None of them could tell me off the top of their heads.

In a strong system, that obliviousness can be an asset. One Finnish teacher who had a significant number of refugee students in his class explained it to me this way: “I don’t want to think about their backgrounds too much. I don’t want to have too much empathy for them because I have to teach. If I thought about all of this too much, I would give better marks to them for worse work. I’d think, ‘Oh, you poor kid. Oh, well, what can I do?’ That would make my job too easy.”

The pursuit of redistributed taxpayer funds (“grants”, referendums, annual spending growth, staffing) drives everything.

Student loans: Taking away the free ride for colleges

Alex Pollock:

Looking at the rapid growth of student loans and the escalating price of college from a financial perspective, we see a typical interaction of credit expansion and price, quite similar to what happens in a housing bubble or any other bubble. Pushing credit at a sector makes its prices rise. The rising prices, in the cases of both housing and higher education, lead to cries that since the prices are now unaffordable, there has to be more credit. More (and more heavily subsidized) credit the politicians often enough deliver, and the escalation goes on.

This self-reinforcing dynamic is intensified when there are important parties who get cash from the loans for themselves, but have no risk at all when the loans default. In the most recent housing bubble such parties included lenders who promoted and originated but then sold their mortgage loans. In education, the most important risk-free beneficiaries are the colleges themselves, which keep raising their prices, promote the loans, get the cash from the loans, and don’t have to worry about what happens when the loans they promoted subsequently default.

Interacting credit-price expansions inevitably come to face growing defaults. In a recent paper*, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York observes that “the measured delinquency rate on student debt is the highest of any consumer debt product.” This measured rate of student loans 90 days or more past due is 17%–indeed very high delinquency. But, the New York Fed goes on to say, the real or “effective delinquency rate,” which they calculate by comparing 90 day past dues specifically to those student loans where borrowers are being asked to repay, is over 30%!

Longtime Loudoun superintendent reflects on public education as he retires

Q: You began your career at a time when barriers began to come down in public education. What was that like?

A: I saw the integration of schools. I saw it in the area of race, and I saw it in special education. Many kids who couldn’t attend school before suddenly had access to school.

[Before 1978], there were kids who were mentally fine and cognitively fine, but because they happened to be in a wheelchair they were given homebound instruction. That was supposed to be equal to coming to school every day, but we all knew it wasn’t.

I’m sure it was [an answer to the prayers] of so many parents. It was also eye-opening to me as an educator because I got a chance to work with people who specialized in individualized instruction.

Average European IQ by Country

Jakub Marian :

Please note: Quality of education greatly influences IQ scores, i.e. a lower average IQ is more indicative of lower access to wide-scale quality education rather than innate intelligence (see my explanation of the issue). Also, testing conditions influence results; wealthier countries are more likely to be able to afford better testing conditions for participants.

The data may be outdated for some countries (not all up-to-date statistical data was available for all countries). Because of inevitable statistical errors, isolated figures must be taken with a grain of salt.

Before using strong words in the comments, please consider:

The Curse of Smart People


Anyway, this big company that now employs me is rumoured to hire the smartest people in the world.

Question number one: how true is that?

Answer: I think it’s really true. A suprisingly large fraction of the smartest programmers in the world *do* work here. In very large quantities. In fact, quantities so large that I wouldn’t have thought that so many really smart people existed or could be centralized in one place, but trust me, they do and they can. That’s pretty amazing.

Question number two: but I’m sure they hired some non-smart people too, right?

Answer: surprisingly infrequently. When I went for my job interview there, they set me up for a full day of interviewers (5 sessions plus lunch). I decided that I would ask a few questions of my own in these interviews, and try to guess how good the company is based on how many of the interviewers seemed clueless. My hypothesis was that there are always some bad apples in any medium to large company, so if the success rate was, say, 3 or 4 out of 5 interviewers being non-clueless, that’s pretty good.

Teacher tenure refugees flee public schools

James Richardson:

When public school administrators and teachers in Washington, D.C., recently laced up their sensible shoes and launched an unprecedented canvassing campaign to goose slumped enrollment rates, the panicked affectation was unmistakable.

Short of horse-drawn carriage makers, few industries have suffered such a pronounced decline in market share than government-run schools in America’s urban centers. Consider the numbers: forty-four percent of the District’s public student population has abandoned conventional neighborhood schools for public charters.

But while the taxpayer-financed campaign was designed to signal fresh responsiveness to parents, the effort merely reinforced the perception that entrenched teachers and labor unions were braving the sweltering heat out of self-interest. No students means no jobs.

Here, where traditional public school enrollment has dipped by 30,000 students in just the last 18 years, administrators believe the key to stemming the exodus of public school refugees lies in diverting precious resources from improving instruction to marketing.

To augment the hard sell being made door-to-door by principals, the school system even retained the pricey data miners who twice won the White House for President Barack Obama.

Wanted: A Future for Philosophy

Adam Briggle & Robert Frodeman:

How goes it with the institution of philosophy? Consider the situation of “Jeremy,” a Ph.D. student in the graduate program at the University of North Texas. As a second-year student, he has a teaching fellowship. This means that in addition to taking nine credit hours of graduate coursework, he teaches two sections of “Contemporary Moral Issues” each semester. Each section has 45 students. Jeremy is responsible for the entirety of the class, just as any professor would be.
 In 2014, for teaching four courses a year, Jeremy earns $14,199. That’s about $2,500 above the poverty level as established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But Jeremy, like most graduate students at UNT, does not receive a tuition waiver. After he pays tuition and fees—some $8,000 a year—his annual salary comes to about $6,000 for nine months’ work.

Adjuncts Outsourced in Michigan

Colleen Flaherty:

Colleges and universities have outsourced lots of services in the past several decades, from food preparation and delivery to bookstores to sanitation. But to many academics it is taboo to even consider outsourcing the faculty.
 Not in Michigan. In recent years, a handful of community colleges in that state have outsourced the recruitment and hiring of adjunct instructors – who make up the overwhelming majority of the community college teaching force – to an educational staffing company. Just last week, the faculty union at a sixth institution, Jackson College, signed a collective bargaining agreement allowing EDUStaff to take over adjunct hiring and payroll duties.
 Read more:
 Inside Higher Ed

Madison Schools Float 3.87% Property Tax Increase for the 2014-2015 $402,464,374 budget

Madison School District 600K PDF:

July 1 Equalization Aid estimate was $4.8 million less than budget. Before any cost cutting, the November 2014 tax levy estimate would change from a 1.99% increase to a 3.86% increase.

However, the November 2014 tax base estimate has also changed from a 0.0% increase to a 3.5% increase. This was based on the City of Madison assessed data released in April 2014

The tax rate, which estimates the tax impact on the average value home, was presented in the Budget Proposal as increasing from $11.86 (per $1,000) to $12.11 (per $1,000) or an estimated $57.88 increase on the property tax bill of an average value home.

The tax rate estimate has been revised to $11.91 (per $1,000), or an estimated $11.55 increase on the property tax bill of an average value home.

Tap for a larger version.

Might Low income student distribution be addressed?

Madison has long supported a wide variation in school demographics. The chart above, created from 2013-2014 Madison School District middle school demographic data, illustrates the present reality, with the largest middle school – near west side Hamilton – also featuring the smallest percentage low income population.

Much more on Madison’s 2014-2015 402M budget, here.

Magnus Carlsen’s Parents on Raising the World’s Best Chess Player

Alex Clark:

HOW DO YOU SPOT a chess prodigy? Is there a moment—perhaps when he makes a boldly brilliant move out of nowhere or plasters his bedroom with pinups of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov—when it all becomes clear?

Well, that wasn’t quite how it happened for Henrik Carlsen and Sigrun Øen, parents of 23-year-old Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian who became a grandmaster at 13 and the youngest-ever world No. 1 at 19, and whose peak World Chess Federation rating (2,882) is the highest in history. Last November, Carlsen defeated Viswanathan Anand to become the World Chess Champion, a title he will defend against Anand later this year in a yet-to-be-decided location—possibly Norway.

The segregation of kindergartners — by the numbers

Elaine Weiss and Emma García

Growing up black or Hispanic in the United States today means high odds of living in concentrated poverty: in neighborhoods in which at least 40 percent of the residents are poor. This connection between minority status and being surrounded by poor peers is true, as well, in the school setting. Not only do most U.S. kids begin school in classrooms that are heavily segregated—white kids in heavily white classrooms, minority kids in heavily black and Hispanic classrooms—black and Hispanic kindergartners are also disproportionately surrounded by poor peers.

Nationwide, 25 percent of kindergartners are from low-income households. If schools reflected this makeup regardless of the racial composition of classrooms, students would be in classes in which about one in four of their peers were low-income. Yet most white students (three in five) are in classrooms in which just a little more than one in ten of their classmates are poor. Only 11 percent of Hispanic and only 7 percent of black students enter school into such low-poverty classrooms.

How to end homework for moms

Jay Mathews:

My worst memory of homework was the Tootsie Roll log cabin project our daughter did for what otherwise seemed a well-run elementary school in Scarsdale, N.Y. All parents have had such moments. They reappear in nightmares long after the kid has gotten a job and a health plan and doesn’t need our help with anything anymore.

Mel Riddile knows this and wants to prevent such occurrences. Riddile is a former national high school principal of the year. He led both J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County and T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria and has much to say about the homework complaints that pour into me from readers.

“I had a particular pet peeve regarding poster board projects, which I referred to as more work for middle-class moms,” Riddile said. “Working in a high-poverty school, it was easy to see how students, who either could not afford or could not get parental help to construct elaborate poster board projects, were penalized both emotionally and academically for what amounted to glorified busywork.”

The End of Genius

Joshua Wolf Shenk:

WHERE does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.

But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.

Historically speaking, locating genius within individuals is a recent enterprise. Before the 16th century, one did not speak of people being geniuses but having geniuses. “Genius,” explains the Harvard scholar Marjorie Garber, meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth.” Any value that emerged from within a person depended on a potent, unseen force coming from beyond that person.

More Public School Choices; Fewer Voucher Applicants

Cassandra MD Hart:

This study examines public school characteristics, and public and private school market characteristics, associated with participation among elementary-aged students in a means-tested school voucher program in Florida. Participants are more likely than eligible nonparticipants to come from disadvantaged public schools on multiple dimensions. On average, participants’ public schools have lower aggregate student achievement, and higher rates of disciplinary incidents. Participants’ schools receive less positive ratings on various measures from principals and teachers. Participants face more competitive private school markets, and less competitive public school markets, than do nonparticipants. When these factors are considered together, the mean achievement and disciplinary incident rate of students’ own public schools, as well as public and private school market variables, independently predict voucher use.

Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour

Val Hopper & Channa Herath:

This study explored the impact of the Internet on our reading behaviour. Using an exploratory survey, it examined the online and offline reading behaviour of individuals, and determined the underlying patterns, the differences between online and offline reading, and the impacts of the online environment on individuals’ reading behaviour. The findings indicated that there were definite differences between people’s online and offline reading behaviours. In general, online reading has had a negative impact on people’s cognition.
 Concentration, comprehension, absorption and recall rates were all much lower while reading online than offline.

Children Enlist in African Religious Battles

Drew Henshaw:

An elderly Muslim met his end under a hail of rocks hurled from a Christian mob during a flare-up of religious hatred here in February. The first stone flew from a 13-year-old Boy Scout.

Children are being drawn into violence in new ways in several parts of Africa—including this country, Nigeria, and Somalia—as religious strife changes the face of conflict. The young have long occupied the front lines of civil wars on the continent, but most of those have ended.

Now, nations here confront a changing, more asymmetrical kind of conflict, featuring Islamic terrorists who use children as martyrs, or Christian lynch mobs who kill Muslims with help from neighborhood teenagers. That puts governments and aid workers up against boys like Anicet N’gueretoum, who aren’t quite child soldiers, but also not innocent kids anymore.

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Elizabeth Green:

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

Debt Demons Discover Student Debt

John Wasik:

It was only a matter of time. The debt demons have discovered people burdened with student debt and have started preying upon them.
 By “demons,” I’m referring to the rapacious scoundrels going under the guise of “debt settlement” companies who pounce on people deeply in debt and promise to get them out of it.
 After relieving their victims of several hundred — or thousands — of dollars, the debt demons move on, having provided no useful service at all. Lately they’ve headed into student loan debt from their traditional territory of credit and mortgage debt.

How to Read a Research Paper

Michael (PDF):

Later in the semester, we will talk about how to write a research paper. To begin the course, however, we consider how to read a research paper. This discussion presupposes that you have a good reason to carefully read a research paper – for example, the fact that I assign a paper is (probably) a good reason for you to read it. You may also need to carefully read a paper if you are asked to review it, or if it is relevant to your own research. We might also later discuss how to skim a paper, so that you can decide whether a paper is worth a careful reading.

NCTQ Rankings of Teacher Preparation Programs: No Wisconsin schools in the top group

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

The National Council on Teacher Quality has released its second annual report on teacher preparation programs, including a numeric ranking of programs for the first time. Results show an uphill climb ahead for Wisconsin.
No Wisconsin program earned the national “Top-Ranked” status, a distinction awarded to 107 programs in the nation.

Wisconsin is one of 17 states and the District of Columbia that had no Top-Ranked programs.

UW-Eau Claire has the highest ranked elementary program in Wisconsin.
22 programs in Wisconsin were in the bottom half of the national sample, and therefore were not ranked.

14 programs (9 elementary and 5 secondary) were in the top half and received a ranking.
Only 1 in 4 programs prepared teachers in effective scientifically-based reading instruction.

Alverno College, Edgewood College, Lakeland College, Lawrence University, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, St. Norbert College, Viterbo University, and Wisconsin Lutheran College did not cooperate in the review.

Read the report specifics here.

Report questions quality of UW System education schools.

Schools wake up to benefits of teenage lie-in

Sian Griffiths:

TEENAGERS who struggle to get out of bed in the morning could soon have an excuse. The first experiment to test whether pupils perform better after a lie-in is expected to be approved this week.

The £1m project would involve more than 20 British schools and 30,000 pupils. Schools willing to allow pupils aged 11-16 to start class anytime from 10am onwards — and from 11am or 11.30am for sixth-formers — are being recruited by Professor Russell Foster, director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University. His team will learn tomorrow whether its application for funding from the Wellcome Trust has been successful.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Income Inequality Is Not Rising Globally. It’s Falling

Tyler Cowen:

Income inequality has surged as a political and economic issue, but the numbers don’t show that inequality is rising from a global perspective. Yes, the problem has become more acute within most individual nations, yet income inequality for the world as a whole has been falling for most of the last 20 years. It’s a fact that hasn’t been noted often enough.
 The finding comes from a recent investigation by Christoph Lakner, a consultant at the World Bank, and Branko Milanovic, senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center. And while such a framing may sound startling at first, it should be intuitive upon reflection. The economic surges of China, India and some other nations have been among the most egalitarian developments in history.

Austerity and Higher Education

Richard Seymour:

University reform in the UK can be understood in light of the following dilemma: the system must expand if it is to meet the demand for skill in the labour market, but the more it expands the less it fulfills its other major function of reproducing social division.

This is crucial because the transformation of higher education being implemented under the rubric of austerity indicates that austerity is not in the first instance about cutting spending. The evidence of past austerity projects demonstrates that cuts are a means rather than the primary objective, which is social engineering. In the case of higher education, a coalition government has cut state funding for universities while raising fees, on the pretext of debt consolidation. However, the major effects will be firstly to reorganise the system along market lines, re-pivoting the relationship between the student and the institution as a consumer-enterprise one, and secondly to reproduce social divisions on a new basis.

The coalition’s policies are based on a report by Lord Browne, a former chief executive of BP with no experience in higher education. The practice of hiring businessmen to reorganise the public sector runs deep in the neoliberal DNA. Since it is assumed that everything should be run like a competitive enterprise, who could know more about this than businessmen?

The Plot Against Merit

Dennis Saffran:

In 2004, seven-year-old Ting Shi arrived in New York from China, speaking almost no English. For two years, he shared a bedroom in a Chinatown apartment with his grandparents—a cook and a factory worker—and a young cousin, while his parents put in 12-hour days at a small Laundromat they had purchased on the Upper East Side. Ting mastered English and eventually set his sights on getting into Stuyvesant High School, the crown jewel of New York City’s eight “specialized high schools.” When he was in sixth grade, he took the subway downtown from his parents’ small apartment to the bustling high school to pick up prep books for its eighth-grade entrance exam. He prepared for the test over the next two years, working through the prep books and taking classes at one of the city’s free tutoring programs. His acceptance into Stuyvesant prompted a day of celebration at the Laundromat—an immigrant family’s dream beginning to come true. Ting, now a 17-year-old senior starting at NYU in the fall, says of his parents, who never went to college: “They came here for the next generation.”

The Uses of Being Wrong

Daniel Drezner:

Confessions of wrongness in academic research should be unsurprising. (To be clear, being wrong in a prediction is different from making an error. Error, even if committed unknowingly, suggests sloppiness. That carries a more serious stigma than making a prediction that fails to come true.) Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the social sciences is aware that, by and large, we do not get an awful lot of things right. Unlike that of most physical and natural scientists, the ability of social scientists to conduct experiments or rely on high-quality data is often limited. In my field, international relations, even the most robust econometric analyses often explain a pathetically small amount of the data’s statistical variance. Indeed, from my first exposure to the philosopher of mathematics Imre Lakatos, I was taught that the goal of social science is falsification. By proving an existing theory wrong, we refine our understanding of what our models can and cannot explain.

And yet, the falsification enterprise is generally devoted to proving why other scholars are wrong. It’s rare for academics to publicly disavow their own theories and hypotheses. Indeed, a common lament in the social sciences is that negative findings—i.e., empirical tests that fail to support an author’s initial hypothesis—are never published.

Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League

William Deresciewicz:

In the spring of 2008, I did a daylong stint on the Yale admissions committee. We that is, three admissions staff, a member of the college dean’s office, and me, the faculty representative—were going through submissions from eastern Pennsylvania. The applicants had been assigned a score from one to four, calculated from a string of figures and codes—SATs, GPA, class rank, numerical scores to which the letters of recommendation had been converted, special notations for legacies and diversity cases. The ones had already been admitted, and the threes and fours could get in only under special conditions—if they were a nationally ranked athlete, for instance, or a “DevA,” (an applicant in the highest category of “development” cases, which means a child of very rich donors). Our task for the day was to adjudicate among the twos. Huge bowls of junk food were stationed at the side of the room to keep our energy up.

The junior officer in charge, a young man who looked to be about 30, presented each case, rat-a-tat-tat, in a blizzard of admissions jargon that I had to pick up on the fly. “Good rig”: the transcript exhibits a good degree of academic rigor. “Ed level 1”: parents have an educational level no higher than high school, indicating a genuine hardship case. “MUSD”: a musician in the highest category of promise. Kids who had five or six items on their list of extracurriculars—the “brag”—were already in trouble, because that wasn’t nearly enough. We listened, asked questions, dove into a letter or two, then voted up or down.

With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”—personal qualities—that were often revealed by the letters or essays. Kids who only had the numbers and the résumé were usually rejected: “no spark,” “not a team-builder,” “this is pretty much in the middle of the fairway for us.” One young person, who had piled up a truly insane quantity of extracurriculars and who submitted nine letters of recommendation, was felt to be “too intense.” On the other hand, the numbers and the résumé were clearly indispensable. I’d been told that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”—outstanding in one particular way—but if they were pointy, they had to be really pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Latest Public-Sector Pension Scandal The state-pension-industrial complex corrupts politics on multiple levels

Ira Stoll:

“By the end of approximately 2007, Villalobos had made, and I had accepted, bribes totaling approximately $200,000 in cash, all of which was delivered directly to me in the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Sacramento across from the Capitol. Villalobos delivered the first two payments of approximately $50,000 each in a paper bag, while the last installment of approximately $100,000 was delivered in a shoebox.”—Plea Agreement, United States of America v. Fred Buenrostro, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, filed July 11, 2014.

The government official who pleaded guilty here, Fred Buenrostro, wasn’t some city council member or state senator, but rather, from December 2002 to May 2008, the CEO of the California Public Employees Retirement System. Calpers, the largest public pension fund in the country, managed assets of as much as $250 billion during that period.

The bribing of Buenrostro was part of a successful effort by a New York money management firm (which claims it had no knowledge of the bribe and has not been charged with any wrongdoing) to win $3 billion in business managing pension money for California state employees and retirees.

Crooked government officials come along often enough that there’s a tendency to tune them out, but this case is worth pausing to analyze further for a number of reasons.

For one thing, there’s the hypocrisy angle. Calpers has been at the forefront of criticizing company boards for practices that are not shareholder friendly. Sometimes it’s right about that, but even when it is, it manages to come off as holier-than-thou. It doesn’t exactly add to Calpers credibility denouncing board-management coziness at big publicly traded companies when its own CEO is taking paper bags full of cash from a representative of a contractor.

Is the Tax Code the Proper Tool for Making Higher Education More Affordable?

Scott A. Hodge, Kyle Pomerleau :

Recently, college affordability has been on the minds of many. Over the past decade, the cost of college tuition has outstripped both inflation and income growth. On top of that, students are grappling with an ever-growing burden of debt.

Considering the financial benefits of getting a college degree, lawmakers have sought to help students afford the cost of higher education.

Traditionally, this was done through loan programs and direct subsidies such as Pell Grants. However, higher education policy has shifted in recent years away from traditional loan and direct subsidy programs toward the use of various tax credits.

The question now is whether the tax code is the proper tool to increase access to higher education and make college more affordable.
Generally speaking, the answer is no.

First, these tax credits violate the principles of sound tax policy by greatly increasing the complexity and distortions in the tax code.

Second, if we are serious about reforming the tax code, there are four sound reasons to eliminate education tax credits within a comprehensive reform package:

Colleges are hoping predictive analytics can fix their dismal graduation rates

Libby Nelson:

Decades ago, colleges would start off freshmen orientation by pointing out how many students wouldn’t succeed. The practice has gone out of style. But the graduation rate has barely budged: less than two-thirds of students who start college ever finish. So the central mystery of higher education remains the same: who will graduate? Who won’t? What separates the successes from the dropouts? And how can colleges turn the latter into the former before it’s too late?

Ellen Wagner’s job is to answer those questions. The longtime education technology expert directs the Predictive Analytics Reporting Framework, one of the biggest data sets of higher education’s nascent era of Big Data.

Using data on 1.8 million students from the past, Wagner can see the future. Give her the bare bones of a college freshman’s biography — age, major, whether he is the first in his family to go to college, whether she has served in the military — and she can predict whether that student is likely to graduate.

College Graduates Don’t Always Out-Earn High School Grads

Allison Schrager:

One of the biggest arguments in favor of a college education is that college grads make more money than do those with only a high-school diploma or a few years of college. The difference in earning power over a lifetime—the college wage premium—has been well-documented: One of the most popular recent sources, a paper by Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner, estimated the gap at more than $500,000, on average.

Those last two words are more important than anyone gives them credit for. Focusing on the average college wage premium puts the emphasis on the expected gains from education, which is not a bad thing if you’re trying to persuade lots of people to go to college. But it’s only part of the story. College tuition is expensive, and plenty of students take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt in pursuit of that wage premium—when what matters just as much is how risky it is relative to other ways they might spend their money or time.

When we look at distribution of the college wage premium—how much more the lowest-, middle-, and highest-earning quartiles make relative to high-school grads, the picture of risk becomes clearer. At every level short of graduate school, there’s a not-insignificant chance that a successful high-school graduate will out-earn you. The chances are greatest for college dropouts—the people who spend some time and money but don’t walk away with a degree.

That Big Study About How the Student Debt Nightmare Is in Your Head? It’s Garbage

Choire Sicha:

Do you see where that says “based on households with people between 20 to 40 years old with at least some education debt”? That’s actually quite a bit of a fudge!

What’s the deal with these numbers? GLAD YOU ASKED. It’s not what it sounds like!

Those aren’t households with people between 20 and 40; those are households headed by people between 20 and 40. Which is to say, this data excludes all people living in households headed by, say, their parents, or other adults. The way Brookings put this is: “households led by adults between the ages of 20 and 40.” Just another way to say it excludes all households led by anyone over 40! (Those households might be identical in student debt to “young” households! Or they might not? WHO KNOWS!)

One effect of this age spread sample is that it includes college graduates from up to almost 20 years ago. This is literally not at all a study of college graduates of the last five years, or even ten years. We’re talking about people up to the age of 40, well into Gen X.

Also, in this survey, when there are multiple people in the household, the Brookings Institution simply divided the amount of college debt by number of people in the household. So one person’s $20,000 college debt becomes two people’s $10,000 college debt. This works out mathematically, of course, but not structurally.

Concerns rise about cheating by Chinese applicants to U.S. colleges

Timothy Pratt:

The application essay from a student in China sounded much like thousands of others sent each year to the University of Washington at Seattle.

“ ‘I did this,’ ” admissions officer Kim Lovaas remembers the essay saying, and, “ ‘I did that.’ ” Then she came to a phrase that stopped her short: “Insert girl’s name here.”

“I thought, ‘Did I just read that?’ ” said Lovaas, associate director for international student enrollment, admissions, and services. “To me, that was a really big red flag.”

The obvious clue in the essay was an indicator of a serious problem that’s not always so easy to detect: fraudulent applications from Chinese students seeking to get into U.S. colleges and universities.

In NSA-funded (taxpayer) initiative, Palo Alto students sharpen their Mandarin skills

Chris Kenrick:

As Americans debate revelations about sweeping data collection by the National Security Agency, the secretive federal department has funded a seemingly more benign agenda at Ohlone Elementary School in Palo Alto.

In a summer program known as STARTALK, 20 fifth- and sixth-graders are honing their Mandarin speaking, listening, reading and writing skills through in-depth study of the centuries-old Chinese folk tale “The Magic Paintbrush.”

Students have read the text in Mandarin, sung its stories, incorporated its lessons into their own 21st-century versions of the folk tale and created iMovies of the rewritten versions. On Thursday, July 3, they were to perform the original story in colorful, hand-made costumes for their parents.

The Ohlone program is one of more than 100 similar summer initiatives across the country aimed at boosting Americans’ abilities in Chinese languages and other “less commonly taught languages,” said Duarte Silva, the Stanford University-based executive director of the California World Language Project.

Those “strategic languages” include Arabic, Russian, Hindi and Farsi, with Korean soon to be added to the list.

Since the federal program began in 2006 Silva has been securing summer STARTALK grants, $90,000 of which this year is funding the four-week Ohlone program as well as a program for Sunnyvale middle school students that began this week. Later in the summer Silva and Stanford colleague Helene Chan will present their research about language training in a workshop for language teachers from across the nation.

Dewey Academy in danger of displacement: Gentrification and the Oakland Unified School District (Community Voices)

Aram Mendoza and N. Finch in collaboration with Dewey teachers

Displacement of longtime low-income residents due to gentrification has been an all too common story in the Bay Area recently. Now the same insidious process is targeting some of the most “at-risk” students in Oakland.

Over the past two weeks, in the end of school rush, the Oakland Unified School District’s administration revealed they have been in close discussions with gentrifying developers that puts Dewey Academy, one of the public continuation high schools in the OUSD, in the cross-hairs of real estate agents and developers. The developers are already planning a 24-story luxury condo building overshadowing Dewey and now want to add Dewey and the old OUSD headquarters to the project.

What follows is an overview of the situation, why it’s problematic, how it’s situated in the context of gentrification in the Bay Area, and what those of us opposed to the displacement of Dewey and the gentrification of Oakland can do about it.

Filling the Autism Gap


John Waite investigates why scientists say autism research receives a fraction of the funding invested in other conditions and that as a consequence, there are very few effective interventions to treat the disorder. Meanwhile, parents of autistic children say they face a long wait for treatment provided by their local authority, and have instead turned to unproven methods offered by nutritionists and psychotherapists.

The Parent Trap

Ross Douthat:

WHEN I was about 9 years old, I graduated to a Little League whose diamonds were a few miles from our house, in a neighborhood that got rougher after dark. After one practice finished early, I ended up as the last kid left with the coach, waiting in the gloaming while he grumbled, looked at his watch and finally left me — to wait or walk home, I’m not sure which.
 I started walking. Halfway there, along a busy road, my father picked me up. He called my coach, as furious as you would expect a protective parent to be; the coach, who probably grew up having fistfights in that neighborhood, gave as good as he got; I finished the season in a different league.

Idiocy as Scholarship

Subash Gatade::

It was probably late sixties or early seventies – when this pen pusher was a school student – one came across an article by a gentleman called P N Oak in a Marathi magazine called ‘Amrit’. The article made a particular case about Taj Mahal which it termed as ‘Tejo Maha Aalay’ or hindu god Shiva’s abode. It tried to establish through various ‘explanations’ that a Shiva Temple was destroyed to build Taj Mahal and if we dig deep we can find ‘remnants’ of the earlier structure.
 For someone who was taught in an ambience, where few of our teachers never lost any opportunity to fill our gullible minds about the ‘hated other’, it was rather difficult to immediately grasp the lie which was peddled by this soldier turned writer. Nobody could then have the premonition also that such false claims – that their places of worship were buried beneath the Mosques as a lame excuse to demolish them – would become order of the day, in Hindutva politics.

What every computer science major should know

Matt Might:

Given the expansive growth in the field, it’s become challenging to discern what belongs in a modern computer science degree.
 My own faculty is engaging in this debate, so I’ve coalesced my thoughts as an answer to the question, “What should every computer science major know?”
 I’ve tried to answer this question as the conjunction of four concerns:
 What should every student know to get a good job?
 What should every student know to maintain lifelong employment?
 What should every student know to enter graduate school?
 What should every student know to benefit society?
 My thoughts below factor into both general principles and specific recommendations relevant to the modern computing landscape.
 Computer science majors: feel free to use this as a self-study guide.
 Please email or tweet with suggestions for addition and deletion.

Wearable Technology in Education

Kattie Lam:

Wearable technology in education can increase a child’s ability to more naturally interact with their environment, and to be be creative and innovative. Students can more easily access information without any obstructions. Examples of wearable technology in the classroom are: Autographer, Keyglove, Muse, VR, Smart Watches, GoPro, and Google Glass. Autographer allows students to capture students direct notes to ensure complete note taking. Keyglove are wireless gloves that are useful in gaming, design, art, music, data entry, device control, and 3D objects. Muse tracks students’ brain activity onto a smartphone or tablet so that it can detect what activities they might need to keep them focused on studying. Virtual Reality gives students hands-on experience that allows students to interact with the object in that particular environment. The iPod is also an effective learning tool that empowered students to creatively think about the subject as well as to allow greater collaboration. GoPro is a camera that can capture a student or teacher’s point of view of events, such as a lesson or student behavior. Finally, the Google Glass enables students and teachers to search, take a picture, record video, and answer and translate questions in a foreign language. One application would be for medical students to watch different medical procedures in real time.

Teacher, Tutor Online Reading Course

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

Teachers, tutors, or anyone who is responsible for teaching children to read will be interested in an excellent and free online self-study course from Reading Rockets. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and The Overbrook Foundation.

Although it is titled “First Year Teacher Self-Study Course,” it can provide valuable professional development for even veteran teachers of grades K-3; it could easily be incorporated into a Professional Learning Community or an individual Professional Development Plan.

The course is divided into 10 self-paced learning modules: print awareness, sounds of speech, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, writing, and assessment. In addition to in-depth information, the course offers pre- and post-assessments, practical application in the classroom, articles and video demonstrations, assignments, and a curated list of online resources.

Why Are Huge Numbers of Disabled Students Dropping Out of College?

S.E. Smith

When Andrea Chandler, a disabled Navy veteran, used her GI bill funds to go to college, she expected to graduate with a BA that would allow her to build a career and establish a new life for herself. Instead, she never completed the requirements that would have allowed her to transfer to a four-year college, joining the ranks of the many disabled students who are unable to attain a four year degree—despite the rising number of disabled students entering academia.

Today, an estimated 60% of disabled young adults make it to college after high school, yet nearly two thirds are unable to complete their degrees within six years. Is this the fault of their disabilities, or is something more complex at play? The testimony of disabled students suggests that the problem lies not with their disabilities, per se, but with the numerous barriers they encounter in higher education, from failing to provide blind students with readers, to the refusal to accommodate wheelchair users in otherwise accessible classrooms.

In Chandler’s case, going to college after leaving the Navy seemed like the logical next step, but she knew she would need help navigating campus with her wheelchair or service dog, depending on the pain levels caused by her fibromyalgia. She contacted her community college to request accommodations for her service dog, a German Shepherd named Sid, and was ordered to provide information above and beyond Department of Education requirements:

School Climate: Socialism & Cheating


By running an experiment among Germans collecting their passports or ID cards in the citizen centers of Berlin, we find that individuals with an East German family background cheat significantly more on an abstract task than those with a West German family background. The longer individuals were exposed to socialism, the more likely they were to cheat on our task. While it was recently argued that markets decay morals (Falk and Szech, 2013), we provide evidence that other political and economic regimes such as socialism might have an even more detrimental effect on individuals’ behavior.

More, here.

More on American Colleges’ Standing in the World

Kevin Carey:

Last week I wrote that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no reason to believe that American colleges are, on average, the best in the world. A number of people who responded, including several in letters to The Times, raised issues worth addressing more broadly.

Several of the questions concerned whether the American graduates in the study, known as Piaac, short for the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, are somehow different from those in other countries to whom they’re being compared.

Steve Hochstadt, professor of history at Illinois College, noted that a third of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, “compared with about 23 percent” in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and asserted that this causes Americans, on average, to score lower on tests.

A chart with the article showed that Austrian graduates scored highest in a test of numeracy; Mr. Hochstadt noted that less than 15 percent of Austrians complete college, implying that those who do are likely to be higher achievers.

Raising the bar: New Mexico State Unversity to vote on minimum 2.75 GPA; UNM likes idea

Mike Bush:

At a time when the number of high school graduates and college enrollment rates are flat, New Mexico State University is poised to raise an important admission standard for incoming freshmen: the minimum grade point average.

The university’s Board of Regents will likely vote on a measure on July 23 that includes raising the GPA from 2.5 to 2.75, effective in the fall of 2016.

“I expect it to pass,” Provost Dan Howard said Friday, “but I don’t know that it will.”

A similar discussion is just getting started at the University of New Mexico, where the issue has caused heated controversy in the past.

Raising standards would almost certainly – at least at first – reduce the number of entering freshmen at the state’s two largest schools. And that would come at a time when the state

is projected to see only a small increase in its number of high school graduates over the next decade.

But officials say, in the long term, the move is expected to strengthen the NMSU brand, improve graduation rates and bolster the university’s image outside of New Mexico, all of which would make it easier to compete for out-of-state and foreign students.

The provost, however, said none of those benefits were behind the move to raise the admission standard.

The Prison Boom and the Lack of Black Progress after Smith and Welch

Derek Neal, Armin Rick:

More than two decades ago, Smith and Welch (1989) used the 1940 through 1980 census files to document important relative black progress. However, recent data indicate that this progress did not continue, at least among men. The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965. A move toward more punitive treatment of arrested offenders drove prison growth in recent decades, and this trend is evident among arrested offenders in every major crime category. Changes in the severity of corrections policies have had a much larger impact on black communities than white communities because arrest rates have historically been much greater for blacks than whites.

5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is in Crisis, According to a British Nanny

Emma Jenner:

I generally am quite an optimistic person. I tend to believe that everything will work out for the best unless the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not prone to drama. That’s why when I say that modern parenting is in serious trouble — crisis, even — I hope you’ll listen, and listen carefully. I’ve worked with children and their parents across two continents and two decades, and what I’ve seen in recent years alarms me. Here are the greatest problems, as I see them:
 1. A fear of our children.

School starts Monday for 2,800 Charlotte students

Andrew Dunn:

Summer break has come to an end for about 2,800 K-8 students in four Charlotte year-round schools.
 Monday starts the 2014-15 school year at Bruns Academy, Walter G. Byers School, Druid Hills Academy and Thomasboro Academy. The schools are part of Project LIFT, a public-private partnership between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and donors who pledged $55 million to improve academics and graduation rates at nine westside schools. The private money helps cover the cost of extra teacher time and busing.

Melinda Gates On Common Core Concerns


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is perhaps best known for funding global health programs, but in the U.S., it has focused largely on education.

The foundation has strongly backed the national education guidelines known as the Common Core. The standards in math and English that specify what skills a student should have for every grade.

“Where it got tricky was in the implementation.”
– Melinda Gates on
the Common Core
“We got so interested in Common Core because we saw such a huge number of students not being prepared to go on to college,” Melinda Gates told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

Gates attributes this to different education standards from state to state. She said it was time for something “different.” That different standard was the Common Core, which has now been adopted fully by 45 states.

“We saw the difference they could make in kids lives and we also saw that it brought flexibility to the way you were teaching and that teachers could start to collaborate with one another on lesson plans,” Gates said. “We can help come up with tools that help teachers teach the Common Core. If a teacher wants to teach ‘The Scarlet Letter’ or ‘Beloved’ or ‘The Secret Life of Bees,’ we can have tools there that then help them teach and then scaffold those lessons appropriately to meet the needs of their students.”

But Common Core has been criticized by teachers unions and parent groups, and at least three states have dropped the program this year.

To Fight Grade Inflation in the Humanities, Add Context

Andrew Perrin:

“You don’t understand,” the student said. “This is sociology. I took this class to increase my GPA. It wasn’t supposed to be hard!”

It was my first semester on the faculty, and the student had come to my office to complain about the grade she’d earned on the first paper for my sociology class: a B-minus. I had explained to her why the grade was appropriate, and one she could feel proud of. (UNC’s official grade system says the B range indicates “strong performance demonstrating a high level of attainment,” and that “the student has shown solid promise in the aspect of the discipline under study.”) But the student remained dissatisfied.

Alongside too many such conversations I’ve had, I’m happy to say that there have been at least as many with genuinely curious students who want to explore the material and see where it takes them. But the governing assumption—particularly in relatively humanistic fields like mine—that merely adequate performance deserves an A makes it difficult to document or reward the outstanding work of such curious young minds. That is why I became an advocate for curtailing grade inflation and grading inequality.

When A stands for average.

How Tests Make Us Smarter

Henry L. Roediger III:

TESTS have a bad reputation in education circles these days: They take time, the critics say, put students under pressure and, in the case of standardized testing, crowd out other educational priorities. But the truth is that, used properly, testing as part of an educational routine provides an important tool not just to measure learning, but to promote it.

In one study I published with Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a psychologist at Purdue, we assessed how well students remembered material they had read. After an initial reading, students were tested on some passages by being given a blank sheet of paper and asked to recall as much as possible. They recalled about 70 percent of the ideas.

Other passages were not tested but were reread, and thus 100 percent of the ideas were re-exposed. In final tests given either two days or a week later, the passages that had been tested just after reading were remembered much better than those that had been reread.

Citizen Oversight: Seattle Schools’ Pre-K “Mission Study”

Melissa Westbrook:

This will be Part One of a thread about the Pre-K “mission trip” that several Seattle schools’ employees took as well as one Board director.
 Part One will be the Narrative of what happened. Part Two will be the day-by-day planning for this trip.
 Mirmac1 got e-mails via public disclosure and they paint a very damning picture. Because of my concerns over this troubling incident, I wrote a full report to the State Auditor. I can only say that I believe there may have been some illegalities in what happened but that’s not my call.
 I DO think whether or not funds were misused, some of it feels unethical and it is clear there is a heavy push – from outside the district – on those inside the district for more and more pre-K in Seattle Schools.
 There are a couple of SPS individuals who are either myopic or simply do not care about how their push for pre-K could affect/impact other programs and that money is scarce. There was very much of a “just find me the money for this trip” attitude.

Part ii here.

An Interview with Will Fitzhugh: Peer Scholars Helping and Mentoring Budding Scholars

Professor Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Will, you have been editing The Concord Review for ages. When did you begin, and what are you trying to accomplish?

Since 1987, when I got started, the goals have been to: (1) find and celebrate exemplary history research papers by secondary students from the English-speaking world, and (2) to distribute their work as widely as possible to challenge and inspire their peers to read more history and to work on serious history term papers of their own.

2) Currently, very few high school students who want substantial robust feedback about their writing are able to procure it. How are you attempting to address this problem?

In 2002, The Concord Review commissioned a national study of term papers assigned in public high schools. The principal finding was that serious term papers (like the IB Extended Essay) are not being assigned. Our National Writing Board has, since 1998, been providing a unique assessment service for high school history papers, but we now feel that a more direct kind of help can be offered through The Concord Review Tutoring Services, which we are just getting set up.

3) It seems to me that a published author should be able to provide some assistance to a high school student. What is your current plan?

The Concord Review Tutoring Services will connect former authors (293 have gone to Harvard, Princeton or Yale, and 51 to Stanford) published in The Concord Review with high school students who want to work hard on a serious history research paper. Through Skype, it will be possible to provide more personal tutoring and feedback to guide diligent students through their work on a paper that most would not be asked to do in their school. In this way, they will be better prepared for college nonfiction reading and writing tasks. Of course they will be free to submit their papers to The Concord Review, but as we publish only 5% of the ones we get, there is no guarantee of a place.

4) It seems that the focus in high schools across America is sports rather than scholarly research. Any thoughts as to why this is so?

There are untold millions of dollars regularly spent here to provide high school (and younger) athletes with special coaches, summer programs, mentoring and other services to help them compete at the next level. In addition there are untold millions of dollars for athletic scholarships to colleges (including for cheerleading). This kind of support is simply tiny or absent for students who are as serious about their academic work as the athletes are about their sports. If there are any college scholarships available, for example, for the exemplary work in history done by authors published in The Concord Review over the past 27 years, I have not heard about them.

5) I would think that this would be a mutually beneficial experience. Paul Torrance used to talk about the importance of mentoring others. Is this part of your plan?

The old story is that the mentor/teacher learns a great deal in guiding a student through an academic task, and I have no doubt that will be true for Tutors working with The Concord Review Tutoring Services. But high school students with a chance to work online one-on-one with a published Ivy League history student should not only learn to write better, but also it is likely that their knowledge of history and their confidence as new scholars will be strengthened as well.

6) Will, The Concord Review just publishes an amazing number of first quality high school students’ history papers on a wide variety of topics. I would think The Concord Review would be a great addition to any high school library—Is this possible?

Bless all high school librarians, but they want to obtain what the teachers ask for, and too many teachers are just as happy for their students not to be exposed to the 8,000- and 12,000-word history research papers we publish in the journal. They may not want their students to start asking for the opportunity to do such challenging assignments themselves. More and more of our best papers are coming in as Independent Study efforts, because the schools do not ask students to do their best work in history, so some students who see the work of our authors just decide, as many of them have, to set higher academic standards for their own work.

7) As they say—the world has gone on-line—Is The Concord Review available online?

I am happy to report that our website ( has just passed 927,000 visitors from across the United States and from more than 100 other countries, with a couple of million page views. All of the 1,110 history essays I have published so far are available in pdf for students who express an interest in seeing them. In addition, in our bookstore online ( there is a good selection of recent issues and there are a number of one-essay “Singles” available for purchase by anyone who wants to read such exemplary work by high school students of history.

8) Where can people get more information or make a donation to The Concord Review?

My favorite question! Because we are interested in the most diligent and successful high school students and those who aspire to be more like them, we have been near the bottom of the list of those thought worthy of support over the last 27 years. But we have been a nonprofit Massachusetts corporation since 1987 and we got our 501(c)(3) designation in June 1988. There is a “Donate” button on the website at and we also accept checks at The Concord Review, 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA. I also welcome questions and comments at

9) What have I neglected to ask?

I hope that we may all start to ask why we are so reluctant to support, encourage, challenge and inspire our most serious high school students, while at the same time nearly overwhelming our young athletes with scholarships and many other kinds of special help and attention? Of course sports are very important. But can’t we at least ask why the exemplary academic work of our most serious and diligent high school students should be so widely ignored? But our trademark is Varsity Academics®—so we are making an effort!

“Teach with Examples”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Economic mobility is alive and well for Americans who pursue technical or practical training

Tamar Jacoby:

Dakota Blazier had made a big decision. Friendly and fresh-faced, from a small town north of Indianapolis, he’d made up his mind: He wasn’t going to college.

“I discovered a long time ago,” he explained, “I’m not book smart. I don’t like sitting still, and I learn better when the problem is practical.” But he didn’t feel this limited his options—to the contrary. And he was executing a plan as purposeful as that of any of his high-school peers.

It started in his junior year with release time from high school to take a course in basic construction skills at a craft training center run by the Associated Builders and Contractors. The next step was an internship with a local contractor, Gaylor Electric.

This summer, he’s at Gaylor full time, earning $10 an hour plus credits he can apply at the ABC training center, where he intends to return this fall for a four-year apprenticeship. Mr. Blazier, 18, beamed as he explained his plan. This was no fallback, no desperate Hail Mary pass. It was a thoughtful choice—and he was as proud and excited as if he were heading off to the Ivy League.

The Common Core Commotion

“Decisions about what content is to be taught,’ they insist, ‘are made at the state and local levels.’ At the same time, we read that Common Core’s “educational standards are the learning goals for what students should know.” Is what students should know different from content?” [That is the question. WHF]

Andrew Ferguson:

The logic of education reform always points to more education reform. With experts having shown they didn’t really know how to improve education on a broad scale, and with state school officials having proved themselves in many cases to be cheats and bunco artists, the solution was clear to every educationist: State school officials should get together with experts to come up with a new reform. Except this time it would work.

At least since the heady days of “A Nation at Risk,” the world of education reform has been a cozy fraternity. Foundation directors sit on one another’s boards, think tankers beehive with other think tankers in the lounges of convention hotels, academics peer-review the work of academics who will soon peer-review their reviewers’ work. One foundation will give a grant to another foundation to study the work of the first foundation. In the last decade the fraternity has increasingly become a creature of the fabulously wealthy Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has spent more than a billion dollars studying primary and secondary education. Few institutions dedicated to education reform have escaped Gates funding. Recipients range from trade groups like the American Federation of Teachers (more than $10 million since 2010) and Council of Chief State School Officers (nearly $5 million last year alone) to think tanks of the left (Center for American Progress) and the right (Thomas B. Fordham Institute).

The Gates Foundation has tunneled into the federal bureaucracy, too, at levels low and high. Several Gates officials and recipients worked in the Education Department under the second Bush, back when NCLB was the thing. Now, under President Obama, they are clustered at the top. Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post, one of the few beat reporters who brings a gimlet eye to the work of educationists, points out that Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, oversaw a $20 million Gates grant when he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Duncan’s chief of staff is a Gates protégé, as are the officials who designed the administration’s “Race to the Top” funding initiative in 2009. As we’ll see, the initiative was indispensable to enlisting states into Common Core.


The foundation’s generosity seems indiscriminate, reflecting the milky centrism of its founder. Evidently Bill Gates doesn’t have a political bone in his body. His intellectual loyalty lies instead with the ideology of expertise. His faith is technocratic and materialist: In the end he believes the ability of highly credentialed observers to identify and solve problems through the social sciences is theoretically limitless. “Studies” and “research” unlock the human secret. This is the animating faith of most educationists, too. All human interactions can be dispassionately observed and their separate parts identified, isolated, analyzed, and quantified according to some version of the scientific method. The resulting data will yield reliable information about how and why we behave as we do, and from this process can be derived formulas that will be universally applicable and repeatable.

“One size fits all” may be a term of mockery used by people who disdain the top-down solutions of centralized power; in the technocratic vision, “one size fits all” describes the ideal.

A good illustration of the Gates technocratic approach to education reform is an initiative called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET. (DUH.) The effectiveness of a truly gifted teacher was once considered mysterious or ineffable, a personal transaction rooted in intuition, concern, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and professional ardor, combined in a way that defies precise description or replication. Such an old-fashioned notion is an affront to the technocratic mind, which assumes no human phenomenon can be, at bottom, mysterious; nothing is resistant to reduction and measurement. “Eff the Ineffable” is the technocrat’s motto.

To demystify teaching, MET researchers designed experiments involving more than 3,000 teachers, easily recruited after a layering of Gates money. They were monitored, either in person or by video, by highly trained observers who coded their every move according to one of five “instruments” of measurement that were also designed by highly trained professionals—the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, the Mathematical Quality of Instruction, and so on. So far, MET has cost Gates $335 million, spent on statisticians and psychologists from education schools, teachers’ unions, and not-for-profit companies with names like “Teachscape” and “Empirical Education.”

So what’s the answer? How do you build a good teacher? The findings produced by MET experts are choked with charts, graphs, and algorithms—intimidating to the layman, consoling to the educationist. Their research has uncovered the 22 components, or “competencies,” that are exhibited to one degree or another by effective teachers everywhere. Non-educationists will find some of these components frivolous or predictably trendy (“attention to access, equity, and diversity”). Others are banal (“teacher knowledge and fluency,” “intellectual engagement in key ideas”). Still others are redundant, and many more are simply too poorly defined to qualify as distinct human traits. Yet the Gates reformers believe that their method—rigorous, empirical, scientific—can instill competencies in America’s teachers if the same MET process of observation and evaluation is duplicated in local classrooms. “The goal,” says Gates, “is for them to become standard practice.”

Whether this is even possible is a question that doesn’t take up much room in the MET literature; technocrats are seldom preoccupied with bridging the theoretical and the actual. Yet the researchers themselves give off occasional hints that the process they’ve invented won’t travel very far. The observers used in the MET experiments had undergone training far too elaborate, time-consuming, and expensive for any but the richest school districts to afford. The observers were usually strangers to the teachers they evaluated in the experiments; in actual practice, in real schools, observers and teachers would be acquainted with each other, with the social and personal complications any such relationship entails. No consequences were attached to the ratings the observers came up with—no raises or job security influenced the experimental evaluations, as they would in real life. And even then, researchers found, evaluations of the same teacher often differed radically from one observer to the next, and depending on which “instrument” was used.

Exciting as it undoubtedly is for the educationist, MET research tells us nothing about how to improve the world that students and teachers inhabit. It is an exercise by educationists for educationists to ponder and argue over. Three hundred and thirty five million dollars can keep a lot of them busy.


The Common Core State Standards are a product of the same intellectual ecosystem that gave us MET: the same earnest good will, the same cult of expertise, the same tendency to overthink, the same bottomless pot of money. Common Core would not exist without the Gates Foundation.

When it became clear that NCLB wasn’t working, a Gates-funded trade group called Council of Chief State School Officers (yes: CCSSO) summoned a conclave of educationists, including officials from 48 states. They agreed that the embarrassing muddle of test results delivered by the varied state tests under NCLB should be cleaned up. The way to do it was through a single set of standards that would explicitly list the things a properly educated American child should know and be able to do as he rose from one grade level to the next, no matter what state he lived in. Even Tennessee.

Here the sequence of events in the story of Common Core grows murky. Official histories say only that “committees of educators” and “subject matter experts” were deputized by the National Governors Association (NGA, ahem) to develop the Standards. The Gates Foundation was generous as always. It kicked up a whirlwind of working groups, feedback committees, workshops, forums, advisory groups, development teams, and expert panels—a Full Employment Act for educationists. But how the experts who wrote the Standards were chosen, and which expert wrote what standard and why, are questions that are hard to get answers to. More than 10,000 educators commented on the Standards after they were developed, according to Common Core’s publicists. But the attention of the general public or press was never aroused, and the impression of a mysterious elite gathering secretly to impose a New Educational Order has been hard to shake.

The committees worked fast. In less than a year, in June 2010, their handiwork was unveiled at a little-noticed event in Suwanee, Georgia. Kentucky agreed to the Standards days before they were made public. Five months later, 41 states had agreed to “fully implement” the Standards by the end of 2014. More states signed on within another year, bringing the total to 46. (Alaska, Texas, Virginia, and Nebraska were the holdouts.)

All of this activity at the state level has allowed advocates to say, correctly, that the federal Department of Education did not produce the Standards. Our nation’s educationists, working together, produced the Standards. But it is a distinction without much difference. When the Ed Department found itself flush with cash from the 2009 Obama stimulus, it came up with “Race to the Top,” a $4.35 billion program that allocated federal money to states based in part on how closely they embraced “common standards” for “college and career readiness.” Department officials, especially Secretary Duncan, have been tireless in promoting the cause, and the revolving door of the Gates Foundation has made it hard to tell the difference between state and federal, public and private.

Once the states fell into line, the department paid another $330 million for two state consortiums to hire educationists to devise Common Core tests. These will measure how well students are rising to the Standards, and those results, in turn, will be used to evaluate how well individual teachers are teaching them. The new tests will replace tests that each state had to develop over the last few years in response to NCLB. Those tests cost a lot of money too—money down the drain. In fact, many school districts were still introducing the NCLB tests when word came down that Common Core would require new tests to replace the old tests. Educationists are always on the go.


Only half the Common Core states say they will have the program up and running by the 2015 deadline. The Standards, with thousands of pages of experimental research to support them, are proving difficult to put in practice. If you read them, you get hints why. I’ve spent many hours pinching myself awake as I read through the hundreds of thousands of words that make up the Standards for Language Arts and Social Studies. Their length is intimately involved in their ambition. “The Standards,” reads a preamble, “lay out a vision for what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century.” Students who meet the Standards are “engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. They work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying. .  .  . They use relevant evidence .  .  . making their reasoning clear .  .  . and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.”

This is a lofty notion of a high school senior, and rare even among accomplished adults—I can think of several columnists for the New York Times who would fail to qualify. It is also notably abstract. The Standards are this way from necessity. The experts who wrote them had to insist on a distinction between a national curriculum, which the federal government is forbidden by statute to enact, and national standards, which any state or local curriculum must meet. Advocates try to draw a bright line between these two, curriculum and standards, without much success. According to the authors, the Standards “do not—indeed cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn.”

“Decisions about what content is to be taught,” they insist, “are made at the state and local levels.” At the same time, we read that Common Core’s “educational standards are the learning goals for what students should know.” Is what students should know different from content?

This distinction between content and learning—between what a student is supposed to learn and how he is supposed to learn it—has been a premise of educationist philosophy for a generation or more. Before schools fell under the sway of modern educational theory, it was assumed that a student would learn how to weigh and judge knowledge in the act of acquiring it; the best way to get a kid thinking, in other words, was to make him learn something. The educationist bisects the process. The act of learning is somehow to be separated from what’s being learned and then taught independently of it. The what of learning is much less important than the how. This is why such airy concepts as “critical thinking” and “problem solving” and “higher-order thinking skills” are the linchpins of modern education. As one disgruntled teacher put it: Rather than learning something in particular, students learn nothing in general.

Teacher training has developed accordingly. In the schools of education where most primary and secondary teachers learn the trade, the method is not to train teachers in the subjects they’ll teach but to train them in theories about teaching. The adage that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach has been topped off: Those who can’t teach, teach teachers. The technocrats in social sciences produce a limitless supply of theories to study and argue over—enough to amuse education majors and keep an entire academic discipline busy. Education schools are now understood to be the easy mark of higher education: Anyone can get an education degree. The paradoxical effect is that some college students are drawn to become teachers precisely because they don’t have to know much to be one.

In the confusion between content and learning, the Standards often show the telltale verbal inflation that educationists use to make a simple idea complicated. The Standards for Reading offer a typical example. They come in groups of three—making a wonderful, if suspicious, symmetry. Unfortunately, many of the triplets are essentially identical. According to the rubric Key Ideas and Details, a student should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly.” Where one standard says the student must be able to “analyze the development of central ideas,” the next standard says the student should be able to “analyze” “how ideas develop.” One “key detail” is to “learn details.” Under Craft and Structure, the student should be able to “analyze” how “portions of text” “relate to each other or the whole.” Another says he “should cite specific textual evidence” and still another that he should “summarize the key supporting details.” All of this collapses into a single unwritten standard: “Learn to read with care and to explain what you’ve read.” But no educationist would be so simple-minded.

There are standards only an educationist could love, or understand. It took me a while to realize that “scaffolding” is an ed-school term for “help.” Associate is another recurring term of art with a flexible meaning, from spell to match, as when third graders are expected to “associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” This seems like students are being asked to spell vowels, but that can’t be right, can it? And when state and local teachers have to embody such confusing standards in classroom exercises, you’re likely to wind up with more confusion. In a teacher’s guide to the Standards from Kentucky, I found this problem for tenth graders, who will be asked to decide “which person demonstrates more admirable qualities”:

“Aristotle describes three different types of people. He points out that Person A gets pleasure from doing good things. Other people get pleasure from doing bad things. Of these people, Aristotle mentions two types.” [So there are four types?]

“Person B eats too much food because he gets pleasure from it. Person C would also get pleasure from eating too much food. However, this person controls himself and eats the right amount of food even though he would prefer to eat more.” [Then Person C is doing a good thing?]

“In Aristotle’s system, both Person A and Person B eat the right amount of food. [Don’t you mean Person C?] Person A eats the right amount of food by nature. Person B eats the right amount of food by choice.” [Wait. He does?]

By the end Person C has vanished altogether apparently, leaving many unhappy tenth graders in his wake.


Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

“It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”

Now, it is hard to imagine a more traditionalist sentiment than that. Yet conservative Common Core activists single out Coleman as a particularly sinister adversary, perhaps for his potty mouth. The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not.

The conservative case, as seen in videos and blogs posted on countless websites, relies heavily on misinformation—tall tales and urban legends advanced by people who should know better. Revulsion at the educationist project predates Common Core by many decades. It is grounded in countless genuine examples of faddish textbooks and politicized curriculums. For the last few years, however, Common Core has been blamed for all of them. Textbook marketers and lesson-plan designers are happy to help. Their market, after all, isn’t parents but fellow educationists on state and local school boards that control purchasing budgets. Once Common Core was established as the future (for now) of education, the marketers knew the phrase was catnip. Every educational product imaginable now bears the label “common core,” whether it’s inspired by the Standards or not. A search of books for sale on shows more than 12,000 bearing the words “common core” in their titles. Many were produced long before the Standards were even a twinkle in an educationist’s eye.

And so, from a popular conservative blog, we get lists of horribles like this, attributed to Common Core:

“Would you be okay with your 4th grader learning how to masturbate from his school textbook? Would you think it’s a good idea to teach kids that the correct answer to 72 + 81 is 150, not 153? What about cutting Tom Sawyer from the curriculum, and replacing it with articles about the imminent dangers of man-made global warming?”

All these were evidently drawn from textbooks that sell themselves to educationists as being “aligned” with the Standards. Of course, if you live in the kind of school district that buys a textbook that teaches your fourth grader how to masturbate, that’s most likely the kind of textbook you’ll get. But Common Core has nothing to do with it. The Standards are agnostic on the onanism question at every grade level. Activist literature commonly confuses the Standards with the National Sexuality Educational Standards, a fringe concoction of left-wing “sexuality educators” that apes the Common Core but has no official or unofficial relation to it. The fact that the Common Core Standards can be plausibly linked to such enterprises is a testament to the neutrality of their content—their intentional blandness. Indeed, it might be an argument for making the Standards more demanding rather than for doing away with them altogether.

Conservative hostility to the Common Core is also entangled with hostility to President Obama and his administration. Joy Pullman, an editor and writer who is perhaps the most eloquent and responsible public critic of Common Core, wrote recently in “I wager that 90 percent of the debate over Common Core would instantly dissipate if states adopted the top-rated standards from, say, Massachusetts or Indiana and dropped the Obama administration tests.”

While the personal hostility to Obama might be overwrought, the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Standards has borne all the marks of the president’s other efforts at national persuasion. There is the hysterical overstatement—Secretary Duncan calls Common Core “the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.” (Has he forgotten Goals 2000?) There are the same sly elisions, the buried assumptions and question-begging, the drawing of Jesuitical distinctions. Here are Secretary Duncan’s remarks last year to a group of newspaper editors: “The federal government didn’t write [the Standards], didn’t approve them, and doesn’t mandate them, and we never will. Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or willfully misleading.”

This is willfully misleading. The federal government doesn’t mandate Common Core, but when Duncan and his department made lots of federal funds contingent on a state’s embrace of “common standards,” the Common Core was no longer “voluntary” for most revenue-hungry state officials. At the same time, for all practical purposes, the department assumed oversight of the program. Only a federal bureaucrat can say when a state has satisfied its obligation to produce materials appropriate to the Standards. And as implementation of Common Core begins in earnest, with confusion about which tests comply with which standards, the federal role will only grow.

Common Core does not impose a national curriculum, Duncan often insists, correctly; such an explicit move would not only be illegal but would face insurmountable resistance. Yet, in other venues where it is helpful to do so, he speaks of the program as if it had all the conveniences of a national curriculum: “Literally for the first time in American history .  .  . a fourth grade teacher in New Mexico can develop a lesson plan at night and, the very next day, a fourth grade teacher in New York can use it and share it with others if she wants to.” This assertion isn’t willfully misleading. To the extent it concerns the Common Core, it is nakedly untrue.


The administration’s bullying and dishonesty might be reason enough to reject the Standards. The campaign has even begun to worry its natural allies, who are losing trust in assurances that the Common Core is an advance for progressive education. Educationists on the leftward edge point to its insistence that teachers be judged on how much their students learn. This bears an unappealing resemblance to NCLB requirements, and they worry it will inject high-pressure competition into the collegial environment that most educationists prefer. Worse, it could be a Trojan horse for a reactionary agenda, a return to the long-ago era when students really had to, you know, learn stuff.

“The purpose of education,” says Paul Horton, a Common Core critic at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, “is for a person .  .  . to discover who they are, to grow as an individual. .  .  . I think current policymakers unfortunately see the purpose of education as being training people to acquire the minimum level of skills that are required to work in a technical workplace.”

The nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, supported Common Core in its earliest stages, and were happy to accept very large grants to assist Gates and other pro-Standards institutions in their work. But as the deadline for implementation in 2015 approaches, the support among teachers shows signs of softening. Last month a group of nearly 200 local teachers marched on the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle protesting its role in Common Core. Gates’s attitude, one protester told the local public radio station, “is, ‘It’s the teachers that need to change, and it’s the standards and the testing that really will improve [schools].’ .  .  . Really, the issue is class size, support for teachers, and poverty.”

In May, one of the AFT’s largest subsidiaries, the Chicago Teachers Union, passed a resolution condemning Common Core. “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration,” said a spokesman. “We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”

Already last year, the president of the AFT called for a delay of at least two years in using Common Core-related tests for teacher evaluations; states would test students, in other words, but teachers would not be judged on the students’ scores. The Gates Foundation has agreed, and several states have already announced a moratorium on teacher evaluations. In perhaps the most dramatic development of all, Politico reported, the AFT’s Innovation Fund announced it would no longer accept its annual $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation. The “level of distrust” of Gates among its members was too great. Of course, distrust has its limits. The union itself will continue to accept Gates money for its general fund. And AFT leadership holds out the possibility that even the Innovation Fund will once again accept Gates money in the future, according to a union spokesman. “We don’t want to say never, never, ever, ever.”


The delays and distancing suggest a cloudy future for the Common Core. Even its advocates say that the best possible outcome for now involves a great deal more unpleasantness: The tests will be given to many students beginning next spring, and the results will demonstrate the catastrophic state of learning in American schools. Of course, we knew that, but still. “Maybe this will be a reality check,” one booster told me the other day. “People will take a look at the results and say, ‘Aha! So this is what they’ve been talking about!’ It will send a very strong signal.”

It would indeed, but a signal to do what? Educationists don’t like unpleasantness; it’s not what they signed up for when they became reformers. We already know what happened when NCLB state tests exposed the reality of American public schools. It was time for a new reform.

In that case, Common Core would survive, but only as NCLB survives—as a velleity, a whiff of a hint of a memory of a gesture toward an aspiration for excellence. And the educationists will grow restless. Someone somewhere will come up with a new reform program, a whole new approach—one with teeth, and high-stakes consequences for stakeholders. Bill Gates will get wind of it. He will be intrigued. His researchers will design experiments to make sure the program is scientifically sound. Data will be released at seminars, and union leadership will lend tentative support. The president will declare a crisis and make reform a national priority. She will want to be called an education president too.

Education Issues & The Wisconsin Governor’s Race

Molly Beck:

As governor, Burke said she would seek to improve the high school experience for students to decrease the number of students who drop out or leave without much direction.
 “I see too much — we have either students who are not graduating or not engaged in their learning along with students who graduate but have no clear direction about their next step, and it doesn’t serve them well and it doesn’t serve the economy well,” she said.
 Walker’s campaign said the governor’s approach to education is influenced by several of his closest friends who are teachers, and “each of them give the governor a unique perspective on education.”
 The Republican Party of Wisconsin has highlighted Burke’s Madison School Board vote in June 2012 to increase property taxes by 4.95 percent. Later that year, after state aid came in higher than expected, she supported a 1.75 percent property tax increase, the maximum increase allowed under state law. She has not voted in favor of a school district budget since.

Related: The Common Core Commotion.

When Teachers Romanticize Their Students’ Poverty

April Bo Wang:

It’s one of those summer afternoons in Helena, Arkansas, where the sun is bright enough to wipe everything out in a glare of white. Even the breeze feels like a hairdryer on my neck.

I am sweating on top of Battery C. The last time I was here, I’d picked my way up an overgrown trail and had only a couple of ornery goats for company. Now, the goats have been supplanted by metal statues of Union soldiers aiming muskets down the kudzu-covered hill. Behind me, a concrete walkway leads to a pristine parking lot where a car is just pulling in. The development of Battery C is a good thing. It’s indicative of a small manufacturing town’s struggle toward economic recovery. But I just miss the damn goats.

The inequity and challenges facing my students were very real. There was nothing beautiful about their poverty.

“This land, this land … this Delta!” Even Faulkner was reduced to sentence fragments when he wrote about this place. Many great writers have tried, but it is just one of those places too immense for words. When I arrived in Helena after college for a job with Teach for America, my head was filled with romantic notions. My modest goal was to simultaneously teach 11th grade English, pocket some life experience, and write a novel. I relished the knowledge that I was living in Richard Wright’s boyhood town, on the banks of Twain’s mighty Mississippi, and 15 minutes down the road from Moon Lake, where Tennessee Williams drank himself into a stupor and wrote Blanche’s fiancé into a watery suicide.

Both Genders Think Women Are Bad at Basic Math

John Bohannon:

Think women can’t do math? You’re wrong—but new research shows you might not change your mind, even if you get evidence to the contrary. A study of how both men and women perceive each other’s mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women could be skewing hiring decisions, widening the gender gap in mathematical professions like engineering.

The inspiration for the experiment was a 2008 study published in Science that analyzed the results of a standardized test of math and verbal abilities taken by 15-year-olds around the world. The results challenged the pernicious stereotype that females are biologically inferior at mathematics. Although the female test-takers lagged behind males on the math portion of the test, the size of the gap closely tracked the degree of gender inequality in their countries, shrinking to nearly zero in emancipated countries like Sweden and Norway. That suggests that cultural biases rather than biology may be the better explanation for the math gender gap.

To tease out the mechanism of discrimination, two of the authors of the 2008 study, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, economic researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in Illinois, respectively, teamed up with Ernesto Reuben, an experimental psychologist at Columbia Business School in New York City, to design an experiment to test people’s gender bias when it comes to judging mathematical ability.

Tuition and Fees Rise, but Cost of Living—by Colleges’ Estimate—Falls

Jonah Newman

As usual, the U.S. Department of Education is a bit behind when it comes to data.

Published tuition and fees increased by about 4 percent at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges and by nearly 5 percent at public two-year colleges from 2011-12 to 2013-14, when adjusted for inflation, according to a new release from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The preliminary data were collected from about 7,400 postsecondary institutions in the fall of 2013 through the Integrated Postsecondary Education System, known as Ipeds.

On-campus room and board rose at about the same rate as tuition, while off-campus room and board rose by less than 1 percent at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges and fell by about 1 percent at public two-year colleges.

But we knew all of that already: The College Board released data in October for tuition, fees, room, and board in 2013-14 that showed roughly the same trends in the cost of attendance, or COA.

Today’s young people are held to be alienated, unhappy, violent failures. They are proving anything but

The Economist:

GÖRLITZER PARK, a patch of grass and concrete, has a seedy air. Its tall walls are covered in graffiti. Near the entrances, young African men stand around hassling bystanders, asking if they want to buy some “kiffen”. Yet in many respects, the “drug park” (as locals in Kreuzberg, a trendy district of Berlin, often call it) does not live up to its ugly reputation. On a Saturday afternoon, it is mostly full of 20-somethings sitting around on the grass in groups sipping coffees and beers. Young parents pass by with pushchairs. University students on picnic blankets peer into their textbooks. Over the course of an hour or so, not a single one of the drug dealers in view seems to make a deal. For most of the locals, they are a hassle—not a service.

Few European cities do youth culture and hedonism better than Berlin. Young people flock—or, if truly cool, just drift—here from all over the world. The nightlife runs until dawn, techno beats flood its streets. Yet as with Görlitzer Park, the wild appearance belies reality. The city’s middle-aged artists and musicians complain that its young hipsters are taking the edge out of its nightlife by trying to make money out of it. Their entrepreneurialism is driving up rents. “The city of heroin addicts, David Bowie and Iggy Pop has disappeared,” says a Berliner who was not yet born when the Thin White Duke came to stay. In its place is a town where people come to study, work and boost their creative careers, not just party.

Berlin is still an unusual city; the temperance of its youth is not. In 2002 just 13% of German teenagers had never had an alcoholic drink; by 2012, that figure had risen to 30%. Among 18- to 25-year-olds, the proportion drinking at least once a week has fallen by a third since the early 1990s. Cannabis use has dropped, too, and the number of deaths attributed to the use of illegal drugs has fallen by half since 2000. Similar trends are seen across the Western world.

The Darker Side of University Endowments

Student Union of Michigan

In November 2013, the University of Michigan launched its new capital campaign, “Victors for Michigan,” which aims to raise $4 billion from private sources primarily to be deposited in the endowment. If successful, it will be the largest in the history of public higher education, topping U-M’s previous campaign which raised $3.2 billion between 2004-2008. On the surface, big donations and a fat endowment seem great. However, the growing importance of the endowment and the university’s dependence on wealthy donors and Wall Street firms are among the factors transforming the contemporary university from a place of learning and knowledge production to something that looks more and more like a corporation—or, in this case, a global hedge fund.

The endowment is a collection of about 7,800 pools of money that are invested around the world.[1] The returns on these investments are then either reinvested or disbursed to different parts of the university, with each individual fund carrying certain restrictions regarding how it can be spent. These restrictions come from the individual donors, who unilaterally dictate that their money be used to fund a particular kind of scientific research, renovate a particular campus building, endow a specific professorship, and so on. A small percentage of the endowment’s returns (4.5%) is applied each year to university operations. Over the past five years, U-M’s $8 billion endowment has contributed an average of less than $300 million a year to operating expenses like professors’ salaries. The administration likes to talk up how 20% of this contribution goes toward financial aid, but $60 million is a drop in the bucket when you consider that tuition adds up to over $1 billion a year (and much of that aid is based on “merit” instead of financial need).

A Better Online Reader

Maria Konnikova

Soon after Maryanne Wolf published “Proust and the Squid,” a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore. As the letters continued to pour in, Wolf experienced a growing realization: in the seven years it had taken her to research and write her account, reading had changed profoundly—and the ramifications could be felt far beyond English departments and libraries. She called the rude awakening her “Rip van Winkle moment,” and decided that it was important enough to warrant another book. What was going on with these students and professionals? Was the digital format to blame for their superficial approaches, or was something else at work?

Certainly, as we turn to online reading, the physiology of the reading process itself shifts; we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper. Anne Mangen, a professor at the National Centre for Reading Education and Research at the University of Stavanger, in Norway, points out that reading is always an interaction between a person and a technology, be it a computer or an e-reader or even a bound book. Reading “involves factors not usually acknowledged,” she told me. “The ergonomics, the haptics of the device itself. The tangibility of paper versus the intangibility of something digital.” The contrast of pixels, the layout of the words, the concept of scrolling versus turning a page, the physicality of a book versus the ephemerality of a screen, the ability to hyperlink and move from source to source within seconds online—all these variables translate into a different reading experience.

Politics, Wisconsin & The Common Core, Part 34

Alan Borsuk:

Here’s a suggestion for something to include in Wisconsin-specific education standards for Wisconsin children:

By the end of first grade, children will know that two Badgers plus two Badgers equals four Badgers.

You want Indiana-specific standards for Indiana kids? By the end of first grade, children will know that two Hoosiers plus two Hoosiers equals four Hoosiers.

North Carolina standards for North Carolina kids? You got it — two Tar Heels plus two Tar Heels equals four Tar Heels.

What kind of silliness is this? Best as I can see, it’s about the level of silliness the whole discussion of education expectations for our children is reaching, both in Wisconsin and across the nation.

With Gov. Scott Walker’s one-sentence statement on Thursday that he wants the Legislature to repeal Wisconsin’s involvement in the Common Core standards movement, we have crossed onto turf where chaos in education policy is likely to reign for the coming school year.

At the same time, I bet we’re also on the way, in the long run, to changing very little when it comes to state standards for what kids should learn. I say that because states that have announced they are going to set their own standards are generally coming up with new plans that actually change little. That’s for two reasons.

“Promoting diversity appears to be more important than teaching students”

W. Lee Hansen:

This Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence sailed through our Faculty Senate without the least bit of attention, much less the “sifting and winnowing” on which it prides itself.

Although much of the language is a thicket of clichés, no one dared challenge it. Moreover, there was no probing of the ramifications of the plan. Apparently, “diversity” has become such a sacred cow that even tenured professors are afraid to question it in any way.

To begin, the university’s justification for the new policy is difficult to understand: “Our commitment is to create an environment that engages the whole person in the service of learning, recognizing that individual differences should be considered foundational to our strength as a community.”

That language is mere education babble, but the Faculty Senate swallowed it whole. So did the academic staff and the students.

The plan¹s definition of diversity focuses on a wide array of differences that can be found in every enrolled student. Here’s what it includes:

See Inside The U.S. Neglects Its Best Science Students

Rena F. Subotnik, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius and Frank C. Worrell:

The U.S. education policy world—the entire country, for that matter—is on a quest to increase the ranks of future innovators in science and technology. Yet the programs that get funded in K–12 education do not support students who are already good at and in love with science. These students have potential for outstanding contributions, but without public investment they will not be prepared for the rigors of a scientific career. This is especially true for those without highly educated and resource-rich parents.

This lack of investment is not a matter of chance. It is the result of two related myths about who these students are and what they need from our education system. The first myth is that all talented students come from privileged backgrounds. A second is that students who are successful at a particular time in their school career can somehow thrive on their own, unassisted and unsupervised. We argue that all children deserve to be challenged cognitively, including the most able. Many students with low socioeconomic backgrounds never get the opportunity to develop their talents beyond the rudimentary school curriculum. Jonathan Plucker of the University of Connecticut has shown that high-achieving, low-income students fall further behind their higher-socioeconomic-status peers the closer they get to graduation. Moreover, international comparison studies show science scores improving for all students except those in the top 10 percent.

We know how to identify students who are talented in science and motivated to achieve. We find them thriving in enriched environments (think math and rocketry clubs) inside and outside of school. Standardized tests identify exceptional reasoning abilities in mathematics and spatial skills. Expressing and showing interest in science in elementary or middle school are good predictors of future pursuit of career interests in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Wisconsin’s DPI Lags again: Minnesota Publicly Links High School Graduation to College Achievement Data

Mila Koumpilova

Six years ago, 225 students graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School. More than 70 percent went to college. Almost 40 percent got a degree.

That’s the sort of information Minnesota educators and parents have long wished they had. Now, it is readily available for the first time on a newly launched website that shows where a high school’s graduates went to college, how long they stayed on campus and how many graduated.

For state officials like Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, the information promises to highlight hidden success stories and inform policy decisions at a time of intense focus on college and career readiness. High schools can use it to assess how well they are preparing students and to spur partnerships with campuses popular with their graduates.

“This is a huge step forward in understanding how our students do when they leave us,” said Joe Munnich, the St. Paul district’s assistant director of research, evaluation and assessment. “It opens up amazing possibilities.”

Of Minnesota’s 2008 high school graduates, 69 percent went to a two- or four-year college, and 45 percent have since gotten a diploma. Eventually, the web site will also include information on how college graduates are faring on the job market.

The new data and web site are a joint effort by Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education, the Departments of Education and the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The project is funded with the same federal grant that has supported the state’s “Getting Prepared” reports, which show what portion of a high school’s graduates had to take remedial courses in college.

Until now, high schools knew which of their students graduated in a given year. Higher education institutions knew which students arrived on their campuses and which stuck around until graduation. The state project linked up that data for each student.

This data has been discussed from time to time in Madison & Wisconsin. Yet, our Wisconsin DPI – parent of the oft criticized WKCE – seems to be living in the status quo.

It appears that the Wisconsin DPI spent $48,531,028.75 during 2013 according to the Wisconsin “Open Book” site.

Here’s an example from Minnesota’s “SLEDS” System:

Dive in at the SLEDS site.

Politics, Wisconsin & the Common Core

Erin Richards & Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker’s call to drop the Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin threw a new dart at the beleaguered academic expectations this week.

But his plan to have lawmakers pass a bill in January that repeals and replaces the standards might be easier said than done, especially because the standards are voluntary for districts.

A leading Republican senator said that establishing new, state-specific standards could actually shift power away from local school boards and to the state.

Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a vocal supporter of the standards, said there’s actually nothing to “repeal” with Common Core. That’s because the standards are not codified in state law.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

And, a primer.

The more people are exposed to socialism, the worse they behave

The Economist:

“UNDER capitalism”, ran the old Soviet-era joke, “man exploits man. Under communism it is just the opposite.” In fact new research suggests that the Soviet system inspired not just sarcasm but cheating too: in East Germany, at least, communism appears to have inculcated moral laxity.

Lars Hornuf of the University of Munich and Dan Ariely, Ximena García-Rada and Heather Mann of Duke University ran an experiment last year to test Germans’ willingness to lie for personal gain. Some 250 Berliners were randomly selected to take part in a game where they could win up to €6 ($8).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: business (tax base) climate

Steve Denning:

The resulting index is bad news for business: It shows that, behind the mirage of financial engineering, mergers and acquisitions, tax gadgets, share buybacks, seemingly rising profits fed by cheap government money and soaring executive compensation, the underlying reality is harsh: US business is in a long-term secular decline and has been so for decades.
 The conclusion is inescapable: big hierarchical bureaucracies with legacy structures and managerial practices and short-term mindsets have not yet found a way to flourish in this new world.
 The Shift Index 2009 thus anticipated the conclusion to which macro-economists are now reluctantly coming, namely, that an economy comprising mainly big hierarchical bureaucracies are undergoing a “Great Stagnation” (Tyler Cowen) or “Secular Stagnation” (Larry Summers).
 The 2011 edition of the Shift Index covered industry-specific data for nine key sectors and provided a guide to the thought leadership, methodology, and data that drives the index’s metrics.

Confronting Our Permanent Public University “Austerity”

Chris Newfield:

This post focuses on the University of California’s budget situation, but it is broadly applicable to public colleges and universities across the country. More evidence of the national pattern came in this week, with reports of Moody’s negative outlook on higher education’s finances. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Don Troop provided highlights of Moody’s view of the overall sector. UC reflects the convergence of all but the fourth of these trends.
 Growth in tuition revenue remains stifled by affordability concerns, legislative ceilings on tuition levels, and steep competition for students.
 State financing of higher education will increase, on average, just 3 to 4 percent—not enough to meet the growth in expenses.
 Already stiff competition for sponsored-research dollars is getting stiffer, with success rates for proposals dropping from 19 percent in 2008 to below 15 percent last year.

Fascinating given the tuition cost + student loan explosion.

Millennials Favor Private Accounts for Social Security Even if Benefit Cuts to Current Seniors Required

Emily Ekins:

Millennials aren’t optimistic about Social Security: 53% say Social Security is “unlikely” to exist when they are 67 years old, while 45 percent say it probably will remain.
 But if it does exist at that time, even fewer millennials believe government will provide them with the same level of benefits that today’s seniors receive. Only 34 percent say they are confident that government will provide them with the same level of retirement benefits as it does for today’s retirees; 64 percent say they are not confident.
 Education decreases the likelihood one believes Social Security will continue in the future. A majority (54%) of those with high school degrees or less expect Social Security to exist when they retire, compared to 36 percent of college graduates.

Miichael Gove and the Bitter Pills of UK Education Reform

UK Teacher:

I actually began writing this post as soon as I heard the news that Michael Gove was to be replaced as Secretary of State for Education. However, it has taken me rather longer than I expected to get back into the swing of writing, and I know that many bloggers have now beaten me to it. Nonetheless, here is my take on the legacy of Gove (with apologies if it seems somewhat skewed towards my subject of secondary English). So, what chains did Michael Gove forge in post as SoS that may have lasting impact on the future of our education system? *Please note that this is simply my take on the matter, and, as ever, all comments and opinions are welcome. • He knew that there was exam dumbing down, and he dealt with it. This was a hugely unpopular stance, at the time. Prior to the reforms, some educationalists were (and some still are) suggesting that teaching was improving year on year and kids were simply getting brighter. In fact, it is now widely accepted that exam boards were deliberately making courses easier. The course with the reputation for being the easiest naturally proved more popular. The inflated grades supplied kudos for teacher, school and pupils in one fell swoop – not to mention extra business for the board’s.

Leaked report reveals ‘aggressive Islamist agenda’ in Birmingham UK schools

Patrick Wintour:

A damning report into extremist infiltration of Birmingham schools has uncovered evidence of “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city”.

The conclusion emerges from a leaked draft of a report, commissioned by the former education secretary Michael Gove and written by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism command, which is due to be published in the next 24 hours.

Clarke said there was a “sustained and coordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strain of Sunni Islam”.

The draft, marked as sensitive, added that: “Left unchecked, it would confine schoolchildren within an intolerant, inward-looking monoculture that would severely inhibit their participation in the life of modern Britain”.

The uncompromising report may deepen community tensions in England’s second city and provoke a fierce debate on whether Britain has been sufficiently muscular in efforts to expose and uproot Islamism. It will also make uncomfortable reading for Birmingham city council as it accuses local politicians and officials of ignoring evidence of extremism for years, repeatedly failing to support bullied headteachers and putting the need to soothe community tensions ahead of all else.

Mommy Police With Real Handcuffs

Megan McArdle:

You can argue that driving is necessary, but it seems to me that raising independent children is also necessary. Arresting parents who allow any child younger than a college freshman to spend time alone amounts to a legal mandate to keep kids timid and tethered. This should not be an object of public policy.

What is truly bizarre is that the cops cuffing these women were most likely raised with exactly the freedom they are now punishing. Do they think their parents should have been put in jail? Or have the intervening years rendered tweens unable to figure out how the car doors work?

I’m not saying that parents should take their toddlers into the wilderness and leave them there to hike their way out. What I can’t understand is how our society has lost the ability to distinguish between that and letting your pre-teen hang out in the car for a half-hour or spend some time in a nearby park. As Jessica Grose says, if this had been illegal in 1972, every single mother in America would have been in jail. Yet millions upon millions of us lived to tell the tale.

Madison schools’ new policy on unpaid meals: Lots of carrots, no stick

Chris Rickert:

The Madison School District has decided to stop telling children with overdrawn meal accounts that they can’t have the same meals the district gives to children of parents who are keeping up with their bills and to children who are enrolled in the free and subsidized lunch program.

Providing overdrawn children with a bare-bones cheese sandwich lunch is cheaper, but district officials decided it was also an exercise in shaming, especially when a lot of the children were probably poor but whose parents just hadn’t filled out the paperwork to get help paying for them.

“Doing it at the lunch line was very inappropriate,” said School Board member Dean Loumos.

Board president Arlene Silveira didn’t respond to requests for comment about the district’s new plans for handling overdrawn accounts. But Mike Barry, the assistant superintendent of business services, said district staff would make greater efforts to help families apply for subsidies before school starts, as well as make it easier for families to pay their meal bills.

Not under consideration are more punitive measures, Barry said, including sending bills to collection agencies or denying students access to extracurricular activities or their diplomas until meal bills are paid.

New Jersey’s Special Education Task Force

John Mooney:

Regardless of how long it took to appoint a new state task force on special education, the 17 members will have less time to come up with recommendations.

Formally called the Task Force for Improving Special Education of Public School Students, the group appointed by Gov. Chris Christie met for the first time on July 1 to begin its work looking into the needs of students with disabilities — assessing everything from programs to costs.

But as complicated as that job may be, the law creating the task force — enacted in spring 2013 — calls for final recommendations by the end of this calendar year.

That’s a tall order. New Jersey’s schools face some vexing issues, such as how to best pay for services for special-needs students, how to implement and monitor those services, and how to balance the sometimes-conflicting needs and wants of families, districts, and the state.

Laura Waters has more.

Teachers’ Practical Guide to A FLipped Classroom

Education Sector:

Unlike the numerous graphics I shared here on the topic of flipped learning which were substantially theoretically based, the one I have for you today provides a practical demonstration of how Dr.Russell flipped his classroom . The graphic also features some of the activities and procedures he drew in his flipped instruction. Another section of this graphic highlights some of the bearings of this flipped methodology on students performance particularly in terms of the enhanced test scores. The purpose behind sharing this visual is to provide you with a concrete example of how you can go about integrating a flipped learning methodology in your instruction. This is only a paradigmatic example which you can adapt with due modifications to your own teaching situation.

Student Housing Gets Swanky and Investors Salivate

Diana Olnick:

From the front lobby, it could easily be mistaken for a spa hotel—the blue wave lighting on the wall behind the concierge desk, the sleek sofas and flat screen monitors. But this is no hotel. It is student housing—millennial style—and it may be one of the best under-the-radar real estate plays of the decade.
 “This is an industry that is ripe with opportunity,” said Bill Bayless, CEO of American Campus Communities, the largest student housing REIT (real estate investment trust) in the nation and developer of Drexel University’s Chestnut Square, a 361,000-square-foot luxury dormitory for 861 students on the Philadelphia campus. “If you look at the student housing sector, it was ignored by the mainstream real estate industry for more than 40 years.”

Adjuncts Urge Labor Dept. Inquiry Into Working Conditions

Inside Higher Ed

More than 500 adjunct professors and their advocates have signed a petition calling for the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate their working conditions. The petition’s authors, all current or former adjuncts at various colleges and universities, allege that they are being paid for only part of the work they do, and that that amounts to wage theft. The petition is addressed to David Weil, director of the agency’s Wage and Hour Division, and urges him to “open an investigation into the labor practices of our colleges and universities in the employment of contingent faculty, including adjunct instructors and full-time contract faculty outside the tenure track.” The investigation should be conducted at the “sector” level, they say, rather than individually.

Impatient children are more likely to become lawbreakers

The Economist:

IN HIS “Odyssey”, Homer immortalised the idea of resisting temptation by having the protagonist tied to the mast of his ship, to hear yet not succumb to the beautiful, dangerous songs of the Sirens. Researchers have long been intrigued as to whether this ability to avoid, or defer, gratification is related to outcomes in life. The best-known test is the “marshmallow” experiment, in which children who could refrain from eating the confection for 15 minutes were given a second one. Children who could not wait tended to have lower incomes and poorer health as adults. New research suggests that kids who are unable to delay rewards are also more likely to become criminals later.

David Akerlund, Hans Gronqvist and Lena Lindahl of Stockholm University and Bart Golsteyn of Maastricht University used data from a Swedish survey in which more than 13,000 children aged 13 were asked whether they would prefer to receive $140 now or $1,400 in five years’ time. About four-fifths of them said they were prepared to wait.

Best state in America: Massachusetts, for its educational success

Reid Wilson:

That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement.

In almost every category, the Bay State beats the national average: More than 60 percent of Massachusetts children have a parent with a post-secondary degree, 14 points higher than average, and nearly 60 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, more than 10 points above the national average.

No surprise, nearly half of Massachusetts fourth-graders are proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests, and more than 54 percent of eighth-graders get proficient scores on NAEP math tests — both the highest rates in the country.

The underlying reason is a bipartisan commitment to education reform. Massachusetts passed a major school reform package in 1993, increasing spending, particularly in poorer districts; raising assessment standards; and making licensure exams for new teachers more difficult. Several other states improved their standards around the same time. But when partisan priorities shifted in other places, Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats alike continued investing heavily in education.

Improving scores, particularly among low-income and minority students, is still a challenge, and Massachusetts has done no better in closing the achievement gap than most other states.

Wisconsin took a very small step toward Massachusetts’ content knowledge requirements by adopting MTEL-90 for elementary English teachers.

Wisconsin results are available here.

College Presidents & the Titanic

Benjamin Ginsburg:

These college presidents appear to believe that their good ship is on course and can continue steaming full speed ahead. And, why shouldn’t our captains of erudition have a rosy view? Many are lavishly compensated, expensively dressed and coifed, and surrounded by legions of deanlets and toadies who always agree with them. How could anything be wrong with such a world? Cries of alarm from faculty members, students, parents and legislators must be uninformed. Tell the band or, perhaps, order the university office of public information and administrative propaganda to turn up the volume and drown out the grumblers.

Get a liberal arts B.A., not a business B.A., for the coming artisan economy

Lawrence Katz:

Editor’s Note: In Making Sen$e’s report on “the artisan economy” Tuesday evening on the NewsHour, Paul Solman speaks with two exterminators and a dementia coach. Not what you typically think of as “artisans”? Well, how about operators of a fresh fruit Popsicle company or a line of handmade dog leashes, both crafted in a repurposed Brooklyn factory? Any of those jobs can be artisan says Larry Katz, the Harvard professor who’s coined the term “artisan economy.” What makes them artisan is that they’re not standardized occupations; they involve what he calls “personal flair” in each stage of the job.
 But this movement is about a lot more than hipsters bucking a traditional career path. Katz believes the artisan economy can help shore up the American middle class by creating new jobs to replace those mass production and middle management jobs lost to outsourcing or new technology. And he thinks that a firm grounding in the multidisciplinary liberal arts is the best preparation – better even than a business degree – to taking advantage of the artisan economy that he hopes will be a path to upward mobility for the average American. His extended interview with Paul Solman, edited and condensed for clarity, is below.

Before contract, New York teachers gave to de Blasio charity

Chris Bragg:

Less than a month before Mayor Bill de Blasio struck a major contract agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, gave $350,000 to a nonprofit run by de Blasio advisers, which lobbies on behalf of the mayor’s priorities, newly released records show.
 The AFT’s donation, on April 9, was the largest donation to the de Blasio-affiliated nonprofit, Campaign For One New York, since it was founded after the mayor was elected last November. Its timing raises questions about the ability of outside interests to advance their agendas before the city by supporting a nonprofit close to the mayor.

Related: $1.57 million for four senators – WEAC.

Commentary on School Choice in Sweden

Ray Fisman:

very three years, Americans wring their hands over the state of our schools compared with those in other countries. The occasion is the triennial release of global scholastic achievement rankings based on exams administered by the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tests students in 65 countries in math, science, and languages. Across all subjects, America ranked squarely in the middle of the pack when the tests were first given in 2000, and its position hardly budged over the next dozen years.
 The angst over U.S. student performance—and its implications for the American workforce of the near future—is inevitably accompanied by calls for education reform: greater accountability, more innovation. Just as inevitable are the suggestions for how more accountability and innovation could be realized: more charter schools, more choice, less bureaucratic oversight.
 Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.

Year after Rocketship’s scrutinized Milwaukee launch, signs point to progress; Status Quo in Madison

Erin Richards:

What were the highlights of Rocketship’s first year here?

Strong growth. Rocketship set a goal of having 65% of its Milwaukee students meet the national average for reading and math growth over the course of the year. In fact, 72% of the school’s students, almost all of whom are low-income and Hispanic or black, learned as much as a typical American student in English and language arts. In math, 87% of Rocketship students met or exceeded that average growth target.

New style. Rocketship introduced children to spending part of the day doing reading and math exercises on the computer, using software that adapts to each child’s skill level. Sessions are overseen by an aide rather than a teacher, which is one way Rocketship keeps costs down. Most teachers also specialize by subject matter.

Parent involvement. A Rocketship hallmark is involving parents in schools, not only to help their children with homework and goal-setting, but also to advocate in the community. Kinser said almost all teachers had 90% of their parents meet the 30-hour goal of interacting with the school.

Enrollment. This year’s enrollment goal is 487 children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the school on its way to meeting it, Kinser said.

Rocketship’s challenges

The turbulent first year in Milwaukee also set Rocketship on its heels at times. Some challenges included:

Special education. About 17% of Milwaukee Rocketship children had special needs last year, which is close to the district average in Milwaukee Public Schools. Venskus said Rocketship went about $500,000 over budget to serve those students.

Teacher turnover. Rocketship, like other demanding urban charter schools with long hours and high expectations, was not a good fit for some teachers who left early in the school year. Rocketship did not renew some others. This fall there will be four new teachers at the school from Teach For America, the alternative teacher certification program from which Rocketship frequently recruits.

Political challenges. Rocketship leaders had to negotiate with lawmakers in Madison to try to clear a path for their staff with out-of-state teaching or administrator credentials to be recognized in Wisconsin.

Rocketship has a charter agreement with the Milwaukee Common Council to open up to eight schools serving 500 students each.



Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

A majority if the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Commentary on structural change.

Via Molly Beck.

Underwater Dreams

Jonathan Alter:

To understand why that’s more than a platitude, check out Underwater Dreams, a seemingly modest human interest film that may be the most politically significant documentary since Waiting for Superman. (It opened in Los Angeles and New York on July 11 and can be seen on cable later this month).

The film tells the story of four undocumented Mexican teenagers who are members of a robotics club at Carl Hayden High School in the barrio of Phoenix; their parents speak no English, and their own horizons are limited.

With the help of dedicated teachers, they build an underwater robot and enter a grueling collegiate competition held at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2004. The boys figure they might learn something from the older college-age engineers showing off their robots.

The Carl Hayden team— Christian Arcega, Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda, and Oscar Vasquez—get off to a bad start when their robot, nicknamed “Stinky,” takes on water during a practice round on the first day. In one of the film’s many humorous moments, they buy a box of tampons that turn out to have the perfect absorbency for plugging Stinky’s leaks.

In an era of high-stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice.

Rachel Aviv:

One afternoon in the spring of 2006, Damany Lewis, a math teacher at Parks Middle School, in Atlanta, unlocked the room where standardized tests were kept. It was the week before his students took the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which determined whether schools in Georgia had met federal standards of achievement. The tests were wrapped in cellophane and stacked in cardboard boxes. Lewis, a slim twenty-nine-year-old with dreadlocks, contemplated opening the test with scissors, but he thought his cut marks would be too obvious. Instead, he left the school, walked to the corner store, and bought a razor blade. When he returned, he slit open the cellophane and gently pulled a test book from its wrapping. Then he used a lighter to warm the razor, which he wedged under the adhesive sealing the booklet, and peeled back the tab.

He photocopied the math, reading, and language-arts sections—the subjects that would determine, under the No Child Left Behind guidelines, whether Parks would be classified as a “school in need of improvement” for the sixth year in a row. Unless fifty-eight per cent of students passed the math portion of the test and sixty-seven per cent passed in language arts, the state could shut down the school. Lewis put on gloves, to prevent oil from his hands from leaving a residue on the plastic, and then used his lighter to melt the edges of the cellophane together, so that it appeared as if the package had never been opened. He gave the reading and language-arts sections to two teachers he trusted and took the math section home.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: U.S. risks fiscal crisis from rising debt: CBO

Robert Schroeder:

The U.S. risks a fiscal crisis if it doesn’t get large and continuously growing federal debt under control, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.

In its new long-term budget outlook, the nonpartisan CBO said federal debt held by the public is now 74% of the economy and will rise to 106% of gross domestic product by 2039 if current laws remain unchanged. Read the 2014 long-term budget outlook.

In its last long-term budget outlook in September 2013, CBO said debt held by the public was 73% of GDP and projected debt would be 102% of GDP in 2039.

The stark warning from the CBO comes as deficits have recently been falling. For the current fiscal year, for example, the CBO is projecting a deficit of $492 billion, which would be 2.8% of gross domestic product.

The deficit in fiscal 2013 was $680 billion, the first shortfall below $1 trillion of Barack Obama’s presidency. The deficit hit a record of $1.4 trillion in 2009.

But the agency expects deficits to rise in coming years as costs related to Social Security, Medicare and interest payments swell.