What Some Faculty Really Think About Nonacademic Careers

Stacey Patton:

Last month a small national group of graduate career counselors met on the University of California at San Diego’s campus in La Jolla to discuss one of the academic world’s hottest and most vexing topics: how to help Ph.D.’s and postdoctoral scholars get jobs.

The three-day conference, which was organized by the Graduate Career Consortium, was the group’s 26th annual meeting, and its largest ever: Around 100 advisors and counselors from 80 institutions attended. One-third of this year’s attendees were new registrants, an indication that campus administrators are responding to growing calls from around the country to reform graduate education.

When the GCC formed, back in 1987, only a handful of counselors showed up to these annual gatherings. As recently as a decade ago, relatively few colleges offered career-counseling services to graduate students beyond managing their dossiers. Victoria Blodgett, the GCC’s president, attributed the uptick in attendance to this year’s conference to a confluence of factors: the recent expansion of career services for Ph.D.’s, the creation of postdoctoral-affairs offices on more campuses, the growing demand for better counseling about alternative and nonacademic careers, and the need for more transparent data on job placement for advanced degree-holders.

Shortchanged: The Hidden Costs of Lockstep Teacher Pay


Nobody goes into teaching to get rich, but that’s no excuse not to pay teachers as professionals.

Compensation is one of the most important factors in determining who enters the teaching profession and how long they stay—yet 90 percent of all U.S. school districts pay teachers without any regard for their actual performance with students, shortchanging our best educators. If we seriously believe in the value of great teaching, we have to not only pay teachers more but also pay them differently.

Shortchanged examines why lockstep pay undermines the value of great teaching and hurts students and teachers, making it difficult to recruit and keep top talent, and discouraging high performers from teaching where they’re needed most. It’s time to build smarter compensation systems that actually pay for what really matters: how hard teachers’ jobs are and how well they’re doing them. Schools and districts can—and should—free up existing funds and pay teachers according to three principles:

Diane Ravitch: Campbell Brown Shouldn’t Worry Her Pretty Little Head About Education Policy

Jonathan Chait:

“I have trouble with this issue because it’s so totally illogical,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian. “It’s hard to understand why anyone thinks taking away teachers’ due-process rights will lead to great teachers in every classroom.”

As for Brown, Ravitch is dismissive: “She is a good media figure because of her looks, but she doesn’t seem to know or understand anything about teaching and why tenure matters … I know it sounds sexist to say that she is pretty, but that makes her telegenic, even if what she has to say is total nonsense.”

Why, yes, that does sound rather sexist. Now, Ravitch suggests here that Brown’s analysis is so transparently illogical that perhaps only her looks can account for her views. Why, Ravitch wonders, would the elimination of a job protection help attract better teachers? Let me reveal, via the power of logic, how this can work.

The basic problem is that some proportion of American teachers is terrible at their job and immune to improvement, yet removing them is a practical impossibility. (A good overview of the research on chronically ineffective teachers can be found here. Standard caveat: The author is my wife.) Under some conditions, loosening tenure laws can lead directly to more effective teachers in the classroom. For instance, when the Great Recession drove states to lay off teachers in order to balance their budgets, last-in, first-out hiring rules led them to fire teachers regardless of quality, thus removing highly effective (yet unprotected) teachers from classrooms.

Our Frederick Taylor style monolithic education model has obviously run its course.

Unspoiled Children, No Rod Needed

Veronica Dagher:

You want to give your children everything. But sometimes you can go too far and create a spoiled, entitled brat.

The consequences can be severe: In addition to acting like whiny complainers now, spoiled children are more likely to grow into financially dependent, irresponsible adults plagued by overspending and debt.

“Some parents want their children to have everything for free,” says Katherine Dean, managing director of wealth planning at Wells Fargo Private Bank in San Francisco. “But the real world doesn’t work that way.”

Financial advisers and therapists suggest various ways to avoid spoiling your children. A few:

Get Thee to Physics Class


There’s a great anecdote one often hears from professional dancers: As a kid, I could never sit still, they’ll say. My teacher wanted to put me on Ritalin, but my parents put me in dance class.
 I think we ought to tell a similar story for a different kind of troubled adolescent, the kind more burdened by angst than by ADD. You know the type: sullen, apathetic, bored. Perhaps she’s dressed all in black. Perhaps he’s failing geometry. This child’s teacher wants to put the rebel in detention. I say, Put the kid in physics class.
 Despite the stereotype of the lovable nerd being embraced by popular culture in TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and on T-shirts like “Talk nerdy to me,” the truth is that physics is the rebel’s subject. It’s for those who reject all authority, even that of our most basic assumptions, those who know in their bones that the world is not what it seems and who refuse to take the common, easy route of living unquestioningly on the surface.

Turning College Into a No-Thought Zone

Virginia Postrel:

Last September, Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, a student at Citrus Community College near Los Angeles, was collecting signatures on a petition asking the student government to condemn spying by the National Security Agency. He left the school’s designated “free speech area” to go to the student center. On his way there, he saw a likely prospect to join his cause: a student wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirt. He stopped the student and they began talking about the petition. Then an administrator came out of a nearby building, informed them their discussion was forbidden outside the speech zone, and warned Sinapi-Riddle he could be ejected from campus for violating the speech-zone rule.
 Sinapi-Riddle has now sued Citrus College, a state institution, for violating his First Amendment rights by, among other things, demanding that “expressive activities” be confined to the 1.34 percent of campus designated as a “free speech area.” Perhaps the most outrageous part of his experience is how common it is. The vague bans on “offensive” language and other “politically correct” measures that most people think of when they imagine college speech codes are increasingly being joined by quarantine policies that restrict all student speech, regardless of its content.

Students paying extra for business skills they say they haven’t learned on campu

Laura Colarusso:

Ben Wei was already paying hefty tuition to earn a sociology degree from Bowdoin College, which charged nearly $57,000 at the time, but worried his classes weren’t teaching him skills he needed in the workplace.
 So he gave up his winter break just a semester before graduating and paid another $3,000 to take a three-week business boot camp designed to teach him how to work a full-time job.
 The course, offered by a company called Fullbridge, covered problem-solving, collaboration and communication—the kinds of skills employers say they want but aren’t getting from college grads.
 “You can sit in a room and learn economic theory from a professor or a textbook, but at the end of the day, it’s still just theory,”said Wei, who now works as a data analyst. “They don’t really teach you how to apply that theory.”

Students Fail to Embrace Digital Textbooks

Michael Kozlowski:

American students have yet to embrace digital textbooks in considerable numbers. Many of the top universities and colleges have a very slim minority that either use them exclusively or in parallel with print. A recent survey by Hewlett Packard illiminates the role digital is playing in the classroom.
 HP conducted a survey last winter, talking to 527 students at San Jose State. 57% of the respondents said they prefer the standard textbook. A paltry 21% said they prefer the digital variant and 21% stated that they utilize both formats.
 The preference for print was also much higher with ages 18 to 35 year-olds with 62%, which accounted for 75% of the respondents. Contrary to what most would expect, the younger and supposedly tech-savvy students are not all that into e-textbooks. The survey also reveals that Education and Library & Information Science students, representing 49% of the total respondents, used printed textbooks more than other majors, including Business and Science.

How to Teach Reading and Writing

Letters to the New York Times Editor on The Fallacy of ‘Balanced Literacy, via a kind reader:

To the Editor:

Kudos to Alexander Nazaryan for his eloquent defense of “conventionally rigorous” teaching techniques.

The decision by the New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, to reinstate balanced literacy despite the unfavorable results of studies done during the Bloomberg administration reflects, in my opinion, a general aversion to empirical evidence within the educational establishment in favor of ideology and faddish group think.

I very much appreciate the excellent K-12 teaching I received in Brooklyn public schools during the 1940s and ’50s, when a “conventionally rigorous” approach was the norm.

My more recent experience as a volunteer tutor in Wisconsin elementary schools during the past 12 years mirrors that of Mr. Nazaryan in Brooklyn in 2005-06. Again, an approach appropriate for the Midwestern equivalent of “brownstone Brooklyn” kids was employed in classrooms where half the kids were poor or minorities or both. The results of this approach are what the local press has described as a notoriously high racial achievement gap.

Carl Silverman
Madison, WI

Much more on “balanced literacy”, here along with Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Wisconsin High school students can’t be charged for college credit courses; Credit for Non Madison Schools Courses Redux

Mary Spicuzza:

The University of Wisconsin System cannot charge high school students taking courses offered in their schools for college credit, known as concurrent enrollment classes, the state’s attorney general says.

“This opens a lot of doors, basically. This is a good deal for kids and parents,” said John Johnson, spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction. “The bottom line is that parents and students won’t be on the hook for costs.”

In an opinion released Thursday, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen also said the state’s Department of Public Instruction — rather than UW System — should determine concurrent enrollment program costs for UW System and school districts.

“Impact on UWS (the payments it will receive) and the resident school district (the payments it will make) will be decided by DPI,” Van Hollen wrote. “Not only does the student no longer pay any tuition for a concurrent enrollment course, his application to attend a concurrent enrollment court cannot be denied on the ground that it might impose ‘an undue financial burden’ on his resident school district.”

A look at credit for non-Madison School District courses.

All Children Should Be Delinquents

John Beckman:

IN the late 1970s, in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa, the threat of summer boredom was real. The nearest theme parks were hours away, and the best video games (Space Invaders, Asteroids) were coin guzzlers, fueled by hard-earned lawn-mowing or paper-route funds. While we had the requisite tennis courts and public swimming pools, which we used to exhaustion, our best resources were our rawest ones — hilly streets, undeveloped woods, local streams and hours of unstructured, unsupervised playtime.

As a 6- to 8-year-old, when I wasn’t searching for sticks to whittle with my collection of X-acto knives (or giving myself the scars to remember them by), I was getting lost in ragtag gatherings of kids. We played afternoon-long basketball games and twilight sessions of kick the can that could span three streets and involve 30 or more screaming kids.

France to teach programming languages beginning with 10 year olds

Le Monde:

« Cette initiation devrait être inscrite dans les programmes du second degré », selon le ministre, qui considère que « certains professeurs pourraient, plus naturellement que d’autres, être des pédagogues du code : les professeurs de technologie et de mathématiques ».

« Nous lançons par ailleurs, avec Arnaud Montebourg, un grand programme en faveur de la filière industrielle française du numérique éducatif », ajoute Benoît Hamon, précisant que 70 % des élèves du primaire et de collège et 100 % des enseignants seront équipés à l’horizon 2020 en ordinateurs et tablettes dotés de ressources pédagogiques numériques.

Commentary on Student Loan Debt Practices

Gretchen Morgenson:

Last week, after years of being on the financial precipice and facing accusations of improper recruiting practices by authorities in several states, Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit education company with 74,000 students in more than 100 locations around the country, began to wind down its operations. In an agreement with the federal Department of Education, Corinthian said it would halt admissions and try to sell 85 of its campuses.

At another 12 Corinthian campuses, students can continue their studies until they graduate. Certain students who choose to stop attending classes will receive refunds, the company said.

Even as the company’s fortunes faded in recent years, Corinthian’s five top executives piled up real money: Over the last three years, they’ve shared $12.5 million in salaries and cash bonuses.

But taxpayers and Corinthian students — a vast majority of whom have borrowed to finance their educations — will be the biggest losers. When Corinthian eventually vanishes, its graduates will be left holding degrees from a defunct institution. This will make it even tougher for them to get jobs, resulting in higher default rates on their federal student loans.

Related: NYU’s student debt stories.

Quoc Le’s Lectures on Deep Learning

Gaurav Truvedig:

Dr. Quoc Le from the Google Brain project team (yes, the one that made headlines for creating a cat recognizer) presented a series of lectures at the Machine Learning Summer School (MLSS ’14) in Pittsburgh this week. This is my favorite lecture series from the event till now and I was glad to be able to attend them.
 The good news is that the organizers have made available the entire set of video lectures in 4K for you to watch. But since Dr. Le did most of them on the board and did not provide any accompanying slides, I decided to put the contents of the lectures along with the videos here.
 In this post I posted Dr. Le’s lecture videos and added content links with short descriptions to help you navigate them better.

A ‘nationwide gentrification effect’ is segregating us by education

Emily Badger:

Census data suggests that in 1980 a college graduate could expect to earn about 38 percent more than a worker with only a high-school diploma. Since then, the difference in their wages has only widened as our economy has shifted to bestow greater and greater rewards on the well-educated. By 2000, that number was about 57 percent. By 2011: 73 percent.
 These figures, though, reflect only part of the inequality that has pushed the lives of college and high school graduates in America farther apart. As the returns to education have increased, according to Stanford economist Rebecca Diamond, the geographic segregation of the most educated workers has, too — and not by neighborhood, but by entire city.

How Private Colleges Are Like Cheap Sushi

Anya Kamenskoye etz:

In New York City’s East Village, there are a number of hole-in-the-wall spots that advertise sushi at 50 percent off. But I can never bring myself to sample the goods. We’re talking about a delicacy flown in from around the world. Marking it down drastically just doesn’t sit right. Something — either the price, or the fish — has to be a little off.
 The same uneasiness arose recently when the National Association of College and University Business Officers released a survey of tuition discounts at private, nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities. NACUBO looked at 401 schools, and the survey found two things: almost no one pays full price, and the discounts are quite steep.
 They estimate 88.9 percent of first-time, full-year freshmen received some kind of discount in 2013-2014. Of those students, the average grant they received is estimated to cover 53.5 percent of tuition and fees. In other words: more than half off. These discount rates are climbing fast. They are the highest recorded since the study began in 2000.

Financial ability correlates w/ maths skills not financial education: Revisiting Madison’s 2007 Math Forum

James Pickford:

But they don’t appear to do much financial training in Shanghai?
 One of the report’s most interesting conclusions was that the best way of teaching financial literacy is not necessarily by instruction in the classroom. Far more important as indicators of proficiency were mathematical skills and personal experience with financial products.
 So Chinese children, who score very highly on fundamental maths and science, are more likely to understand money-related concepts than those taught directly about banks, credit and interest rates. Countries such as the US or Slovak Republic, which had much higher levels of in-class teaching than Shanghai, performed worse when tested.
 Andreas Schleicher, OECD education director, said: “The volume of exposure to financial literacy in the classroom has no relationship with performance. That is very different for maths or science teaching.”
 The data also suggest having a bank account or managing phone credits gives a youngster much more opportunity – and motivation – to learn about financial concepts. On average, students in the 13 core OECD economies who held a bank account scored 33 points higher than those who did not.

Madison math forum audio and video and math task force.

Why Middle School Should Be Abolished

David Banks:

America should do away with middle schools, which are educational wastelands. We need to cut the middle out of middle schools, either by combining them with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.

For much as half of middle schools across the country, national statistics show substantial performance gaps, especially in math and reading achievement, between middle school and high school. It’s time to admit that middle school models do not work—instead, they are places where academics stall and languish.

via Marc Eisen.

Mr Eisen wrote “My Life & Times with the Madison Public Schools” in 2007. Well worth reading.

Students Face Debt by 1,000 Fees

Megan McArdle

To solve this problem, UCLA is introducing a $4 student fee to pay for better concerts. That illuminates a budgeting issue in higher education — and indeed among human beings more generally.

That $4 is not a large fee. Even the poorest student can probably afford it. On the other hand, collectively, UCLA’s student fees are significant: more than $3,500, or about a quarter of the mandatory cost of attending UCLA for a year.

Those fees are made up of many items, each trivial individually. Only collectively do they become a major source of costs for students and their families and potentially a barrier to college access for students who don’t have an extra $3,500 lying around.

As I’ve written before, this is a common phenomenon that you see among people who have gotten themselves into financial trouble — or, for that matter, people who are doing OK but complain that they don’t know where the money goes and can’t save for the big-ticket items they want. They consider each purchase individually, rather than in the context of a global budget, which means that they don’t make trade-offs. Instead of asking themselves “Is this what I want to spend my limited funds on, or would I rather have something else?” they ask “Can I afford this purchase on my income?” And the answer is often “Yes, I can.” The problem is that you can’t afford that purchase and the other 15 things that you can also, one by one, afford to buy on your income. This is how individual financial disasters occur, and it is also one way that college tuition is becoming a financial disaster for many families.

The trouble with brain science

Gary Marcus:

ARE we ever going to figure out how the brain works?
 After decades of research, diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s still resist treatment. Despite countless investigations into serotonin and other neurotransmitters, there is still no method to cure clinical depression. And for all the excitement about brain-imaging techniques, the limitations of fMRI studies are, as evidenced by popular books like “Brainwashed” and “Neuromania,” by now well known. In spite of the many remarkable advances in neuroscience, you might get the sinking feeling that we are not always going about brain science in the best possible way.

Students vs. Teacher Unions

Joe Klein:

New York City’s mayor handed teachers a big win. Struggling students will be the losers

Back in 2005, when New York City was pre-crash flush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered the United Federation of Teachers a raise in return for 150 extra minutes of classroom work per week. The mayor’s idea was to spend that extra time tutoring the kids who needed the most help–the bottom third of each class. UFT president Randi Weingarten agreed that the group sessions would be small, no more than 10 students per class. Schools chancellor Joel Klein wanted three 50-minute periods per week. The union wanted five 30-minute periods. They compromised on four 37½-minute sessions.

The program was never given a name, which made it easier for New York’s new “progressive” mayor Bill de Blasio to give it back–to eliminate the required 150 minutes of special instruction–in his negotiations with the UFT this spring. You might well wonder why. I tried to find out but received a heaping ration of gobbledygook from a source close to the mayor. He said that the program had been “inflexible” and “one size fits all.” That it was not “workable to the purpose.” Translation: it didn’t work. But how do we know that? No studies or evaluations were done. At his press conference announcing the new union deal, the mayor and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, gave several foggy reasons for the change: the time would be used for additional parent conferences and for “professional development” so the teachers could learn how to teach the new core curriculum. A lot of unspecific wiggle room was negotiated on both counts–part of the mayor’s drive toward “flexibility.”

The NEA’s Weak Hand

Rishawn Biddle:

Your editor didn’t bother paying much mind to last week’s call by the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly for Arne Duncan’s resignation as U.S. Secretary of Education. For one, your editor was more-concerned with spending time with his lovely wife and fast-growing son during the Fourth of July weekend than with anything dealing with the union. The fact that the NEA’s call for Duncan’s resignation comes two years or so before he actually steps down from the job as part of the end of the Obama Administration’s term-limited tenure also makes the demand especially silly.

wpid-threethoughslogoBut what got your editor’s attention is the response to the resignation call from both Duncan and the Obama Administration. It was clearly not to the liking of either the NEA or other traditionalists long-opposed to the administration’s reform efforts. Duncan simply brushed off the NEA — and actually pointed out the lack of credibility the teachers’ union even has among its own rank-and-file membership — when he said that “I always try to stay out of local union politics” and that “I think most teachers do, too”. As for the White House? The president’s flacks didn’t bother to comment at all.

There are certainly some national reporters outside the education beat (along with a few newbies within it) who are finally, belatedly acknowledging what Dropout Nation and others have pointed out for at least the past six years: That neither the NEA nor the American Federation of Teachers can count on the Democratic National Committee for unquestioned support. So the NEA’s call for Duncan’s resignation is about as newsworthy as the fact that the union’s longtime second-in-command, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, was formally anointed as Dennis Van Roekel’s successor as its overlord.

At the same time, the NEA’s desperate move — along with the Obama Administration’s response to it — is noteworthy for this important reason: It epitomizes how far the NEA’s influence over education policy (as well as that of the AFT) has declined at the federal level as well as within states.

Test Scores Are No Sure Guide to What Students Know

Joe Craven McGinty:

When New York and Kentucky rolled out the first tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards, the results were dismal: Most students failed the new standardized tests, in stark contrast to the old assessments, which the vast majority passed.

The results alarmed parents, but the scores on these new tests—just like those on earlier forms of assessment—reveal less about what children know than about the way the test makers decide to measure that knowledge.

The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers unveiled the Common Core standards in 2010, saying they were intended to raise academic standards, and the test scores so far appear to reflect the increased expectations.

World University Rankings

Times Higher Education:

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2014 employ the world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey to provide the definitive list of the top 100 most powerful global university brands. A spin-off of the annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the reputation league table is based on nothing more than subjective judgement – but it is the considered expert judgement of senior, published academics – the people best placed to know the most about excellence in our universities.

Number of LSAT Test Takers in June Falls to 14-Year Low

Jacob Gershman:

Back in February, a slight dip in LSAT test-takers led Law Blog to wonder if the law-school crisis had turned a corner? The latest LSAT numbers suggest law schools are still digging into a hole.
 The number of law school admission tests administered in June was down 9.1% compared to a year earlier, according to figures released by the Law School Admission Council on Thursday.
 The 21,802 people who sat for the test last month is the lowest June total in 14 years, suggesting that law schools may still be having difficulty convincing college graduates on the value of a J.D. degree.

There Are Now 50 Colleges That Charge More Than $60,000 Per Year

Peter Jacobs:

As the average cost of higher education in America continues to rise, at least 50 American colleges and universities are now charging students more than $60,000 per year.

We found these numbers by examining the average cost of tuition, fees, room, and board that an incoming student would face over the 2014-15 academic year. Check out a more in-depth breakdown of the 20 most expensive colleges here >>

While these direct costs are a significant portion of the total cost of college, they alone do not reveal the true financial burden of higher education — students are also responsible for paying for textbooks, travel costs, and, of course, any social expenses. These “indirect costs” can often add up to an extra $2,000.

Girls’ school chief: we need diversity in the staffroom as well as the boardroom

Helen Fraser:

Today, it was reported that a girls’ state school in Bradford has been criticised by Ofsted for only employing female teachers. Feversham College, a Muslim school, has been told to hire positive male role models for its 664 girls, aged 11-18, who currently have an ‘all-female learning environment’.

Its head teacher has stated that the school – which used to be private – was established “in response to parental demand for single-sex education based on religious beliefs” and said the policy had been accepted when the it applied for voluntary-aided status in 2001.

That may be. But, as Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) – a group of 26 independent schools and academies in England and Wales – I can’t help but agree with the Ofsted report. Simply, we can’t argue for diversity in the boardroom and then not allow it in the staffroom.

Girls’ schools have long been at the forefront of extending opportunities for young women. We expect, quite rightly, that no doors will be closed to the girls leaving us at the end of their school lives this month and going on to university, or the world of work.

Study: Half of black males, 40 percent of white males arrested by age 23

Peggy Binette:

Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23, which can hurt their ability to find work, go to school and participate fully in their communities.

A new study released Monday (Jan. 6) in the journal Crime & Delinquency provides the first contemporary findings on how the risk of arrest varies across race and gender, says Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the study.

The study is an analysis of national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, ages 18

TV Watching and Computer Use in U.S. Youth Aged 12–15, 2012

Kirsten A. Herrick, Ph.D., M.Sc.; Tala H.I. Fakhouri, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Susan A. Carlson, Ph.D.; and Janet E. Fulton, Ph.D.:

Were there differences by sex in the percentage of youth who watched TV or used a computer for 2 hours or less daily?

Were there differences by race and Hispanic origin in the percentage of youth who watched TV or used a computer for 2 hours or less daily?
Were there differences by weight status in the percentage of youth who watched TV or used a computer for 2 hours or less daily?

Nearly all (98.5%) youth aged 12–15 reported watching TV daily.
More than 9 in 10 (91.1%) youth aged 12–15 reported using the computer daily outside of school.

In 2012, 27.0% of youth aged 12–15 had 2 hours or less of TV plus computer use daily.

Among youth aged 12–15, girls (80.4%) were more likely to use the computer 2 hours or less daily when compared with boys (69.4%).
Fewer non-Hispanic black youth aged 12–15 (53.4%) reported watching 2 hours or less of TV daily than non-Hispanic white (65.8%) and Hispanic (68.7%) youth.

Excessive screen-time behaviors, such as using a computer and watching TV, for more than 2 hours daily have been linked with elevated blood pressure, elevated serum cholesterol, and being overweight or obese among youth (1–3). Additionally, screen-time behavior established in adolescence has been shown to track into adulthood (4). The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-supported Expert Panel and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children limit leisure screen time to 2 hours or less daily (5,6). This report presents national estimates of TV watching and computer use outside of the school day.

Making School Choice Work

Michael DeArmond, Ashley Jochim, Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Survey finds many city parents are choosing their child’s public school but challenges remain.

School choice is increasingly the new normal in urban education. But in cities with multiple public school options, how can civic leaders create a choice system that works for all families, whether they choose a charter or district public school?

To answer this question, CRPE researchers surveyed 4,000 parents in eight cities (Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) with high degrees of school choice. The researchers also conducted interviews with government officials, choice advocates, and community leaders in four cities, and looked at how many different agencies oversee schools in 35 cities.

The study found that:

In the eight cities surveyed, the majority of parents are actively choosing a school for their children.

Parents face significant barriers to choosing schools, including inadequate information, transportation, and lack of quality options.

Challenges facing families are not confined to the charter or district sector.

Responsibility for schools often falls to multiple parties, including school districts, charter school authorizers, and state agencies, weakening accountability and making it difficult for leaders to address the challenges facing parents.

Are Universities Going the Way of Record Labels?

Martin Smith:

If you spent the 1990s plucking songs from a stack of cassettes to make the perfect mixtape, you probably welcomed innovations of the next decade that served your favorite albums up as individual songs, often for free. The internet’s power to unbundle content sparked a rapid transformation of the music industry, which today generates just over half of the $14 billion it did in 2000—and it’s doing the same thing to higher education.

The unbundling of albums in favor of individual songs was one of the biggest causes of the music industry’s decline. It cannibalized the revenue of record labels as 99-cent songs gained popularity over $20 albums. It also changed the way music labels had to operate in order to maintain profitability. The traditional services of labels: identifying artists; investing in them; recording, publishing, and distributing their work; and marketing them—are now increasingly offered a la carte.

Pressure from labels then had downstream effects on content creators, specifically artists. The top one 1 per cent of artists now take home 77 per cent of revenue, and the rest is spread across an increasing number of artists. The pain of the record labels is forced on artists through smaller royalty payments.

As New York City Expands Pre-K, Private Programs Fear Teacher Drain

Kyle Spencer:

When Michelle Arvelo returned to her prekindergarten classroom on June 30 after a weeklong vacation in the Dominican Republic, 18 exhilarated 4-year-olds sprinted to the door to greet her, wrapping their arms around her thin frame and inquiring about her tan, her haircut and whether her plane had a co-pilot in the cockpit.

Her boss at Cypress Hills Childcare Center in Brooklyn, which runs a year-round preschool, was thrilled to see her, too. But she was also worried that Ms. Arvelo might soon be departing again, this time permanently.

Ms. Arvelo has applied to the city in the hope of getting one of the new prekindergarten teaching jobs opening up in public schools. Directors who oversee dozens of independently run programs like Cypress Hills say that they cannot compete with the salary and benefits offered by the Education Department, so a program that promises to be a boon for families of young children may end up being a loss for them, an unintended consequence of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s prekindergarten expansion.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Intellectuals’ Hostility to the Market Economy

Matt McCaffrey:

The intellectuals are a paradoxical product of the market economy, because “unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.” Like Hayek, Schumpeter described intellectuals broadly as “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word.” More narrowly, “one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” That is, intellectuals do not participate in the market (at least not in the areas they write about), and do not generally rely on satisfying consumers to earn a living. Add to this their naturally critical attitude—which Schumpeter argues is the product of the essential rationality of the market economy—and it is easy to see why intellectuals would be hostile to the market.

In other words, intellectuals are often out of place in entrepreneurial societies. The growth of the intellectual class is not a response to consumer demand, but to the expansion of higher education. Passing through the higher education system does not necessarily confer valuable skills, but it often does convince graduates that work in the market is beneath them:

Higher Ed, Clinton Extravagance, and an American Pathology

Josh Hedtke:

Hillary Clinton gave a Luskin Thought Leadership lecture at UCLA last March for which she raked in $300,000 in speaking fees. The appearance was one of at least eight lectures she gave at various universities throughout the past year. Her minimum speaking fee at said universities was reportedly $200,000.

There has been outrage among some students of these universities, who lambaste their administrators for doling out stratospheric speaking fees while students are left to grapple with tuitions that have increased by 500 percent over the last thirty years.

In defense of Clinton’s exploits, it’s been noted that the fees she was paid did not come out of the pot of money funded by tuition but rather from privately donated grants. For instance, at UCLA, the Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership fund established in 2011 by benefactors Meyer and Renee Luskin paid her fee.

The nascent Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership program has thus far brought in three speakers: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Kofi Annan, all of whom are, incidentally (or not?), of the liberal bent.

It is correct to point out that, because she was paid by a private donation, it is not as if her speaking fee directly diminished the school’s ability to pay for classroom resources and the like.

Young First-Time Mothers Less Likely to be Married, Census Bureau Reports

The percentage of young first-time mothers who are married is dropping, according to Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012, a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the early 1990s, at least half of all first births to mothers younger than age 23 occurred in marriage. Since 2005, more young mothers were cohabiting (38 percent) than were married (24 percent) at the time of their first birth. However, the majority of all women continue to have their first child within marriage.

Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012 uses data from the 2012 American Community Survey and the 2012 Current Population Survey. The report examines women’s marital status at the time of their first births, the completed fertility of women up to age 50 and the fertility patterns of young women. Fertility patterns are shown by race, ethnicity, age, citizenship and employment status, as well as state of residence.

Embattled teacher unions to go after ‘toxic testing’

Laura Waters:

National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García on the use of student test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness:

They’re “the mark of the devil.” “For us, one thing is clear. Before anything is going to get better: It’s the Testing, Stupid. Better yet, it’s the stupid testing.”

New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Vice President Marie Blistan on the use of student test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness:

“We need to safeguard against a test-taking tsunami that enriches private corporations’ wallets but impoverishes our students.”

Denver, the site of the NEA’s annual meeting last week, is a long way from Trenton but you’d never know it from the sound bites.

During this past year the rhetoric from both the national teacher union leadership and N.J.’s state chapter have grown progressively more rancorous. The bicoastal target of ire is, ostensibly, the practice of linking student test scores to teacher evaluations.

American Teens Achieve Mediocrity In Financial Literacy, Local math & reading background

Michelle Hackman:

When it comes to financial literacy around the world, American teens are middling.

The United States may fuel the world’s largest economy and operate its most robust financial system. But compared to the financial prowess of teenagers in 17 other countries, U.S. teens come off downright mediocre.

That’s according to a new study published Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as part of its Program for International Student Assessment, conducted once every three years.

The OECD, a 34-nation organization based in Paris, surveyed 15-year-old students in 13 member nations and five other nations throughout 2012 to ascertain their level of familiarity with the financial system as they neared adulthood.

“Finance is part of everyday life for many 15-year-olds, who are already consumers of financial services, such as bank accounts,” the report said. “As they near the end of compulsory education, students will face complex and challenging financial choices, including whether to join the labor market or continue with formal education and, if so, how to finance such study.”

Unfortunately, this is unsurprising. Read two useful articles on local math difficulties and long term disastrous reading results.

The OECD report.

Building a Community for High Schoolers Who Code

Avi Romanoff:

Last September, the day before PennApps 2013f, a 48-hour, 1,000+ student hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania, I created a Facebook Group called “PennApps HS Hackers” for the dozen or so high school students who were also attending the event.

If the words “hacker” and “hackathon” evoke mental images of scary-looking criminals breaking into computers, I can assure you we’re nothing like that. Hackers, in the original spirit of the term, are programmers and designers who use technology to build things — not destroy things. Hackathons are events where hackers of all kinds come together to collaborate on new projects and compete for prizes, often on college campuses.

Turns out I picked an incredible time to start a community — the hackathon scene exploded in rhythm with my Facebook Group. In the course of a school year, the group would grow to include high schoolers from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries, organizers from nearly every major U.S. college hackathon, founders of high school hackathons and hacker meetups, and even the president of the well-known startup incubator, Y Combinator.

For years we’ve been telling kids to sit still and pay attention. That’s all wrong.

Annie Murphy Paul:

Today’s educational technology often presents itself as a radical departure from the tired practices of traditional instruction. But in one way, at least, it faithfully follows the conventions of the chalk-and-blackboard era: EdTech addresses only the student’s head, leaving the rest of the body out.

Treating mind and body as separate is an old and powerful idea in Western culture. But this venerable trope is facing down a challenge from a generation of researchers—in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, even philosophy—who claim that we think with and through our bodies. Even the most abstract mathematical or literary concepts, these researchers maintain, are understood in terms of the experience of our senses and of moving ourselves through space.

This perspective, known as “embodied cognition,” is now becoming a lens through which to look at educational technology. Work in the field shows promising signs that incorporating bodily movements—even subtle ones—can improve the learning that’s done on computers.

Allowance Lessons: Teaching Kids How to Save and Spend Properly

Anne Marie Chaker:

Allowance has undergone a major overhaul at the McDermott household this summer.

Beatrice McDermott, 14, and her younger brother, Jack, 11, started getting $10 a month three years ago. Their parents paid them for a set of daily chores like setting the table, clearing dishes and emptying their lunch boxes after school.

But “it wasn’t truly teaching them how to save or spend,” says their father, Matthew McDermott, 45, a Washington, D.C. information technology manager. He and his wife, Christina Gorski McDermott, 43, would find crumpled up bills around the house. “These guys had no sense of money,” he says.

Teacher pension rescue to cost LAUSD $1.1 billion

Yaha Gracile:

LA Unified must come up with $16 million this year to pay an unexpected bill as a result of legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown aimed at rescuing the state’s teachers retirement pension system known as CalSTRS, but the district’s total increase is much higher, estimated to reach an extra $1.1 billion over the next seven years.

While teachers and school districts across the state will see their contribution rates increase, LAUSD, the largest school district in the state, will pay the lions-share.

The rescue, which will help address a $74 billion shortfall in the teachers pension fund, requires school districts to radically raise their contributions to the fund from the current rate of 8.25 percent, to a rate of 19.1 percent by 2020. Teachers will see a more modest step up, from 8.15 percent to an eventual 10.25 percent of their salary, over the same seven year period. The state’s contribution will rise from 3 percent to 6.3 percent.

But In real dollar terms, the pension contribution price tag for LAUSD is steep: it will eventually more than double by the end of the phase-in period, from its current payment of $213 million per year, to $493 million per year by 2020.

Exploitation, Hard Work and Motivation: Wall Street and the School House Part II

David Kaib:

Ho explains the compensation process on Wall Street as driven by a culture of high risk / high reward. Prior to being hired, as we saw before, non-monetary concerns are central to recruitment. But after being hired there is a denial that there is any motivation other than financial reward. Ho reports that her informants insisted that this is how jobs should be structured: “They enter into a ‘risk-reward’ bargain they fully accept, and it is through this experience that investment bankers learn ‘who is flexible and who can accept change.’” (274) Why is this flexible stance so important? Because of the strategy of no strategy: “to have no long term plans”, thus allowing “immediate responsiveness ” to a changing market. (275) Change is highly valued, partly to facilitate the taking of great risks. If these didn’t work out, they could land at another firm, and if the firms got into trouble, everyone assumed the government would bail them out (something the rest of us do not enjoy). That is, the risk that they accept is related to their immediate jobs, not their long-term prospects, the health of their firms or the systematic risks they impose on the world beyond.

Reformers have often engaged in attacks on public school teachers insisting that—as a class—they do not work hard, they are overpaid, and that “tenure,” meaning due process, allows lazy and unethical teachers to remain in their jobs forever leaving administrators with no recourse. These claims are made all the more strongly if those teachers are protected by a union. Teachers are lambasted for having summers off, for resisting increases in their hours (generally without any increase in pay). Traditionally teaching has been seen as a profession, which entails having a voice in how schools are run, a certain level of control over what is taught and how, and requiring significant training and an apprenticeship. Reformers have sought to challenge these notions, by placing power in the hands of “supermen” and introducing inexperienced and untrained but ‘smart’ TFA recruits to replace experienced teachers.

Pro-Sports Moochers and the True Cost of “Student Athletes”

Andrew Helms:

“Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship,” said Kain Colter, starting quarterback for the Northwestern University football team this past January. “No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”

Colter’s push to form a union with his Northwestern teammates has reignited a long-simmering debate over the status of college athletes. It’s no secret that many institutions of higher learning cohabitate with athletic programs that are professional in everything but name, and that the NCAA clings to the clever verbal conjunction “student-athlete” in order to claim that scholarships alone provide athletes with equitable compensation for their labor. But as billion-dollar television contracts continue to stuff NCAA coffers, it’s difficult to not agree with civil rights historian Taylor Branch’s conclusion that the current system carries a “strong whiff of the plantation.”

Arne Duncan, Larry Summers, and the Higher Education Myth

Bob Samuels:

I am currently working on a book, The Politics of Higher Education, Jobs, and Inequality. One of my main arguments is that there is a bipartisan consensus that higher education is the solution to all of our economic and social problems. There are several problems with this stance: 1) producing more people with college degrees does not create more good jobs; 2) higher education itself magnifies economic and social inequality; 3) political officials focus on higher education so they don’t have to talk about underemployment, exploitive labor practices, globalization, automation, de-unionization, de-professionalization, privatization, poverty, the minimum wage, and social welfare programs; and 4) the belief in higher education as a fair meritocracy serves to justify inequality.

These myths surrounding higher education and the economy were on full display during Arne Duncan’s and Larry Summers’ presentations at the Aspen Festival of Ideas this week. Duncan argued that since the value of having a college degree has never been greater, we have to find ways of making colleges and universities more accountable. For Duncan, this means that instead of the government simply giving schools more money with no strings attached, we need to judge higher education institutions on outputs like their graduation rates and number of Pell Grant students. Although these are important issues, they do not address the question of educational quality. Instead, the Obama administration is developing their own method of rating and ranking schools, and this feeds into the logic of the meritocracy and the idea that we know how to judge learning in a quantifiable way.

College Discount Escalation

Ry Rivard:

Private colleges are continuing unabated their strategy of setting high sticker prices while giving most of their students steep discounts, according to the latest survey of private colleges by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
The colleges, many of which are struggling to meet enrollment goals, are taking in only 54 cents for every $1 they claim to charge in tuition.

The “high tuition, high discount” business model is often confusing to students and parents, but it’s how things are done at most private colleges: the colleges charge high prices and then offer students they want huge discounts. The discount comes in the form of need-based aid for low-income students and “merit” aid for students with characteristics that make them desirable to a college. At wealthy colleges, endowments may have actual funds to replace lost tuition revenue, but most colleges are just waiving the chance of getting more.

This so-called discount rate – the college’s aid dollars as a percentage of tuition and fees – is again at an all-time high.

Commentary on Charter & Traditional Public Schools

Dave Zweifel:

Lafer’s report details how Rocketship teaches only basics like reading and math with “live” teachers, while the rest of the curriculum is taught online. There are no art, music or gym classes.

The teachers are recent education school grads who have volunteered for a couple of years with Teach for America, a private national program that was modeled after the Peace Corps, but aimed at American schools in poor and troubled neighborhoods.

Like many recently formed charter school companies, Rocketship uses the savings from its educational model to expand its schools throughout the country. Meanwhile, one of its directors runs a for-profit company that provides thousands of educational materials to the schools.

Indeed, it’s these kind of behind-the-scenes financial relationships that have raised eyebrows throughout the educational community.

To be sure, charter schools can be public schools if the school districts set them up to be accountable to the board and administrators. Madison has established three such charters — Wright Middle School, Badger Rock and Nuestro Mundo — that appear to have had good results experimenting with different educational methods and providing a different academic focus.

Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

“Value-added measures are the Mark of the Devil”

Caitlin Emma:

Eskelsen García already has fiery words for the feds, who she holds responsible for the growing use of “value-added measures,” or VAMs, an algorithm that aims to assess teacher effectiveness by student growth on standardized tests. The idea has gained traction under the Obama administration through waivers from No Child Left Behind and the administration’s signature Race to the Top program. But studies, including some funded by the Education Department, have cast doubt on the validity of the measures.

VAMs “are the mark of the devil,” Eskelsen García said.

The algorithms do aim to account for variables such as student poverty levels. But Eskelsen García said they can’t capture the complete picture.

The year she taught 22 students in one class and the year she taught 39 students in one class — “Is that factored into a value-added model? No,” she said. “Did they factor in the year that we didn’t have enough textbooks so all four fifth-grade teachers had to share them on a cart and I couldn’t send any books home to do homework with my kids?”

“It’s beyond absurd,” she added. “And anyone who thinks they can defend that is trying to sell you something.”

Locally, Madison schools have been spending money and time on value-added assessment for years.

A Billionaire Mathematician’s Life of Ferocious Curiosity

William Broad:

James H. Simons likes to play against type. He is a billionaire star of mathematics and private investment who often wins praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and programs to get children hooked on math.

But in his Manhattan office, high atop a Fifth Avenue building in the Flatiron district, he’s quick to tell of his career failings.

He was forgetful. He was demoted. He found out the hard way that he was terrible at programming computers. “I’d keep forgetting the notation,” Dr. Simons said. “I couldn’t write programs to save my life.”

After that, he was fired.

Self-Delusion Spreads from Professional to Graduate Education; Consternation Curiously Absent

Bernie Burk:

I want to be clear at the outset: I love literature. I was an English major, and I’ve never regretted it for a moment. I seriously considered pursuing a Ph.D. in English. I could not have a deeper faith in the liberal arts as a path to the betterment of all mankind.

So imagine my dismay at some recent reportage in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Graduate programs in languages and literature are suffering troubles all too familiar to the readers of these pages: In these straitened times, the tenure-track academic appointments for which a doctoral degree is the traditional and necessary preparation are available for only about 60% of the recipients of doctorates in language or literature (a number chillingly reminiscent of the 56%-57% of the last two law-school graduating classes who managed to find a full-time, long-term job requiring a law license within 9-10 months of graduation, though when you exclude school-funded and self-employed positions as well as a few other confounders and irrelevancies, that number is closer to 53%). The Modern Language Association (a trade group for college and graduate educators and scholars in language and literature analogous to AALS) recently released a report conceding “[w]e are faced with an unsustainable reality.”

The solution? Simple—dismiss the “reality” as “wrong”:

Conversations on the Rifle Range 3: The Broom in the Store Room, Multiple Answers, and the Rituals of Groupthink – See more at: http://oilf.blogspot.com/2014/07/conversations-on-rifle-range-3-broom-in.html#sthash.y48Wbg1F.dpuf

Barr Garelick, via a kind email:

I believe strongly in how math should be taught, and even more strongly in how math should not be taught. Nevertheless, when I am involved in teaching it as I believe it should be taught, I feel vaguely guilty, as if I am doing something against the rules and perhaps even wrong. That’s how groupthink works. It is an acculturation process.

I am reminded of a job I had as a nighttime janitor at the University of Michigan Medical School the summer between my sophomore and junior years. The janitors put up with the college kids who worked with them, but they also could give us a hard time. On my first day, the supervisor told me to get a broom from the store room. This was an initiation rite. No matter which broom I laid a hand on, someone piped up “That’s mine!” In fact all the brooms had been claimed except one which belonged to someone who was not there. That one was off limits as well, but the supervisor finally said with an air of reluctance, “Well you may as well use that one. He probably won’t be coming back.” And true enough, he never did and the broom was mine. Several weeks later, another “new guy” joined the ranks and he was told to find a broom. Though I had found this initiation procedure ridiculous, when the new guy put a hand on my broom, to my horror I heard my voice booming “THAT’S MINE!”

My algebra classes used a book published by Holt (referred to as Holt Algebra). The team of authors include a math professor (Dr. Edward Berger) and a math reformer (Steven Leinwand). The book is fairly traditional, as evidenced by something the math department chair had said during the teacher workday I talked about earlier. Sally, the person from the District office had been telling us about the Common Core approach to teaching math—more open ended problems, more discussion, more working in groups, more problems that have multiple right answers. The math department chair brought up the point that it’s hard to do all this because the books they use just don’t have those types of problems in them. “Most of the problems can only be solved one way,” he lamented.

Nevertheless, the book does cater to some of the current groupthink trends in math education. When teaching the first unit for the first year Algebra 1 course, I wanted to focus on how to express certain English statements in algebraic symbols; for example, “4 less than a certain number” can be written as x – 4. While Holt Algebra does do this, it tends to focus more on the other way around—taking an algebraic expression such as 4/x and translating it into English. While most algebra books do this (as did mine from 50 years ago), the good ones tend to focus more on going from English to algebra. Holt Algebra spends more time going from algebra to English. In addition, it asks students to find two ways of expressing it, thus satisfying the “more than one way to solve a problem” motif that supposedly builds “deep understanding”.

“How are we supposed to find two ways to say this? What does this mean?” a girl named Elisa in my 6th period class asked me. She had told me on the first day that she was bad in math and requested to sit in front so she could see better and not be distracted.

“How would you say 4/x in words?” I asked. No answer. “What are you doing with the 4? Multiplying by x? Dividing by x?”

“Oh, dividing,” she said. “OK, so ‘4 divided by x’?”

At Sea in a Deluge of Data

Alison J. Head and John Wihbey:

This spring, more college students than ever received baccalaureate degrees, and their career prospects are brighter than they were for last year’s graduates.

Employers responding to this year’s National Association of Colleges and Employers’ “Job Outlook 2014 Survey” said they planned to increase entry-level hiring by almost 8 percent. But what they may not realize is that these seemingly techno-savvy new hires could be missing some basic yet vital research skills.

It’s a problem that we found after interviewing 23 people in charge of hiring at leading employers like Microsoft, KPMG, Nationwide Insurance, the Smithsonian, and the FBI. This research was part of a federally funded study for Project Information Literacy, a national study about how today’s college students find and use information.

Nearly all of the employers said they expected candidates, whatever their field, to be able to search online, a given for a generation born into the Internet world. But they also expected job candidates to be patient and persistent researchers and to be able to retrieve information in a variety of formats, identify patterns within an array of sources, and dive deeply into source material.

Charters Catch On Fast in Newark Parents Increasingly Look Outside District Schools

Leslie Brody:

In the debut of a system that lets families apply to charter schools and district schools at the same time, Newark got an eye-opening lesson: More than half of the applicants for kindergarten through eighth grade ranked charters as their first choice.

The application numbers, supplied by the state-operated district, show the popularity of charters at a time when Superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark reorganization plan faces heated opposition from some residents.

One part of the complex plan aims to make it easier for children to sign up for schools outside their neighborhoods. Ms. Anderson said the application data show many families want greater choice.

“Universal enrollment is giving us a real sense of demand and allowing families of all learners, including those who struggle, more options,” she said. Some critics, meanwhile, say the superintendent’s push to consolidate, overhaul and restaff many district schools has created such uncertainty that it hastened a flight to charters.

Via Laura Waters.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: America’s Public Sector Union Dilemma

Lee Ohanian:

There is much less competition in the public sector than the private sector, and that has made all the difference.

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, there has been a growing criticism of public sector unions, reflecting taxpayer concerns about union compensation and unfunded pension liabilities. These concerns have led to proposals to change public sector union policy in very significant ways. Earlier this month, voters in Ohio defeated by a wide margin a law that would have restricted union powers, although polls showed broad support for portions of the law that would have reduced union benefits. In Wisconsin, a state with a long-standing pro-union stance, Governor Scott Walker advanced policy in February that would cut pay and substantially curtail collective bargaining rights of many public sector union workers. In Florida, State Senator John Thrasher introduced legislation that would prevent governments from collecting union dues from union worker state paychecks. And it is not just Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida that are attempting to change the landscape of public unions. Cash-strapped governments in many states are considering ways to reduce the costs associated with public unions.

It is important to determine why public unionization rates are so much higher than in the private sector, and whether public union employees are excessively raising costs to taxpayers. Public sector workers may be paid significantly more than private sector workers and their pensions and job security are often higher than in the private sector. Factoring in the lower likelihood of dismissal and layoffs in the public sector, public sector compensation may be 10 percent higher than market rates.

I calculate that bringing public sector wages closer in line with private sector wages by reducing them by 5 percent can reduce state fiscal deficits considerably. For California, which is among the most fiscally strapped states in the nation, reducing state worker wages by 5 percent would reduce the state deficit by about 15 percent. Moreover, some public sector workers, such as California prison guards, are paid far in excess of competitive levels, reflecting a strong union and effective lobbying that has fostered rapid compensation growth. Other unions, such as teacher unions, do not drive up compensation nearly as much, but instead have substantial negative impact by protecting poor teachers, which in turn reduces the quality of public education and reduces human capital.

Why People Used to Have Children

Sister Y:

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been characterized by a massive decline in fertility, beginning in rich Western countries and spreading all over the world. It is a transformation that is still underway in poor countries today.

Technological advances have, over the same period, radically decreased child mortality and increased life span. Modern parents need not have many children to ensure that one or two survive; almost all children survive to reproductive age. But Darwinian genetic interests cannot explain the modern decline in fertility (if Darwinian interests dominated, fertility should increase with increased survival, as observed in many historical elites). Rather, the fertility decline to present levels is mostly an economic response to the changing value of children, and to the changing economic relationship of parents and children. The economic transformation is not spontaneous, but the product of cultural transformation through education.

The economic value of children has decreased, but this is not the most important cause of the fertility decline. The transformation of countries from predominantly agricultural to predominantly urban reduced the value of children, especially where the industrial employment of children was restricted. Each child’s labor contributed positive value to a family farm or cottage industry, but in an urban setting, children began to have negative economic value. Indeed, the fertility decline correlates somewhat – though not perfectly – with the transformation from agrarian to city life.

But the fertility decline is not merely the product of a price effect – of people having fewer children because children are more costly. Children are not normal goods (or even inferior goods, as might be surmised from low fertility among the highest income groups): they become not goods at all, but rather bundles of claims on their parents. This transformation is a culturally-controlled change in direction of the flow of resources. Before the fertility decline, resources flowed from children to parents (and even up to grandparents and kin); after the transformation, resources flowed from parents to children. In Mass Education as a Determinant of the Timing of the Fertility Decline, John Caldwell argues that the vector of this cultural transformation has been mass education. He characterizes it as the replacement of “family morality,” in which children are expected to “work hard, demand little, and respect the authority of the old,” with “community morality,” in which children are dependent on their parents to become future productive citizens (perhaps even upwardly mobile) for the good of the country.

Revisitng Kristof’s criticism of academic irrelevance

D.E. Wittkower, Evan Selinger and Lucinda Rush:

Some time has passed since Nicholas Kristof published his controversial Op-Ed “Professors, We Need You!“, and the time is ripe for us to approach the issue afresh. After briefly revisiting the controversy, we’ll offer some thoughts about how to promote public engagement by changing academic cultures and incentives.

When Kristof’s Op-Ed came out back in February, it provoked widespread discussion about whether academics—particularly in the social sciences and humanities—are socially relevant. Much of the heat stemmed from Kristof’s biting central claim: “Some of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.”

Rebuttals to Kristof came swiftly and appeared in different venues.

The New York Times itself published critical responses that highlighted the existence of socially relevant academic contributions in lots of places, including “use inspired research” and “blogs, TED talks, congressional and expert-witness testimony, support of social movements, advice to foundations, consultation with museums, summer programs for schoolteachers and work with prisoners.”

This crucial point that a wider net needs to be cast for defining ‘engagement’ was expressed elsewhere, too. Undeniably, counter-examples abound, including in high profile fora. “Kristof need only open the pages of the Nation, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the Boston Review, The American Conservative, Dissent, The American Prospect.” Indeed, a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that there’s actually robust public academic engagement occurring. “Spend a few hours reading news and opinion pieces, surfing interesting blogs, or dipping into conference-based hashtags on Twitter, and you will find academic voices speaking out—everywhere.”

Shortly after Kristof’s piece ran, the hashtag #EngagedAcademics gained traction on Twitter. Its creator Chuck Pearson lamented that when Kristof wrote about academics he was referring to “research one schools,” and perpetuating an argument predicated upon undue, elitist assumptions: “It still assumes that academics are those pipe-smoking, office-dwelling, masses-disdaining figures from another place. In other words—as the New York Times is so prone to do, when talking about higher education—it assumes that regional universities and state colleges don’t exist. It assumes that teaching-centered liberal arts colleges don’t exist. It assumes that most church-affiliated schools don’t exist. Good heavens, don’t even speak of the community colleges. And it assumes that everyone who could possibly serve as a public intellectual is a FULLPROF or is on the path to FULLPROF status. Non-tenure-track instructors? Visiting professors? God forbid, adjuncts?”

New York Schools Chief Advocates More ‘Balanced Literacy’

Javier Hernandez:

The reading lesson began like any other. Tara Bauer, a teacher at Public School 158 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, took her perch in front of a class of restless fourth graders and began reciting the beginning of a book about sharks.

But a few sentences in, Ms. Bauer shifted course. She pushed her students to assume the role of teacher, and she became a mediator, helping guide conversations as the children worked with one another to define words like “buoyant” and identify the book’s structure.

“Turn and talk,” she said as she raced around the classroom, prodding students to share their impressions.

The student-led approach to reading and writing used by Ms. Bauer, which is known as balanced literacy, is poised to make a comeback in New York City classrooms. The new schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, wants more schools to adopt aspects of balanced literacy, including its emphasis on allowing students to choose many of the books they read.

The move, while cheered by proponents of this method, is seen by some as a departure from recent trends in the city and nationwide.

The city’s Education Department turned away from balanced literacy several years ago amid concerns that it was unstructured and ineffective, particularly for low-income children. And Ms. Fariña is facing sharp resistance from some education experts, who argue that balanced literacy is incompatible with the biggest shift in education today: the Common Core academic standards.

Via Will Fitzhugh.

Much more on “balanced literacy”, here.

The ‘Balanced Literacy’ Hoax

Chester Finn:

My chief mentor, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, occasionally warned against “semantic infiltration,” which he correctly attributed to the late arms-control expert, Fred Ikle. It is, of course, the judo-like practice of using terms that are appealing to an audience as fig leaves for practices that the same audience would find repugnant—turning one’s own language against one’s interests, you might say.

Moynihan noted, for example, that countries that style themselves “democratic republics” are almost never either democratic or republics.

So it is with “balanced literacy,” which has reared its head once again in New York City, as schools chancellor Carmen Farina places Teachers College professor Lucy M. Calkins back on the English language arts curricular and pedagogical throne that she briefly occupied a decade ago until Joel Klein learned what a catastrophe that was.

Balanced literacy is neither “balanced” nor “literacy,” at least not in the sense that poor kids taught to read via this approach will end up literate.

Rather, it flies in the face of “scientific reading instruction” (phonics, phonemic awareness, etc.) and reinstates the disastrous approach to early reading known as “whole language.”

– via Will Fitzhugh

Much more on “balanced literacy”, here.

The Looming Crisis in Higher Education

Martin Kich:

The “real problem” behind the exploitation of adjunct faculty is quite obvious: universities have continued to produce a reasonable number of Ph.D.’s but no longer are willing to hire a reasonable number of them into full-time, never mind tenure-track, positions.

This situation will change when enrollment in graduate programs starts to contract, and even to crater, because students confront the reality that they have significantly less than a fifty percent chance of finding full-time employment after completing their doctorates—when they confront the reality that the majority of them are spending up to a decade or more in graduate school, and in the process accumulating far more debt on average than undergraduates accumulate, all in order to earn a wage comparable to what they could earn as an “associate” at WalMart.

Because the current pool of adjunct faculty has been built up over several decades but is continually eroded by the grim realities of such employment, any sudden decline in graduate enrollments will have a very significant and immediate impact.

Walking Without Papers at ASU, The “New American University”

Tressie McMillan Cottom

It has been an eventful news cycle for Arizona State University.

Last week they announced a partnership with Starbucks employees that went from press release to critical analysis in about 48 hours. I chimed in with a few thoughts on a public college extracting revenue from Starbucks employees. It turns out that the public university will invest more in the partnership than Starbucks, who can ostensibly afford it.

This week the university billing itself as the “New American University” is back in the news with a more personal story about class (and race and gender). ASU campus police arrested professor Ersula Ore for jaywalking on a campus street. You can watch the video here:

Folks are circulating petitions, expressing outrage and support. This being the Internet, more than a few folks are also making the case in support of the campus police. You’ll find plenty of questions and critique along that gamut. I have a few different questions.

Call me odd but I wonder just want an Arizona State University professor has to deserve the university’s support when the campus police assaults and arrests them?

Academia and the people without jobs

Ryan Anderson

The 1960s are over. When are we going to wake up and realize that it’s 2014 and our academic paradise is a smoldering ash heap, a sad leftover from thirty something years of complete and utter demolition? We no longer have a booming economy and tons of federal money going into the university system. The days of cheap, accessible higher ed are done and gone. And yet, we keep churning out graduate students as if they, too, are going to end up as university professors. As if each and every one of them will soon have their own hip little office full of books, dedicated students, and bright, starry-eyed careers ahead of them. It’s not happening. Paradise. In. Ashes.

In other words: there are no jobs in academia.

I’m a graduate student in anthropology. Ya, the discipline that Forbes rated as the “least valued” in all of the land. Lucky me. Over the years, people have often asked me: “Anthropology eh? So what are you going to do with that?” My response was invariably a version of something like “Well, there’s a LOT I can do with anthropology.” That usually followed with me thinking—hoping—that there actually was something on the other side.

Arboretum walk introduces children to bugs

Pamela Cotant:

Some of the tiniest inhabitants of the 1,260-acre UW Arboretum captivated young participants during a June Family Walk.
The free walk, which is held from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. every second Sunday, focused on insects last month.
Favorites for Jamison Wagner, 8, were the caterpillar and a spider.

“The spittlebugs were kind of cool, too,” said Jamison, who will be a third-grader at Randall Elementary School.

Other sitings on the walk led by naturalist Kristin Lamers included a stink bug, a butterfly, ants, flies, a weevil and other beetles.

Jane Lowy, 8, who will be a third-grader at Crestwood Elementary School, was enjoying the walk because she loves to be outside.

“It’s going great,” she said. “I like discovering all the bugs and plants and making observations.”

Danyon Wagner was on the walk with his wife, Sarah Wagner, their daughter, Claire Wagner, 4, who will be a kindergartner at Franklin Elementary School, and Jamison.

Get with the program with coding for kids

Sarah Mishkin:

Preparing young children for the future by enrolling in Mandarin classes is very last year. The thing to do now is teach them to code. Thanks to a host of new apps, websites, and even a popular board game featuring turtles, the least technical of parents or teachers can introduce kids to programming.


The goal of most of the apps and games designed to teach children computer science is not to instruct them in actual coding, but to use a visual interface with drag and drop commands to show how to think like a programmer.

That point is that they get kids thinking about basic logic structures – such as the concept that an action, gesture or particular input can trigger a defined response – and introduce them to the idea that a sequence of commands strung together can create something.

“We are spending billions of dollars in our K-12 system and these kids ought to be able to meet these standards”

Scott Rothschild:

In the world of remedial education, Shine Adams, a Kansas University student, is the exception rather than the rule.

Adams, 38, dropped out of high school, worked for several years and then decided he needed to get his diploma and then a college degree.

Adams got his GED, then, using remedial courses, passed several math classes to satisfy his math requirement and is now working on a degree in social work.

He said he couldn’t have gotten where he is without remedial courses.

But for most students, the remedial courses, sometimes referred to as developmental education, aren’t working.

“We need to do things differently,” said Susan Fish, state director of adult education at the Kansas Board of Regents.

In Kansas, 42 percent of first-time students in two-year colleges and 16 percent in public, four-year colleges enroll in at least one remedial course.

Most students who enroll in remedial courses do not graduate.

State officials say the statistics are cause for alarm as they try to increase the number of people with degrees to meet workforce demands.

“We are spending billions of dollars in our K-12 system and these kids ought to be able to meet these standards. We need to be more honest with ourselves,” said Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Kenny Wilk.

A new report recommends some targeted funding increases and program changes.

The Developmental Education report was put together over the past year by regents staff and leaders at community colleges, four-year colleges and technical colleges.

Shaping a School System, From the Ground Up

Claire Martin:

In the fall of 2011, an eclectic group of people from the San Francisco Bay Area began making regular trips to Lima, Peru. Among them were architects, mechanical engineers, ethnographers, communication designers and education specialists.

They were all employees of the design company Ideo, which is perhaps best known for designing the first laptop computer and the first Apple computer mouse. But now Ideo had been hired by a Peruvian businessman, Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, to work on a new type of project: designing a network of low-cost private schools from scratch, including the classrooms, the curriculum, the teacher-training strategies and the business model.

Mr. Rodriguez-Pastor was “trying to break the traditional school model,” he recalled in a recent interview. “We thought, why not get different perspectives rather than build on what we think we know?”

Technology Use in Special Education Classrooms

Gail Robinson:

Eleven-year-old Matthew Votto sits at an iPad, his teacher at his elbow. She holds up a small laminated picture of a $20 bill.

“What money is this?” she asks. Matthew looks at the iPad, touches a square marked “Money Identification” and then presses $20. “20,” the tablet intones, while the teacher, Edwina Rogers, puts another sticker on a pad, bringing Matthew closer to a reward.

They race through more questions. “What day of the week is it?” “What is the weather outside?” “What money is this?” In most cases, Matthew, who has autism, answers verbally, but he is quicker and seems more comfortable on the device.

New Pittsburgh Private School offers Student Jobs to offset tuition

Max Radwin:

A new Catholic high school opening this fall in Emsworth will provide jobs to students to help them pay their tuition and gain work experience.
 Holy Family Academy will open its doors to about 70 students Aug. 18, with plans to use its work-study program to give students something substantial to put on their resumes that also helps pay more than half of their Catholic school tuition.
 The new high school will be on Ohio River Boulevard in a building the Pressley Ridge School for Autism currently occupies. Pressley Ridge’s lease has expired, and it will be moving to a different location.

Why the cool kids from middle school may have trouble down the line

Aisha Sultan:

It was, of course, a popular mean girl who made my life miserable in middle school.

She made a point to ask me, in front of whatever audience she could rally around her, if I had attended the big party from the weekend. (I never had.) If I had found a boyfriend. (Nope.) If even I had a clue about the fantastic life she and her friends led. (Not really.)

While her needling seemed like the end of the world when I was 11 and 12, it taught me to have a great deal of compassion for the marginalized as I grew up. I’ve wondered what happened to my young tormentor as the years passed. A new study out of the University of Virginia suggests she should have been nicer.

Published last month in the journal of Child Development, it followed the “cool kids” from middle school for a decade. It’s true what they say about peaking too young. The socially precocious teens in middle school fell lower on the social hierarchy by high school. And in their early 20s, they had more problems with drugs and alcohol, more trouble with the law and were less competent in their friendships.

What’s surprising is that the middle school “fast-track,” as measured in this study, seems tame compared to the images put forth in current pop culture. One of the markers identified middle schoolers who reported becoming seriously romantically involved at this age, as in making out with a boyfriend or girlfriend but not going further than that.

Politics & University Admissions

Jon Cassidy:

Speaker Joe Straus and two of his top lieutenants in the Texas House, Reps. Dan Branch and Jim Pitts, sent more letters to the president of the University of Texas on behalf of applicants than anyone else whose correspondence was included in a recent inquiry into admissions favoritism.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s office recently reviewed 86 “recommendation” letters, almost all of them from lawmakers, sent to UT President Bill Powers instead of through the proper channels.

The inquiry wasn’t exhaustive — those were just the letters uncovered by UT Regent Wallace Hall. Lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against Hall last June, just two weeks after he began investigating whether the university was giving special treatment to the friends and family of lawmakers.

An update, here.

School should be year-round

Wausau Daily Herald:

More than 40 percent of Wausau School District students are attending summer school this year. That’s about the same proportion of students who took summer classes last year, and it’s considered pretty good participation for the Summer Learning program.

It should be 100 percent. A three-month summer vacation is bad for students, and it’s especially bad for at-risk students.

Story: 40 percent of Wausau district kids in summer school

The problem with a long summer break is that, when students are out on vacation for months on end, they tend to forget a lot of what they’ve learned. Research shows that they are especially likely to forget things that require memorization, such as multiplication tables or grammatical rules.

Locally, Madison appears unable to change any material aspect (the stillborn proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School) of its agrarian era K-12 organization, one that spends double the national average per student and has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Two big Brazilian education firms, now in the process of merging, show how universities can do both quantity and quality

the Economist:

IN THE United States worries about private, for-profit universities’ high cost and dubious quality abound. A congressional inquiry in 2012 acknowledged that the sector, which trebled enrolment during the previous decade, gave students who were older, poorer and often less well-prepared for further study than those at public or non-profit institutions their best chance of a degree. But it concluded that soaring fees and drop-out rates meant that a majority left with nothing more than extra debt.

Elsewhere in the Americas, though, the story is far more positive. After equally hectic expansion, Brazil’s for-profit institutions have three-quarters of the country’s higher-education market—and fees are low and quality is rising fast. And since a degree boosts wages by a bigger multiple in Brazil than in any other country tracked by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, graduates can make back their tuition fees in just a few years.

Soon Brazil will become home not only to the world’s liveliest for-profit education sector, but to its biggest for-profit higher-education firm, too. Last month the antitrust regulator, CADE, approved the purchase by Kroton, the biggest such firm in Brazil, of Anhanguera, the second-biggest, to create a giant with a stockmarket value of around 18 billion reais ($8 billion).

The Economics of Fake Degrees

Scott McLemee:

It’s surprising how many house pets hold advanced degrees. Last year a dog received his MBA from the American University of London, a non-accredited distance-learning institution. It feels as if I should add “not to be confused with the American University in London,” but getting people to confuse them seems like a pretty basic feature of the whole AUOL marketing strategy.

The dog, identified as “Peter Smith” on his diploma, goes by Pete. He was granted his degree on the basis of “previous experiential learning,” along with payment of 4,500 pounds ($7,723). The funds were provided by a BBC news program, which also helped Pete fill out the paperwork. The American University of London required that Pete submit evidence of his qualifications as well as a photograph. The applicant submitted neither, as the BBC website explains, “since the qualifications did not exist and the applicant was a dog.”

July 2, 2014 Is an MBA worth it?

Kyle Van Pelt:

I have wavered back and forth on the decision to go get an MBA for years. It has always appeared so prestigious and valuable to me. But I have always wondered, is it really that valuable? I have even gone through the trouble of thoroughly researching schools that I would go to, weighed the pros and cons and even spoken to friends who have gotten their MBAs from local state schools all the way up to Ivy League. Every time I venture into those deep waters I come out with the same conclusion; as valuable as it may seem from afar an MBA is not worth the money. Today I was having coffee with an entrepreneur who has those three letters after their name and they confirmed my thoughts.

Their perspective was that starting a business or helping build one early on is just as good and most likely better, than getting an MBA.

Ultimately it boils down to practicality versus theory. Working on a brand new business, such as a startup, is real life hard knocks business school and experience is the best professor. The resounding answer I hear from people who went to business school is that theory can only teach you so much but the network you gain is invaluable. I have a hard time ponying up $100,000+ for a network, some theory and a lot of times a stigma that you don’t deserve. People, unfairly, tend to turn their noses up at those three letters.

There are cases where getting an MBA is worth it, but they are increasingly becoming edge cases. One of my friends who went to Harvard Business School specifically stated that getting an MBA didn’t make sense unless you own a balance sheet. That helps move past theory into the realm of practicality.

Lawsuit Challenges New York’s Teacher Tenure Laws

Al Baker:

An education advocacy group on Thursday threw down the first challenge to New York’s teacher tenure laws in the wake of a landmark court decision in California last month finding such laws there unconstitutional.

A lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court on Staten Island argues that the tenure laws violate the State Constitution’s guarantee of a “sound basic education” by making it difficult to fire bad teachers and by protecting the most veteran teachers in the event of layoffs, regardless of their quality. The suit, filed against city and state education officials, names as plaintiffs 11 public school students whose parents belong to a group known as the New York City Parents Union.

The road ahead is less than certain in either state.

Already, the California Federation of Teachers has vowed to appeal the decision in the case, Vergara v. California. And union leaders, legal analysts and others said it would be difficult to gain any traction on the issue in New York’s judiciary.

In state tuition rules tighten

Ron Lieber:

Figuring out how to pay in-state college tuition for a college student who grew up elsewhere is the ultimate money hack.

At desirable flagship universities in states like Michigan and Colorado, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students who get no financial aid can now approach $100,000 per undergraduate degree. And some families may also enjoy thumbing their noses at state legislators who expect affluent parents’ out-of-state tuition to subsidize the ever-lower budget allocations those representatives provide to higher education.

So it should come as little surprise that a service like In-State Angels has emerged to help high school graduates establish residency in another state. This is legal, though complicated, so once the company succeeds, it asks for roughly 10 to 15 percent of the ultimate savings as a fee.

The Misguided Freakout About Basement-Dwelling Millennialist

Derek Thompson:

More than ever, young people are living in their parents’ basements.

You’ve surely heard that one before. The Washington Post, the New York Times, the New Republic, Salon, and others have repeated it over and over in the last few years. More than 15.3 million twentysomethings—and half of young people under 25—live “in their parents’ home,” according to official Census statistics.

There’s just one problem with those official statistics. They’re criminally misleading. When you read the full Census reports, you often come upon this crucial sentence:

It is important to note that the Current Population Survey counts students living in dormitories as living in their parents’ home.

When you were adjusting to your freshman roommate, you were “living with your parents.” When you snagged that sweet triple with your best friends in grad housing, you were “living with your parents.” That one time you launched butt-rattling bottle rockets at the stroke of midnight off your fraternity roof? I hope you didn’t make too much noise. After all, you were “living with your parents,” and mine definitely went to bed around 11.

Conversations on the Rifle Range 2: Negative Numbers, Back-to-School Night, a Tattooed Man and a Mysterious Stranger

Barry Garelick:

Barry Garelick, who wrote various letters under the name Huck Finn and which were published here is at work writing what will become “Conversations on the Rifle Range”. This will be a documentation of his experiences teaching math as a long-term substitute. OILF proudly presents episode number two:

My back-to-school night was held on a Thursday evening during the first full week of school. Like most back-to-school nights, it was designed to give parents a peek at what goes on in their child’s school-day. And like most back-to-school nights that I’ve been to, parents shuffled from class to class, following their child’s schedule with somnambulistic fervor—each class lasting 10 minutes.

Of course, it wasn’t an exact replica of a school day: the school used block schedules, with hour and fifty minute classes and odd and even-period classes alternating every other day. I had three classes held during second, fourth and sixth periods—which meant that I taught every other day.

This was my first ever back-to-school night as a teacher. Parents from my three classes showed up, though attendance was fairly sparse. I assured all that I was certified to teach math, and that I would follow the teacher’s lessons and grading procedures. I had a list of topics that I would be teaching in my algebra classes and pointed to them. People nodded vaguely. I then said “I teach by providing instruction, worked examples, and lots of problems.” People nodded vaguely again. So far so good.

I was teaching the two-year sequence of Algebra 1. It is designed for students who are having difficulty in math. My high school, being very small, only offered the 2-year sequence. Students, who for whatever reason did not take Algebra 1 in 8th grade, unless they went to summer school, were therefore stuck with the two–year sequence of algebra, regardless of their ability to handle the one-year course in 9th grade. Two of my classes were the first year of the two-year sequence, and one was the second year.

I was most curious about the parents who showed up for my sixth period class “first year” algebra 1 class) since the students in that class were the most difficult. Out of 25 students, perhaps four were actually intent on learning anything. In fact the parents of a girl named Laura—one of the good students—showed up. She had two sets of parents. Her biological father was there; he bore tattoos on his neck including one of a poorly drawn heart with a number inside it. The step-dad and mother were there as well, along with Laura’s little sister—everyone but my student. And then there was a man who arrived late and sat in the back, looking somehow familiar, with a bored look on his face, slouched at a desk.

Part I: Not your mother’s algebra 1 & the guy who really knows.

Remedial Education: Know a Problem to Fix It; Revisiting Madison’s Math Task Force

Inside Higher Education

Remedial education is getting plenty of attention from state lawmakers. Yet there is little consistency in how states track students’ college preparedness and subsequent progress through remedial coursework.

That’s the central finding of a new report from the Education Commission of the States. The education policy think tank also released a companion report today that takes a first crack at creating a national “framework” for how to measure and report on remediation.

Via Noel Radomski.

Madison’s controversial use of reform Math curricula lead to the creation of a task force six years ago. I wonder if anything has changed?

Pupils on free school meals for only a year become ‘invisible underachievers’

Richard Adams:

Children who qualify for free school meals for just one year become “invisible underachievers” who receive little government support but achieve similar results to those who remain on free school meals during their entire school career.

Research from education data analysts FFT found that the group makes up around 7% of year 11 pupils, meaning that almost 40,000 students suffer similar levels of deprivation but receive fewer of the benefits, in most cases because their household income is just above the £16,000 threshold.

Those who received FSM for only one year average a D grade at GCSE – only slightly above those who are on the meals continuously, but almost a grade lower than pupils who have never received them.

Locally, Madison plans to expand its “free meal” program. Will this address Madison’s long standing disastrous reading results?

The Changing Economic Advantage from UK Private Schools

Francis Green , Stephen J. Machin, Richard Murphy & Yu Zhu :

Despite its relatively small size, the private school sector plays a prominent role in British society. This paper focuses on changing wage and education differentials between privately educated and state educated individuals in Britain. It reports evidence that the private/state school wage differential has risen significantly over time, despite the rising cost to sending children to private school. A significant factor underpinning this has been faster rising educational attainment for privately educated individuals. Despite these patterns of change, the proportion attending private school has not altered much, nor have the characteristics of those children (and their parents) attending private school. Taken together, our findings are consistent with the idea that the private school sector has been successful in transforming its ability to generate the academic outputs that are most in demand in the modern economy. Because of the increased earnings advantage, private school remains a good investment for parents who want to opt out, but it also contributes more to rising economic and social inequality.

“And the dream at Berkeley is to do social work and then go work for Google or Facebook”

Conor Freidersdorf:

The Chancellor of UC Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks, formerly spent years as a professor at Columbia University. In an Aspen Ideas Festival* panel on the state of the humanities, he summed up the difference between Ivy Leaguers in New York City and graduates of the institution he now runs. “You know, the tradition at Columbia is that you read Aristotle and then you go to Goldman Sachs,” he said. “And the dream at Berkeley is to do social work and then go work for Google or Facebook.”

He added, “All the stereotypes have a lot of truth to them. What I do find interesting is that at Berkeley, about 70 percent of students are taking some computer science across the curriculum. And this, I think, is a national phenomenon. At Stanford I think it’s 90 percent, but that’s Stanford. But we’re actually trying to introduce data science and data analytics into the core arts and sciences curriculum.”

He also noted the decline in English majors at his rival institution:

A new front has opened in the Common Core wars — over testing contracts.

Stephanie Simon & Caitlin Emma:

The high-stakes battle is undermining one of the Obama administration’s most prized initiatives: its vision, backed by more than $370 million in federal funds, of testing students across the country on a common set of exams in math, reading and writing.

The administration wants children in Mississippi to be measured against the same bar as children in Massachusetts or Michigan. But now a testing revolt is spreading across the country, adding to a slew of troubles for the Common Core initiative, which began as a bipartisan effort but has come under fire from parents and teachers across the political spectrum.

Wealth by degrees The returns to investing in a university education vary enormously

The Economist:

IS A university degree a good investment? Many potential students are asking the question, especially in countries where the price of a degree is rising, as a result of falling government subsidies. Recent research suggests that the conventional wisdom remains true: a university degree pays handsomely. In America and the euro zone, for example, unemployment rates for graduates are far below average. Yet the benefit of university varies greatly among students, making an investment in higher education a risky bet in some circumstances.

In Major Announcement, FIRE Says It Will Sue Every College With a Speech Code Until Speech Codes Die Forever

Robby Soave:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced a major litigation effort Tuesday against universities that maintain clearly illegal speech codes.

With help from the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, FIRE is suing several universities that manifestly and unconstitutionally deprive their students of First Amendment rights.

“Universities’ stubborn refusal to relinquish their speech codes must not be tolerated,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff during a press conference.

For now, suits have been filed against Ohio University, Iowa State University, Chicago State University, and Citrus College in California. These universities have all trampled students’ free speech rights, according to FIRE.

Lukianoff explained that FIRE would not hesitate to expand the suits until all universities abandon their speech codes, which were ruled unconstitutional decades ago but have endured at more than 50 percent of colleges, according to the foundation’s research.

What Stiglitz Misses On Inequality: The Responsibility Of Economists

Steve Denning:

It is a not novel thought that each profession is acutely aware of the problems caused by others but is often unconscious of the problems for which it is responsible. The education system stifles learning by teaching to the test. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies prescribe medicines that cause new diseases that require new cures. Engineers create time-saving devices that end up wasting large amounts of our time. So it is not entirely a surprise that economists are also blind to problems that their profession has engendered.

My hero: Lord Harris, the Conservative millionaire who is saving schools

Michael Gove:

We don’t put up many statues these days. Ours is a post-heroic age, and it is assumed that no one really deserves to be put on a pedestal. But I know of many people who deserve to be remembered for acts of overlooked heroism.

The teachers who dedicate their lives to helping children from disadvantaged homes to achieve their potential are my heroes. Long after others have given up, they refuse to accept failure. Some of these heroes, like David Sellens in Thomas Jones primary in London’s North Kensington, work in local authority schools; some, like Dame Sally Coates of Burlington Danes in London’s White City, run academies; others, like Liam Nolan in Birmingham, have opened free schools. But none inspires my admiration as much as a carpet salesman who left school, as my parents did, when he was just 15.

At time of austerity, eight universities spent top dollar on Hillary Clinton speeches

Philip Rucker & Tosalind Helderman:

At least eight universities, including four public institutions, have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hillary Rodham Clinton to speak on their campuses over the past year, sparking a backlash from some student groups and teachers at a time of austerity in higher education.

In one previously undisclosed transaction, the University of Connecticut — which just raised tuition by 6.5 percent — paid $251,250 for Clinton to speak on campus in April. Other examples include $300,000 to address UCLA in March and $225,000 for a speech scheduled to occur in October at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

Media Reality Check on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending

Molly Beck, writing for the Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison schools could see a $2.6 million increase in state aid next school year, but that’s about $5.6 million less than what district officials assumed when the School Board passed its preliminary budget last month, according to state estimates released Tuesday.

The Madison School District expected its state aid to increase from $52.2 million to $60.4 million for the 2014-15 school year, according to its preliminary budget, but the state Department of Public Instruction projects the district to receive $54.8 million. That number could change by October, when final payments will be known after districts report student enrollments, DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said.

School Board vice president James Howard said he isn’t sure what factors or assumptions the district used to project the higher level of state aid.

“That’s a very good question, and that’s one we’ll all be looking for an answer for,” said Howard. “If the preliminary budget is based on that $60 million state aid estimate, then that’s going to be an issue.”

District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said officials expected state aid would cover more of the district’s costs under Wisconsin’s complex funding formula.

Pat Schneider writing for the Capital Times:

Like most school districts in the state, Madison Metropolitan School District is likely to see a boost in state aid for next year, the Department of Public Instruction reports.

Madison is projected to receive $54.89 million in general school aid in the 2014-15 school year, up $2.69 million, or 5.1 percent, from the year before.

Total general school is set at $4.47 billion for 2014-15, a 2.1 percent increase compared to last school year, the DPI says. Actual aid payments are estimated at $4.3 billion because of statutory reductions for the Milwaukee voucher program and for independent charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine

Of the state’s 424 school districts, 53 percent will receive more general aid in 2014-15, while 47 percent of districts are expected to receive less aid.

Among those projected to receive less is Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, which is expected to receive $8.29 million in general state aid, down $1.47 million, or 15.1 percent, from the year before.

Enrollment and property values are big influences on the state general aid calculation, says Tom McCarthy, DPI communications officer. Aid increases with increased enrollment and decreases as property values rise, he said.

Perhaps Capital Newspapers might dive a bit deeper and share historic hard numbers with readers?


In fact, US teachers earn above average for the developed world at every grade and experience level. They earn even more than teachers in Finland!

Amanda Ripley:

Do they earn as much as they should? No, they do not (more on that below). This is a serious, intellectual job that demands serious pay. But if we keep exaggerating how bad our teachers have it, no one will want to become a teacher–and policy makers will continue to dismiss salary increases as an unimaginably expensive reform.

On the other hand, if we ground the conversation in facts, we might discover that the situation is not as overwhelmingly hopeless as we thought.

First things first: What does the evidence show about how well US teachers are paid? There are different ways to compare salaries. One way is the straightfoward way: compare teacher salaries across countries. To do this, you take a country’s average teacher salary at different grade and experience levels, convert the figure into equivalent US dollars using Purchasing Power Parities to adjust for cost-of-living differences, and see how things stack up.

When you do this, as the OECD does, then you find out a startling truth: US teachers make more than teachers in Finland at every grade and experience level.

The pay gap is most glaring for elementary teachers. Here is the average salary (in equivalent USD converted using PPPs) for new elementary-school teachers in 15 countries:

1. Luxembourg $64,043

2. Germany $47,488

3. Switzerland $47,330

4. Denmark $43,461

5. United States $37,595

6. Netherlands $36,626

7. Spain $35,881

8. Canada $35,534

9. Australia $34,610

10. Ireland $33,484

11. Norway $33,350

12. Belgium (Fl.) $32,095

12. Belgium (Fr.) $31,515

13. Austria $31,501

14. Portugal $30,946

15. Finland $30,587

Report: Charter schools don’t have higher student exits

Joey Garrison:

It delivered one of the biggest blows in Nashville’s fight over charter schools — a spreadsheet compiled by Metro Nashville Public Schools that suggested a suspiciously high number of students exit charters midyear and return to traditional schools.

The implication: Charters were weeding out low-performing students before end-of-year testing, improving the schools’ results.

But more than one year after a debate on student attrition widened a gulf between charters and the district, a team of Vanderbilt researchers contends there is no evidence of a larger exodus of students from charters.

Instead, a 75-page Vanderbilt Capstone study conducted at the request of Metro Schools calls poverty the root of a widespread mobility problem in Davidson County — students routinely moving from one school to another.

It recommends that the Metro school system improve its data collection on why students transfer, conduct exit interviews when students leave and enhance communication with transfers within both charter operators and the district.

An unholy alliance De Blasio’s embrace of the teachers union isn’t progressive; it’s political

Wayne Barrett:

I am a progressive, have been one since the 1960s, when I became a New York City public school teacher for a few years and learned that my union, the United Federation of Teachers, was much better at representing my interests than those of the kids I taught. It shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

What was true then is true now.

Though the union masquerades to this day as an advocate for children, its job is to advance the interest of teachers. On some issues, like class size, decent salaries and school funding, teachers, parents and students are natural allies. On others, like protecting bad teachers behind seniority and tenure walls and resisting any form of effective evaluation, they are on a decades-long collision course.

As someone who’s spent a lifetime on the left, covering politics for nearly 40 years at the Village Voice, I’ve long been angered by the refusal of many on my side to even acknowledge that the UFT is a special-interest group. It’s never been more disturbing than it is now, six months into the first term of a mayor who is simultaneously a progressive paragon and an advance man for the union. We haven’t lived with that kind of contradiction before.

New York State Challenge Planned on Teacher Tenure Law

Leslie Brody:

A new advocacy group is helping parents prepare a challenge to New York’s teacher tenure and seniority laws, contending that they violate children’s constitutional right to a sound basic education by keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms.

Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who has been a critic of job protections for teachers, launched the group, Partnership for Educational Justice, in December. She said six students have agreed to serve as plaintiffs, arguing they suffered from laws making it too expensive, time-consuming and burdensome to fire bad teachers.

The preparations to challenge the state’s tenure laws this summer follow a landmark ruling in California earlier this month. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu struck down the state’s laws on tenure, dismissal and seniority, saying they disproportionately saddled poor and minority students with incompetent teachers. Evidence that ineffective teachers hurt learning, he wrote, “shocks the conscience.”

California unions that intervened in the case, Vergara v. California, said they would appeal, and legal analysts predicted the ruling would inspire similar suits around the country.

The Two Cultures of Mathematics

WT Gowers:

In his famous Rede lecture of 1959, entitled “The Two Cultures”, C. P. Snow argued that the lack of communication between the humanities and the sciences was very harmful, and he particularly criticized those working in the humanities for their lack of understand- ing of science. One of the most memorable passages draws attention to a lack of symmetry which still exists, in a milder form, forty years later:

A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?

I would like to argue that a similar sociological phenomenon can be observed within pure mathematics, and that this is not an entirely healthy state of affairs.

An Update On Redistributed Wisconsin Tax Dollars for K-12 Budgets

Molly Beck:

Whether the district will need to scale back its planned spending for the 2014-15 school year is a “good question,” Howard said. “I’m not sure what it means.”

McCarthy said Madison’s aid has only hit the $60 million mark once, during the 2008-09 school year when total state aid levels peaked at $4.7 billion. The district received $58.4 million during the 2012-13 school year, which was about $11 million more than the district projected at the time, but aid has ranged between $43.2 million and $52.2 million since the 2009-10 school year.

In the last three years, the district has ended up receiving more in state aid than DPI’s July 1 figures predicted. Last year, the district received about $2.6 million more than DPI first estimated and $4.2 million more in 2012. In 2011, the district received less than $1 million more.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2014-2015 budget, here.


Delhi University’s first cutoffs soar to 100% in three colleges

Times of India:

NEW DELHI: As expected, cutoffs for admission into Delhi University’s undergraduate courses went sky high as colleges released the first list late on Monday. For BSc computer science, the bar was as high as 100% in at least three colleges — Acharya Narendra Dev (95-100), Atma Ram Sanatan Dharm (98-100) and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (97-100).

Though ‘popular’ colleges didn’t raised the bar too high — there wasn’t much scope for it either — cutoffs in other colleges increased by as much as 20 percentage points for some courses as compared to 2012-13, when the same programmes were last on offer.

Explaining Tuition Hikes at the University of Michigan

Student Union of Michigan:

This is part of an ongoing series of printable pamphlets designed to explain how money flows through public research universities in general and the University of Michigan in particular. The pamphlets are intended to clarify arguments and push back against pervasive and seemingly “common sense” narratives about the crisis of public higher education that impede, rather than advance, meaningful political action. We hope tactics and strategies will emerge from these counter-narratives—after all, we can’t fight what we don’t understand. Download the printable version of this pamphlet here and see the Resources page for the entire series.

Why has tuition grown so much and so fast at the University of Michigan? According to the administration, it has to do with “the long-term decline in state funding.”[1] We’re going to show you why this story is at best incomplete and at worst manipulative. It’s true that since the 1970s politicians around the country have cut budgets for many social services, including public higher education. Using the chart on the following page, the administration argues that state funding made up 78% of U-M’s general fund budget in the 1960s, but by 2012 this number had fallen to 17%. The chart suggests that tuition has increased to replace it, and the two streams are about equal.

So what’s missing from the administration’s story?

First, it’s important to recognize that the university’s budget is far more complex than the chart suggests. There’s not just two streams of revenue into the university. The general fund only represents a small piece of the university’s operating activities. As the pie chart on the next page indicates, other significant revenue sources include federal research grants (about $1 billion), distributions from the endowment (about $400 million), and gifts (about $150 million).[2] Why is this important? It shows that, even when we take the state’s budget cuts into account, overall revenue at U-M is actually increasing significantly. Over the last decade, for example, total revenue for operating activities (excluding the health system) has jumped from about $2.2 billion to $3.4 billion per year.[3] During that same period, state funding fell by just $41 million, while the revenue generated by student tuition increased by an astronomical $466 million. Even if state funding had remained constant, there would still be a lot more money floating around in the system, and students are more than making up for the difference.

How Teacher Prep Programs Are Failing New Teachers — And Your Kids

Joy Resmovits:

As education policymakers untangle the implications of last week’s California court ruling that declared teacher tenure laws unconstitutional, an education think tank says its comprehensive survey of college teacher preparation programs shows they rarely provide new teachers with solid skills for the classroom.

The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington group that advocates tougher teacher evaluations, said its second annual evaluation of teacher preparation programs, released on Tuesday, found that only 7 percent performed well enough to achieve “top status.” Only 1 in 15 programs provide new teachers with “solid preparation,” according to the group’s director, Kate Walsh. Three out of four programs “fail to insist that applicants meet even modest standards,” the group wrote, meaning at least a 3.0 grade point average, or scoring above the 50th percentile on the ACT or SAT.

“The whole set of issues that Vergara concerned itself with were what happened to teachers when they’re already in the classroom,” Walsh said, referring to the Vergara v. California tenure case. “The Vergara case, as supportive as we were of it, is emblematic of the country’s focus on teacher quality. That’s been very encouraging … but we’ve had the debate with almost no regard for teacher selection or preparation. The debate in that respect has been short-sighted.”

UW-Madison School of Education Dean on the NCTQ Results: “Don’t mean much”.

A startling waste of precious classroom time

Jay Matthews:

Lucia and Ignacia Barajas are sisters who attend Compton High School in southern Los Angeles County. They want an education, but their school seems unable to give them enough time to get one.

During the 2011-2012 school year, Lucia’s biology teacher went on maternity leave. For two months there were nothing but short-term substitutes in the class, most staying only a few days. In the fall 2013 semester, Ignacia’s American history class had more than 10 substitute teachers, and some days none at all. The restless students waited outside the door until they were sent to the library or another classroom.

Wasting time is common in the nation’s low-income schools. Class schedules can be a mess at the beginning of the year, forcing students to wait days in the library for their assignments. Lockdowns because of neighborhood violence detract from learning time. Teacher absence rates are high, and instructors will often quit mid-year with no good replacements available.