Madison’s Mendota, Falk elementary schools have highest rate of elementary student transfers

Molly Beck

Mendota and Falk elementary schools have the highest rates of students transferring to other schools, according to a Madison School District report released Monday, while Lindbergh and Glendale elementary schools saw the highest rate of students transferring in.

About 34.4 percent of Mendota’s students, or 137, transferred to a school outside of that attendance area this school year — a designation the school has received in previous years. About 76 percent of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged, under federal guidelines.

About 30.8 percent of Falk students, or 104, transferred out, and it has a similar poverty rate. At Mendota 31 students transferred in, while 34 transferred to Falk.

Elementary schools that had the highest rates of students transferring in were Lindbergh and Glendale — both of which have poverty rates that match Mendota and Falk. About 32.6 percent of students at Lindbergh, or 71 , and 24.1 percent, or 105, of Glendale’s students transferred in this school year.

Nearly 30 percent of the students at the Nuestro Mundo dual-language immersion charter school transferred in.

Related: Madison’s 2009 and 2014 Enrollment Projections, dramatic demographic variation persists.

Test scores count, but character building rides alongside

Alan Borsuk:

“Character and opportunity go hand in hand.”

That’s the opening sentence of a recent piece by Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution. In seven words, he describes exactly why I find myself writing more about what schools can do — and what some schools are doing — to build the character of students.

Character is an important, but often overlooked, part of the recipe for educational success. In the push for higher scores in reading and math, how to get higher “scores” on character gets insufficient attention. But a growing body of research points to how intangible traits like respect, responsibility, determination and a gritty ability to overcome setbacks are at least as important as academic skills.

There are schools, including several in the Milwaukee area, that have established reputations for the quality of their character-building efforts and, not coincidentally, for the academic progress their students achieve. I’ve visited several that have won awards for character efforts. They offer healthy school cultures, even when dealing with kids with a lot of challenges, and they have results to show they also have some muscle in their academics.

That said, the number of schools remains small — even as the door to working on character and culture is opening more widely for Wisconsin schools. New energy and resources are being made available.

Madison Teachers Recertification Results

Madison Teachers, Inc.:

Shortly after 2:00 pm today, the WERC posted the recertification results on their webpage. All MTI bargaining units have successfully recertified in BIG NUMBERS! Over 85% of all eligible voters cast ballots in the recertification election. Of those who voted, over 98% voted to recertify.

In order to recertify, each union needed 51% of all eligible voters to cast a ballot in favor of recertification. Each MTI bargaining unit beat that requirement by over 20 percentage points, with the MTI Teacher unit leading the way with 88% of all eligible voters casting a ballot to recertify.

11.24.2014 Solidarity newsletter (PDF).

Union campaign to lift pay for Milwaukee classroom aides takes a sour turn

Erin Richards:

A campaign by the Milwaukee teachers union to increase the wages of educational assistants started friendly but turned sour this week, with union members saying they were frustrated at not being heard and the school board president saying there would be no raises.

At least not right now.

Milwaukee School Board President Michael Bonds said Friday that the board would not be giving educational assistants a 1.46% base-building wage increase, but that the administration would conduct a review of the salaries of all lower-wage workers.

That decision came after an unusual exchange at the school board meeting Thursday night, where union members took control after the Pledge of Allegiance. Public testimony isn’t allowed at full board meetings, so the small crowd stood up and chanted their desire for raises for about two minutes. They ended by asking each board member to “vote against poverty wages.”

New Degrees Challenge “Time Served” Model

The American Interest:

The University of Michigan is now on course to become one of the first public higher education institutions to offer a degree that can be achieved not through credit hours but on demonstrated proficiency in the subjects studied. According to Inside Higher Ed, Michigan’s regional accreditor has just approved a competency-based Master’s of Health Professions Education. The program is designed to give health professionals training in “carry[ing] out the full range of responsibilities of a scholarly educator-leader.”

Forget the Rise in Tuition and Fees, What About Living Expenses?

Becky Supiano

Rising tuition will be in the news this week with the College Board’s release on Thursday of its two signature reports.

“Trends in College Pricing” and “Trends in Student Aid” are packed with numbers, but if history is any guide, the one thing people will want to know is how much tuition and fees went up this year.

All right, all right, I’ll tell you. Average published tuition and fees rose 2.9 percent for in-state students at public four-year colleges, and 3.7 percent at private nonprofit four-years institutions. You can read the full reports here and explore individual colleges’ prices here.

But tuition is not the whole story. Consider this: The average list price of tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges in 2014-15 is $9,139. Room and board charges for the same students? Those come to $9,804.

Make School Targets the Gap Year….

Make School

We’re building the college experience we wished existed, an education rooted in theoretical foundations with heavy emphasis on the technologies, tools and practices relevant to today’s industry. We believe in learning by doing, studying takes a back seat to creating. We believe the app is the new resume, a portfolio of products is more powerful than any credential. We believe coding is the world’s first superpower, our graduates will help make the world a better place. Our goal is to help inspire and educate the next generation of superheroes.

To our team, thank you for believing in us and pouring your heart and soul into teaching others. To our students, thank you for taking a chance on a new style of education and inspiring us everyday. To our investors, friends and family, thank you for supporting us and motivating us to overcome the challenges we’ve faced. We’re blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing community as we attempt to tackle one of the most difficult and important problems facing tomorrow’s economy.

Online education run amok? Private companies want to scoop up your child’s data.

Caitlin Emma:

Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws.

Universities and private companies this fall unveiled a slew of free, open-access online courses to high school students, marketing them as a way for kids to supplement their Advanced Placement coursework or earn a certificate of completion for a college-level class.

But when middle and high school students participate in classes with names like “Mars: The Next Frontier” or “The Road to Selective College Admissions,” they may be unwittingly transmitting into private hands a torrent of data about their academic strengths and weaknesses, their learning styles and thought processes — even the way they approach challenges. They may also be handing over birth dates, addresses and even drivers license information. Their IP addresses, attendance and participation in public forums are all logged as well by the providers of the courses, commonly called MOOCs.

Google’s education privacy practices are worth a look.

Boundaries of Behavior, Parallelograms, and the Art of Forgiveness

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

There are a variety of methods one can use to discipline students: detentions, referrals, sending the student outside of class, contacting the parents. I was confused about most of them and resisted using them. Lunch-time detentions were especially tricky because of a dual lunch schedule at my school. Because of the limited space for lunch there were two lunch periods for the two grades. This meant that during the eighth grade lunch period, I was teaching my fourth period class (pre-algebra).

The first person I ever referred was Peter in my fifth period algebra 1 class. He showed disrespect in a number of ways. He would sometimes say in a sarcastic Eddie-Haskell-like tone: “I think you made a mistake—oh but I know you’re a great teacher,” which would elicit knowing giggles from others. One time when he was particularly disruptive, I sent him outside which in this school meant outdoors. The school was a collection of modules—all classrooms opened to the outdoors. Sandra, another disrupter, waved to him on his way out and called “We love you, Peter.” He has a fan club, I thought—just what I need.

Her seat was next to the wall on the other side of which Peter now stood. She pounded on the wall to get his attention. I heard the pounding, and saw Peter’s head appear in the window as he jumped up to see what was going on. Not knowing the details of the event, I assumed wrongly that Peter had been doing the pounding. I got him back inside and gave him a referral. As I filled out the form, Peter protested and Sandra quickly confessed. “It was me who was pounding on the wall,” she said. I knew Sandra was telling the truth but I decided I had no time for details; the die had been cast. I needed an example. Plus, if the class thought I was acting irrationally or in error, then it was a signal that they better be quiet and not risk my irrational actions.

How to Tell If a ‘Fact’ About Millennials Isn’t Actually a Fact

Josh Humbrun:

It has become difficult to avoid research about so-called millennials, the unofficial generational nickname typically applied to people born in the 1980s and 1990s.

According to research (collected from this reporter’s in-box):

• They will soon be the majority of the U.S. workforce–a huge generation!

• Slightly more than one-third of them are skilled at 3D printing and 22% of them are skilled at driverless cars–new technology!

• 79% of them have bachelor’s degrees–so educated!

• 17% of millennials would “rather become a YouTube star than fall in love”–different priorities!

• And 55% more millennials are signing up for 401(k) plans–good savers!

An update on Kalamazoo’s promise program

Julie Mack:

Graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools eligible for The Kalamazoo Promise are much more likely to enroll in college and more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree compared to their peers nationwide, the latest Promise data shows.

More than 90 percent of Promise-eligible students have enrolled in college since the program started with the Class of 2006, compared to two-thirds of recent U.S. high school graduates.

In terms of college completion, 41 percent of Promise-eligible students in the Class of 2006 have a bachelor’s degree compared to 37 percent of U.S. high school graduates age 25 to 29, based on U.S. Census reports.

That favorable comparison is “significant,” particularly since so many Promise-eligible students come from low-income families, said Bob Jorth, executive director of the scholarship program, which marks its ninth anniversary this month.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: LinkedIn data show the US is losing out on the immigrants it covets most

Max Nisen:

The United States is still the world’s most popular destination for highly skilled professionals. But it doesn’t seem to have quite the allure it used to.

In fact, professional migration to the US has declined substantially since 2001, according to a new study (pdf) that used a massive dataset culled from LinkedIn career histories.

LinkedIn data scientists Bogdan State and Mario Rodriguez found that while 27% of migrating professionals chose the US in 2000, just 12% did in 2012. The drop for professionals in science, engineering, technology, and math fields was even steeper, from 37% to 15%. The trend holds across degree types (with the data based on the highest degree earned):

The hidden price of more overseas students at British public schools

Joshi Herriman:

Just a decade or so ago, most public‑school-educated parents felt obliged to give their children the same start in life they themselves were given — selling off heirlooms to send their Jacks and Henriettas off to Eton, Stowe, Cheltenham Ladies or St Paul’s. These days the price is just too high, says Andrew Halls, head of King’s College School in Wimbledon, and he’s been honest enough to name the cause: the hordes of prospective parents from other countries, oligarchs and oil men, all jostling for places for their progeny. They push the price of an elite ‘British’ education up beyond the reach of any ordinary Brit.

He’s brave to raise the issue, but what he doesn’t mention is that there is a price to be paid for this by the independent schools themselves. With these new wealthy students — from China, Nigeria, Ukraine, Russia and the Gulf States — come new and often conflicting cultures. They inevitably bring very ‘traditional’ views to schools that have spent the past 20 years remaking themselves to fit the modern world.

According to the Independent Schools Council, there are 2,536 Russian pupils (with overseas parents) studying in this country — three times as many as there were in 2007. It is the trendy thing for moneyed Russian families to do. One 16-year-old Russian girl quoted in the Guardian last year put it well: ‘Nothing brings out the smugness in a middle-class Russian parent’s voice more than saying: “Oh, my children go to school in England.”’ This is good news for so-called UK Plc, but there are downsides too.

3 Ways to Lower Crazy High College Costs

Stuart Butler:

After centuries of little change, the basic “sage on a stage” business model of higher education is beginning to undergo a radical transformation. Buffeted by high tuition costs and loan debt, students and their parents are seeking better value for money. Meanwhile technological change spearheaded by online education and such innovations as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) is shaking up the economics of educational information and teaching. And new business models, introducing such approaches as competency based degrees and blends of online and campus-based learning, are reducing costs and offering more customized degrees.

Thanks to these developments, the cost of acquiring the skills needed to be successful in the future economy is likely to fall sharply. That will be good for the economy. It will also open up opportunities for skill-based economic advancement for the many Americans who today cannot afford college without incurring crushing debt.

For this transformation to achieve its full potential, however, three things are needed.

Big Ed Reform News in N.J.: Appellate Court Denies Education Law Center and Save Our Schools-NJ’s Argument that Successful Charter Schools Can’t Expand

Laura Waters:

The N. J. Charter School Association issued its own statement that relies more on the actual ruling than spin:

Today’s appellate division ruling validates our understanding of the breadth of the state DOE’s authority in regulating public charter school growth and the department’s intention to support public education choice for New Jersey families. This lawsuit was yet another attempt to stop the growth of innovation and preserve the status quo which continues to fail our state’s public school students. Defending this authority, and validating it through the judicial process, will allow charter schools to grow and serve families that are looking for great educational opportunities.

A proposal to rate teacher preparation programs

Erin Richards:

But Jeanne Williams, past president of the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and chair of the educational studies department at Ripon College, said the state is already preparing to release educator preparation program report cards, in accordance with a state law passed in recent years to strengthen teacher training.

Those will report graduates’ pass rates on required licensure exams and provide data about where graduates get employed.

Williams did not agree with using test scores of students taught by the new teachers to review their programs that trained them.

She said several studies had shown that using student test data to evaluate teacher preparation programs is “not valid or reliable because of the numerous intervening variables that can affect student performance,” such as poverty, school climate and rates of teacher turnover in a school.

National Council on Teacher Quality reviews and ranks teacher preparation programs.

When A stands for average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education receive sky high grades. How smart is that?

I hope our leaders stand up against Walsh, teachers unions

Tom Foley:

I read with interest Erika Sanzi’s fine Nov. 25 Commentary piece (“Election bodes well for R.I. students”) on the election of two pro-student candidates as governor and lieutenant governor of Rhode Island. Neither Governor-elect Gina Raimondo nor Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan McKee seems to be beholden to the teachers unions.

I hope and pray that Ms. Sanzi is right. But I remember with dread the endorsement of Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, of candidate Raimondo in the last weeks before the election. Was there a quid pro quo? And what will be the payback demanded?

– See more at:

Should the U.S. Make Standardized Tests Harder?

Mikhail Zinshteyn:

With opposition to the new Common Core State Standards and the assessments linked to them reaching a fever pitch, advocating for better tests seems like an unpopular proposition. But what if U.S. students took fewer tests that measured their ability to understand academic concepts far more deeply than current tests permit?

A growing chorus of scholars is calling for just that: fewer but harder tests that go beyond the standard multiple choice model, ones that ask students to answer open-ended questions, solve tougher problems, and interpret harder texts.

“We could get the benefits of higher-quality assessments and spend less than we’re spending today,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a leading professor of education at Stanford University, during a recent presentation. “We’re just not spending it in ways that are very optimal for promoting deeper learning.”

If the quality of tests are a reflection of how much students are expected to know, the standardized assessments of the No Child Left Behind era have missed the mark on measuring students’ ability to process complex knowledge, some research suggests. A recent RAND Corporation study of 17 state standardized tests found that 2 percent of the math questions and 21 percent of the English Language Arts questions assessed students on higher-order skills. Several other studies have come to similar conclusions.

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere

Robert Reich:

So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.

But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.

A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.

In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)

Learning with Big Data: The Future of Education

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger & Kenneth Cukier:

A decade ago, as a 22-year-old grad student, von Ahn helped create something called CAPTCHAs—squiggly text that people have to type into websites in order to sign up for things like free email. Doing so proves that they are humans and not spambots. An upgraded version (called reCAPTCHA) that von Ahn sold to Google had people type distorted text that wasn’t just invented for the purpose, but came from Google’s book-scanning project, which a computer couldn’t decipher. It was a beautiful way to serve two goals with a single piece of data: register for things online, and decrypt words at the same time. Since then, von Ahn, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has looked for other “twofers”—ways to get people to supply bits of data that can serve two purposes. He devised it in a startup that he launched in 2012 called Duolingo. The site and smartphone app help people learn foreign languages—something he can empathize with, having learned English as a young child in Guatemala. But the instruction happens in a very clever way.

The company has people translate texts in small phrases at a time, or evaluate and fix other people’s translations. Instead of presenting invented phrases, as is typical for translation software, Duolingo presents real sentences from documents that need translation, for which the company gets paid. After enough students have independently translated or verified a particular phrase, the system accepts it—and compiles all the discrete sentences into a complete document. Among its customers are media companies such as CNN and BuzzFeed, which use it to translate their content in foreign markets. Like reCAPTCHA, Duolingo is a delightful “twin-win”: students get free foreign language instruction while producing something of economic value in return.

“We pay too little attention to the actual content of lessons: what gets taught and how it is taught”

Peter Wilby:

Above all, she aims straight for the most sacred cows to which even Tory ministers sometimes pay obeisance. Claims that you can teach “transferable skills”, that the 21st century changes everything and that “teacher-led instruction is passive” – all these are myths, she says. She is scathing about how Ofsted highlights and praises lessons where pupils do things “spontaneously”, such as spelling French words correctly, as though it were unnecessary to instruct them on such things. She dares to criticise John Dewey, a staple of teacher training courses, for his opaque writing style and to chide Charles Dickens for creating, through Hard Times’ Thomas Gradgrind and his daughter, the myth that teaching facts turns children into emotionally stunted adults. As a West Ham supporter who played for Warwick University’s women’s football team, she even critiques how we develop young footballers, arguing that children shouldn’t play 11-a-side matches on full-sized pitches until they’ve learned ball control.

Teaching civility: Two daring assignments

Andrew Reiner:

I remember the day I stopped humming the theme song to the television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It was midway through the semester at Towson University, and I had just met with a student who was furious that I had asked her to leave class because she had been e-mailing. She couldn’t believe I would do such a thing. I was angry that she flouted my no-texting/e-mailing classroom policy and, worse, that she lacked even a whiff of contrition.

I walked into my next class, a course that explored the declining health of civility and community in American culture. As usual, everyone’s eyes were buried in their cellphones. When class started, the tension was palpable. Ever since we had started exploring the toxic state of community, students had grown defensive. They hadn’t bought my argument that they needed to break out of their hyperconnected cocoons — “ramparts” may be more accurate — and live in ever-expanding communities where face-to-face relationships breed tolerance and the rewards of individual sacrifice.

I posed a question. “I just read a study which says that 81 percent of your generation doesn’t trust most people or large institutions,” I said. “So, how can we create community if we only trust our small circle of friends and families?”

“What’s wrong with finding our own small communities?” Ashley huffed.

A wave of “Yeahs!” sounded.

Self Selection of New Jersey Public Schools

Laura Waters:

intentionally skimming,” said Anderson, “but all of these things are leading to a higher concentration of the neediest kids in fewer [district] schools.”

Charter advocates winced and went on the defensive. Charter detractors grinned and high-fived. Both reactions miss the point.

Statisticians and social scientists argue about the presence and/or impact of this unintentional bias cited by Anderson, what Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the progressive Century Foundation, calls “the self-selection problem that skims the most motivated families into charter schools.” So let’s start by agreeing that many charter schools are subject to unintentional skimming (and note the irony that Anderson’s “One Newark” universal enrollment plan, the subject of much criticism, was created specifically to avoid that bias.)

But this narrow reading of Newark’s public school enrollment template ignores the big picture. New Jersey parents have a long proud tradition of self-selection of schools. It’s as New Jersey as cranberries. Charter school skimming in Newark is just New Jersey’s school segregation problem writ small, an in situ version of a statewide pattern.

There are 21 school districts in Essex County, including Newark, which educate 124,000 students in 247 public schools. The median household income is $55,000, about $16,000 below the state’s median $71,000. The county’s racial makeup is diverse, with equal numbers of white and black residents and a growing Hispanic population. However, as Paul Tractenberg pointed out in these pages last year, Essex is the most segregated county in the state. Twelve school districts are almost entirely white and wealthy. Four, including Newark, “are urban, desperately poor, and almost entirely populated by students of color.”

Teaching civility: Two daring assignments

Andrew Reiner:

I remember the day I stopped humming the theme song to the television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It was midway through the semester at Towson University, and I had just met with a student who was furious that I had asked her to leave class because she had been e-mailing. She couldn’t believe I would do such a thing. I was angry that she flouted my no-texting/e-mailing classroom policy and, worse, that she lacked even a whiff of contrition.

I walked into my next class, a course that explored the declining health of civility and community in American culture. As usual, everyone’s eyes were buried in their cellphones. When class started, the tension was palpable. Ever since we had started exploring the toxic state of community, students had grown defensive. They hadn’t bought my argument that they needed to break out of their hyperconnected cocoons — “ramparts” may be more accurate — and live in ever-expanding communities where face-to-face relationships breed tolerance and the rewards of individual sacrifice.

More districts are searching internationally to find candidates for difficult-to-fill math and science positions

Alison Denisco:

When a national search attracted only a few new candidates, Casa Grande administrators hired a consulting agency to search for teachers overseas.

Avenida International Consultants gave administrators videos of candidates from the Philippines teaching in classrooms. Administrators then conducted interviews with the candidates via Skype to assess their skills and English-language abilities. Goodsell hired 11 math and science teachers, who relocated and started work this fall.

“We’re very pleased in regard to who we’ve been able to attract to our small district,” Goodsell says. “The teachers have done a great service for our kids and community.” All of the Filipino teachers have bachelor’s degrees, and many have master’s degrees and are working on doctorates in the subject they are teaching, he adds.

Math and science
U.S. schools have hired teachers from abroad for decades. But as baby boomers retire and school enrollment steadily increases, more districts are searching internationally to find candidates for difficult-to-fill math and science positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that districts will need to hire nearly half a million teachers by the end of the decade.

Teacher education: easy 80s.

2009 AFT Report.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Falling Wages at Factories Squeeze the Middle Class

Nelson Schwartz & Patricia Cohen:

For nearly 20 years, Darrell Eberhardt worked in an Ohio factory putting together wheelchairs, earning $18.50 an hour, enough to gain a toehold in the middle class and feel respected at work.

He is still working with his hands, assembling seats for Chevrolet Cruze cars at the Camaco auto parts factory in Lorain, Ohio, but now he makes $10.50 an hour and is barely hanging on. “I’d like to earn more,” said Mr. Eberhardt, who is 49 and went back to school a few years ago to earn an associate’s degree. “But the chances of finding something like I used to have are slim to none.”

Related: Ongoing Madison Property Tax Increases: “delinquencies 30% higher than we expect”.

Pearson chief promises a big push into China’s education sector

Wang Zhuoqiong:

Pearson Plc’s pavilion at a book fair in Beijing. The global education service company said that its business revenue in China reached $300 million last year from $10 million in 2007 when it entered the Chinese market.

Global giant to take mixed, blended learning approach for success
Pearson Plc, the global education service company, is planning a major push into China in response to the country’s swelling demand for English-language skills both from students and the business community.

Pearson acquired one of the world’s leading providers of English language training Wall Street English in 2009, which has dozens of sites across the country. It also bought the Beijing-based Global Education and Technology Group for $294 million in 2011, which is considered the largest test preparation provider for the International English Language Testing System and a leading provider of educational courses and related services in China.
John Fallon, Pearson’s chief executive officer, who visited Beijing recently, said rising numbers of Chinese students are looking to study at English speaking universities, a lot of which are raising their English entry requirements.

The Slow Lane: Ancient lessons for modern lives

Harry Eyres:

I went along to a fundraising event for the organisation Classics for All, which promotes the teaching of classics in state schools in England, more out of a general feeling that learning classics is a Good Thing than out of messianic zeal.

If I’m honest, I have mixed feelings about all the years I spent studying classics. Half the time I found Latin and Greek both tough and dry; my classics teachers, and the subject, were not what is now called “sexy”; though experts on the use of the ablative absolute and the middle voice, they seemed to have had what Yeats called “spontaneous joy and natural content” squeezed out of them. I remember lying on my bed with two books beside me: one was the Odyssey in Greek, the other was Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. They were both, now I think about it, accounts of fatherless young men setting out on adventures on Greek islands, but at that time I found the business of construing the ancient Greek laborious and wished I was outside in the olive groves of Corfu with young Gerald, who never went to school until the age of 13.

What is the point of studying languages that have been dead for centuries, and societies that would seem to have minimal relevance to our high-tech world? This was a question that concerned the classicist and poet Louis MacNeice. Working as a classics lecturer at Birmingham university in the 1930s he is beset by doubts: he should be teaching “The Glory that was Greece: put it in a syllabus, grade it/ Page by page/ To train the mind or even to point a moral/ For the present age”. But instead of the “paragons of Hellas” he thinks of less noble figures, “the crooks, the adventurers . . . the fancy boys . . . the demagogues and the quacks” and concludes: “how one can imagine oneself among them/ I do not know;/ It was all so unimaginably different/ and all so long ago.”

Thinking too highly of higher ed

Peter Thiel:

Perhaps the least controversial thing that President Obama ever said was that “in the coming decades, a high school diploma is not going to be enough. Folks need a college degree.” This vision is commonplace, but it implies a bleak future where everyone must work harder just to stay in place, and it’s just not true. Nothing forces us to funnel students into a tournament that bankrupts the losers and turns the winners into conformists. But that’s what will happen until we start questioning whether college is our only option.

Is higher education an investment? Everyone knows that college graduates earn more than those without degrees. Maybe that earning power comes from learning valuable skills, networking with smart people or obtaining a recognized credential. Well, maybe — it’s hard to say exactly, since “college” bundles so many different things into one arbitrary package. And if all the most ambitious kids in our society go to college just because it’s the conventional thing to do, then what happens on campus might not matter, anyway. The same kids would probably enjoy a wage premium even if they spent four years in the Peace Corps instead.

Studying for the Test by Taking It

Benedict Carey:

PROTESTS are flaring up in pockets of the country against the proliferation of standardized tests. For many parents and teachers, school has become little more than a series of workout sessions for the assessment du jour.

And that is exactly backward, research shows. Tests should work for the student, not the other way around.

In an experiment published late last year, two University of Texas psychologists threw out the final exam for the 900 students in their intro psych course and replaced it with a series of short quizzes that students took on their laptops at the beginning of each class.

COMMENTARY: Every Camden kid deserves good education

Yasmin Rios:

I was born and raised in North Camden and still live here today. There are good people here who chose to stay and raise their families when they could have left for a better future. People here work hard and want what is best for their children so that they can have a better future than my generation has.

I attended elementary and middle school in the city but never made it out of seventh grade. I was held back twice and tagged as a troublemaker. As a result it felt like I was trapped in middle school. Since I had nowhere to go, I just dropped out. I did get my GED. Then I worked in factories. Now I work as a housekeeper at a local hotel.

Until this year, my children were going to a public elementary school because it was the closest. The school wasn’t working for them and my children were headed down a path similar to mine. They hated school. Classrooms were out of control and there were no consequences for bad behavior. They didn’t know how to do homework when they got home in the afternoon, and they didn’t want to go to school in the morning. They wanted to give up.

Then this past summer I learned about Mastery’s North Camden Elementary when I saw fliers and people representing the school were on my street talking with the neighbors. I decided to enroll them because I really wanted to try something different for my children. Today, my children can’t wait to get to school. They love their teachers. And I love that there is real structure there, unlike where they came from.

Predictable Tuition Hikes

Rei Terada:

Having previously agreed with Governor Brown not to raise tuition for three years ending in spring 2016, the UC Regents have now unilaterally broken the agreement. Give UC more funds, the Regents say, or we’ll raise tuition 5% in 2015–and another 5% a year for at least four years after that. While the Regents claim to negotiate on behalf of those who use the university–students, staff and faculty–their new gambit instead shows the difference between the Regents and higher Administration, on one hand, and “those who use” the university on the other. For organizations like the unions and faculty associations would of course like more funds from the legislature, too. But those groups aren’t demanding that students pay up if the legislature doesn’t. To them, it’s obvious that another tuition increase wouldn’t help California students, and that it’s counterproductive to threaten to do something counterproductive. Contrary to UCOP’s PR campaigns in favor of a “return to aid funding model” (high tuition, high aid), student debt has been rising during this period of “high aid.” It’s been shown that when working class students have to use up their Pell grants on high tuition, they wind up working longer hours and going into tens of thousands of dollars of debt for housing and living expenses. Yet this is what the Regents are willing to bring about. And Mary Gilly, the chair of the Faculty Senate, lines the Senate up behind the administration more plainly than ever by calling the tuition increase an “unfortunate” but “good option.”

In many ways the tuition increase proposal looks more like an intent than a coercion tactic. More state funding “is probably not likely,” Gilly notes (ibid.). UCOP has already developed a strategy for justifying the increases regardless of their pressure-value: (1) they could be worse, being “not . . . more than 5%” a year; (2) they would feed the “return to aid funding model” (according to an email sent to staff on Friday by Michelle Whittingham, Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management at UCSC); and (3) they would offer “predictability.” UCOP’s press release euphemizes the raise by calling it a “stability plan.” But stability, predictability and not-being-more than 27% (at the end of the period, tuition would be 27% over its current base) are all empty qualities that drain the increase of its positive content, which is, obviously, revenue on the backs of students. A 5% increase will pay more than 4% a year from the legislature, even after return-to-aid. If that wasn’t so the increase could not be proposed at all. At the same time, as Michael Meranze observes, “UCOP’s proposal actually leaves open the possibility of up to a 9% tuition increase” if Governor Brown is uncooperative–and that would have the most point of all. Technically, no ceiling for this scenario is mentioned in UCOP’s announcement. Its language is: “tuition would not increase by more than 5 percent annually for five years, provided the state maintains its current investment commitment” (my italics). And so finally, even “predictability” is erased, since UCOP’s statement merely says that it will be there unless it’s not.


UCOP’s Failed Funding Model

The first thing to say about the UC’s five-year plan to raise tuition 5% each year is that it is neither predictable nor logical. President Napolitano has said on several occasions that students need this plan so they can predict and plan for tuition increases, but she has also said that the 5% tuition increase is contingent on the state increasing UC’s funding by 4% each year. I have asked several UCOP officials, what happens if Governor Brown keeps his promise of only giving 4% if the UC freezes tuition? The only coherent response I have gotten to this question is that UC will be forced to increase the number of non-resident students and decrease the number of students from California.

Before we get to the question of non-resident tuition, we have to realize that several things may happen that make UCOP’s tuition plan anything but predictable: 1) the state eliminates its 4% increase and UC raises tuition by 5%, and thus gets a 1% gain for all of its efforts; 2) the state eliminates its 4%, and UC raises tuition 9%; 3) the state keeps the 4% increase and UC raises tuition 5%; 4) the states decides to increase its contribution beyond 4% and UC decreases its tuition increase by the same amount. So tuition may go up in the next five years, anywhere from 0% to 53% or even higher if there is another fiscal crisis. Making matters more complicated is that this negotiation has to happen every year for five years, and no one has asked what happens if there is another budget crisis, and the state cuts UC funding? So the first problem with the sustainable five-year plan is that it is neither logical, nor predictable, nor long-term.


Harvard’s Asian Problem

Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court declined to draw a clear line on racial discrimination in university admissions in last year’s Fisher v. University of Texas decision. Now new lawsuits are moving to challenge how far colleges can go in using racial preferences.

A group called Students for Fair Admissions filed lawsuits Monday against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in federal court. The suits argue that the schools use race…

Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers

Scholarly Open Access:

This is a list of questionable, scholarly open-access publishers. We recommend that scholars read the available reviews, assessments and descriptions provided here, and then decide for themselves whether they want to submit articles, serve as editors or on editorial boards. The criteria for determining predatory publishers are here.

We hope that tenure and promotion committees can also decide for themselves how importantly or not to rate articles published in these journals in the context of their own institutional standards and/or geocultural locus. We emphasize that journal publishers and journals change in their business and editorial practices over time. This list is kept up-to-date to the best extent possible but may not reflect sudden, unreported, or unknown enhancements.

School design through the decades


In the decades after the Industrial Revolution, educational reformers led the effort to modernise schools and classroom spaces, and the ubiquitous one-room schoolhouse gradually gave way to bigger and more sophisticated designs. Scholars such as Lindsay Baker at the University of California, Berkeley have traced the subsequent history of these school designs, and have noted the surprising ebb and flow of attention to details such as indoor air quality and access to daylight.

This article explores some school designs from across these decades in the USA and Europe.

Related: Frederick Taylor.

Why Humanities 2? or: End the Administration

Education Should be Free:

The UC administration wraps its tentacles around all of our lives. And it has established many nodes from which to strangle us; Kerr Hall is only one hub of a much larger amorphous beast. Given this fact, students had a lot of options when we began considering an occupation. How, then, did we choose this particular administrative base of operations, Humanities 2, for our action?

In fact, it is not a difficult question, and everyone here is clear on the answer: this building houses the office of a particularly smarmy figure, one Dean Sheldon Kamieniecki—a perversely enthusiastic agent of austerity. This person was responsible for slashing whole departments as soon as he got the chance, Community Studies being one notable example. Most recently, he tried to sack five or six Social Science staffers last year, most of whom make roughly $40,000, and who, as any student can tell you, are absolutely indispensable to the day-to-day functioning of the university and central to the academic lives of students. Kamieniecki himself made $206,000 last year, and nobody knows what he does.

Why Isn’t Academic Research Free to Everyone?

Noah Berlatsky:

A blurb below the search bar on Google Scholar tells you to “stand on the shoulders of giants.” The giants in question here are academic writers, and Google Scholar does provide searchable access to essays on a dizzying array of topics, from governance in post-genocide Rwanda to the ethics of using polygraph tests on juveniles.

Except for one problem: Most of these articles are paywalled. You need to have university access to read them—or else pay what’s often a substantial fee. Martin Paul Eve, a lecturer at the University of Lincoln’s School of English & Journalism in the United Kingdom, wants to change that.

In his book Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies, and the Future, he explains why, and how, research in the humanities should be publicly available for free. Eve spoke to me about his recent book, copyright laws, and why plagiarism isn’t a major concern.

“replacing yesterday’s Catholic schools with a new breed of Catholic schools”

Jennifer McNamee

Smarick said Catholic leaders have a choice: “Keep doing the things we’ve been doing that have led to our slow demise consistently for half a century. Or open your minds and do thing differently. We’re starting to see on the horizon sunlight for the very first time.”

He said some church leaders are too resistant to change. “It was time for the milkman to go away. It was time for trains to get replaced by airplanes. Progress sometimes is progress,” he said. “And that means breaking eggs sometimes to make omelets. So I’m bullish about the possibility of young entrepreneurs and related laity in these systems saying we have to try things differently, and that means replacing yesterday’s Catholic schools with a new breed of Catholic schools.”

Smarick offered three areas that need to change: ”Straight up transparency and accountability” that makes very clear how a school is doing when it comes to outcomes for students; an understanding of the changing landscape of educational options for parents so that Catholic schools are ones more parents choose for their children; and unleashing more “entrepreneurialism” among those who want to run or work in Catholic schools.

Smarick and Porter-Magee both said that many talented young Catholic educators are going to work in charter schools rather than Catholic schools because their freedom to pursue fresh ways to get better results was much greater. Smarick said he was encouraged by what is unfolding in cities around the country where an “analog” to charter schools is arising for Catholic education.

From the “Conference on the future of Catholic K-12 education“.

Considering Madison’s K-12 Enrollment Projections: 2009 and 2014; Dramatic Demographic Variation Persists

The Madison School District recently published a brief K-12 enrollment history (2010- PDF) along with a look at school capacities (PDF).

Happily, a similar 2009 document is available here (PDF). This document includes 18 years of history, to 1990.

Yet, the District and community have long tolerated wide variation in demographics across the schools.

Tap for a larger version.

I found it interesting that a number of schools are well below capacity. Cherokee middle school is at 74% of capacity while nearby Hamilton is at 106%. Hamilton’s free and reduced lunch population is just 18% while Cherokee’s is 60% (!) Details.

The District is planning to raise property taxes via a spring, 2015 referendum. Said referendum, if passed would expand Hamilton Middle School (“four additional classrooms”), among others. This is quite remarkable with available capacity at nearby Cherokee.

Church of England school taken aback by Ofsted rating amid extremism row

Richard Adams and Sally Weale:

The head teacher of the Church of England school in east London at the centre of a fresh controversy over alleged Islamic extremism, has expressed surprise at the Ofsted inspection findings that sent his school into special measures.

The Sir John Cass Foundation and Red Coat Church of England secondary, and a group of independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets, will be criticised by Ofsted over safeguarding concerns, following snap visits by the schools inspectorate in the wake of the “Trojan horse” affair in Birmingham.

The only maintained school involved, Sir John Cass, in Stepney, is to be downgraded from outstanding to Ofsted’s lowest rating of inadequate, primarily over Facebook activity by sixth formers linked to extremist material, and existing segregation between boys and girls in school areas.

Haydn Evans, the school’s headteacher since 1995, said: “We are surprised by the outcome of the Ofsted inspection, as we have always taken safeguarding very seriously. The teaching and results of this school remain good, which they have been since 1999, and my priority now is to address the issues that have been identified and work closely with the local authority and the diocese to return the school as quickly as possible to an outstanding school.”

Automation Makes Us Dumb

Nicholas Carr:

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.

It has been a slow process. The first wave of automation rolled through U.S. industry after World War II, when manufacturers began installing electronically controlled equipment in their plants. The new machines made factories more efficient and companies more profitable. They were also heralded as emancipators. By relieving factory hands of routine chores, they would do more than boost productivity. They would elevate laborers, giving them more invigorating jobs and more valuable talents. The new technology would be ennobling.

Surprise: Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment

Jeffrey Dorfman:

Humanities degrees have received a bad rap recently, even from President Obama. Many people, including top policy makers, routinely push policies to encourage more students to major in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Some governors have even suggested that state subsidies for public universities should be focused on STEM disciplines, with less money going to “less useful” degrees such as the humanities. Yet, in contravention to this perceived truth, the data show that humanities degrees are still worth a great deal.

As part of a recent project estimating the economic impact of my university, I had a reason to compute the predicted value of college degrees in a wide variety of fields. While it is certainly true that science, engineering, math and business degrees all produce graduates with high expected salaries, those humanities degrees still pay off rather handsomely.

Who Killed Wikipedia?

Virginia Postrel:

Wikipedia is the sixth most popular website in the world. It’s the quickest way to get the lowdown on the Battle of Nashville, find out exactly how old Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, or discover who invented Hot Pockets. You can find more authoritative specialized resources online—from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to IMDb— but nothing is as comprehensive. The English-language edition, the largest of Wikipedia’s 287 language editions, now includes more than 4.5 million entries, and 11 other editions have more than a million each.

Few of the tens of millions of readers who rely on Wikipedia give much thought to where its content comes from or why the site, which is crowdsourced and open (at least in theory) for anyone to edit, doesn’t degenerate into gibberish and graffiti. Like Google or running water, it is simply there. Yet its very existence is something of a miracle. Despite its ocean of content, this vital piece of informational infrastructure is the work of a surprisingly small community of volunteers. Only about 3,000 editors contribute more than 100 changes a month to the English-language Wikipedia, down from a high of more than 4,700 in early 2007. Without any central direction or outside recognition, these dedicated amateurs create, refine, and maintain millions of content pages.

Property Tax Season: Comparing Madison Area Burdens in light of quarterly payments

The arrival of Thanksgiving means local homeowners will soon see their annual property tax bills. The chart below compares Madison area homes sold in 2012, ranging in price from $239,900 to $255,000

Tap to view a larger version. Excel. A Middleton home’s property tax burden is about 13% less than a similar property in Madison (based on 2012 sales and 2013 assessments and payments). The Madison home noted in this analysis was assessed $1100 higher than the Middleton property. Taxes, spending growth and academic achievement over time are surely worth a much deeper dive.

SIS notes and links on Madison area property taxes.

Property Taxes around the World. Madison’s 16% increase since 2007; Median Household Income down 7.6%; Middleton’s 16% Less.

Worth reading: Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance:

The property tax is Wisconsin’s largest, oldest, and most confusing tax. At least five governments use the tax, and two different methods of valuing property are used to distribute taxes among property owners. One source of confusion arises when tax rates and levies move in opposite directions, a common occurrence over the past 20 years. In addition, property owners are often unaware of how changing property values, both within a municipality and among municipalities, can cause individual property tax bills to rise, even when levies are “frozen.”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:”(Property Tax) Delinquencies 30% more than we expect“.

Spending and adult employment.

Property tax growth (along with other tax sources) is a manifestation of the challenges we see in our k-12 school districts.

November 19, 1957: Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize

Maria Popova:

When Camus was less than a year old, his father was killed on the battlefield of WWI. He and his older brother were raised by their illiterate, nearly deaf mother and a despotic grandmother, with hardly any prospects for a bright future. In a testament to what happens when education lives up to its highest potential to ennoble the human spirit, a teacher named Louis Germaine saw in young Albert something special and undertook the task of conjuring cohesion and purpose out of the boy — the task of any great mentor. Under his teacher’s wing, Camus came to transcend the dismal cards he had been dealt and began blossoming into his future genius.

Three decades later, Camus became the second youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize, which was awarded to him for the “clear-sighted earnestness” of his work, which “illuminates the problems of the human conscience.” On November 19, 1957 — mere days after receiving humanity’s highest accolade — Camus recognized the impact of his former teacher with such “clear-sighted earnestness” in a spectacular letter, included in the last pages of Camus’s The First Man (public library | IndieBound), translated by David Hapgood.

Student Loan Debt per US State

Brandon Ballenger:

This map shows average student loan debt and student loan default rates in the U.S. when your cursor hovers over a state. The table below shows a ranking of states by their average student loan debt. Explore, then see our conclusions below.

Harvard Deserves Steve Ballmer’s Millions

Virginia Postrel:

Now that he’s retired as chief executive officer of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer has time for popular billionaire pastimes. First, he bought a basketball team for $2 billion. Now he’s gotten into big-bucks philanthropy.

Ballmer and his wife, Connie, are giving $50 million in unrestricted funds to bolster the endowment of the University of Oregon, her alma mater. (She’s also on the university’s board of trustees.) They’re kicking in a seemingly comparable amount to significantly expand the computer science department at Harvard University, from which he received his undergraduate degree in 1977. The gift will allow Harvard to add a dozen computer science professors, bringing the department to 36 faculty, compared with 55 next door at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (The exact sum wasn’t disclosed, but when the Harvard Crimson estimated $60 million — 12 slots at an endowment of $5 million each — Ballmer called the numbers “pretty good.”)

Why I hate (and love) visualizations of mathematics

Jeremy Kun:

Let’s say I’m trying to learn about a difficult mathematical concept. For this example I’ll use Markov chains because I recently saw a highly-appreciated visualization of Markov chains due to Victor Powell and Lewis Lehe. For now I’ll pretend I’m the typical person who claims to be a visual thinker and the only reason I don’t get math is because nobody is patient enough to explain things in a way I can understand. (Such people are everywhere.)

So I’ve heard the mysterious term Markov chain, and tried to learn about it previously by reading a book. Maybe I want to even write a computer program to “do” a Markov Chain, whatever that means. I go check out the Powell-Lehe visualization and at the end I think “Wow! That was so easy to understand! A Markov chain is just a little diagram with a ball bouncing around, where the ball is represents the state a system, and the thickness of the lines is how likely the ball is to use that line to travel.”

Jeb Bush speaks up for Common Core

Chloe Sorvino:

“In my view, the rigour of the Common Core state standards must be the new minimum in classrooms,” Mr Bush said. “For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher. Be bolder. Raise standards and ask more of our students and the system, because I know they have the potential to deliver it.”

Mr Bush said the US government must make education reform a priority and, if that happens, it could make Common Core a 2016 election cycle issue. Last month, Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican senator, said that a supporter “doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”

Mr Bush pointed to Black and Hispanic American fourth graders reading two and a half grade levels below their white peers on average. He also cited the global rankings that place American students 21st in reading and 31st in mathematics.

“But if we buy the excuses, if we let kids struggle, if we herd them into failing schools, how can we expect young people to grasp those first rungs of opportunity?” Mr Bush asked. “That is why the challenge of fixing our schools must be among the most urgent of national priorities.”

Typing takes over as handwriting ends


Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place, it’s reported.

Learning joined-up writing, often in fountain pen in the UK, is almost a rite of passage for primary school students. But Finland is moving into the digital age by ditching the ink in favour of keyboards, the Savon Sanomat newspaper reports. From autumn 2016, students won’t have to learn cursive handwriting or calligraphy, but will instead be taught typing skills, the report says. “Fluent typing skills are an important national competence,” says Minna Harmanen from the National Board of Education. The switch will be a major cultural change, Ms Harmanen says, but typing is more relevant to everyday life.

Student Debt: A Calculator Focused on College Majors

David Leonhardt:

Student debt seems on its way to becoming a significant political issue, for better or worse. When a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll asked people about a long list of domestic and foreign policy proposals, none received more support – 82 percent – than reducing the cost of student loans. When the 2016 campaign gets underway, candidates will most likely come forth with various plans to address the issue.

So it’s a good time for an interactive calculator that the Hamilton Project is releasing Thursday, meant to give more detailed information about loan burdens. The feature’s main contribution is the earnings data it gives on about 80 different majors, allowing people to look up typical debt burdens by major, over the first decade after college – which is when people tend to repay their loans.

Wisconsin school leaders release policy wish list at odds with GOP agenda

Erin Richards

The next legislative session doesn’t start until Jan. 5, but lines are already being drawn around education policy initiatives.

In one corner: the GOP-led Legislature, emboldened after key wins in the midterm elections, and soon-to-tilt farther right with the retirement of key Republican moderates in the Senate.

Their priorities are a new comprehensive school accountability system, revisiting Wisconsin’s academic standards and likely an expansion of programs that send taxpayer money to private schools.

In the other corner: Wisconsin’s K-12 administrators, who publicly released their own policy agenda wish list Wednesday, in hopes that lawmakers would embrace evidence-based practices as they shape the state’s education landscape. They want more funding for programs that research shows helps kids, and an end to “ideology-driven reforms” pursued by conservatives, especially over the past two years.

Is there any middle ground? Or will the next state budget increase the friction between lawmakers and district and school leaders?

Passing Rate Declines by 20% as State Uses New Certification Exams for Teachers

Elizabeth Harris:

New York State saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced, state officials said on Wednesday, portraying the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance of teacher preparation schools.

In the 2013-14 school year, 11,843 teachers earned their certification in New York, a drop of about 20 percent from the previous two years.

Candidates without certification cannot teach in public schools, and education schools with high failure rates may eventually lose their accreditation.

Related: a Wisconsin MTEL “toe dip”.

5 ways community colleges are fixing higher education

By Emanuella Grinberg, Jamie Gumbrecht and Thom Patterson:

Enter community colleges. They provide technical programs for emerging careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are comparable to — if not better than — some of their four-year counterparts, at a fraction of the cost. Often, they’re the launchpad to baccalaureate programs for people without the time, money or academic skills to jump into a four-year program straight out of high school.

And as part of the American Association of Community Colleges’ 21st Century Initiative, they’re updating their missions and nimbly shifting to serve the economy of the future.

Here are some of the ways they’re facing problems that weigh down all of higher education — and succeeding.

Graduates of Elite Colleges See a Payoff

Lindsay Gellman:

Sure, it’s nice to have a graduate degree from Yale, but a new study finds that attending an elite undergraduate institution counts for an awful lot when it comes to lifelong earnings.

A researcher at the Vanderbilt University Law School found that people with advanced degrees from elite schools and undergraduate diplomas from less-selective institutions earn less than people who attended elite schools for both their graduate and undergraduate degrees.

The results hold up across a broad swath of graduate programs, from law degrees to M.B.A.s. And those who attended less elite undergraduate institutions are unlikely to ever close the salary gap, according to the study.

Joni Hersch of Vanderbilt Law School said the survey results came as somewhat of a surprise, but suggests that it’s not really undergraduate education driving the pay disparity, but instead the social status of graduates of elite colleges.

The parents of students at elite colleges tend to be better-educated than the parents of those at less competitive schools, Hersch said; the children of educated parents tend to have more early networking opportunities and understand certain social cues.

“It’s the vacations you can talk about, the small talk you can make, what wine you order in restaurants” that could make the difference in a hiring manager’s decision, said Hersch, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida.

Teens learn better when they’re awake

Laura Waters:

Last week the New Jersey Senate Education Committee approved a bill proposed by Sen. Dick Codey (D-Essex) that would authorize “a study on the issues, benefits, and options for instituting a later start time to the school day in middle school and high school.” Makes sense, right? After all, we know that the hormonal changes of puberty affect teenagers’ circadian rhythms which, in turn, dictate sleep schedules and alertness. If you’ve had teenagers (I’ve had four) you know that they’re late to bed and late to rise, a pattern that hardly squares with school start times of 7:30 or so. Sen. Codey’s bill logically proposes that middle and high schools students start school when they are awake enough to fully benefit from academic instruction. This shift is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

You’d think that this would be an easy call for the State Legislature, but it’s complicated. With all the agonizing we do over the state of American education — our kids are underperforming! our kids are over-tested! it’s the race to nowhere! it’s their only chance! — we rarely focus on the fact that school schedules are shaped by an assortment of priorities that at times coexist harmoniously with the academic mission of schools and at times conflict with that mission. One of those conflicts is our tradition of designing school schedules to accommodate the needs of extracurricular activities. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Sen. Codey’s bill is that it forces us to examine that compromise.

Here Comes The Student Loan Forgiveness

Jeffrey Dorfman

President Obama is in the process of expanding a student loan forgiveness program through his executive power (the infamous pen). Whether constitutional or not, he appears to believe that he can add more students to the eligibility list for a program he created by regulation in November 2013. This “Pay-As-You-Earn” program is partly about lowering the monthly payments to make student loans more affordable for graduates, but mostly it is the foot in the door to student loan forgiveness.

Under the latest version of President Obama’s giveaway to former college students, people with student loans that meet certain income eligibility standards will only need to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for a maximum of 20 years. Discretionary income is the amount you earn above the poverty line for your family size. If a borrower works for a government or in a job defined as public service, they only have to pay for 10 years. After that, the remaining balance is forgiven.

What do you know? A simple way to revolutionise teacher quality1 2

Tom Bennett:

I want to talk about a topic so volatile and delicate it could be a kitten made of nitroglycerin: subject knowledge. And, for once, I don’t mean looking at what children know, because that’s a discussion that can currently be enjoyed on channels 1-100 on your Sky box (other cable providers are, of course, available). It’s a good debate, and an important one. But it isn’t this one.

This sermon is about teacher knowledge. What do you know about what you teach? It can be a sobering reflection, for me as much as anyone else. The personal is political, so here’s some history. I studied philosophy, because that’s where all the good-looking people earning big bucks started out [check this – Ed]. It was at the University of Glasgow, where you wisely begin with three subjects (English literature, philosophy and politics for me), narrowing one’s focus in year three, continuing to an optional master’s degree in year four. I received a joint honours MA in politics and philosophy. I learned a good deal about Thomas Hobbes and the social contract, type/token mistakes and the 100 best gags of Andrea Dworkin. You will note that, fascinating as these topics are, none of them particularly prepare you for a Year 7 lesson on the 5 Ks of Sikhism, the concept of authority and law in Judaism, or the Passion of Gethsemane.

Vape gathers linguistic steam to become Word of the Year 2014

Alison Flood:

This was the year of vaping, according to Oxford Dictionaries, which has chosen “vape” – the act of inhaling from an electronic cigarette – as its word of 2014 after use of the term more than doubled over the last year.

Vape – defined as to “inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device” – beat contenders including slacktivism, bae and indyref to be chosen as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014. The shortlist is compiled from scanning around 150m words of English in use each month, applying software to identify new and emerging usage. Dictionary editors and lexicographers, including staff from the Oxford English Dictionary, then pinpoint a final selection and an eventual winner, which is intended to be a word judged “to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance”.

UW-Madison ranks in top 10 for students studying abroad

Karen Herzog:

For the eighth consecutive year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison ranked among the top 10 U.S. universities and colleges in the number of students who study abroad in the latest annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released Monday.

UW-Madison posted a No. 9 ranking with 2,157 students earning credit outside the country in the 2012-’13 academic year, according to the report.

The report found the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. overall increased by 8%, to a record high of 886,052 students in the 2013-’14 academic year.

This year’s statistical analysis shows how much more global U.S. higher education has become since the first Open Doors report published in 2000 by the Institute of International Education.

The number of U.S. students studying abroad has more than doubled in the last 15 years.

The number of international students studying in the U.S. also has grown — by 72% since 2000. The U.S. hosts more of the world’s 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world, with almost double the number hosted by the United Kingdom, the second leading host country, the report says.

American Education Week November 16-22

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

Though federal and state governments are obligated to provide free public education, both fail to fully fund their financial mandates. While every child in America deserves a quality public education, the failure of federal and state governments, and the state usurping the authority of local school boards to adequately fund their schools, has placed American education in a very difficult situation over the last several decades. America must provide students with quality public schools so that the next generation can grow, prosper, and achieve. NEA’s American Education Week ( presents all Americans with an opportunity to honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education for the nation’s 50 million students.

Direct new challenges to Bakke ruling

Lyle Denniston:

The saga over the use of race in selecting new college entrants that began with the Supreme Court’s famous ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke nearly four decades ago now has a new chapter — and it is intended to be the final one. Two lawsuits, filed Monday in federal courts against two major universities, are crafted to eventually put before the Supreme Court an explicit plea to overrule Bakke and later decisions on the issue.

The lawsuits are, in a way, sequels to the Court’s ruling last year in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — a case that is itself on the way back to the Supreme Court — but their goal is a more sweeping one than the one advanced so far in the Fisher case.

Harvard University — ironically, the same institution that had provided an affirmative action model that the Supreme Court embraced in the Bakke case — is one of the targets of the new challenges. The other lawsuit names the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Given what is occurring at Harvard and at other schools,” the lawsuit filed in Boston argued, “the proper response is the outright prohibition of racial preferences in university admissions — period. Allowing this issue to be litigated in case after case will only perpetuate the hostilities that proper consideration of race is designed to avoid.”

Why Is American Teaching So Bad?

Jonathan Zimmerman:

Aware of such research, Green circles back to the education schools, where a zealous coterie of scholars has been trying to identify and inculcate the “habits of mind” that define the disciplines. They tend to follow the work of Stanford University’s Lee Shulman, who coined the term “pedagogical content knowledge” to describe the intellectual apparatus that you need to teach a given subject. I am a full professor at a major research university, but I could not, without much preparation, teach high school chemistry. I could, of course, require my students to memorize the periodic table of elements. But I couldn’t teach the discipline, because I don’t understand its history or structure: how it developed over time, what it has discovered, what is left to know, and what counts as “knowledge” in the first place. These are hugely complicated questions, usually reserved for graduate study in the disciplines themselves. But unless you understand how a discipline actually works, you won’t be able to help anyone else understand it, either.

And that brings us to the saddest fact of all: most of our teachers don’t possess a deep working knowledge of any discipline, at least not in the way that good teaching demands. Perhaps the teachers of very small children do not need the same mastery of a discipline as their counterparts in middle and high schools. But surely they need a deep and theoretically sophisticated understanding of the ways that children learn. Even the teaching of so-called simple arithmetic turns out to be an immensely complicated endeavor, but most of our teachers do not treat it as such. Part of that failing has to do with the lack of constructive collaboration inside our schools, where teachers work almost entirely in isolation.

By contrast, many other advanced countries have institutionalized critical commentary by peers and also provide intellectual support to improve skills and learning as part of teachers’ professional practice. Japanese teachers even have a separate word for this process, jugyokenkyu, which is built into their weekly routines. All teachers have designated periods to observe each other’s classes, study curriculum, and otherwise hone their craft. But they also learn a great deal in their pre-service training, which is both more rigorous and more demanding concerning particular subject matter than anything American teacher-education students are likely to encounter.

When a stands for average.

Colleges and universities charge more, keep less, new report finds

Jon Marcus:

Forced to keep discounting their prices as enrollment stagnates, U.S. universities and colleges expect their slowest growth in revenue in 10 years, the bond-rating company Moody’s reports.

The squeeze could threaten further cuts in services even as tuition continues to increase.

A quarter of colleges and universities are projecting declines in revenue, according to a closely watched annual Moody’s survey. Half of public and 40 percent of private institutions say they will take in only 2 percent more than the inflation rate, or worse.

“Smaller entering classes in much of the country over the next few years foreshadows continued revenue pressure.” Eva Bogaty, vice president and senior analyst, Moody’s

Moody’s analysts say regional public universities and small private colleges, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest where birth rates are flat and enrollment growth has stalled, are at the greatest risk. But the problems are dogging campuses everywhere.

College Applicants Sanitizing Social Media Profiles

Natasha Singer:

Admissions officers at Morehouse College in Atlanta were shocked several years ago when a number of high school seniors submitted applications using email addresses containing provocative language.

Some of the addresses made sexual innuendos while others invoked gangster rap songs or drug use, said Darryl D. Isom, Morehouse’s director of admissions and recruitment.

But last year, he and his staff noticed a striking reversal: Nearly every applicant to Morehouse, an all-male historically black college, used his real name, or some variation, as his email address.

Ongoing Increases in Madison Property Taxes: “Delinquencies 30% More Than We Expect” (!); Schools up 4.2% this year

Bill Novak

Madison property owners will soon be able to pay their taxes in four installments, beginning with the 2014 tax bill coming in December.

The Mayor’s Office said on Tuesday the four-payment plan could help taxpayers avoid penalties by spreading out the taxes owed over a seven-month period.

“At the height of the recession, the city’s delinquency rate was over twice the historical average,” said Mayor Paul Soglin in a news release.

“Even today, delinquencies are 30 percent more than what we would expect,” Soglin said. “We hope offering the four installment option will help some of our property owners avoid the considerable penalties incurred when you go delinquent on their taxes.”

Taxpayers up to now had two options in Madison: Pay the full amount by Jan. 31, or in two installments, due Jan. 31 and July 31 (the two installment plan will no longer be used.)

Madison / Dane County property taxes among the highest in Wisconsin.

25% of the Madison School District’s 2014-2015 $402,464,374 budget spent on benefits.

Middleton’s property taxes are 16% lower than Madison’s for a similar home.

Chinese Students at U.S. Universities Jump 75% in Three Years

Janet Lorin:

In 2013-2014, the number of Chinese students in the U.S. rose 8.1 percent from a year earlier, while those from India swelled by 17 percent, the IIE said. Foreigners are attractive to colleges because they bring diversity to campuses and many pay full freight. That’s a boon to schools, which doled out about $48 billion in grant aid in the form of discounts in 2013-2014, almost double the rate of a decade earlier when adjusted for inflation, according to the New York-based College Board.

“There’s room in American higher education for more foreign students,” said Allan Goodman, president of the institute.

Algorithms on Khan Academy, a collaboration with Dartmouth College professors

Pamela Fox:

What is an algorithm? It’s a sequence of steps that you follow to solve a problem. In everyday life, you might have an algorithm for hanging up your laundry, efficiently going through a shopping list, or finding an empty parking space in a lot. In computer science, an algorithm is a sequence of instructions that a computer program follows. Algorithms form the basis of the most interesting and important programs we use, such as the algorithm that Google uses to calculate driving directions, or the algorithm that Facebook uses to automatically tag you in a photo.

Because algorithms are so important to computer science, they are a core part of a computer science curriculum. The AP CS A class teaches object-oriented programming with algorithms, every college CS student will have at least one algorithms class and encounter algorithms everywhere, and every software engineer interviewing for a job will review algorithms while they’re prepping for an interview.

On Common Core Reading


All week we’ve been reporting on big changes in reading instruction brought on by the Common Core State Standards: a doubling-down on evidence-based reading, writing and speaking; increased use of nonfiction; and a big push to get kids reading more “complex texts.”

Whatever you think of these shifts, they’re meaningless ideas without a classroom and kids to make sense of them. That’s today’s story, as we round out our series on reading in the Core era.

It’s mid-morning at Watkins Elementary in Washington, D.C. From the fourth floor, Amy Wertheimer’s fifth-grade classroom looks out over a red-brick grid of rowhouses and, looming over it all, the U.S. Capitol. But every back is to the view as Ms. Wertheimer calls her kids to the reading rug.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Trust Government Less and Less Because We Know More and More About How It Operates

Nick Gillespie:

Fifty years ago, FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. was has come to be known as the “suicide letter,” an anonymous note suggesting the civil rights leader should off himself before his private sex life was made public. The information about King’s extramarital assignations was gathered with the approval not just of the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover but Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson.

“There is but one way out for you,” reads the note, which appeared in unredacted form for the first time just last week. “You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

Thus is revealed one of the most despicable acts of domestic surveillance in memory. These days, we worry less about the government outing our sex lives than in it tracking every move we move online. It turns out that President Obama, who said he would roll back the unconstitutional powers exercised by his predecessor, had a secret “kill list” over which he was sole authority. Jesus, we’ve just learned that small planes are using so-called dirtboxes to pick up cell phone traffic. One of the architects of Obamacare publicly states that Americans are stupid and that the president’s healthcare reform was vague and confusing on purpose. The former director of national intelligence, along with the former head and current heads of the CIA, have lied to Congress.

On Free Lunch

Pat Schneider::

There are not a lot of wins in public education these days, says Mike Hernandez, principal at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s north side.

But a program new this school year offering free breakfast and lunch to every student at Sherman is a big win, Hernandez says.

“We had a large number of fringe students, whose family income was just above the line but were not able to afford to buy lunch,” he said. “Now they are able to eat, and I’m not seeing kids with their heads down because they are embarrassed because they can’t pay for lunch.”

Seven schools and 11 alternative programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District with high levels of poverty are offering free breakfast and lunch to all students, paid for by the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.

The participating sites have seen a 27.5 percent increase in meals served at breakfast and an 18 percent increase at lunch, said school district spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson.

Remedial Courses in College Stir Questions Over Cost, Effectiveness

Josh Mitchell:

College students are increasingly spending federal financial aid and taking on debt for high school-level courses that don’t count toward a degree, despite mounting evidence the courses are ineffective and may contribute to higher dropout rates.

The number of college students taking at least one remedial course rose to 2.7 million in the 2011-2012 academic year from 1.04 million in 1999-2000, federal data show. During the same span, the amount of federal grants spent by undergraduates enrolled in at least one remedial course rose 380%, after inflation, Education Department figures show. There was also a drastic rise in remedial students taking on student debt

The trends reflect a sharp rise over the past decade in enrollment at community colleges, which disproportionately serve low-income, minority and older populations. About 40% of students entering community colleges enroll in at least one remedial course, according to the Education Department; only about 1 in 4 of them will earn a degree or certificate.

College Athletes of the World, Unite

Kareem Abdul Jabbar:

When I played basketball for UCLA, I learned the hard way how the NCAA’s refusal to pay college athletes impacted our daily lives. Despite the hours I put in every day, practicing, learning plays, and traveling around the country to play games, and despite the millions of dollars our team generated for UCLA — both in cash and in recruiting students to attend the university — I was always too broke to do much but study, practice, and play.

What little money I did have came from spring break and summer jobs. For a couple summers, Mike Frankovich, president of Columbia Pictures and a former UCLA quarterback, hired me to do publicity for his movies, most memorably Cat Ballou (which was nominated for five Academy Awards).

In 1968, I needed to earn enough summer money to get through my senior year. So, instead of playing in the Summer Olympics, I took a job in New York City with Operation Sports Rescue, in which I traveled around the city encouraging kids to go to college. Spring breaks I worked as a groundskeeper on the UCLA campus or in their steam plant repairing plumbing and electrical problems. No partying in Cabo San Lucas for me. Pulling weeds and swapping fuses was my glamorous life.

Nobody likes to be told their children are overrated – especially if it is true.

Edward Luce:

Finally, there are Mr Duncan’s angry suburban mothers. They deserve sympathy. Nobody with a child in a US public school would disagree that their children are sitting far too many tests yet learning far less than they ought to be.

The answer, of course, is to have fewer and better tests and to give teachers the time resources to do them properly. In return, they should give up life-long tenure and accept merit-based pay. That is where a well-functioning political system would arrive. Alas, at current levels of polarisation, this is one test it is likely to fail. What will become of US schools reform? Here is a multiple choice test for the attentive FT reader. Will US politics a) improve the common core, b) jettison it, or c) indulge in a barrage of mutual point-scoring that fails America’s children? No conferring please.

Is Higher Education Run for the Benefit of Students, Faculty or Administrators?

Paul Caron:

Success in today’s global economy virtually requires a college or post graduate degree, but colleges and law schools have raised tuition enormously. The government subsidizes students to take huge loans to pay for college and law schools, loans which inflict an increasing burden on students, including law students in a troubled economy. Do these loans pay as much for faculty research and administrators as for direct student education? Are faculties producing research that justifies these costs? Are students getting a good deal now? Could or will on line education provide students with similar education at a fraction of the cost? Is it time to ask some hard questions about higher education? Does education policy benefit average and below average students or does it merely benefit the top of the class? This panel will focus to a significant degree on law schools.

Humanities: doomed to lose?

Mark Bauerlein

My colleagues in the humanities support Barack Obama nearly unanimously, some of them still believing the salvation narrative that developed in 2008 whereby the junior senator from Illinois would rescue the nation from the hell of the previous eight years—not to mention four centuries of white supremacy. But one thing about their admiration doesn’t jibe: The President cares little about the humanities. My colleagues admire his deliberative style and academic pedigree, but in speeches and policies he expresses no distinctive appreciation for Homer, opera, Baroque architecture, pragmatist philosophy, folk art, or any other standard topic in the disciplines. In an October 2010 interview in Rolling Stone, he listed his iPod inventory:

The State Funding Sleight-Of-Hand: Some Thoughts on UC’s Proposed Tuition Hike

reclaim UC:

Now that the UC administration has begun a full-fledged public relations campaign to raise tuition by about 5 percent per year for the next five years (adding up to an over 25 percent hike in total—if you calculate it out, it’s a 27.6 percent hike by 2019), it’s worth taking a second to think about how money moves through the university. As always, administrators justify the tuition hike by talking about how funding from the state has decreased. In a joint statement last Thursday, the chancellors of the ten UC campuses wrote the following: “State funding for the University is still $460 million below what it was in 2007-08, even though we are educating thousands more California students.” The proposed tuition hikes, they suggest, are necessary to make up for the difference.

This argument about the decline in state funding is a reasonable one, made by neoliberal university administrators and many defenders of public education alike. But the argument also has some pretty significant blind spots. The point isn’t that state funding hasn’t declined, but that this real decline doesn’t actually do all the work UC administrators are suggesting it does. Let’s see what’s really going on.


Over the period in question, tuition revenue grew significantly more than state funding fell. That extra $300 million in inflation-adjusted dollars is nearly three times as much as the proposed tuition hike will bring in. In spite of the story that administrators continue to tell, the UC’s own data show that tuition revenue has more than made up for the decline in state funding. If this were all that was going on, there should be no deficit. Of course, if you compare current levels of funding to the 1970s or 1980s, you’ll find a big difference. But you’ll also find that expenditures have increased a lot as well—among other things, the administration is spending a lot more money on itself. (Just the latest example: the Regents recently agreed to give chancellors a 20 percent raise.) This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive explanation, but to point out that when administrators talk about declining state funds what we should be asking them is what are they doing with all that extra money that’s rolling in.

‘Re-education’ campaigns teach China’s new ghost city-dwellers how to behave

Adam James Smith:

Yuan Xiaomei, a community supervisor in Kangbashi, China, tears open a cardboard box and hands out brochures and promotional fans to crowd of locals. The fans are emblazoned: “To build a civilised city, we need you. Thank you for your participation.” The residents fan themselves and flip through the brochures. One woman explains to her friend who can’t read: “It’s telling you how you should act in the city. Don’t spit, don’t throw rubbish on the streets, don’t play loud music, don’t drive on the pavement.”

It’s a lot to take in for people who, weeks earlier, were living in remote villages spread across the sparsely populated Ordos region of Inner Mongolia, China.

Fifteen miles away to the south, if you look out from the front entrance of Hao Shiwen’s farmhouse, you can see the tower blocks of Kangbashi looming over an otherwise unusually quiet pastoral landscape. Kangbashi – which became known as China’s “ghost city” when it was first built four years ago – is where Shiwen has been debating whether to move. He must decide whether to follow the path of his previous neighbours, seduced to the city by the government’s generous compensation package, or to stay in his village, now left surreally empty and quiet.

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You but What Coursera Can Do For Your Country, Part 1

Tressie McMillan Cottom:

Seriously, I emailed my chair and said, “they’re turning my dissertation and manuscript into a satire.” Thanks, Obama.

First, a little cursory background. Coursera is a major Massive Open Online Course provider. MOOCs provide (mostly) free online content for anyone who can log in. Coursera had to make a hard “pivot” when selling its platform to universities didn’t go too well. It turns out some people want to learn for the love of learning but other people want something that will get them a job. So, Coursera started offering certificates of completion (i.e. “credentials) for a fee, of course. Then they decided to go after employers by offering corporate training solutions. I suspect they found, like a for-profit college executive once told me they discovered, that employers aren’t nearly as interested in training workers as we seem to think they are. I use “we” loosely. I am not “we”.

Let me tell you something. If you ever want to get rich do two things. One, find some way that inequality is being reproduced and then tell the government that you can fix that for the bargain basement price of free.99.

That’s what for-profit colleges did.

Why Does a Campus Police Department Have Jurisdiction Over 65,000 Chicago Residents?

Hannah Gold:

Last month, three aldermen, a former police chief, community members, and students gathered at the Experimental Station in Hyde Park to push for changes to the University of Chicago Police Department, which has come under fire lately for its culture of secrecy and alleged racial profiling of neighborhood residents. During the meeting, Jamel Triggs, who works at Blackstone Bicycle Works, t​ol​d the crowd, “I’ve been held up, handcuffed and put on the curb for no reason, just because I was there.”

Also present were members of the Campaign for Equitable Policing (CEP), which was founded in 2012 and helped organize a series of events last month as part of “UChicago Week Against Police Oppression.”

“I was hearing a lot of stuff about that from people of color on campus who felt pressure to dress like a student and were very anxious about having their ID on them at all times,” says Ava Benezra, founder of CEP and a fourth-year student at the college.

How A Disgraced College Chain Trapped Its Students In Poverty

Molly Hensley-Clancy

Not long ago, Amber Brown, a student at Everest University, saw an article on Facebook about one of the many lawsuits against her school. The story, she wrote to BuzzFeed News, “dumbfounded” her: It mentioned former students facing mountains of debt for their degrees, but that didn’t seem to apply to her. Brown believed that she was “on a 100% Pell Grant through the government” and didn’t owe a cent.

Everest even paid for her books and her laptop, she wrote, and sent her a stipend check every semester. “Will I have to pay this back or am I one of the few students being treated genuinely by Everest University?” she asked.

In reality, most of what Brown believed to be a Pell Grant was actually loans: A review of documents she provided showed she owes more than $26,000.

Brown, 29, who lives in Kentucky and enrolled at Everest in 2011, has yet to learn that she is going into debt for her degree. (Her last name has been changed because she is a current student.) She no longer has a phone because she is unable to pay the bills, and she sent her student loan documents from a computer at a nearby food bank where she accesses the internet. She has since been hospitalized, unreachable by phone or email.

To Help Language Skills of Children, a Study Finds, Text Their Parents With Tips

Motoko Rich:

With research showing language gaps between the children of affluent parents and those from low-income families emerging at an early age, educators have puzzled over how best to reach parents and guide them to do things like read to their children and talk to them regularly.

A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages.

Pediatricians are now advising parents to read daily to their children from birth. Some communities are developing academic curriculums for home visitors to share with parents of babies and toddlers, while other groups are mounting public information campaigns for parents on the importance of talking, reading and singing.

Related: Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

Teachers Unions and the War Within

Mike Antonucci

Seventeen years and a host of education reforms separate public declarations by its highest-ranking officials that the nation’s largest labor union should become a leader of education reform. Children who were just entering the public school system when National Education Association (NEA) president Bob Chase addressed the National Press Club in 1997 are adults now, perhaps with children of their own. NEA executive director John Stocks issued the same call to arms in 2014.

The notion was not a new one, even in 1997. In that same speech, Chase admitted he was not the first to call for the union to be an agent of change. “In 1983, after the A Nation at Risk report came out, NEA president Mary Hatwood Futrell tried to mobilize our union to lead the reform movement in American public education,” he said.

Futrell failed at that task, as did Chase, as did his successors, as will future NEA presidents. The failure is the inevitable result of the difference between what teachers unions are and what they would like others to think they are. This difference manifests itself as two messages: an internal one, meant for the unions’ leaders and activists, and an external one, meant for education policymakers and the public at large. In the good old days, the two audiences were always separate. But in today’s world, where everyone with a phone or Internet access can act as a reporter, the two messages can overlap, causing confusion and contradiction.

Running a school on $160TOM

Kristen Graham:

The number couldn’t possibly be right, Marc Gosselin thought: $160.

That was the total discretionary budget he was handed as the brand-new principal of Anna Lane Lingelbach Elementary, a public school in Germantown.

That’s all he’d have to pay for a whole year’s books, supplies, staff training, after-school activities, and incidentals — small but important items like postage and pizza parties.

“You can’t even buy groceries for $160, let alone run a school for 400 kids for a year,” Gosselin said.

For many, Tom Wolf’s election as governor is a turning point, a change that could finally address years of Philadelphia School District cuts so deep that a school has just 40 cents to spend on each needy student.

And though Lingelbach’s situation is the extreme, public schools around the city grapple with similar problems.

On a recent day at Lingelbach, it was plain how much some schools have been left to their own devices.

Coming into the year, Gosselin zeroed in on students’ reading levels — just 42 percent were meeting state standards. He wanted to administer short tests to gauge children’s reading fluency.

Design education is “tragic”


News: Apple’s head designer Jonathan Ive says he struggles to hire young staff as schools are failing to teach them how to make products.

Speaking at London’s Design Museum last night, Ive attacked design schools for failing to teach students how to make physical products and relying too heavily on “cheap” computers.

“So many of the designers that we interview don’t know how to make stuff, because workshops in design schools are expensive and computers are cheaper,” said Ive.

“That’s just tragic, that you can spend four years of your life studying the design of three dimensional objects and not make one.”

Ive, who is Apple’s senior vice president of design, said that students were being taught to use computer programs to make renderings that could “make a dreadful design look really palatable”.

Commentary on open Enrollment & the Madison school District

Chris Rickert:

Of course, public schools officials will never accept a rating system that includes a failing-grade option; some things are OK for students, but not for the people who educate them.

None of these initiatives is any older than 2011, when Republicans took over complete control of the state government, but parents have been voting against the Madison district — with their feet — since they were first allowed to in 1998.

The open enrollment program was included in the 1997 state budget bill and allows parents to enroll their children in any public school district that has the space.

In the years since, the Madison district has never seen more students coming in than going out. In the current school year, 1,203 children living within the district’s boundaries opted to go to other districts, according to a district report. Another 372 opted to come into Madison from other districts.

A 2009 survey of families who took advantage of the open enrollment program to leave Madison found that 61 percent of parents pointed to environmental problems with Madison schools as among the reasons they left. Overcrowded classrooms, bullying and poor communication were among the specific complaints.

Notes and links on Madison’s open enrollment history, here.

Teachers’ Union Democracy Alliance

Dropout Nation, via a kind reader:

Yesterday’s revelation by Washington Free Beacon of documents detailing how secretive progressive outfit Democracy Alliance coordinated its unsuccessful efforts to elect Democratic candidates during this year’s election cycle have certainly stirred discussion. After all, for all the carping of progressive groups (especially education traditionalists) this year over the role of David and Charles Koch in financing political campaigns, the report by Lachlan Markey show that they are also far too willing to leverage money in their campaigning — and even go around campaign finance laws to do so. This includes the Democracy Alliance members working with Catalist LLC, the data hub for the Democratic National Committee, to use the party’s donor and voter data to quietly coordinate their efforts.

Yet school reformers should pay great heed to Markey’s report as well as to the documents revealed. Why? Because they also offer a guide on how the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are co-opting progressive groups in order to defend their declining influence over education policy.

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, the NEA and AFT have long been key donors to progressive outfits willing to do their bidding. In 2013-2014 alone, the AFT gave $25,000 each to Progressive States Network, Progress Michigan, and Netroots Nation, while handing out another $60,000 to Center for Popular Democracy’s Action Fund, which has campaigned against the expansion of charter schools and so-called “privatization” of American public education. In 2012-2013, NEA contributed $332,000 to Progress Now; $100,000 to Progressive States Action, an affiliate of the Progressive States Network; and and $30,000 to the Leadership Center for the Common Good Action Fund, one of the now-defunct ACORN’s many spinoffs.

Watch Harvard Students Fail the Literacy Test Louisiana Used to Suppress the Black Vote in 1964

Open Culture:

This summer, we revisited a literacy test from the Jim Crow South. Given predominantly to African-Americans living in Louisiana in 1964, the test consisted of 30 ambiguous questions to be answered in 10 minutes. One wrong answer, and the test-taker was denied the right to vote. It was all part of the South’s attempt to impede free and fair elections, and ensure that African-Americans had no access to politics or mechanisms of power.

How hard was the test? You can take it yourself below (see an answer key here) and find out. Just recently, the same literacy test was also administered to Harvard students — students who can, if anything, ace a standardized test — and not one passed. The questions are tricky. But even worse, if push comes to shove, the questions and answers can be interpreted in different ways by officials grading the exam. Carl Miller, a resident tutor at Harvard and a fellow at the law school, told The Daily Mail: “Louisiana’s literacy test was designed to be failed. Just like all the other literacy tests issued in the South at the time, this test was not about testing literacy at all. It was a … devious measure that the State of Louisiana used to disenfranchise people that had the wrong skin tone or belonged to the wrong social class.” (Sometimes the test was also given to poor whites.) Above, you can watch scenes from the Harvard experiment and students’ reactions.

Teacher Education: Easy A’s

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Using evidence from more than 500 colleges and universities producing nearly half of the nation’s new teachers annually, this report answers two questions that go to the heart of whether the demands of teacher preparation are well matched to the demands of the classroom: Are teacher candidates graded too easily, misleading them about their readiness to teach? Are teacher preparation programs providing sufficiently rigorous training, or does the approach to training drive higher grades?

Complete report (PDF).

Related: When A Stands for Average. Students at the UW-Madison School of Education receive sky high grades. How smart is that?

NCTQ notes and links.

Exploring the effects of high grades (PDF):

In addition to their failure to signal learning, awarding consistently high grades may, in fact, impede learning. As a Princeton University committee on reducing grade inflation reported: “Grading done without careful calibration and discrimination is, if nothing else, uninformative and therefore not useful; at worst, it actively discourages students from rising to the challenge to do their best work.”3

Several studies find that expected high grades are associated with reduced student effort, likely leading to decreased student learning. One study found that students spend about 50 percent less time studying when they expect that the average grade in a course will be an A versus a C.4 Similarly, a study of students’ expectations (rather than behavior) found that students expected to study more (and for the class to generally earn lower grades) in more difficult courses.5 On the other hand, higher standards may not lead to greater academic perserverance: A longitudinal study that followed high school students for more than a decade found that higher standards for coursework were associated with higher test scores, although not with higher educational attainment.6

NCTQ compares the States on teacher preparation requirements.

Community Colleges Make Four-Year Degrees Pay Off

Mark Schneider:

With college costs soaring and the job market for new grads sputtering, one trend is worth watching: more and more states are authorizing community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees. Already, more than 20 states — now including California, which enrolls one out of every four of the nation’s community college students — have authorized community colleges to grant these degrees.

Turf will be an issue as this trend continues, but there is a division of labor between community colleges and universities that makes sense. Community colleges can and should be encouraged to develop bachelor’s-degree programs in career and technical areas and to avoid the liberal arts degrees that are integral to the mission and education delivered by universities. In any case, turf isn’t the bottom line in this coming shift. The bottom line is the bottom line: Do the technical and career-oriented degrees in which community colleges specialize pay off in the labor market?

Student Debt Rises Again

Michael Stratford:

Students in the class of 2013 who took out loans to attend public and private nonprofit colleges graduated with an average of debt of $28,400, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Institute for College Access and Success.
About 70 percent of graduates had student loans, the report says, but the amount they owed varied widely across different institutions and states.

Six states — New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Connecticut — had graduates with average student loan debt in excess of $30,000. At the other end of the spectrum, New Mexico and California, at $18,656 and $20,340, respectively, were the states with the lowest average student loan debt.

An Update on Open Enrollment & The Madison Schools

Molly Beck:

There are 1,203 students living within the Madison School District’s boundaries who have enrolled in other school districts this school year — about 62 more than last year. The number of students from other districts who enrolled in Madison schools is 372, up by about 73.

The net effect is a loss of 831 students, which is down from 842 last school year.

Wisconsin is one of 22 states that allow open enrollment, under which students can enroll in other public school districts than the one in which they reside if the receiving district has room for them.

School districts gaining students receive a share of the students’ home district’s state aid to help pay for educating that student.

The Madison School District will lose about $5.7 million in state aid this school year because of open enrollment, the report said.

The report also noted that of the 1,203 students who are currently enrolled in another district, 356 are students who open enrolled in another district for the first time this school year — a 22 student decrease from a peak during the 2012-13 school year. The rest are students who were previously open enrolled in another district.

Much more on Open Enrollment, here and here.

Open enrollment leavers survey. More.

OntoMathPro Ontology Page


The OntoMathPro ontology has been developed by a research group from Kazan Federal University. The ontology is geared to be the hub for math knowledge in the Web of Data. We shared the sources with the Semantic Web community to engage our colleagues from elsewhere in its further development. We are going to create an ecosystem of datasets and mashups around the ontology.

Why Blended tops my thankful list

Heather Staker:

Each November our family has a tradition of listing things we’re grateful for on 100 colorful construction-paper leaves and taping them all over the windows by the kitchen table. The recent publication of Blended of course tops my list!

Admittedly that’s in part because of the relief of a finished project, but the more lasting joy is from knowing that Michael Horn and I helped preserve stories that I think need to be told about children and school and the profound effect of adults’ choices on children’s lives. The book begins with a story about Jack, a fifth grader at Santa Rita Elementary School who started the 2010-11 school year at the bottom of his math class. He struggled to keep up and considered himself one of those kids who would just never quite “get it.” In a typical school, he would have been tracked and placed in the bottom math group. That would have meant that he would not have taken algebra until high school, which would have limited his college options.

Liberals Are Killing the Liberal Arts

Harvey Silvergate:

On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive.

Consider what happened after Smith College held a panel for alumnae titled “Challenging the Ideological Echo Chamber: Free Speech, Civil Discourse and the Liberal Arts.” Moderated by Smith President Kathleen McCartney in late September, the panel was an apparent effort to address the intolerance of diverse opinions that prevails on many campuses.

Why College is a Poor Choice for a Lot of People

Levi Notik:

Instead, I’m addressing this post to a specific type of person. But it’s a type that I’ve been encountering with greater frequency recently.

I’m talking about the kind of person who has various passions — theoretical or practical — and wants to study and/or gain skills in their area(s) of interest. For this type of person, college is often a very poor choice. At the very least, college can be a very circuitous path to those goals; there are paths that are way more direct.

It’s not that college doesn’t include some things that can further these goals. It might, but only incidentally. And along with a bunch of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with these goals. College also includes things that are diametrically opposed to them.

MTI Achievement of Equal Rights for Women

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

Among the many things MTI has accomplished for its members is the advancement of rights for females.

Early in the Union’s history was MTI’s achievement of equal pay. MTI negotiated a salary schedule which recognized that the value of the work of an elementary teacher, where almost all were female in the 1960s & 1970s, is as valuable as that of a high school teacher of advanced placement physics.

The salary schedule negotiated by MTI recognizes that the task each teacher faces is about the same and the economic reward should be as well. Given this, MTI’s negotiations did away with the School Board’s created “head of household” additive pay – which went to male teachers in those days; and MTI negotiated a salary schedule which treats all teachers equally. That salary schedule proposed by MTI in the late 1960s, while periodically improved, remains in the Collective Bargaining Agreement today. The right to equal pay for equal work was extended to those in all MTI bargaining units through negotiations.

Also, in the 1960’s and early 1970s, School Board policy stated that a female employee had to “immediately notify her supervisor upon becoming pregnant” and resign when the “pregnancy began showing.” This meant a loss of income until the individual was rehired – which did not always occur – as well as a reduction in Social Security and Wisconsin Retirement System benefits, due to the lost wages.

What Sayreville Teaches Us About High-School Locker Rooms

Josh Dawsey & Sharon Terlep:

Inside the Sayreville War Memorial High School locker room where prosecutors say younger football players were sexually abused as part of hazing rituals, older students ran the show. Adults rarely visited, according to former and current players.

At high schools across the country, adult-free locker rooms aren’t uncommon. And Sayreville’s is far from the first to become an alleged crime scene. From Vermont and California to New York and Indiana, largely unsupervised athletes have allegedly engaged in incidents of locker-room impropriety serious enough to result in criminal charges.

But the solution isn’t as simple as it may sound. In many cases, lack of adult supervision reflects administrative fear that grown-ups in the locker room could prey on children or face accusations to that effect, say some coaches and experts. Stationing adults in kids’ locker rooms “could bring a different set of issues or accusations,” said Chris Sampson, superintendent of an Indianapolis-area district embroiled in its own locker-room-related scandal.

In the wake of cases such as Sayreville, where seven older students face juvenile criminal charges of assaulting younger students, some victims, experts and school administrators are calling for rules requiring stricter supervision. The locker room is where students are most vulnerable, they say, making it the last place that supervisors ought to ignore.