A Manly Old Guide to the Ivy League

Eric Hoover:

If your college guide says nothing about finding dates or getting laid, your college guide is woefully incomplete.

I reached that conclusion while thumbing through an entertaining old book my editor plucked on a whim from The Chronicle’s library this summer. With its drab, tattered cover, The Ivy League Guidebook, published in 1969, looks as inviting as a frat-basement couch.

But the pages within hold treasures, like this sentence: “With over twenty-five thousand young ladies attending one college or another in the Boston area, there is many a fertile field for the sowing of wild oats.” And this one: “When an Ivy Leaguer or a girl who has dated in the Ivy League thinks of a Dartmouth man, he or she does not call to mind a thin, pale, introspective boy with thick glasses sitting rapt in an obscure corner of the biology laboratory reading about the sex life of a mushroom.”

The History of Race & Football in Austin

Jessica Luther:

In this month’s issue of the Texas Observer, I have a feature on the history of race and football in Austin. It was months in the making and I’m proud of the work. You can now read it online at their site.

The feature goes from the segregated Jim Crow days of the early 1940s through to the present day and the hire of Charlie Strong as the first black head coach of a men’s team at UT, which just happens to be the most lucrative team in all of college football. Austin has a long, troubled history with segregation and inequality (and inequity) that is still very much alive in the geography of the city, inequality in education and income levels, effect of skyrocketing land values and subsequent property taxes, etc. Austin also has a pretty amazing football history that highlights a lot of the changing social landscape of this place over the last century. I tried to bring all of this together in the piece.

Print publishing is a strange phenomenon when you are used to writing something, sending it off to an editor, and seeing it online within a day, if not hours. I’ve been sitting with this completed story for a month or so now. And the first draft was due on August 1 and then there were a series of edits (and bless my editor, Brad, who worked on this piece with me – I sent him a mess and he polished it into this final form).

Is a university degree a good investment?

Stephen Foley:

Openings for graduate-level jobs have stalled over the past 18 months, while demand for less-skilled workers continues to improve

Should you invest in equities, bonds or property – or a college education?

The start of the university year has brought a new round of angst about whether a US university degree is worth the money, after years of inflation-busting fee increases, mounting student debt and disappointing job prospects for graduates.

Comparing a university degree with an investment in stocks and bonds leaves out great unquantifiable benefits of higher education, but the return on such an expensive outlay is a vital consideration for parents, children and society at large, even if it is often felt instinctively rather than spelt out or calculated.

In the US, where tuition fees have more than tripled in real terms since the 1970s, the student debt burden now sits at $1.2tn. One in seven recent borrowers defaulted on student loans within three years – a rate that suggests college has become unaffordable in too many cases. With countries including the UK moving rapidly towards a US-like model, the debate has resonance around the world.

After Ferguson, Some Black Academics Wonder: Does Pursuing a Ph.D. Matter? – See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/703-after-ferguson-some-black-academics-wonder-does-pursuing-a-ph-d-matter#sthash.LeSC6K37.xX44v3HB.dpuf

Stacey Patton

This summer, as street clashes erupted over a police officer’s shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., Chanda Hsu Prescod-Weinstein monitored the events, many miles away, through television, Facebook, and Twitter. A postdoctoral fellow in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Prescod-Weinstein—who identifies as black—found herself crying through her calculations as she saw a middle-American suburb turned into a war zone.

Watching and reading about the killing of Michael Brown—followed by the indelible scenes of tear-gas canisters and armored tanks—she looked down at her research on theoretical cosmology and thought to herself: “I can’t do this.”

“Who cares about cosmic inflation during the first seconds of the universe’s existence when black people are getting shot left and right by police officers and vigilantes?” she remembers thinking. “I felt guilty. I wanted to go to Ferguson. I wanted to be a body in the streets and a barrier between the police and my people.”

She was not alone.

A number of professors have told me that a summer’s worth of racial turmoil—most prominently in Ferguson, but in a number of other American cities as well—has taken an emotional toll on students of color pursuing advanced degrees. Although mass-media attention to Ferguson has already begun to subside, those students are still struggling as the fall semester gets under way.

EC Book Review: Building a Better Teacher

Amanda Ripley:

A refreshing new book chronicles how teachers are made—not born–and what it will take to move the U.S. into the next frontier of education reform.

If you have time to read only one chapter of one book this fall, consider the first pages of Building A Better Teacher, a new book by journalist Elizabeth Green. It opens with you—the reader–temporarily cast as the protagonist. You’re a teacher walking into a 5th grade classroom. It sounds contrived, I know, and yet it works.

“Your job, according to the state where you happen to live and the school district that pays your salary,” Green writes, “is to make sure that, sixty minutes from now, the students have grasped the concept of ‘rate.’”

What do you do?

In this way, we walk through the hundreds of micro-decisions a teacher must make in a single hour. Do you call on Richard, a new African-American student who says he hates math but has his hand raised anyway? If he’s wrong, will he shut down for the rest of class?

You call on Richard. His answer makes no sense to you. Do you correct him yourself right away? Or do you call on the white girl next to him who has the right answer more often? You decide to ask the rest of the class if anyone can explain what Richard was thinking. No one responds. You feel the dread creep in. But then Richard speaks up. “Can I change my mind?”

Whitman College and the Decline of Economic Diversity

Choire Sicha:

Whitman College, the gem of a small private liberal arts school in Walla Walla, Washington, has long been a mainstay of the Colleges That Change Lives lineup, along with schools like Antioch, Cornell and Marlboro. Whitman is an excellent, beautiful, and fairly safe college that students are lucky to attend. If you are applying there now, it just might be the right fit for you.

The school is also now in the middle of a search for a new president. At the same time, the college is being strangled by a long-serving, insular and controlling board of trustees, a weak and poorly rated president who inspired a faculty revolt, and an intentionally toothless board of overseers, mostly alumni. The school has turned its back on needs-blind admissions and on any reasonable commitment to diversity. Because of this, the school has gotten its comeuppance in a New York Times analysis of private schools that places the college absolutely dead last in terms of economic diversity.

This ranking was no accident. This was Whitman’s goal. An analysis of the school’s common data set from 2001 to 2013 shows how they did it.

Not For Teacher

Malcolm Harris:

The fight documented in Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars may be a lost cause

The tag line to Dana Goldstein’s new book The Teacher Wars is “A history of America’s most embattled profession.” That Goldstein, an education journalist now at the fledgling Marshall Project, can make that claim without ruining her credibility before the first page speaks to the unique role educators play in American society. They’re (mostly) unionized government employees, but they spend their time working alone. We ask that they produce standardized results and demonstrate individualized care at the same time. We say their work is invaluable and pay them as if they were semiskilled. They come under frequent attack from all corners of the political map. Whether that necessarily makes teachers more embattled than psychologists or babysitters or coal miners or housewives I’m not sure, but they are certainly curious.

The biggest reason teachers are so embattled is that their unions still exist. While other segments of American organized labor have declined in size dramatically over the past few decades, educators have managed to hold on, at least until recently. As a result, the debate around the teaching profession is incredibly polarized: Union members and their allies are fighting an existential battle for their jobs, while their opponents are constantly devising new schemes to chip away at what the unions have left. Both sides have made support for teachers a question of character, with little room for good faith in between: Either you believe teachers’ unions are important and must be protected, or you think they’re a moribund obstacle to “reform.” I confess that when I began Goldstein’s book, I feared it would be a pro-union pity plea, but her writerly commitments are to the historical record, and she gives readers a solid and critically detached account.teacher-wars-cover picDana Goldstein The Teacher Wars Doubleday (368 pages)

At the beginning of the teacher wars in the 1830s, progress was built on a foundation of pseudoscience, malarky, and personal psychology. Horace Mann, the architect of American public education, was also an avid phrenologist. Goldstein is careful to point out that skull-­measuring—though racist and fully fraudulent—was considered innovative and liberal compared with early 19th century Protestantism. At least phrenologists believed people could learn.

Mann pushed forward a unified and compulsory Massachusetts state school system based on a similar Prussian model. From the start, Mann imagined teaching as women’s work, and not just any women: “Mann depicted these cost-effective female educators as angelic public servants monitored by Christian faith: wholly unselfish, self-abnegating, and morally pure.” Women weren’t just cheaper to hire; they were also assumed to be naturally nurturing and pious enough to teach godly behavior. “Teaching,” Goldstein writes, “was promoted as the female equivalent of the ministry: a profession whose prestige would be rooted not in worldly rewards, such as money or political influence, but in the pursuit of satisfaction that came from serving others.” In other words, you can pay teachers in work.

Cool students are more toxic than rich ones

Lucy Kellaway:

While it is depressing that vast riches are a socially acceptable status symbol for 18-year-olds, they are no worse than more traditional ways of lording it over others.

Two of my children have recently graduated from two different British universities and tell me that to stand out, money helps a bit, though not nearly as much as being cool. This is – and was – the top way of differentiating yourself and is done by following six pernicious and foolish cool rules.

The first way to be a Very Cool Fresher is to treat with disdain everything laid on by the university, shunning all freshers’ activities and holding your own parties instead – which is hard if you don’t know anyone. Next you must act unfriendly to almost everyone, save a few people you’ve deemed cool enough. This rather defeats the point of university which is to broaden, not narrow, horizons.

The first way to be a Very Cool Fresher is to treat with disdain everything laid on by the university
Taking drugs, getting very drunk, chain-smoking roll-ups all help at being cool – as they always did – and they are still just as bad for you.

Being from London is eternally cool. Being from Swansea, anywhere in the countryside, Southampton, Hull, and everywhere else in the world save a few capital cities – is eternally not cool. This is tough, since there is not a lot you can do about where your parents live.

Looking gorgeous is cool. And looking thin. So is wearing the right clothes. The first is unfair, the second dangerous, and the third a lot of hard work.

Being clever is also cool, and getting good marks in all assignments and getting a first-class degree is very cool – the catch being that visibly working hard is not. Being in the library at opening time is only cool if you’ve been up all night.

While all these rules are familiar to me, they are more lethal now as the cool bar is set far higher. On my first day at university I felt passably cool in my apple green OshKosh dungarees – but that was only because half the girls were in tweeds and twinsets. Now that everyone can buy the same clothes online, to be really cool you have to spend half a lifetime combing vintage shops.

Commentary on Wisconsin’s Act 10

Dave Zweiful:

Last Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal carried a front-page story about a new phenomenon in our public schools that’s a fallout from Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 — the teacher as “free agent.”

According to some, Act 10’s virtual destruction of teachers unions unleashed good teachers from the shackles of their union contracts so they can now peddle their expertise to districts that can come up with a better deal.

In fact, the story informed us, teachers with expertise in special disciplines like technology and engineering are being offered bonuses, higher salaries and better fringe benefits to jump ship — apparently sort of a mini-version of what Prince Fielder did to the Brewers a few years back.

Some districts are able to offer higher salaries to those with expertise in hard-to-fill positions because Act 10 has freed up money that had been going to teachers under union contract for pensions and health benefits.

Notes and links on Act 10, here.

Today’s intellectuals: too obedient?

Fred Inglis:

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Noam Chomsky’s classic essay, is now approaching its 50th anniversary. His mighty polemic was written as his country, the US, moved deeper and deeper into national and international crisis. The tonnage of high explosive dropped on Vietnam finally exceeded the entire total of Allied bombs dropped on Europe during the Second World War. The American nation’s response to this horrifying display of brute power was a combustible mixture of more-or‑less approving indifference and, especially in the universities, passionate dissent, ardent opposition and, on the part of some thousands of young men awaiting conscription, the criminal, high-minded and public burning of draft cards.

Chomsky was completely on their side. He joined the famous march on the Pentagon in 1967 and – as elderly academics perhaps now recall with a faint reheating of once-radical blood vessels – was arrested and charged with Norman Mailer while demonstrating alongside Robert Lowell, Father Berrigan and Dr Spock. At the same time as this enactment of his public duty, Chomsky, the leading theoretical linguist in the world, was writing an astounding sequence of lengthy essays, each mustering the requisite and copious machinery of bibliographic reference that the most exacting scholar could demand, variously detailing the policies of the official elite in the Pentagon and the White House as they sought, in the happily chosen phrase of the day, “to bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age”, a policy more or less fulfilled by Richard Nixon.

Act 10 Bites Again: MTI Recertification Elections to Commence this Fall

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

Governor Walker’s signature legislation, the 2011 anti-public employee, anti-union Act 10, which took away nearly all the bargaining rights of public employees, is once again on the front burner for those represented by MTI. MTI had initially challenged the legislation and gained a Circuit Court decision from Judge Colas that Act 10 was unconstitutional. This ruling allowed MTI and the MMSD to bargain Agreements for the 2014-15 and 2015- 16 school years. Now that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned Judge Colas’ decision and upheld Act 10, certain portions of Act 10 are now applicable to MTI, specifically the Act 10 requirement that public sector unions undergo a certification election to determine whether the union will maintain its status as the “certified representative” of the workers covered by the union. Under Act 10, this will have to be done each year.

Given the above, MTI has filed petitions with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) for recertification elections for each of MTIs five (5) bargaining units (Teachers, Educational Assistants, Supportive Education Employees, Security Assistants and Substitute Teachers). The elections will be conducted in November, 2014.

Unlike political elections which require that the prevailing candidate win the majority of votes cast, Act 10’s recertification elections require a public sector union to win 51% of all eligible votes in order to remain the certified agent. This means that “non-votes” are considered “no” votes. If this standard were applied to any United States political election, with low turnout rate, no candidate would be seated (for example, Governor Walker won only about 30% of all eligible votes during the 2012 recall). Fortunately, the experience has been much different for union recertification elections in Wisconsin. During recertification elections held in 2013, over 500 local Unions representing over 56,000 teachers, secretaries, aides, bus drivers, custodial workers and other school employees resulted in a 70% turnout statewide. And an overwhelming 98% of those voting, voted to recertify their Union. But even knowing this, MTI needs every vote possible.

Much more on Act 10, here.

With Tech Taking Over in Schools, Worries Rise

Natasha Singer:

At a New York state elementary school, teachers can use a behavior-monitoring app to compile information on which children have positive attitudes and which act out. In Georgia, some high school cafeterias are using a biometric identification system to let students pay for lunch by scanning the palms of their hands at the checkout line. And across the country, school sports teams are using social media sites for athletes to exchange contact information and game locations.

Technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives — with few controls on how those details are used.

Wisconsin is a great place for kids to grow up — unless they’re black

Steven Elbow, via a kind reader:

Last year’s “Race to Equity” report set off an impassioned discussion about the vast disparities in the quality of life for African-Americans and whites. But that discussion was restricted to Dane County.

Now the authors have issued a new report that they hope will take the discussion to the rest of Wisconsin. The report, drawing on data from across the country, shows that the state is dead last in providing for the well-being of its African-American kids.

“We’ve been working exclusively in Dane County on this,” said Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “So we need to broaden the discussion, because obviously it’s not just a Dane County issue.”

The WCCF, which issued the “Race to Equity” report last October, this week unveiled a new report, “Race for Results,” based on data compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count” report. Now in its 25th year, “Kids Count” has in the past focused on the overall well-being of kids by state, last year ranking Wisconsin 12th overall. But this year, researchers zeroed in on race. White Wisconsin kids tied with California for 10th. But the welfare of the state’s African-American kids ranked dead last, finishing behind Mississippi for the dubious distinction.

Let’s get real — African-Americans are complicit in disparities

Tutankhamun Assad, via a kind reader:

I am a blue collar African-American man and the proud father of two black boys. I enjoyed reading the Rev. Alex Gee’s eloquent piece about racial disparities, and the many spot-on articles that have followed. While fully appreciating the concern exhibited by the white community for these very real issues, I have to ask: What is the role of the African-American community in these racial disparities? Are we enabling the drivers of disparity by lowering our own expectations? Where is the honest conversation about our accountability in helping reduce those disparities?

I attended many of the disparity meetings and noticed one glaring omission: the secret truths we as African-Americans understand about what is oppressing our culture and our refusal to discuss what we do to sabotage our own cultural advancement. We fully expect transparency and accountability from white Madison, so why can’t we be honest with ourselves? For instance, while we expect many things from the school system — and it is glaringly obvious it is failing us — it should be equally obvious that we are failing ourselves. We are sending children out of the house who are not prepared to survive, much less thrive.

The African-American community needs to talk about three topics that have not been addressed: 1. The public demeanor of our youth. Too often black adults see disgraceful behavior exhibited by our children and we simply stand by and allow it to continue. In malls, schools, at sports functions, or in any public place, our children often are not conducting themselves as if we have taught them how to behave. We must admit this and acknowledge that we are responsible for said behavior. How many of us have challenged kids about their behavior? Then again, when a responsible adult talks to us about our children’s actions, we respond with this: “You talk to me, not my kid!” Well, where were you when your kid was acting out? We want the whole community to baby-sit our kids, but then we get mad when someone attempts to functionally act as a parent. Far too frequently we sabotage positive African-American role models in our communities, all the while genuflecting to the white power elite.

Related: The proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Teach for America shows commitment to reassess, improve

Alan Borsuk:

Five years later, a quarter-century later, what has been accomplished? What do we need to change to earn more success? Are we willing to do it?

A lot of people ought to be asking questions like that, both locally and nationally, as so little improves in educational outcomes. And maybe that’s a lesson Teach for America can model for everybody.

A quarter-century after its start, Teach for America is a major player in American education. It has helped shape debate over urban education and it has been a launching point for some of the most influential figures in education. But its core idea — get bright, idealistic twentysomethings to spend their first two years after graduation as teachers in high-needs classrooms — needs, at minimum, serious review.

Five years after its arrival in Milwaukee, TFA’s track record has positives. For one thing, it’s still committed to Milwaukee, while other efforts have come and gone. But TFA hasn’t been the big shot in the arm backers seemed to expect at the start.

If Teach for America needs change, it’s getting it. Leaders have been doing a lot of rethinking, and the resulting steps signal broader changes in coming years.

There’s a lot to like about TFA. I’ve been consistently impressed with the people involved. Even as it grew into a big business with hefty ties to a lot of the nation’s richest education funders, TFA remained fueled primarily by people who had this Peace Corps-like idealism.

But does TFA’s core idea work? Can you get good results by taking even the brightest, giving them a few weeks of intensive summer training, and placing them in challenging classrooms? If it’s well established (and it is) that the first year is usually a struggle for teachers and most don’t hit their stride until several years in, what can you expect from teachers who, by definition, are in their first or second year?

When College Grads Earn Like High School Grads

Jordan Weissmam:

For the average graduate, going to college is a wonderfully profitable investment. The evidence is unambiguous. Even after subtracting tuition and all the years of foregone salary, the pay boost from a degree will still pay for itself, and then some. The problem is that the “average” college student doesn’t really exist; she’s an imaginary amalgam of state school grads and Ivy League alums, of education majors and engineering nerds.

Once you ignore averages, and start looking across the entire earnings spectrum, the question of whether higher education is financially worthwhile for everybody becomes more complicated. Recently, researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that the bottom 25 percent of college degree holders basically earn no more than the median worker who ended his or her education after high school.

Submitting essays: The jeopardy of just-in-time

The Economist:

“HARD work might pay off after time,” says the adage, “but procrastination will always pay off right now.” While inherently plausible, it would be unwise to adopt this advice as a lifestyle guide. The possible consequences of such a strategy have been spelt out in a paper just released by the University of Warwick in Britain.

David Arnott, a professor at the university’s business school, says he long believed that late submissions were reflected in lower grades. With a colleague, he devised a study looking at 777 undergraduate marketing students over a five-year period. It tracked the submission of online essays for end-of-term assignments for two modules: one from the first-year, the other the third-year (no students were included in both groups).

The pair were concerned that students’ study habits, particularly a tendency towards procrastination, could have a detrimental impact on their grades. This would mean that tests were, in effect, not only a measure of their marketing knowledge, but also of their propensity to put things off. If true, simple interventions like varying the nature of submissions or simply warning students of the perils of procrastination could raise grades.

Get Tech Out of Schools Students interact plenty with technology outside of classrooms, so let’s leave it there.

Annie Murphy Paul:

ne thousand: That’s approximately the number of instructional hours required of U.S. middle school and high school students each year.

Four thousand: That’s approximately the number of hours of digital media content U.S. youths aged 8 to 18 absorb each year. (If you doubt that’s possible, be sure you’re taking into account the near-universal practice of “media multitasking,” or consuming content on more than one platform at a time, as when a teenager listens to a song on his MP3 player while scrolling through Facebook on his smartphone while watching a video on his laptop.)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Young Households Are Losing Ground in Income, Despite Education

Floyd Norris:

The Federal Reserve Board’s newly released 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances indicates that the median family headed by someone under 35 years of age earned $35,509 in 2013 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that is 6 percent less than similar families reported in the first such survey, in 1989.

Since 1989, the Fed has conducted extensive interviews of consumers every three years. Respondents are asked about their family’s income in the previous year, as well as about wealth, debt, education and attitudes toward financial issues. The results are released by family, not by individual, so the median family income may include the income of both spouses. Single-person households are included in the family calculations.

As can be seen in the charts, younger families have fallen further and further behind older families as time has passed. Nearly a quarter-century after the first survey was taken, families headed by people over 55 generally have higher incomes, after adjusting for inflation, than their predecessors did. But those in groups under 55 generally earn less than their predecessors.

Textbook giants are now teaching classes.

Gabriel Kahn:

This summer, Chad Mason signed up for online general psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This spring, Jonathan Serrano took intro to psychology online at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey.

Though the two undergraduates were separated by more than 600 miles, enrolled in different institutions, and paying different tuitions, they were taking what amounts to the same course. That’s because the course wasn’t produced by either school. Instead, it was a sophisticated package devised by publishing giant Pearson PLC and delivered through a powerful online platform called MyPsychLab.

A Survey of Grown Unschoolers I: Overview of Findings

Peter Grey:

In a study that preceded the one to be described here, my colleague Gina Riley and I surveyed parents in unschooling families—that is, in families where the children did not go to school and were not homeschooled in any curriculum-based way, but instead were allowed to take charge of their own education. The call for participants for that study was posted, in September, 2011, on my blog (here) and on various other websites, and a total of 232 families who met our criteria for participation responded and filled out the questionnaire. Most respondents were mothers, only 9 were fathers. In that study we asked questions about their reasons for unschooling, the pathways by which they came to unschooling, and the major benefits and challenges of unschooling in their experience.

I posted the results of that study as a series of three articles in this blog—here, here, and here—and Gina and I also published a paper on it in the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (here). Not surprisingly, the respondents in that survey were very enthusiastic and positive about their unschooling experiences. They described benefits having to do with their children’s psychological and physical wellbeing, improved social lives, and improved efficiency of learning and attitudes about learning. They also wrote about the increased family closeness and harmony, and the freedom from having to follow a school-imposed schedule, that benefited the whole family. The challenges they described had to do primarily with having to defend their unschooling practices to those who did not understand them or disapproved of them, and with overcoming some of their own culturally-ingrained, habitual ways of thinking about education.

San Diego’s School District Now Has a Military-Grade Armored Truck Share Tweet

John Dyer:

South Africa deployed them en masse for the first time during the apartheid era. The United States left some behind in Iraq, allowing the Islamic State militants to seize them in their reign of terror. Now, the San Diego Unified School District has one too.

Yes, we’re talking about armored military trucks, designed to withstand land mines and improvised exploding devices, or IEDs.

On Wednesday, news that the school district’s police department recently acquired a 14-ton mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or an M-RAP, caused a stir in San Diego. The school district’s police force, which employs real cops but is separate from the city’s police department, received the truck for free from the same federal program that gave military equipment to the Ferguson, Missouri police and other cities around the country. The district spent $5,000 shipping the thing from Texas.

San Diego School Board Trustee Scott Barnett said the police didn’t ask whether they could have the vehicle. If they had asked, he would have argued against it. The schools need to keep kids safe, he said, but educating students is their primary mission. He thought the M-RAP was overkill.

6 things the happiest families all have in common

Eric Barker:

Here’s what makes strong, happy families:

1) Create a family mission statement

I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.

He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”

Ask: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.

Teacher tenure: Ruling will improve equity of education

Randy Ward:

Expert witnesses in the Vergara v. California trial overwhelmingly convinced a judge what all of us in education leadership circles already know: that five state statutes governing teacher employment rules violate the California Constitution by denying students access to a quality public education. Many cheered the verdict, while others, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, saw it as “anti-teacher.”

Torlakson said in a statement that those who “support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.” I cannot think of anything further from reality.

Education successes offer template for Oklahoma

The Oklahoman:

STUDENT achievement has surged dramatically in several countries around the world, surpassing the United States. Journalist Amanda Ripley convincingly suggests those nations’ experiences should inform education policy in Oklahoma.

In writing “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way,” Ripley reviewed other nations’ school systems and interviewed foreign-exchange students. (This included a look at Oklahoma.) She discussed her findings at a luncheon last week hosted by Stand for Children, which advocates for better schools.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international test for 15-year-olds administered in reading, math and science. In recent years, students in about 40 of 60 participating countries have demonstrated significant improvement in at least one subject area. “And some of these are complicated countries,” Ripley said. “They’re not all Finland. You’re now seeing countries like Estonia, Vietnam, Canada, Poland, countries with significant levels of child poverty that dramatically improved their outcomes and their equities.”

Millennials Are Better-Read, Vastly Superior to Rest of Population, Says Science

Enily Tankin:

On Thursday, as A.O. Scott mourned the death of adulthood in American culture (R.I.P.), a new study by the Pew Research Center confirmed that it’s young adults who are keeping American (literary) culture alive. Contrary to reports that have questioned whether or not millennials read, younger Americans actually read more than their older counterparts: 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 reported having read a book in the past year, compared with 79 percent of those older than 30.

What’s more, libraries are not a cherished refuge of the old, but a destination for the young: In a September 2013 survey, 50 percent of respondents between the ages of 16 and 29 had used a library in the past year, compared with 47 percent of their older counterparts, and 36 percent of people under 30 had used a library website in that same time frame; compared with 28 percent of the over-30s. (Admittedly, the numbers for high school and college-aged respondents may actually seem surprisingly low, given their reliance on libraries and books for school research.)

A College Degree Pays Off Far Faster Than It Used To

Josh Mitchell:

College graduates may be taking on historically high debt burdens to finance their educations. But it will take them far less time to get a return on that “investment” than it took their parents’ generation.

That’s the conclusion of new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Researchers there estimate someone earning a bachelor’s degree in 2013 will need 10 years to recoup the entire cost of that degree. Those who earned a bachelor’s in 1983 needed 23 years to do so.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the shift has a lot to do with the plight of those who never went to school, rather than simply the higher wages of college graduates.

The Fed first had to calculate the cost of a bachelor’s, a sum that includes direct costs and “opportunity” costs. Direct costs are tuition and fees. “Opportunity” costs are foregone wages that students would have earned had they worked those four years (or three, or five) instead of going to school.

The New York Fed, using data from the federal government and the College Board, pegs the total cost of a bachelor’s degree in 2013 at $122,000 ($26,000 in net tuition and fees over four years; roughly $96,000 in foregone wages).

Online education company edX offering free high school courses

Matt Rocheleau:

The online-learning collaborative edX, a partnership between Harvard University and MIT, is expanding its reach beyond higher education and will begin offering courses geared toward high school students.

Edx plans to unveil its first free classes for younger students Wednesday, when most of the new courses will open for enrollment. The 26 high school courses were created by 14 institutions — including MIT, Georgetown and Rice universities, the University of California Berkeley, Boston University, Wellesley College, and Weston Public High School.

The online classes, available to anyone in the world, will cover such subjects as computer science, calculus, geometry, algebra, English, physics, biology, chemistry, Spanish, French, history, statistics, and psychology.

To date, edX has offered only college-level courses. And, while a smattering of high school-level massive open online courses exist, company officials said edX is the first provider of so-called MOOCs to offer an organized set of free high school curriculums.


Credit for non-Madison School District Courses.

English 10.

New Jersey Teachers Union Spent $60m over the past 15 years on Campaigns & Lobbying

John Mooney:

The political spending by the New Jersey Education Association is no secret anymore, with the latest numbers — in the tens of millions — continuing to astound.

A new report by the state’s election finance commission tallied more than $57 million spent by the teachers union on political campaigns and lobbying in the past decade and a half — more than double its nearest rival.

ELEC Spending Report
And a third of that total came last year alone for the election of the governor and the entire Legislature — more than four times the next-highest spender.

But with that money always comes the question as to whether the NJEA is getting the same political bang for its buck anymore, especially under a combative administration led by Gov. Chris Christie.

Related: WEAC: $1.57M for four Senators

UK has more graduates but without skills and social mobility to match

Peter Walker:

The UK’s massive expansion in university education has not led to a parallel increase in skills, an international study has discovered, with only a quarter of the country’s graduates reaching the highest levels in literacy, well below other top-performing nations.

The annual education report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) notes the “quantum leap” the UK has made in higher education access – for the first time, more people now gain a university or college qualification than have GCSEs or A-levels as their highest qualification. However, it says this has not been wholly matched by better skills, or by increased social mobility.

Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills for the Paris-based club of industrialised nations, said it was notable that while the UK had a high proportion of people with university or college qualifications – for 2012 it ranked eighth among 36 countries listed – the skill level for graduates was only average.

Books That Have Stayed With Us

by Lada Adamic and Pinkesh Patel @ Facebook Data Science

Favorite books are something friends like to share and discuss. A Facebook meme facilitates this very interaction. You may have seen one of your friends post something like “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.” If not great works of literature, what are the books that have stayed with us?

The following analysis was conducted on anonymized, aggregate data.
To answer this question we gathered a de-identified sample of over 130,000 status updates matching “10 books” or “ten books” appearing in the last two weeks of August 2014 (although the meme has been active over at least a year). The demographics of those posting were as follows: 63.7% were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in the UK. Women outnumbered men 3.1:1. The average age was 37. We therefore expect the books chosen to be reflective of this subset of the population.

In Which I Extract My Kid From the Clutches of Traditional Schooling

JD Tuccille:

I can’t say it was the stress-induced puking that caused my wife and I to finally pull our son from his brick-and-mortar charter school. We’d been contemplating yanking him from a classroom setting for the past year or so. Over the summer, we ran him through a battery of academic tests and encouraged him to study math and Spanish online. The results were enlightening, but we thought he might be a little young for a full online education. And then the nervous tic developed as the start of school approached. That decided us well before he barfed at the thought of the next day’s schedule of classes.

Anthony’s (he started insisting on his full name) charter school is a good effort of the type. During a July meet-and-greet, the school principal and his teacher were amenable to a flexible approach—especially one that takes into account the flawed math genes I handed off to him. He grasps some lessons about math, while others on exactly the same concepts might as well be written in Sanskrit. They said they’d work with him. And they tried.

But a classroom is fundamentally a classroom. It has a structured day, and a bunch of kids requiring the divided attention of a teacher. The kids are part of a group, and mostly they’re taught as part of that group.

And my kid is now twitching and puking at the thought of school. This does not work for me.

Election Grist: Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for too long

David Blaska:

Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror.

Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, and their elected school board.

Instead of a collaborative group of college-educated professionals eager to embrace change and challenge, Madison’s unionized public school teachers comport themselves as exploited Appalachian mine workers stuck in a 1930s time warp. For four decades, their union has been led by well-compensated executive director John A. Matthews, whom Fighting Ed Garvey once described (approvingly!) as a “throwback” to a different time.

From a June 2011 Wisconsin State Journal story:

[Then] School Board member Maya Cole criticized Matthews for harboring an “us against them” mentality at a time when the district needs more cooperation than ever to successfully educate students. “His behavior has become problematic,” Cole said.

For years, Madison’s school board has kowtowed to Matthews and MTI, which — with its dues collected by the taxpayer-financed school district — is the most powerful political force in Dane County. (The county board majority even rehearses at the union’s Willy Street offices.)

Erin Richards & Patrick Marley

Joe Zepecki, Burke’s campaign spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that he couldn’t respond officially because Burke has made clear that her campaign and her duties as a School Board member are to be kept “strictly separate.” However, on the campaign trail, Burke says she opposes Act 10’s limits on collective bargaining but supports requiring public workers to pay more for their benefits, a key aspect of the law.

John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said the contracts were negotiated legally and called the legal challenge “a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community.”

The lawsuit came a day after the national leader of the country’s largest union for public workers labeled Walker its top target this fall.

“We have a score to settle with Scott Walker,” Lee Saunders, the union official, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A spokeswoman for Saunders did not immediately return a call Wednesday.

AFSCME has seen its ranks in Wisconsin whither since Walker approved Act 10. AFSCME and other unions were instrumental in scheduling a 2012 recall election to try to oust Walker, but Walker won that election by a bigger margin than the 2010 race.

“When the union bosses say they ‘have a score to settle with Scott Walker,’ they really mean Wisconsin taxpayers because that’s who Governor Walker is protecting with his reforms,” Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marré said in a statement.

Molly Beck:

Kenosha School District over teacher contracts after the board approved a contract with its employees.

In Madison, the School District and School Board “are forcing their teachers to abide by — and taxpayers to pay for — an illegal labor contract with terms violating Act 10 based upon unlawful collective bargaining with Madison Teachers, Inc.,” a statement from WILL said.

Blaska, a former member of the Dane County Board who blogs for InBusiness, said in addition to believing the contracts are illegal, he wanted to sue MTI because of its behavior, which he called coercive and bullyish.

“I truly believe that there’s a better model out there if the school board would grab for it,” Blaska said.

MTI executive director John Matthews said it’s not surprising the suit was filed on behalf of Blaska “given his hostile attacks on MTI over the past several years.”

“WILL certainly has the right to challenge the contracts, but I see (it as) such as a waste of money and unnecessary stress on district employees and the community,” said Matthews, adding that negotiating the contracts “was legal.”

In August, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Act 10 constitutional after MTI and others had challenged its legality. At the time, union and district officials said the contracts that were negotiated before the ruling was issued were solid going forward.

Under Act 10, unions are not allowed to bargain over anything but base wage raises, which are limited to the rate of inflation. Act 10 also prohibits union dues from being automatically deducted from members’ paychecks as well as “fair share” payments from employees who do not want to be union members.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said Wednesday the district has not yet received notification of the suit being filed.

“If and when we do, we’ll review with our team and the Board of Education,” she said.

School Board vice president James Howard said the board “felt we were basically in accordance with the law” when the contracts were negotiated and approved.

Molly Beck

A lawsuit targeting the Madison School District and its teachers union is baseless, Madison School Board member and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the conservative nonprofit Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on behalf of well-known blogger David Blaska alleges the school district, School Board and Madison Teachers Inc. are violating Act 10, Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law that limits collective bargaining.

The union has two contracts in effect through June 2016. Burke voted for both of them.

“I don’t think there is a lot of substance to it,” Burke said of the lawsuit. “Certainly the board, when it negotiated and approved (the contracts), it was legal then and our legal counsel says nothing has changed.”

Pat Schneider:

At any rate, Esenberg said, he doesn’t consult with Grebe, Walker or anyone else in deciding what cases to take on.

“The notion that we think Act 10 is a good idea because it frees the schools from the restraints of union contracts and gives individual employees the right to decide whether they want to support the activities of the union — that shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Esenberg said.

WILL is not likely to prevail in court, Marquette University Law School professor Paul Secunda told the Wisconsin State Journal. “They negotiated their current contract when the fate of Act 10 was still up in the air,” said Secunda, who also accused Esenberg of “trying to make political points.”

Esenberg contends the contract always was illegal.

Todd Richmond

The school board, district and union knew they could not negotiate anything more than wage increases based on inflation under the law, the lawsuit alleges. Despite the institute’s warnings, they began negotiations for a new 2014-15 contract in September 2013 and ratified it in October. What’s more, they began negotiating a deal for the 2015-16 school year this past May and ratified it in June, according to the lawsuit.

Both deals go beyond base wage changes to include working conditions, teacher assignments, fringe benefits, tenure and union dues deductions, the lawsuit said.

Taxpayers will be irreparably harmed if the contracts are allowed to stand because they’ll have to pay extra, the lawsuit went on to say. It demands that a Dane County judge invalidate the contracts and issue an injunction blocking them from being enforced.

“The Board and the School District unlawfully spent taxpayer funds in collectively bargaining the (contracts) and will spend substantial addition(al) taxpayer funds in implementing the (contracts),” the lawsuit said. “The (contracts) violate the public policy of Wisconsin.”

2009 Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).


“Since 1950, “us schools increased their non-teaching positions by 702%.”; ranks #2 in world on non teacher staff spending!”

Act 10

Madison’s long term reading problems, spending, Mary Burke & Doyle era teacher union friendly arbitration change.

Madison Teachers, Inc.

WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union Umbrella): 4 Senators for $1.57M.

John Matthews.

Understanding the current union battles requires a visit to the time machine and the 2002 and the Milwaukee County Pension Scandal. Recall elections, big money, self interest and the Scott Walker’s election in what had long been a Democratic party position.

The 2000-2001 deal granted a 25% pension “bonus” for hundreds of veteran county workers. Another benefit that will be discussed at trial is the controversial “backdrop,” an option to take part of a pension payment as a lump-sum upon retirement.

Testimony should reveal more clues to the mysteries of who pushed both behind the scenes.

So what does it mean to take a “backdrop?”

“Drop” refers to Deferred Retirement Option Program. Employees who stay on after they are eligible to retire can receive both a lump-sum payout and a (somewhat reduced) monthly retirement benefit. Employees, upon leaving, reach “back” to a prior date when they could have retired. They get a lump sum equal to the total of the monthly pension benefits from that date up until their actual quitting date. The concept was not new in 2001, but Milwaukee County’s plan was distinguished because it did not limit the number of years a worker could “drop back.” In fact, retirees are routinely dropping back five years or more, with some reaching back 10 or more years.

That has allowed many workers to get lump-sum payments well into six figures.

Former deputy district attorney Jon Reddin, at age 63, collected the largest to date: $976,000, on top of monthly pension checks of $6,070 each.

And, Jason Stein:

The Newsline article by longtime legal writer Stuart Taylor Jr. alleges that Chisholm may have investigated Walker and his associates because Chisholm was upset at the way in which the governor had repealed most collective bargaining for public employees such as his wife, a union steward.

The prosecutor is quoted as saying that he heard Chisholm say that “he felt that it was his personal duty to stop Walker from treating people like this.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has requested to speak with the former prosecutor through Taylor and has not yet received an answer.

In a brief interview, Chisholm denied making those comments. In a longer statement, an attorney representing Chisholm lashed out at the article.

“The suggestion that all of those measures were taken in furtherance of John Chisholm’s (or his wife’s) personal agenda is scurrilous, desperate and just plain cheap,” attorney Samuel Leib said.

How US News does it’s college rankings

The Onion:

U.S. News & World Report published its influential annual list of the nation’s best colleges earlier this month, with Princeton University topping the 2014 rankings. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the methods and metrics used by the magazine:

Step 1: Schools are weighed on a scale

Step 2: Researchers calculate each campus’ student-to-student ratio

Step 3: Any college whose colors are maroon and gold is immediately eliminated

Step 4: Analysts aggregate incoming freshmen’s SAT, ACT, and COWFACTS test scores

Step 5: Number of library books probably factors in somewhere around here

Step 6: Quick visit to colleges to see who has “We Love U.S. News & World Report” banners up

Intro to Computer Science overtakes Econ as Harvard’s most popular class

Tom Huddleston:

The tech course enrolled almost 820 students for the current fall semester to become the school’s largest class in at least a decade.

The college campus that once (briefly) hosted future tech luminaries Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as students is now overrun with tech-curious scholars.

The most popular fall-semester course at Harvard is “Introduction to Computer Science I,” according to data put out by the school’s registrar’s office, with almost 820 undergraduates enrolled in the class this semester. That total is the highest in the three decades the course has been offered and it’s the biggest class offered at Harvard in at least a decade, according to The Harvard Crimson.

What Do Schools Risk By Going ‘Full Google’?

Anya Kamanetz:

Kaitlin Morgan says, this year, her school district is going “full Google.”

Morgan teaches U.S. and world history and advises the yearbook at Woodlake Union High School in California’s Central Valley. At Woodlake, “full Google” means a plan to have one Google Chromebook for every two students by the spring, running Google Apps.

The Chromebook is a relatively cheap, stripped-down laptop. It’s become popular in the education world, with 85 percent of its U.S. sales last year going to the ed market.

And the Chromebook is just the beginning. Already, Google Apps for Education claims 30 million active users around the world. The free, Web-based software works on any device and allows teachers and students to use Gmail with their own .edu address.

It’s the beginning of what Google calls the “paperless classroom” — moving assignments, class discussions, feedback, tests and quizzes online.

The Economic Price of Colleges’ Failures

Kevin Carey:

Four years ago, the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa dropped a bomb on American higher education. Their groundbreaking book, “Academically Adrift,” found that many students experience “limited or no learning” in college. Today, they released a follow-up study, tracking the same students for two years after graduation, into the workplace, adult relationships and civic life. The results suggest that recent college graduates who are struggling to start careers are being hamstrung by their lack of learning.

“Academically Adrift” studied a sample of students who enrolled at four-year colleges and universities in 2005. As freshmen, they took a test of critical thinking, analytic reasoning and communications skills called the Collegiate Learning Assessment (C.L.A.). Colleges promise to teach these broad intellectual skills to all students, regardless of major. The students took the C.L.A. again at the end of their senior year. On average, they improved less than half of one standard deviation. For many, the results were much worse. One-third improved by less than a single point on a 100-point scale during four years of college.

College-rating proposal shines spotlight on powerful lobby

Jon Marcus:

The annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities this year had the tone of a revival meeting.

“We have been under steady, unrelenting pressure,” declared the organization’s president, David Warren, who spoke of “an overreaching executive branch” he said sought to use unreliable statistics to measure the effectiveness of higher-education institutions that are vastly different from each other.

Warren was talking about proposed ratings of colleges and universities the White House says would help consumers see what they’re getting for their tuition dollars. He said these would fail to capture “the specific mission of an institution at whose core is where value can be found.”

“Harvard is a real-estate and hedge-fund concern that happens to have a college attached.” Take away their non-profit status.

Annie Lowrey:

The world’s richest university just got a little richer. On Monday, Harvard announced that it has received its largest-ever gift of $350 million and it will rename its school of public health after its benefactor’s father.

Public health is a wonderful and worthy cause, of course, and Harvard has a stellar program dedicated to it. But this gift — like so many other megagifts to megaendowments — has a hint of the ludicrous about it.

Related Stories
Harvard Adds Privilege-Checking to New-Student Orientation
There’s an old line about how the United States government is an insurance conglomerate protected by an army. Harvard is a real-estate and hedge-fund concern that happens to have a college attached. It has a $32 billion endowment. It charges its rich students — and they are mostly from rich families, with many destined to be rich themselves — hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition and fees. It recently embarked on a $6.5 billion capital campaign. It is devoted to its own richness. And, as such, it is swimming in cash.

“But, wait!” you might say. “That $350 million is going to support an educational institution with tremendous public spillover! Harvard does basic scientific research! It teaches doctors! It studies cells and stars and history and it educates underprivileged youths!”

In D.C., a 13-year-old piano prodigy is treated as a truant instead of a star student

Petula Dvorak:

Avery Gagliano is a commanding young pianist who attacks Chopin with the focused diligence of a master craftsman and the grace of a ballet dancer.

The prodigy, who just turned 13, was one of 12 musicians selected from across the globe to play at a prestigious event in Munich last year and has won competitions and headlined with orchestras nationwide.

But to the D.C. public school system, the eighth-grader from Mount Pleasant is also a truant. Yes, you read that right. Avery’s amazing talent and straight-A grades at Alice Deal Middle School earned her no slack from school officials, despite her parents’ begging and pleading for an exception.

“As I shared during our phone conversation this morning, DCPS is unable to excuse Avery’s absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.,” Jemea Goso, attendance specialist with the school system’s Office of Youth Engagement, wrote in an e-mail to Avery’s parents, Drew Gagliano and Ying Lam, last year before she left to perform in Munich.

The college degree has become the new high school degree

Catherine Rampell:

You’ve heard of grade inflation? Welcome to the world of degree inflation.

A new report finds that employers are increasingly requiring a bachelor’s degree for positions that didn’t used to require baccalaureate education. A college degree, in other words, is becoming the new high school diploma: the minimum credential required to get even the most basic, entry-level job.

The report is from Burning Glass, a labor market analytics company that mines millions of online job postings. The company found that a wide range of jobs — in management,

administration, sales and other fields — are undergoing “upcredentialing,” or degree inflation. As examples, just 25 percent of people employed as insurance clerks have a BA, but twice that percentage of insurance-clerk job ads require one. Among executive secretaries and executive assistants, 19 percent of job-holders have degrees, but 65 percent of job postings mandate them.

College Access Index: “But the problem for schools is when you admit one of those kids, you forgo $50,000 a year that you could use for other things”

David Leonhardt:

Vassar has taken steps to hold down spending on faculty and staff. Amherst and the University of Florida have raised new money specifically to spend on financial aid for low-income students. American University reallocated scholarships from well-off students to needy ones. Grinnell set a floor on the share of every freshman class – 15 percent – whose parents didn’t go to college.
Over the last decade, dozens of colleges have proclaimed that recruiting a more economically diverse student body was a top priority. Many of those colleges have not matched their words with actions. But some have.
These colleges have changed policies and made compromises elsewhere to recruit the kind of talented poor students who have traditionally excelled in high school but not gone to top colleges. A surprising number of such students never graduate from any college.

The Cost of Waterloo Software Engineering

Peter Sobot:

This past June, I graduated from the University of Waterloo’s Software Engineering program. After 5 long and difficult years, I’m extremely proud to say that I’m a Waterloo grad, and very proud of my accomplishments and experiences at the school. Somewhat surprisingly, myself and most of my classmates were able to graduate from a top-tier engineering school with zero debt. (I know this might sound like a sales pitch – stick with me here.)

Waterloo is home to the world’s largest cooperative education programs — meaning that every engineering student is required to take at least 5 internships over the course of their degree. Most take six. This lengthens the duration of the course to five years, and forces us into odd schedules where we alternate between four months of work and four months of school. We get no summer breaks.

One of the most important parts of Waterloo’s co-op program is that the school requires each placement be paid. Without meeting certain minimum requirements for compensation, a student can’t claim academic credit for their internship, and without five internships, they can’t graduate. This results in Waterloo co-op students being able to pay their tuition in full (hopefully) each semester. In disciplines like Software Engineering, where demand is at an all-time high and many students are skilled enough to hold their own at Silicon Valley tech giants, many students end up negotiating for higher salaries at their internships.

MOOC on Government Surveillance


It’s easy to be cynical about government surveillance. In recent years, a parade of Orwellian disclosures have been making headlines. The FBI, for example, is hacking into computers that run anonymizing software. The NSA is vacuuming up domestic phone records. Even local police departments are getting in on the act, tracking cellphone location history and intercepting signals in realtime.

Perhaps 2014 is not quite 1984, though. This course explores how American law facilitates electronic surveillance—but also substantially constrains it. You will learn the legal procedures that police and intelligence agencies have at their disposal, as well as the security and privacy safeguards built into those procedures. The material also provides brief, not-too-geeky technical explanations of some common surveillance methods.

New Resource to Fight the “Ed Reform Machine”

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeanne Kamholtz email:

The Progressive Magazine is revving up its movement to save public schools. On their website, created specifically for the anti-voucher/save public schools project, www.publicschoolshakedown.org, they are pulling together education experts, activists, bloggers, and concerned citizens from across the country.

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

“Public School Shakedown will be a fantastic addition to the debate”, says education historian and former Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch. “The Progressive is performing a great public service by helping spread the word about the galloping privatization of our public schools”.

Another Penn is Possible

Penn Radical Working Group:

Penn has become essential to preserving the present state of affairs. Not only does it literally reproduce America’s ruling class, sending more graduates off to Wall Street than any other university, it plays the far more important function of ensuring the reproduction of capitalism as a whole. Whatever its intentions, Penn’s structural function, like those of all educational institutions, is to transform students into precisely the kind of subject – trained with certain skills, molded for certain roles, guided by certain values, blindly wedded to certain ideological assumptions – needed to keep the exploitative gears of class society turning. So although it cultivates an image of civic entrepreneurialism, pathbreaking innovation, and social opportunity, Penn ultimately works to prop up a failing society. With its institutional values completely dominated by Wharton, the university boasts a “pre-professional” atmosphere: students compete like rats for the internships that will put them on the fast track to helping this society stay the same, or are shaped into the professional ideologues who will go on to craft capitalism’s next media soundbite or justify America’s next imperialist war.

The New Brutalism in Higher Education

Michael Maranze:

Marina Warner has a fascinating essay in the latest London Review of Books. Seeking to explain why she resigned from her position at the University of Essex, Warner describes a rapid collapse of the University’s traditions of scholarly openness and institutional democracy under the pressure of the Coalition government’s new funding model and (lack of) scholarly commitments. As she reveals, the tentacles of the new audit technocracy are infiltrating the University by means of the faculty review process.

Describing a meeting presided over by the Vice-Chancellor Anthony Forster, Warner describes a situation that may sound all too familiar:

Investors Cash In On Off-Campus Housing

David Greene:

College students are settling in for the fall semester and more and more it is happening in privately owned housing – instead of dorms. Over the past decade investors have been cashing in on this growing market. From Atlanta, Susanna Capelouto reports.

SUSANNA CAPELOUTO, BYLINE: Just on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus in Midtown Atlanta, lots of new dorms are in the making, though Stuart Bruening doesn’t call them dorms.

STUART BRUENING: I mean, it’s luxury apartment living catered towards college students.

Yale’s tax exempt New Haven property worth $2.5 billion

Ed Stannard:

If you stroll up Chapel Street, Yale buildings rise up on either side of you.

On one side, between College and High streets, is the Old Campus quad.

On the other side is Claire’s Corner Copia, an Elm City vegetarian institution and Union League Cafe. Their landlord is Yale — through its University Properties office.

If you’re in downtown New Haven, whether on Chapel, York Street, Broadway or at Whitney Avenue and Audubon Street, it’s a good bet you’re near a Yale-owned building (click here to see chart and map).

It’s not true, though it may seem so, that “the city is the university,” as a visitor from Brazil, Susana Moreira, said recently on Broadway during a tour of the Northeast with her daughter.

America’s public schools remain highly segregated

Reed Jordan:

Fifty million children will start school this week as historic changes are under way in the U.S. public school system. As of 2011 48 percent of all public school students were poor* and this year, students of color will account for the majority of public school students for the first time in US history.

What is surprising about these shifts is that they are not leading to more diverse schools. In fact, the Civil Rights Project has shown that black students are just as segregated today as they were in the late 1960s, when serious enforcement of desegregation plans first began following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Despite our country’s growing diversity, our public schools provide little contact between white students and students of color. We’ve mapped data about the racial composition of US public schools to shed light on today’s patterns at the county level. These maps show that America’s public schools are highly segregated by race and income, with the declining share of white students typically concentrated in schools with other white students and the growing share of Latino students concentrated into low-income public schools with other students of color.

Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away

Clay Shirky:

I teach theory and practice of social media at NYU, and am an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, so I’m a pretty unlikely candidate for internet censor, but I have just asked the students in my fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.

I came late and reluctantly to this decision — I have been teaching classes about the internet since 1998, and I’ve generally had a laissez-faire attitude towards technology use in the classroom. This was partly because the subject of my classes made technology use feel organic, and when device use went well, it was great. Then there was the competitive aspect — it’s my job to be more interesting than the possible distractions, so a ban felt like cheating. And finally, there’s not wanting to infantilize my students, who are adults, even if young ones — time management is their job, not mine.

When Dr. Walter Stroup showed that Texas’ standardized testing regime is flawed, the testing company struck back.

Jason Stanford:

Rebellions sometimes begin slowly, and Walter Stroup had to wait almost seven hours to start his. The setting was a legislative hearing at the Texas Capitol in the summer of 2012 at which the growing opposition to high-stakes standardized testing in Texas public schools was about to come to a head. Stroup, a University of Texas professor, was there to testify, but there was a long line of witnesses ahead of him. For hours he waited patiently, listening to everyone else struggle to explain why 15 years of standardized testing hadn’t improved schools. Stroup believed he had the answer.

Using standardized testing as the yardstick to measure our children’s educational growth wasn’t new in Texas. But in the summer of 2012 people had discovered a brand-new reason to be pissed off about it. “Rigor” was the new watchword in education policy. Testing advocates believed that more rigorous curricula and tests would boost student achievement—the “rising tide lifts all boats” theory. But that’s not how it worked out. In fact, more than a few sank. More than one-third of the statewide high school class of 2015 has already failed at least one of the newly implemented STAAR tests, disqualifying them from graduation without a successful re-test. As often happens, moms got mad. As happens less often, they got organized, and they got results.

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, long an advocate of using tests to hold schools accountable, broke from orthodoxy when he called the STAAR test a “perversion of its original intent.” Almost every school board in Texas passed resolutions against over-testing, prompting Bill Hammond, a business lobbyist and leading testing advocate, to accuse school officials of “scaring” mothers. State legislators could barely step outside without hearing demands for testing relief. So in June 2012, the Texas House Public Education Committee did what elected officials do when they don’t know what to say. They held a hearing. To his credit, Committee Chair Rob Eissler began the hearing by posing a question that someone should have asked a generation ago: What exactly are we getting from these tests? And for six hours and 45 minutes, his committee couldn’t get a straight answer. Witness after witness attacked the latest standardized-testing regime that the Legislature had imposed. Everyone knew the system was broken, but no one knew exactly why.

Malawi app ‘teaches UK pupils 18 months of maths in six weeks’

Spencer Kelly:

An app designed to help provide a better education for children in Malawi has proved an equally effective learning tool for pupils in the UK. In six weeks, children made the same progress in maths as expected after 12 to 18 months of teaching.

It will be an emotional time at my house, when my four-year-old son goes to “big school” for the first time.

As well as wondering where the last four years have gone, and being petrified that he will miss us more than we miss him, there is that niggle about how he will take to schoolwork.

How well will the teachers engage him and ensure he is not left behind?

Although I always assumed technology would play a major role in his education, I certainly didn’t expect him to get a boost from a tool originally designed to provide Malawian children with a better future.

But this is now a possibility, after pupils in Nottingham using a maths teaching app from the charity Onebillion advanced their learning at the same rapid rate as those in Africa, for whom it was originally designed.

Most foreign students studying in the U.S. are focused on practical studies.

Thomas Donlan:

Maybe they’re doing something right: American colleges and universities are highly regarded by an important subset of their students. One-fifth of students from other countries who study abroad are studying here in the U.S.

A recent Brookings Institution report found more than 800,000 foreign students in the U.S. in 2012, a record, and five times as many as were here in 2001. About 25% are from China, 15% from India, 10% from South Korea, and 5% from Saudi Arabia.

Some were sent here by their governments, others by their parents or their employers. Some come by their own unaided effort, making large financial sacrifices. No matter where the money comes from, foreign students mostly pay full freight to their institutions. From 2001 through 2012, they paid an estimated $56.5 billion in tuition and fees. Their living expenses added another $39.1 billion to U.S. gross domestic product.

The University of Southern California had the greatest number of foreign undergraduates, followed closely by Columbia University, the University of Illinois, New York University, and Purdue University.

How lacrosse, China and adjuncts are changing higher ed

Scott Jaschik & Doug Lederman:

Higher education is facing great pressure to change, and elsewhere in the PBS Newshour Rethinking College series, you’ll learn about some of the most visible trends that are unfolding.

Below are a handful of less-visible developments on college and university campuses — some of which have implications big and small for students and their families.

rethinkingcollegeGoodbye Mr. Chips

Many Americans — especially those who went to four-year, residential colleges — tend to think that professors have it easy: full-time work, summers off and, once they earn tenure, a job for life.

Three decades ago, that described a significant majority of college professors, with three in four either tenured or on a track to earning that status. Today, however, fewer than a third of all college instructors work full time and have a shot at tenure. More than half work part time, and while some do so by choice — the businesswoman or artist who teaches a little on the side — increasing numbers are trying to stitch together a living by teaching courses at multiple campuses, usually without benefits.

Robert Meister Interview – pt. 2

Michael Shapira:

In Uses of the University Clark Kerr talks about the multiversity combining the best of the German research university, the best of the English liberal arts model, and best aspects of American entrepreneurialism. Santa Cruz was meant to be part of the system as a beacon of UC’s commitment to undergraduate education, given the increased scale of enrollments as laid out by the California Master Plan (CMP). Do you think there was something salutary in the way that the UCSC experiment approached the growing imbalance between research, or graduate education, and undergraduate education, or the liberal arts tradition? Do you think that there can be something extracted from this initial period given that this pure college model is something that has been subsequently deemphasized at UCSC?

[Laughter] I suppose my laughter is part of the answer. When I was the chair of the campus budget committee, our then chancellor hired a management consultant to advise her on how UCSC could raise private funding by capitalizing on its advantages. The consultant said that our principle advantage was a loyal and successful alumni base from our early years who were still absolutely devoted to the college system — which had ceased to have any academic role in the way UCSC reorganized after it stopped growing by adding new colleges. That model was dead, so the consultant recommended that we turn one or more of the now-vestigial colleges into burial plots-with-a-view that could be sold to rich alumni who believed in the college system and still wanted to support it. I was willing to support this recommendation, but with the addition that we rename the college “Sunset College,” so that you could look west over the Pacific and contemplate your own sunset along with that of the college model. Despite my enthusiasm, the idea of colleges-as-graveyards was dropped and the chancellor said I hope you won’t mention this to anyone else — but here it is.

Going back to your question on the college model, Dean McHenry, who created my position as a junior faculty member to fill the gap left by the departure of Sheldon Wolin to Princeton, envisioned that Santa Cruz would grow and develop graduate programs slowly as the University of Oxford had, but in a way that was more deliberate and creative. Instead of competing with other new campuses to buy up the latest disciplinary fads, we would add college each year that defined an interdisciplinary model and that had as provost an interdisciplinary leader. In McHenry’s vision the science college would have someone like Ken Thimann as its first provost, an eminent interdisciplinary biologist, followed by Stephen Toulmin, who arrived when I did but didn’t last more than a year. The idea was that the provost in a science-themed college would develop an interdisciplinary faculty of scientists who were interested in the history and philosophy of science, alongside philosophers who were trained like [Thomas] Kuhn in the sciences in which they did their philosophy, and so on and so forth. Eventually, UCSC would develop more traditional disciplinary programs out of cross-college committees — we called them “Boards of Studies” — consisting of people from different disciplines who would set examining standards and course requirements for degrees in those disciplines that would be awarded by the campus, but through the student’s college.

Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers

Ira Basen::

Kimberley Ellis Hale has been an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for 16 years. This summer, while teaching an introductory course in sociology, she presented her students with a role-playing game to help them understand how precarious economic security is for millions of Canadian workers.

In her scenario, students were told they had lost their jobs, their marriage had broken up, and they needed to find someplace to live. And they had to figure out a way to live on just $1,000 a month.

Plutarch on Education

British Library Digitized Manuscripts:

Origin: Italy, N. (Venice).Provenance:Owned by the Church of San Francesco della Vigna, Venice.Acquired by Robert Curzon from a priest of the Church of San Francesco della Vigna, along with Add MS 39614 and Add MS 39615, in 1834: ownership inscription, Add MS 39614, f i recto. This note also records five more volumes of the same set as in the possession of the Rev. Walter Sneyd of Denton, Oxford (afterwards of Keele Hall), whose library was sold at Sotheby’s in December 1903: see lots 48, 52, 379, 380. Add MSS 39583-39671, along with Oriental MSS 8729-8855, were bequeathed to the British Museum by Darea Curzon, Baroness Zouche (d. 1917), having been part of the collection formed at Parham, Co. Sussex, by the Hon. Robert Curzon, afterwards 14th Baron Zouche, as the result of his travels in the Levant, etc., in 1833 and later. A copy of Robert Curzon’s Catalogue of Materials for Writing, … Rolls and other Manuscripts and Oriental Manuscript Books (1849), with manuscript additions, accompanied the gift, and is now Add MS 64098.

Reading Recovery and the failure of the New Zealand national literacy strategy; Grist for the 2014 Election & Madison’s Long RR Embrace

William E. Tunmer, James W. economic communities. Disparities Chapman & Keith T. Greaney (PDF):

In this LDA Bulletin article, we summarise arguments and evidence reported in a detailed paper (Tunmer, Chapman, Greaney, Prochnow & Arrow, 2013) showing that New Zealand’s national literacy strategy has failed and particularly the role of Reading Recovery in contributing to that failure.

In response to growing concerns during the 1990s about New Zealand’s relatively “long tail” of literacy underachievement, the government established a Literacy Taskforce to provide recommendations aimed at raising the literacy achievement of all students but with particular attention given to “closing the gap between the lowest and highest students” (Ministry of Education, 1999, p.7). The recommendations of the Taskforce constituted the national literacy strategy for reducing the large disparity in reading achievement outcomes between good and poor readers.

A decade later, concerns were still being expressed about the literacy achievement gap. In December 2011, the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister following the New Zealand general election (Ministry of Education, 2011) stated that:

“…the gap between our high performing and low performing students remains one of the widest in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These low performing students are likely to be Mãori or Pasifika and/or from low socio-economic communities. Disparities in education appear early and persist throughout learning” (p.8).

Based on these findings, the Briefing concluded that, “The greatest challenge facing the schooling sector is producing equitable outcomes for students” (p.23). This conclusion can be taken as an admission that the national literacy strategy was failing to reduce the gap.

Related: Reading Recovery in madison….. 28% to 58%; lags national effectiveness average…..

Much more on Reading Recovery, here.

Via the Wisconsin Coalition on Reading:

Yet another research paper shows the ineffectiveness of Reading Recovery. Reading Recovery and the failure of the New Zealand national literacy strategy, by Tunmer, Chapman, Greaney, Prochnow, and Arrow, was published in November of 2013, and has been getting some more publicity lately. Aside from the Reading Recovery program itself, which is still in use in many schools in our state, Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) is based on the same instructional principles.

Check out this dyslexia PSA produced by students in Oregon.

School Daze: How to Cope With College Tuition

Robert Milburn:

As the cost of a college education soars ever higher, private bankers are starting to deliver a harsh message to parents and grandparents: You may not be able to pay for it all yourself. The fear is that folks picking up the whole tab—perhaps more than $500,000 for two or three kids—may be putting the quality of their own retirements at risk.

“Students can always find ways to supplement their tuition costs via part time jobs, scholarships and loans,” says Katie Nixon, chief investment officer of Northern Trust Wealth Management. “And quite frankly, there isn’t a loan program available for retirement. Plus, I would note that ideally, education funding is accomplished through a coordinated, team effort among parents and both sets of grandparents.”

In other words, these are no longer times to go it alone, even for the wealthy Americans.

Madison Schools’ “Advanced Learner Plan”

Madison School District (PDF):

1. What are our legal obligations?

2. What will be different this year?
– Advanced Learner IRT
– Identification process -Services for advanced learners -Monitoring progress
3. What have we done to prepare for these changes?

4. What’s next?
-Update on DPI Requirements for 2014-15

Who is an Advanced Learner?
A student who demonstrates high performance capability or the potential for high performance in one or more of the following domains: general intellectual, specific academic, visual and performing arts, leadership and creativity.

Madison Schools found non-compliant on Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Talented & Gifted Standards.

Why Flunking Exams Is Actually a Good Thing

Benedict Carey:

Imagine that on Day 1 of a difficult course, before you studied a single thing, you got hold of the final exam. The motherlode itself, full text, right there in your email inbox — attached mistakenly by the teacher, perhaps, or poached by a campus hacker. No answer key, no notes or guidelines. Just the questions.

Would that help you study more effectively? Of course it would. You would read the questions carefully. You would know exactly what to focus on in your notes. Your ears would perk up anytime the teacher mentioned something relevant to a specific question. You would search the textbook for its discussion of each question. If you were thorough, you would have memorized the answer to every item before the course ended. On the day of that final, you would be the first to finish, sauntering out with an A+ in your pocket. And you would be cheating

Math Reading Suggestions

Jennifer Ouellette:

1. Number: The Language of Science
Tobias Dantzig
Plume, 2007

“First published in 1930, this classic text traces the evolution of the concept of a number in clear, accessible prose. (None other than Albert Einstein sang its praises.) A Latvian mathematician who studied under Henri Poincare, Dantzig covers all the bases, from counting, negative numbers and fractions, to complex numbers, set theory, infinity and the link between math and time. Above all, he understood that the story of where mathematical ideas come from, how they relate to each other, and evolve over time, is key to a true appreciation of mathematics.”

Suit seeks to derail Camden Renaissance schools

Julia Terruso:

A group of Camden public school advocates and parents has filed a lawsuit against the state education commissioner, saying he did not properly assess the “financial and segregative impact” of approving two Renaissance schools to open in the city.

Mastery and Uncommon Schools were approved July 7 by acting Commissioner David Hespe and opened elementary schools earlier this month.

Save Our Schools New Jersey, a group that has frequently been critical of the new administration of the state-run district, has asked Hespe to rescind his approval of the schools.

The lawsuit claims the Renaissance schools would drain traditional public schools of needed funds and exclude disabled and minority students – an impact they say the commissioner failed to consider in his one-page approval.

Mastery and Uncommon, along with KIPP, which was approved in 2012, have contracts with the district to collectively serve more than 9,000 students in the district of 15,000 by 2024.

Of the 15,000 students, 11,500 currently are in traditional public schools and 3,500 are in charter schools.

“The schools must not be allowed to open . . . under a cloud of constitutional and statutory uncertainty,” said Princeton-based attorney Richard E. Shapiro in a letter to Hespe days before the suit.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 21, but Save Our Schools member and Camden mother MoNeke Ragsdale, one of three people named as complainants in the suit, said the group wanted to wait until after the school year started to announce the legal action.

via Laura Waters

In Which I Extract My Kid From the Clutches of Traditional Schooling

JD Tuccille:

I can’t say it was the stress-induced puking that caused my wife and I to finally pull our son from his brick-and-mortar charter school. We’d been contemplating yanking him from a classroom setting for the past year or so. Over the summer, we ran him through a battery of academic tests and encouraged him to study math and Spanish online. The results were enlightening, but we thought he might be a little young for a full online education. And then the nervous tic developed as the start of school approached. That decided us well before he barfed at the thought of the next day’s schedule of classes.

Anthony’s (he started insisting on his full name) charter school is a good effort of the type. During a July meet-and-greet, the school principal and his teacher were amenable to a flexible approach—especially one that takes into account the flawed math genes I handed off to him. He grasps some lessons about math, while others on exactly the same concepts might as well be written in Sanskrit. They said they’d work with him. And they tried.

But a classroom is fundamentally a classroom. It has a structured day, and a bunch of kids requiring the divided attention of a teacher. The kids are part of a group, and mostly they’re taught as part of that group.

And my kid is now twitching and puking at the thought of school. This does not work for me.

A teacher ‘marketplace’ emerges in post-Act 10 Wisconsin; Remarkable

Molly Beck:

“The great irony is that Act 10 has created a marketplace for good teachers,” said Dean Bowles, a Monona Grove School Board member.

Fellow board member Peter Sobol said though the law was billed as providing budget relief for school districts and local government, it could end up being harder on budgets as districts develop compensation models that combine their desire to reward good teachers and the need to keep them. Knowing how many teachers each year will attain the leadership responsibilities and certifications that result in added pay will be difficult.

Monona Grove is developing a career ladder to replace its current salary schedule. The new model is still being drafted by a committee of district administrators, school board members and teachers, but its aim will be to reward “increased responsibility, leadership, ‘stretch assignments’ and other contributions to the district and school missions,’ ” according to the district.

“We thought we could do better,” Monona Grove School District superintendent Dan Olson said, adding that the message to parents is that with the new model, “we’ll be able to keep our good teachers.”

Bowles said the process should result in a district being a place that might not offer the highest pay in the state, but be a place teachers want to work.

“ ‘Attract and retain’ is one of the goals on that list, and in my judgment that does not boil down to” just salary, he said. “It’s also, ‘This is a place I hope you want to be,’ and our kids will benefit from it.”

Ironically, Madison rates not a mention….

Act 10 notes and links.

The Trouble With Harvard The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it

Steven Pinker

The most-read article in the history of this magazine is not about war, politics, or great works of art. It’s about the admissions policies of a handful of elite universities, most prominently my employer, Harvard, which is figuratively and literally immolated on the cover.

It’s not surprising that William Deresiewicz’s “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League” has touched a nerve. Admission to the Ivies is increasingly seen as the bottleneck to a pipeline that feeds a trickle of young adults into the remaining lucrative sectors of our financialized, winner-take-all economy. And their capricious and opaque criteria have set off an arms race of credential mongering that is immiserating the teenagers and parents (in practice, mostly mothers) of the upper middle class.

Deresiewicz writes engagingly about the wacky ways of elite university admissions, and he deserves credit for opening a debate on policies which have been shrouded in Victorian daintiness and bureaucratic obfuscation. Unfortunately, his article is a poor foundation for diagnosing and treating the illness. Long on dogmatic assertion and short on objective analysis, the article is driven by a literarism which exalts bohemian authenticity over worldly success and analytical brainpower. And his grapeshot inflicts a lot of collateral damage while sparing the biggest pachyderms in the parlor.

How helicopter parents are ruining college students

Amy Joyce:

Say your kid has a problem with a roommate. Maybe one “borrowed” his favorite t-shirt. Maybe your daughter’s roommate leaves old, stinky Chinese take out in the mini-fridge. Perhaps your child is so upset about this he texts you five times a day to complain.

Here’s the thing: Don’t call the college president to ask him to handle the situation. (Yes, that happens.)

Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University, has had parents call him at his office to talk about a squabble their child is having with a roommate. “Don’t you trust your child to deal with this on his own?” he asks. “Rather than telling a son or daughter to talk to a [resident assistant] or [resident director], parents will immediately call my office. And that I consider to be a little over the top.”

Poverty in the suburbs

Reihan Salam:

When I was a small child, something called “the suburbs” kept snatching away my friends, like a monster hiding under the bed, but worse. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate why my friends moved. The urban neighborhoods of my Brooklyn youth were a little rough around the edges, and they didn’t offer growing families much in the way of elbow room. I couldn’t fall asleep without the sweet sound of sirens blaring, but not everyone felt the same way. The suburbs have long been a welcome refuge for families looking for a safe, affordable place to live.

But for many Americans, the suburbs have become a trap. This week, Radley Balko of the Washington Post vividly described the many ways bite-sized suburban municipalities in St. Louis County prey on poor people. Towns too small or too starved of sales tax revenue to sustain their own local governments stay afloat by having local law enforcement go trawling for trumped-up traffic violations, the fines for which can be cripplingly expensive, and which only grow more onerous as low-income residents fail to pay them. Those who can afford lawyers know how to massage a big fine into a smaller one. Those who can’t dread their run-ins with local police, who often come across less like civic guardians and more like cash-thirsty pirates. The resentment and distrust that follows is, according to Balko, crucial for understanding the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Why Sally can’t get a good job with her college degree

Joanne Weiner:

Poor Sally. She has spent tens of thousands of dollars and four long years to get her college degree and has $26,000 in student loans to pay off, yet she can’t find a job that puts her degree to good use. Sally and her parents may be asking whether college was “worth it.”

Sally epitomizes many of her fellow college graduates who wonder why college graduates can’t find good jobs.

The experts give all sorts of explanations for Sally’s plight.

Book Discussion on The Smartest Kids in the World

cspan 3 via Richard Askey:

Amanda Ripley talked about her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. In her book she followed three American high-school students who each spent a year in a high-scoring foreign school system, in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.

She spoke in the Science Pavilion of the 2014 National Book Festival, which was held August 30 by the Library of Congress at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. close

Ripley mentioned that in her observation principals spend up to half their time on sports matters.

Coding at school: a parent’s guide to England’s new computing curriculum

Stuart Dredge:

Getting more kids to code has been a cause célèbre for the technology industry for some time. Teaching programming skills to children is seen as a long-term solution to the “skills gap” between the number of technology jobs and the people qualified to fill them.

From this month, the UK is the guinea pig for the most ambitious attempt yet to get kids coding, with changes to the national curriculum. ICT – Information and Communications Technology – is out, replaced by a new “computing” curriculum including coding lessons for children as young as five.

One Dad’s Twitter Photo Essay on His Daughter’s Perilous Walk to School

Tanya Snyder:

By the way, Turner’s daughter is trying out the walk to school because the 18-block journey, which takes six to eight minutes in a car, takes 55 minutes on the school bus. She’s the first on and the last off, commuting two hours a day to get 18 blocks. It takes half an hour to walk it. Last year, her parents drove her every day, but now they’re trying the walk.

“This morning was my first on walking duty,” Turner wrote. “Spent the entire walk explaining to our 9yo all the different ways cars had been prioritized. Because I want her to have plenty of ammo for future therapy.”

Two blocks from Turner’s house on a walkable street with a sidewalk they come face to face with the car-centric, ped-hostile design he was talking about: this “outsized intersection” with “gas station sliplanes, ped markings beyond faded.”


Eugene Volokh:

When you think you’re pretty well-off — and then you send your kids to private school, and see that you’re actually among the poorest families there.

(Not quite our family, as it happens, and not that it’s anything to be ashamed of; indeed, the school-poor families are probably the ones who are sacrificing the most for their children’s educations. But I’ve noticed people talking about this before, both from their own perspective and from the perspective they imagine their children taking, and it strikes me as an interesting phenomenon.)

Teachers Unions Under Fire Educators Plan to Fight Back After California Ruling Gutting Tenure Emboldens Critics

Caroline Porter & Melanie Trottman:

Teachers unions are fighting back against a California ruling that gutted two things they hold sacred: tenure laws and seniority provisions. But they face an uphill battle to reshape their image as opponents—and even some allies—say they are standing in the way of needed improvements in education.

California’s teachers unions on Wednesday filed an appeal of the ruling, referring to the state judge’s decision as “without support in law or fact.” The move followed a separate appeal by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Meantime, the group behind the California case, called Students Matter and headed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, says it is exploring potential action in other states.

Last month, the New York state attorney general filed a motion to combine two related New York cases, one filed by a group called the New York City Parents Union and one brought by Partnership for Educational Justice, a group backed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown.

Kentucky State University drops 645 students for not paying tuition

Lance Vaught:

Kentucky State University said that it had no other choice but to drop 645 students for not making their required tuition payments.

The school said the unpaid money had added to the college’s $7 million deficit.

According to the university, some students’ balances were as high as $40,000 and had stretched over a two-year period.

Interim President Raymond Burse said KSU had tried to contact and counsel students over the past 18 months for not meeting their financial obligations.

Colorado joins campus football arms race with stadium deal

Michael McDonald:

The University of Colorado is joining the athletic-facilities arms race with a $155 million football stadium overhaul as it seeks to revive a struggling program and keep pace with conference competitors.

The public university sold a record $304 million of tax-exempt bonds last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It will use $100 million for the stadium on the flagship Boulder campus, and $25 million will go toward a parking garage. The rest will refinance debt and fund projects such as a $49 million student village, bond documents show.

via Noel Radomski.

Online learning is not the answer to Saudi’s persistent educational and employment gaps

Hannah Geis:

Saudi leaders may not want women to drive, but they do want them to use massive open online courses (MOOCs). But Saudi Arabia’s embrace of MOOCs as a bandage for failures in its own educational system may be premature.

On July 15, edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor launched a pilot open-platform MOOC portal designed “exclusively for Arab audiences” to minimize the gap between educational and employment levels in the kingdom and across the Arab world. The new e-learning curriculum, aimed at rural communities, women, youth and persons with disabilities will include licensed courses from edX university partners, translated into Arabic, as well as original courses offered by Saudi institutions.

Why my children were lucky to get accepted to a Finnish school in Qatar

Sonia Vermer:

I launched into the same speech I’d given a dozen others before him: My family is moving to Doha. I am seeking school placement for our daughters. Yes, I realize it is late to enroll. I know, your school probably has a wait list, and my daughters don’t have a hope in hell of getting in. But my children are bright (!) creative (!) gifted even (at least I thought so).

I was one breath short of nominating them for a Nobel Peace Prize when he interrupted: “Actually, you’re one of the first parents to call. We’d be delighted to meet with your girls,” he said.

Two weeks later, my children and I boarded a plane for Doha on a quest to secure them a Nordic education in the Qatari desert.

My daughters have spent most of their lives happily ensconced in Toronto’s west end, a neighbourhood filled with farmers markets and some of the best public schools in the city. But when my husband was offered a job in Doha in Qatar – a tiny Persian Gulf country roughly twice the geographic size of Prince Edward Island – their educational trajectories veered off course.

Core Deception

Sol Stern & Peter Wood

he political fortunes of the Common Core are fast changing. When the Common Core first caught public attention in early 2010, it seemed like an unstoppable locomotive. It had the support of President Obama, and within a matter of a few months forty states and the District of Columbia had formally adopted it. Six more states soon followed. Republican and Democratic governors endorsed it. The Common Core was roaring ahead not just with bipartisan political support but with widespread enthusiasm from teachers unions, the press, and much of the D.C.–based education establishment.

As I write in the summer of 2014, the prospect is a bit different. That locomotive is nowhere to be seen and may be lying on its side in a dry gulch. The proponents of the Common Core are in retreat and fighting a defensive battle. Their dream of a one-size-fits-all set of national educational standards integrated with meaningful national tests is in ruins. The best they can now hope for is a remnant of the original idea: a handful of stalwart blue states that stick with the Core and a delayed and then watered-down system of tests.

To say that the larger project has failed the test of political support and public popularity, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Common Core was a bad idea. Could Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, be right when she says the Common Core was a great idea marred by poor implementation? In a word, no.

The Common Core was never a good idea. It was a sneaky idea—and sneaky ideas in American public policy tend to have exactly the lifespan that Common Core has had. The main sneakiness of the Common Core is that it was (and still is) presented as a state-level project. In reality, from the get-go it was intended to be a national project. Its official name is “The Common Core K–12 State Standards,” but the truth is that the Common Core is designed to work as a de facto set of national standards.

Via Will Fitzhugh.

What’s Wrong with College?

Michael Meranze & Christopher Newfield

Very bad. Textbook prices are outrageous. Who gets to explain the problem? Dan Rosensweig, the chief executive of Chegg, an education services company. “Learning has been an inefficient market,” he says. This fits with the stereotype that teaching is inefficient and teachers like it that way, so they are just fine with overpriced texts. Chegg.com’s comparative shopping service is apparently the answer – improving price information will make textbooks a more efficient market and thereby lower prices.

Actually, no. Students aren’t price gouged by universities or their generally sad, post-book “bookstores” that sell big gulp water bottles and school sweatshirts. Students aren’t price gouged by faculty, who have zero control over text pricing. Students are price gouged by publishing monopolies, who set prices on a captive audience. Academic publishers are gradually strangling university libraries to get 20-36% profit margins on scientific journals, where investigators review for free but pay to publish. The same goes for textbooks. You can’t write a good article on excessive textbook prices unless you can say “exploitative economics of academic publishing,” but that’s what this ed-tech article does. Textbook prices have risen because for-profit educational services make as much money as they possibly can off students, and seek market positions that protect this pricing power. Sure enough, Chegg charges for tutoring and job placement services that universities currently provide their students for free. And yet we are supposed to think that Chegg-style for-profit services will cure cost problems that their sector has produced

Commentary on Madison Teacher Evaluation Concepts

Chris Rickert

District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson acknowledged that some teachers had been evaluated “inconsistently” but noted that the new evaluations, while time-consuming, will be limited to once every three years.

School Board President Arlene Silveira also said the board has made it clear to Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham that evaluations are a priority and “the hope is that they will be more of a focus.”

The Department of Public Instruction says the new Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System can be used “as one piece of data” when making “high-stakes human resource decisions,” such as termination and giving pay raises.

That’s not going to happen anytime soon in Madison, the only district in the state that, according to Lipp, still has a collective bargaining agreement three years after the union-killing Act 10.

“As long as we have a union contract, it won’t,” he said.

Strauch-Nelson said “the new system won’t change how the district makes employment decisions or compensation,” but it “will be used to tailor support for teachers and inform professional development.”

Reworking the University

Bennett Carpenter and Laura Goldblatt and Lenora Hanson:

When Starbucks announced in June that the company would offer many of its employees a discounted online college education through Arizona State University, social theorists, business analysts, and education commentators quickly weighed in, often with compelling analyses of the relative (de)merits of digital and distance learning,the commodification of knowledge, and the future of higher ed. Such responses are right to point out the self-serving nature of the initiative and the ways that it furthers a two-tiered educational system.

Yet Starbucks’ actions collect a set of issues that have long dogged debates about the future of the university into a single body—that of the low-income-worker-as-student. As Svati Kirsten Narula points out, a student without financial aid or family resources would have to work 48 hours a week at minimum wage in order to cover the costs of tuition—a feat that, as she puts it, “would require superhuman strength, or maybe a time machine.” Low-income students thus often face a “choice” between accruing crippling financial debt or, as the Starbucks example illustrates, pursuing a second-tier education at a for-profit institution.* Meanwhile, the university contains a large number of low-income food and service workers whose labor ensures the smooth functioning of the educational system but who are themselves denied access to educational opportunities.

Adjunct Pay and Anger

Joseph Fruscione:

Editing a column like this is different when the contributors are good friends and former colleagues.

Because Katie and Shonda are friends and colleagues, their pairing took on a life of its own. I originally put them together not only because they knew each other but also because they’re very aware of the many issues facing adjunct faculty. I knew they’d work out a focus for the column, so I essentially told them to just do their thing. I spent 15+ years working and teaching at their university — one becoming increasingly known for rampant pay disparity between senior administrators and others — so I have an insider’s knowledge of some issues they allude to or discuss, such as adjunct working conditions. All in all, I’m thrilled with the smart, engaging work they did here with issues of labor, activist rhetoric, and maintaining their multifaceted professional roles.

Grading Teachers, With Data From Class

Farhad Manjoo:

Halfway through the last school year, Leila Campbell, a young humanities teacher at a charter high school in Oakland, Calif., received the results from a recent survey of her students.

On most measures, Ms. Campbell and her fellow teachers at the Aspire Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy were scoring at or above the average for Aspire, a charter system that runs more than a dozen schools in California and Tennessee.

Why Colleges With a Distinct Focus Have a Hidden Advantage

Neil Irwin

Take a look at any of the most widely followed ratings of America’s colleges and universities, and almost all of the top-ranked schools will have this in common: They want to appeal to everyone, or at least everyone with a brilliant mind and a work ethic to match.

Their course offerings are balanced among math and science, the humanities and social sciences. They seek the highest-performing students of all sorts: Men and women, of any religion and geographical background, with any career ambition imaginable.

Every student, of course, tries to find the school that best fits his or her personality and ambitions. But ultimately, most Swarthmore students would do just fine at the University of Chicago, and most young people studying away at Cornell would do well at Rice, too, at least once they got used to the Texas accents.

Madison’s Lengthy K-12 Challenges Become Election Grist; Spends 22% more per student than Milwaukee

Madison 2005 (reflecting 1998):

When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.

As of 2013, the situation has not changed, unfortunately.

Madison, 2014, the view from Milwaukee:

The largest state teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, gave $1.3 million last month to the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal group that has been running ads critical of Walker. Two of WEAC’s political action committees have given a total of $83,128 to Burke directly.

On the other side, the American Federation for Children said last year in a brochure that in the 2012 elections in Wisconsin, including the recalls that year, it had spent $2.4 million supporting pro-voucher candidates.

Along with family members, Dick and Betsy DeVos have given about $343,000 to Walker since 2009. The Grand Rapids, Mich., couple made their fortune in the marketing firm Amway and now support the voucher school movement.

The elections are critical because in general, each candidate’s stance on the issue of vouchers is largely dictated by their political party affiliation. If Republican candidates maintain control of both houses and the governor’s seat, voucher-friendly legislation is more likely to pass.

Democrats are trying to take control of the state Senate. Republicans hold the chamber 17-15, with one GOP-leaning seat vacant. Republicans have a stronger majority in the Assembly and the election is unlikely to change that.

Senate Democrats would oppose the expansion of voucher schools until standards and requirements are established that put those private schools on the same footing as public schools, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.


Walker on Wednesday also challenged Burke’s record on the Madison School Board.

He noted that the graduation rate for black students in Madison is lower than the graduation rate for black students in MPS.

Walker said Burke has had a chance to use his Act 10 law to save the taxpayers millions in Madison, and put those dollars toward alleviating the achievement gap.

“She’s failed to do that,” Walker said.

Burke responded that Madison is a fiscally responsible district that is one of the few in the state operating under its levy cap.

Madison still has a contract because the teachers union there challenged the Act 10 law in court, and a circuit court judge ruling initially swung in its favor. The teachers union subsequently bargained a contract this year and next year with the district.

Then this summer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Walker’s Act 10 law.

Madison 2014, gazing into the mirror:

Gov. Scott Walker took the campaign against Democratic opponent Mary Burke to her front door Wednesday, accusing the one-term Madison School Board member of not doing enough to improve black students’ graduation rates in Madison.

Walker argued that the Madison School Board could have put more money toward raising graduation rates and academic achievement if it had taken advantage of his controversial 2011 measure known as Act 10, which effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, instead of choosing to negotiate a contract with its teachers union for the 2015-16 school year earlier this summer.

“Voters may be shocked to learn that the African-American graduation rate in Madison (where Mary Burke is on the board) is worse than in MKE,” Walker tweeted Wednesday morning.

Burke shot back that Walker’s comments were “short sighted” and showed “a lack of knowledge” of how to improve student academic achievement.

In 2013, 53.7 percent of black students in Madison graduated in four years. In Milwaukee, the rate was 58.3 percent, according to state Department of Public Instruction data. That gap is smaller than it was in 2012, when the 4-year completion rate among black students was 55 percent in Madison and 62 percent in Milwaukee.

Overall, the 2013 graduation rates for the two largest school districts in Wisconsin was 78.3 percent in Madison and 60.6 percent in Milwaukee.

Under Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, the district has made progress in the last year toward improving overall student achievement, Burke said in a call with reporters. School Board president Arlene Silveira also said Wednesday the district has started to move the needle under Cheatham.

“Is it enough progress? No. We still have a lot of work to go, and whether you’re talking about African-American (graduation rates) in Madison or talking about (rates) in Milwaukee, they are too low,” Burke said. “But the key to improving student learning, that anyone who really looks at education knows, is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.”

Decades go by, yet the status quo reigns locally.

A few background links:

1. http://www.wisconsin2.org

2. Wisconsin K-12 Spending Dominates “Local Transfers”.

3. Mandarins vs. leaders The Economist:

Central to his thinking was a distinction between managers and leaders. Managers are people who like to do things right, he argued. Leaders are people who do the right thing. Managers have their eye on the bottom line. Leaders have their eye on the horizon. Managers help you to get to where you want to go. Leaders tell you what it is you want. He chastised business schools for focusing on the first at the expense of the second. People took MBAs, he said, not because they wanted to be middle managers but because they wanted to be chief executives. He argued that “failing organisations are usually over-managed and under-led”.

Mr Bennis believed leaders are made, not born. He taught that leadership is a skill—or, rather, a set of skills—that can be learned through hard work. He likened it to a performance. Leaders must inhabit their roles, as actors do. This means more than just learning to see yourself as others see you, though that matters, too. It means self-discovery. “The process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being,” he said in 2009. Mr Bennis knew whereof he spoke: he spent a small fortune on psychoanalysis as a graduate student, dabbled in “channelling” and astrology while a tenured professor and wrote a wonderful memoir, “Still Surprised”.

2009: The elimination of “revenue limits and economic conditions” from collective bargaining arbitration by Wisconsin’s Democratically controlled Assembly and Senate along with Democratic Governer Jim Doyle:

To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

A political soundbyte example:

Candidate Burke’s “operating under its levy cap” soundbyte was a shrewd, easily overlooked comment, yet neglects to point out Madison’s property tax base wealth vs. Milwaukee, the District’s spending levels when state revenue limits were put in place and the local referendums that have approved additional expenditures (despite open questions on where the additional funds were spent).

I hope that she will be more detailed in future comments. We’ve had decades of soundbytes and routing around tough choices.

Madison’s challenges, while spending and staffing more than most, will continue to be under the political microscope.

I hope that we see a substantive discussion of K-12 spending, curriculum and our agrarian era structures.

The candidates on Education:

Mary Burke:

Education has always offered a way up to a good job and a better life. It’s the fabric of our communities, and it’s the key to a strong economy in the long term.

As co-founder of the AVID/TOPs program, a public-private partnership that is narrowing the achievement gap for low income students, Mary knows that every Wisconsin student prepared to work hard can realize their dreams if given the support they need. By bringing together area high schools, the Boys & Girls Club, technical colleges, businesses and the University, Mary made a real difference for students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. The first class graduated last spring, and in September, over 90% of those students enrolled in post-secondary education.

Mary believes Wisconsin schools should be among the best in the nation—and she knows that making historic cuts isn’t the way to do it. She’ll work every day to strengthen our public education system, from K-12 to our technical colleges and university system. Mary strongly opposed the statewide expansion of vouchers—as governor, she’ll work to stop any further expansion, and ensure that all private schools taking public dollars have real accountability measures in place.

Scott Walker:

“We trust teachers, counselors and administrators to provide our children world-class instruction, to motivate them and to keep them safe. In the vast majority of cases, education professionals are succeeding, but allowing some schools to fail means too many students being left behind. By ensuring students are learning a year’s worth of knowledge during each school year and giving schools the freedom to succeed, Wisconsin will once again become a model for the nation.” — Scott Walker

For years, Wisconsin had the distinction of being a national leader in educational reform. From the groundbreaking Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to policies aimed at expanding the role of charter schools in communities across the state, Wisconsin was viewed as a pioneer in educational innovation and creativity.

Wisconsin used to rank 3rd in fourth grade reading, now we’re in the middle of the pack at best with some of the worst achievement gaps in the nation.

Fortunately, Wisconsin has turned a corner and is once again becoming a leader in educational excellence by refocusing on success in the classroom. This has been done by pinpointing the following simple but effective reforms:

  • Improving transparency
  • Improving accountability
  • Creating choice

We are working to restore Wisconsin’s rightful place as an education leader. Our students, our teachers, and our state’s future depend on our continued implementation of reform.

A look at District spending:

Per student spending: Milwaukee’s 2013-2014 budget: $948,345,675 for 78,461 students or $12,086/student. Budget details (PDF).

Madison plans to spend $402,464,374 for 27,186 students (some pre-k) this year or about $14,804/student, 22% more than Milwaukee. Details.

And, finally, 2010: WEAC: $1.57 million for four senators.

“They are intellectually underpowered and full of themselves, because they’ve been told their whole life how wonderful they are”

Michael Schulson:

In the spring of 2008, William Deresiewicz taught his last class at Yale. In the summer of 2008, he published an essay explaining how an Ivy League education had messed up his life, and the lives of his students.

Elite schools, Deresiewicz argued, give their students an inflated sense of self-worth. They reward perfectionism and punish rebelliousness. They funnel timid students into a handful of jobs, mostly in consulting and investment banking (and now Teach for America). For a real education, he went on to suggest, you might want to head to one of the wonkier liberal arts colleges, or to a state school.

For those sensitive to the advantages of Deresiewicz’s pedigree (a B.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia, followed by 10 years on Yale’s English faculty), this might sound like a rarefied form of whining. But Deresiewicz’s essay took off. Then an undergraduate at Yale, I remember reading it with a quiet mix of amazement and horror. A former professor could say this stuff? About us?

In his new book, “Excellent Sheep,” Deresiewicz expands his argument into a full-on manifesto about the failures of the meritocracy. His timing is good. Ambitious families continue to arm their children with APs, SAT prep courses and expensive admissions advisors. At the same time, despite big financial aid packages, the student bodies at elite schools remain staggeringly affluent.

New technology helps students learn Chinese

Mark Niu:

Students at the Council on International Educational Exchange in Shanghai are trying out special software.

They’re taking the world’s first fully-automated spoken Chinese Test. It questions, evaluates, and scores without ever involving a human assessor.

The test and technology were created in collaboration with Peking University and the Silicon Valley company Pearson, located in Menlo Park, California.

Pearson says with around 50 million people are now learning Chinese globally. Its software seeks to help international companies and higher education institutions assess Chinese language skill faster and more accurately.

The Evolution Of The Employee

Jacob Morgan:

This concept and the visual was taken from my new book which came out today called, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization.

One of the things I have been writing about and have tried to make clear over the past few months is that work as we know it is dead and that the only way forward is to challenge convention around how we work, how we lead, and how we build our companies. Employees which were once thought of expendable cogs are the most valuable asset that any organization has. However, the employee from a decade ago isn’t the same as the employee who we are starting to see today. To help show that I wanted to share an image from my upcoming book which depicts how employees are evolving. It’s an easy way to see the past vs the future.

Yet, our K-12 structures remain unchanged, from their agrarian era roots.

The New History Wars

James Grossman:

WITH the news dominated by stories of Americans dying at home and abroad, it might seem trivial to debate how history is taught in our schools. But if we want students to understand what is happening in Missouri or the Middle East, they need an unvarnished picture of our past and the skills to understand and interpret that picture. People don’t kill one another just for recreation. They have reasons. Those reasons are usually historical.

Last month, the College Board released a revised “curriculum framework” to help high school teachers prepare students for the Advanced Placement test in United States history. Like the college courses the test is supposed to mirror, the A.P. course calls for a dialogue with the past — learning how to ask historical questions, interpret documents and reflect both appreciatively and critically on history.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Greets New Hires

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

Members of MTI’s Board of Directors, Bargaining Committee and Union staff greeted the District’s 200+ newly hired teachers at New Teacher Orientation last Monday. Sixty- five have already joined the union.

MTI Executive Director John Matthews addressed the District’s new teachers during Monday’s gathering. In doing so, Matthews provided a brief history of the Union, its reputation of negotiating outstanding Collective Bargaining Agreements which provide both employment security and economic security, and in explaining the threat to both, given Act 10, said all MTI members would need to pull together to preserve the Madison Metropolitan School District as a quality place to teach.

Madison Schools Underway

Molly Beck

A new way to evaluate teachers, known as the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System, begins this school year across Wisconsin — giving equal weight to teachers’ performance in the classroom as judged by principals and student academic achievement.

The evaluations are mandated as part of Wisconsin’s waiver to the No Child Left Behind requirements. Under the program, each teacher sets a student performance goal.

Madison Teachers Inc. president Mike Lipp said teachers welcome the new evaluations as a way to improve their instruction, noting that some longtime teachers haven’t been reviewed in decades.

Now, principals and assistant principals will need to evaluate each of their teachers in a more extensive way once every three years — the same for principals, who will be evaluated by Cheatham and other administrative staff.

Principals have received training to help them balance their new load of administrative duties with what’s already on their plate, including working with parents, Cheatham said.

Where to be born 2013

The Economist:

A QUARTER of a century ago, The World in 1988 light-heartedly ranked 50 countries according to where would be the best place to be born. Then, America came top (see chart on left). Now the Economist Intelligence Unit has more earnestly calculated where would be best to be born in 2013. Its quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts—things like crime and trust in public institutions matter too. In all, the index takes 11 indicators into account. Some are fixed, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, social and cultural characteristics). See full article.

“over the last three years I’ve written over 350 fraudulent essays for wealthy Chinese exchange students”

Eunice Park:

Hey China, you’re welcome. When you think about your future multi-million dollar shipping moguls, innovative tech giants, and up-and-coming diplomats, please remember a small handful of them probably received their Ivy League degrees thanks to me.

I’m a black market college admissions essay writer, and over the last three years I’ve written over 350 fraudulent essays for wealthy Chinese exchange students. Although my clients have varied from earnest do-gooders to factory tycoon’s daughters who communicate primarily through emojis, they all have one thing in common: They’re unable to write meaningful sentences.

Sometimes this inability has stemmed from a language barrier, but other times they have struggled to understand what American college admissions committees are looking for in a personal essay. Either way, they have all been willing to pay me way more than my old waitressing job ever paid me.

Although I’m a second-generation Korean American like some of my clients, I never felt pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer. I majored in art history at college, and after graduation, I found myself bouncing from retail jobs to temp work. Every day, I loafed about in bed. Reading my friends’ Facebook statuses about finishing law school and starting their dream jobs, I wondered if I should ever leave my house. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or if I even possessed any skills someone could pay me to use—at least I didn’t know until my friend told me I could reap in a cash bonanza forging wealthy Asian students’ college essays.

China complains SAT may impose American values on its best students

Los Angeles Times:

Chinese students have shown an insatiable appetite for attending U.S. colleges — last year alone, more than 235,000 were enrolled at American institutions of higher education. But now, some in China are grousing that the SAT may impose American values on its best and brightest, who in preparation for the exam might be studying the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights instead of “The Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung.”

“Including content from America’s founding documents in a revised U.S. college entry exam has drawn attention in China, with worries the materials may impose the American values system on students,” China’s official New China News Agency said last week.