The Man Behind Common Core Math Standards

Sarah Garland:

Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.

If she gets the answer “lickety-split,” as her dad says, she can check it off. If she doesn’t, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.

“I would be sleeping in if I weren’t frustrated,” Zimba says of his Saturday-morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail’s public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar — even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.

But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He’s one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.

And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughter’s school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.

Citizenship 101: Too many Americans are ignorant of the basics of democracy

Los Angeles Times:

But a growing number of critics charge that education in good citizenship is being shortchanged by an American educational system that is focused on other “core competencies.” The result is that too many products of that system are ignorant of the basics of how American democracy functions, and lack the knowledge to participate fully in the society it sustains. One of the most prominent spokespeople for this view is retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the last member of the court to have held elected office.

In a 2008 article written with former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, O’Connor argued that “civic education has been in steady decline over the past generation, as high-stakes testing and an emphasis on literacy and math dominate school reforms. Too many young people today do not understand how our political system works.”

What are the best ways to learn a language as an adult?


I set up a routine where I did the same things every day.

In the mornings, I woke up and wrote out longhand the regular and irregular verb tables for 1.5-2 hours. I managed to get through an entire pad of paper in two weeks. I still believe that writing things out by hand is the best way to memorize things.

While I wrote, I would listen to Michel Thomas’ language learning mp3s ( On the CDs you listen as he teaches French to other English speakers. It’s really helpful to hear other students make mistakes that you can learn from, just like a regular classroom environment. In two weeks I listened to the foundation, advanced and language building courses twice.

I would run for 45-60 minutes in the early afternoon in the French countryside listening to catchy French music. Music is a great way to learn the intonation of a language and train your facial muscles as you sing along.

Finland is not a fan of standardization in education. However, teacher education in Finland is carefully standardized

Pasi Sahlberg:

In the United States, for example, there are more than 1,500 different teacher-preparation programs. The range in quality is wide. In Singapore and Finland only one academically rigorous teacher education program is available for those who desire to become teachers. Likewise, neither Canada nor South Korea has fast-track options into teaching, such as Teach for America or Teach First in Europe. Teacher quality in high-performing countries is a result of careful quality control at entry into teaching rather than measuring teacher effectiveness in service.

In recent years the “no excuses”’ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school. Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.

Chicago gave hundreds of high-risk kids a summer job. Violent crime arrests plummeted.

Emily Badger:

Research on the program conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and just published in the journal Science suggests that these summer jobs have actually had such an effect: Students who were randomly assigned to participate in the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests over 16 months, compared to students in a control group.

That number is striking for a couple of reasons: It implies that a relatively short (and inexpensive) intervention like an eight-week summer jobs program can have a lasting effect on teenage behavior. And it lends empirical support to a popular refrain by advocates: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”

Researcher Sara Heller conducted a randomized control trial with the program, in partnership with the city. The study included 1,634 teens at 13 high schools. They were, on average, C students, almost all of them eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Twenty percent of the group had already been arrested, and 20 percent had already been victims of crime.

Autistic and Searching for a Home: Between jail and the hospital, Savannah Shannon’s life is in limbo.

Genna Buck:

Savannah Shannon has good days and bad days.

On good days, she can crack a great joke, go on and on about Harry Potter and quote Shrek with such deadpan delivery that she’ll have the whole room in stitches. Her bad days can be terrifying. May 31, 2012, wasn’t a good day.

On that day, Shannon’s name was on the schedule at the New Brunswick provincial court in Saint John next to three letters: NCR. Not criminally responsible.

Shannon sat in the prisoner’s dock; her heavyset body hunched and her short blonde hair sticking up on one side, as if she’d slept on it. With her eyebrows knit together in a scowl, she looked older than her twenty-one years. Early that morning, someone had driven her to court from the Restigouche Hospital Centre, a psychiatric centre five hours away in Campbellton. She’d been waiting at the courthouse all morning and she didn’t know where she would sleep that night.

A prosecutor, court-appointed defence lawyer and representative from the Department of Social Development were supposed to meet in front of a judge to decide on a place where Shannon could live without posing a risk to others. Since she turned nineteen, Shannon has been charged with a long list of offences. She’s pushed, she’s bitten; she’s struck someone who was trying to wash her hair. Every time, it’s been determined that she was NCR. Her autism, intellectual disability and mental health issues were to blame for the violence. By late 2010, Shannon had been kicked out of nearly every community home she’d lived in. She was sent to Restigouche and, at the time of this court date, had been there for a year and a half.

Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’

Brendan O’Neil:

Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in their company will know that these students are far more interested in shutting debate down than opening it up.

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.

The Story of an engineering student


Today, I want to share my story, not a big deal but I felt like I should write about it.

When I was 14, I took OKS exam, high school entrance exam in Turkey of 2007, and I was able to go and register to any high school I want. During those days, I went to Ankara from Istanbul with my family to see graduation ceremony of one of my cousins at Middle East Technical University. My cousin took us around and made me meet his friends graduated from top high schools of Turkey. After having met a few friends, he introduced me to the top student of the department. By the way, my cousin is a graduate of computer engineering department. After having introduced, I asked him, “Where did you go to high school?”, and he answered, “Bursa High School of Science”. At that moment, believe me, it was the sentence passing through me: “Alright Oguzhan, here goes your life; first, you are going to study in Bursa High School of Science, then you are going to come here to study computer engineering.”. I never mentioned but, CS was my thing since 1998, the time when my father brought a computer to home. I simply fell in love with that box and wanted to be of those creating that technology, one day.

And I accomplished what I told myself that day. It was hard years for me, especially leaving home at 14 years old, moving to another city with 10$ in my box and no close friend or relative etc. but I had a strong purpose. It was the thing that kept me alive there.

Prep girls volleyball: Platteville coach loses her job after state tournament appearance

Wisconsin State Journal:

Last month, Yvette Updike coached the Platteville girls volleyball team to its first WIAA state tournament appearance in 20 years.

Last week, Updike lost her coaching job.

On Dec. 10, the Platteville School Board decided against renewing Updike’s contract, adding another chapter — perhaps not the final one — to a long-running saga of acrimony between Updike and one or more parents of players in the program.

In R.I., 55% of teachers in high poverty schools are absent >10 days in school year

Stephanie Simon:

New data out from the Education Department find sizable — and in some states, huge — disparities in children’s access to fully qualified and experienced teachers.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, more than 20 percent of teachers are unlicensed in the schools with the largest concentration of minority students. In largely white schools, just 0.2 percent of teachers lack a license, the data show.

Or consider Louisiana: Nearly 20 percent of classes in the most impoverished schools are taught by teachers who don’t meet the federal definition of “highly qualified” — which generally means they lack a bachelor’s degree, are unlicensed or don’t have a strong academic background in the subject they’re teaching. In the wealthier schools, fewer than 8 percent of classes are led by a teacher who’s not highly qualified.

The Changing Framework of Online Learning

Janet Burns:

The online learning landscape has long been dominated by Blackboard, Pearson, and other large corporate platforms, which have provided virtual classrooms, hosted online course content, and supported discussion features for various on- and off-line colleges and universities. In the past several years, however, many new platforms — some reinventing the traditional pay model, and others providing free content — have arrived on the scene, taking root in their own right and changing the face of web-based education.

As higher-education writer Justin Pope noted in MIT’s Technology Review, options for online learning are forever expanding; for-profit platform Coursera and edX, the Harvard- and MIT-led nonprofit consortium, for example, “are up to nearly 13 million users and more than 1,200 courses between them.” Content from free online platform Khan Academy — borne of humble beginnings as a YouTube series — is now being incorporated into classroom learning worldwide, and made Lifehack’s list of its top 25 preferred sites for free online courses alongside Udemy, which also offers material from various sources, and Harvard Extension, one example of institution-specific course platforms. The New York Institute of Finance (NYIF), too, recently announced its plans to transition all of its test-prep courses into an online-only format as of January 2015 using the Open edX platform, making it one more in a long line of traditional institutions to take the online learning plunge.

Commentary on education reform and status quo governance

Anthony Cody:

There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?

Teach For America: This project had as its central premise the idea that what was wrong with the teaching profession was that not enough really smart people were becoming teachers. So we will recruit some high flyers and fill the gaps in high needs schools. And because these folks are sooo smart, they do not need the year or two of preparation that regular old teachers needed – they could learn to crunch data, manage a class and prepare for tests in just five weeks. And if they leave after a couple of years, that’s ok too. They can transform education as the next generation of leaders and policymakers, because they will have brains that classroom experience, and TFA’s no excuses philosophy to guide them.

But this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school. Perhaps potential recruits have encountered TFA alums sharing their experiences, or even some of those organizing to resist the program. And word may have leaked out that TFA is not the best vehicle for those concerned with social justice – given that corps members are sometimes being used to replace veteran teachers.

We cannot pass laws that declare others “accountable” for making sure 100% of our children will be proficient and act as though we have accomplished something. It is time to go back to basic premises, and in every community, ask ourselves what we want from our schools? How can we meet the challenge of educating all our children – not leaving any behind? The answers will not come easily or cheaply. But just as a previous generation faced the challenge of the 20th century Civil Rights movement, our generation must respond.

Status quo governance has a substantial price as well – see Madison’s long term disastrous reading results -despite spending double the national average per student.

It’s time parents accept not all kids should go to college

Dustin McKissen:

“Not every kid is meant for college.” That statement, or some close variation of it, is something I hear and read more and more. It’s usually followed by a comment on the debt associated with a degree, the need for kids to learn a trade, and the role schools should play in identifying and directing those kids toward job training, so they can be equipped to go to work out of high school.

There is no data showing that the average person stands a better chance in the employment market without a degree than with one. There are multiple studies that demonstrate the lifetime value of a bachelor’s degree—or put another way, the cost of not being meant for college.

The Cost of Higher Ed: How Changing Staffing and Compensation Impact Tuition

American Institute for Research:

Colleges and universities increasingly rely on part-time faculty to meet instructional demands and rein in costs, but that hasn’t led to lower tuitions for students.

In this video interview, Donna Desrochers, a researcher at AIR, explains how rising benefit costs and increased hiring for other types of positions has undercut those savings and what that means for rising college tuitions. Desrochers is the co-author of the report by the Delta Cost Project at AIR called Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education.

Capsela, the game that changed my life

Jose Romaniello:

The game is about connecting capsules to create various kinds of “models”. Each capsule has a different mechanical or electrical purpose. Those models are mostly vehicles for both water and land, although it is possible to build cranes, robots, water pumps and even a cleaner dust vacuum. While the game manual comes with a vast collection of photos with models you can create, much more interesting is to let your imagination flow and build things in your head, a “crawler crane vacuum”? sounds interesting.

Every model starts from a fundamental capsule that contains the motor and two terminals that you need to “connect” to the batteries (which in turn is placed inside another capsule) or a switch using the power wires.

Mechanical capsules with gears inside are beautiful, these are real common components that exist in the mechanical industry. The explanations that comes in the manual are beautiful as well:

Turkish schoolboy accused of insulting president is released from custody

The Guardian:

A Turkish teenager has been released from custody after his arrest for allegedly insulting the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, caused uproar.

The 16-year-old student, Mehmet Emin Altunses, was taken away from his school on Wednesday and jailed for making a speech during a student protest in which he reportedly said Erdoğan was regarded as the “thieving owner of the illegal palace”.

It was a reference to a government corruption scandal as well as a controversial 1,150-room palace Erdoğan inaugurated in October.

The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges

Caroline Hoxby:

If one spends time at certain colleges’ events, one is likely to hear alumni exclaim that their college is so selective today that they would not be admitted were they to reapply. Similarly, one might hear parents worry that their children are forced into excessive resume polishing because American colleges are increasingly selective. These alumni and parents often assume that rising selectivity is a pervasive phenome- non, and they often also assume that it is caused by colleges’ not having expanded sufficiently to accommodate the ever growing population of U.S. students with post- secondary ambitions. The latter assumption—that the supply of college places has been relatively inelastic despite a growing population of prospective students—would seem to explain rising tuition. Thus, rising selectivity and rising tuition would seem to be part of the same logical phenomenon affecting higher education.

The way in which students develop their skills will continue to shift away from the traditional lecture-based model

Ioanna Opidee:

What college students are learning—and how—has become a mainstream talking point across the political spectrum.

Much of this talk concerns dollars and cents—namely, cost and payoff. As a result, 2015 may be a year in which many institutions do a gut-check of their own value propositions, as pressure to increase affordability—and return on investment—pervades all of higher education. College graduates’ debt and unemployment rates also will continue to garner close attention.

“Institutions will have to do a better job of linking students and graduates to the workforce,” says Michelle Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. She predicts that more collaboration between colleges and employers will emerge, particularly in high-demand fields seeking specialized skills.

New Orleans parents need more help choosing a public school, report says

Danielle Dreilinger:

New Orleans public school parents are happy with their children’s schools and tend to think the system is headed in the right direction, but need more good options and more information.

That’s according to a December report on school choice from the Center on Reinventing Public Education that gathered the feelings of 4,000 parents and guardians in New Orleans and seven other cities, including Detroit, Mich., and Washington, D.C.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans abolished default neighborhood school assignments. Now, every family chooses a school, and it can get complicated. Adding to the challenge, there is no central administration: the system is decentralized, with both state and local administrations overseeing mostly independent charter schools.

The report praises the city’s efforts to make school choice easier for parents. New Orleans was the only city that has made “significant” investments in parent information, enrollment and transportation, the report said. For instance, several organizations issue guides to schools that include test scores, lists of extracurricular activities and the like.

How academia’s liberal bias is killing social science

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:

have had the following experience more than once: I am speaking with a professional academic who is a liberal. The subject of the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia comes up. My interlocutor admits that this is indeed a reality, but says the reason why conservatives are underrepresented in academia is because they don’t want to be there, or they’re just not smart enough to cut it. I say: “That’s interesting. For which other underrepresented groups do you think that’s true?” An uncomfortable silence follows.

I point this out not to score culture-war points, but because it’s actually a serious problem. Social sciences and humanities cannot be completely divorced from the philosophy of those who practice it. And groupthink causes some questions not to be asked, and some answers not to be overly scrutinized. It is making our science worse. Anyone who cares about the advancement of knowledge and science should care about this problem.

That’s why I was very gratified to read this very enlightening draft paper written by a number of social psychologists on precisely this topic, attacking the lack of political diversity in their profession and calling for reform. For those who have the time and care about academia, the whole thing truly makes for enlightening reading. The main author of the paper is Jonathan Haidt, well known for his Moral Foundations Theory (and a self-described liberal, if you care to know).

Raising Ambitions: The Challenge in Teaching at Community Colleges

Gina Bellafante:

Three years ago, Eduardo Vianna, a professor at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, had a student who passed an entire semester without speaking in class. Like many others, the student, Mike Rifino, had come to LaGuardia requiring remedial instruction.

But the following semester Mr. Rifino turned up in Dr. Vianna’s developmental psychology course. This time he took a seat closer to the front of the room. Taking that as a positive sign, Dr. Vianna asked him to join a weekly discussion group for students who might want to talk about big ideas in economics, education and politics, subjects that might cultivate a sense of intellectual curiosity and self-understanding among students whose backgrounds typically left them lacking in either.

Theresa May plans to ‘send home UK foreign graduates’ met with anger and condemnation

Nigel Morris:

Plans by Theresa May to force students from outside the European Union to leave Britain and apply for new visas from abroad provoked anger and condemnation today.

The Home Secretary is pressing for the policy to be included in next year’s Conservative general election manifesto. It will be opposed by Labour and the Tories’ Lib Dem Coalition partners and will cause dismay in the Treasury and the Business Department because of the revenue generated overseas students.

Yvette Cooper MP, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “Theresa May is flailing around with her immigration policy in chaos. Her net migration target is in tatters, illegal immigration and exploitation are getting worse, she’s given citizenship to serious criminals and the only answer she can come up with is a few more restrictions on the overseas University students who bring billions of pounds of investment into Britain.

December 22, 2014 11:39 am Thunderbird terminates MBA degrees as part of ASU takeover

Della Bradshaw:

Thunderbird, the Arizona business school that is widely regarded as the most international school in the US, is to terminate all its MBA programmes following its takeover by Arizona State University. Programmes at ASU’s Carey school of business will be unaffected by the moves.

The deal between the two institutions was finalised last week, following months of negotiations. Former IMD professor Allen Morrison has been named chief executive and director-general of Thunderbird.

Thunderbird will now concentrate on masters degrees in international management, according to ASU President Michael Crow. “We are restoring the historical focus,” he says. In addition, Thunderbird will be able to draw on the resources of the wider university for its executive education programmes in areas such as sustainability, according to Prof Crow.

High Teacher Scores Bring New Scrutiny

Leslie Brody:

The vast majority of teachers and principals across New York got high grades for their work last year, state data showed Tuesday, prompting top education officials to call for tougher evaluations.

The release marked the first time New York City teachers received ratings under a new state-imposed system that aims to be more rigorous and objective than in the past.

State data showed 9.2% of city teachers were deemed highly effective, 82.5% were effective, 7% developing and 1.2% ineffective.

Outside the city, teachers got even better reviews, partly because each district had some leeway in setting goals for performance. Beyond city borders, about 58% were deemed highly effective. Last year was those districts’ second under new evaluation systems.

Related: When A Stands for Average.

Via Laura Waters.

U.S. Child Study Canceled After $1.3 Billion

Alex Wayne:

The U.S. government canceled one of its most ambitious health research projects, an effort to follow 100,000 children from before birth through adolescence, after spending about $1.3 billion since 2007 without it ever really getting off the ground.

Run by the National Institutes of Health, the study was to collect data on child health and development in the hope of discovering insights into autism and other maladies.

Administrative difficulties and the project’s spiraling costs alarmed NIH Director Francis Collins, who ordered an evaluation of the study after the National Academy of Sciences raised concerns in a June 16 report.

The project was authorized by Congress in 2000 yet never got past a small pilot study to test research methods. The study “as currently designed is not feasible,” Collins said in a Dec. 12 statement on the NIH’s website.

Wisconsin Reading Coalition Update

Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

Reading proficiency in 50 low-income, high-minority Milwaukee schools is less than 8%. See this 12/5/14 PolitiFact article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Earn a graduate degree from a program that has been accredited by the International Dyslexia Association as meeting the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. Coursework incorporates Orton-Gillingham multisensory reading and LETRS. Online and face-to-face cohorts through The Science of Reading Partnership (Mount St. Joseph University and Mayerson Academy) begin in May and August. For more information, see

NOTE: Graduates may seek an equivalent license in Wisconsin by applying to Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction via the out-of-state pathway. DPI will conduct a comparability review. For more information on this possibility, we suggest you contact Tammy Huth ( or Julie Hagen (608-266-6794) at DPI.

Interesting news from New South Wales: Education Minister orders universities to teach phonics or face losing accreditation.

Milwaukee Succeeds is moving forward in an effort to replicate the Minnesota Reading Corps in Milwaukee next year. Milwaukee leaders visited Minneapolis recently to see this Americorps reading intervention program in action. See a report at

A Wilson Reading System Introductory Workshop will be held March 18-20 at CESA #1 in Pewaukee. For information, go to

Stay tuned in early 2015, as the future of the Common Core State Standards and Badger Assessment will be hot topics in the legislature. If either or both are replaced, the quality of the replacement will be critical to our students and teachers.

Students lose out in University numbers game

Los Angeles Times:

If you thought the deluge of holiday catalogs and charitable solicitations this season was overwhelming, consider what high school seniors confronted this fall: hundreds of mailers from colleges and universities suggesting that they apply and implying they might have a shot, even if they haven’t met the schools’ high standards.

UC’s Muslim student regent tackles Bill Maher, tuition and more
UC’s Muslim student regent tackles Bill Maher, tuition and more
Why so much marketing? It is largely the result of the college rankings compiled by publications, most notably U.S. News and World Report, that offer extra weight in their listings to schools with low “admit rates” — those that offer admission to relatively few of the students who apply. There was a time when this sort of selectivity may have been an indicator of actual educational excellence, at least in part. But thanks to the rankings-driven race among colleges to appear increasingly choosy, it’s no longer so clear what the admit rate means.

lRelated Now more than ever, the issue of campus rape requires critical thinking
Now more than ever, the issue of campus rape requires critical thinking

Schools are now lowering their admit rate by inveigling more students into applying — thus the shower of mailers, as well as hundreds of emails and the occasional telemarketing call. And it works, to the detriment of parents’ wallets. Today, partly because of all the marketing and recruitment, students are applying to about twice as many colleges as they did 15 years ago. As admission rates have dropped to as low as 5% among the most elite colleges, students have applied to even more of them. It’s no longer very unusual for a student to file applications to 15 schools, at $80 or so a pop. (Though a few colleges are upping the number of applicants further by making the process free and pushing their deadlines later.)

Elsevier retracting 16 papers for faked peer review

Khalid Zaman:

Sixteen papers are being retracted across three Elsevier journals after the publisher discovered that one of the authors, Khalid Zaman, orchestrated fake peer reviews by submitting false contact information for his suggested reviewers.

This particular kind of scam has been haunting online peer review for a few year now, as loyal Retraction Watch readers know. This one is a classic of the genre: According to Elsevier’s director of publishing services, Catriona Fennell, an editor first became suspicious after noticing that Zaman’s suggested reviewers, all with non-institutional addresses, were unusually kind to the economist’s work.

Elsevier has actually hired a full-time staff member with a PhD in physics and history as a managing editor to do the grunt work on cases like this. Flags were first raised in August, at which point the ethics watchdog went to town digging through all of Zaman’s other publications looking for suspicious reviews coming from non-institutional addresses provided by the scientist, an economist at COMSATS Information Technology Center in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

How Reading Transforms Us

Keith Oatley & Maja Djikic:

As parents, for example, we urge our children to discover what will engage them, in a career perhaps, or in a relationship. And although we may wish that a spouse would be a bit more like this or that, we also know that the best kind of love enables someone to become his or her own true self.

Could a writer have an indirect influence of this kind, getting readers to think about themselves anew? We believe so. Indeed, in several studies over the past few years, we have found evidence that such influence is characteristic of literary art.

In one experiment, published in 2009 in the Creativity Research Journal, we and the psychologists Sara Zoeterman and Jordan B. Peterson randomly assigned participants to one of two groups: one whose members read “The Lady With the Dog,” an Anton Chekhov short story centered on marital infidelity, and another whose members read a “nonfictionalized” version of the story, written in the form of a report from a divorce court.

On K-12 Governance & Rigor; 1/3 Proficient in NY Standards

Leslie Brody:

The fact that only about one third of students are proficient on state tests in math and language arts was “simply unacceptable,” the letter said.

It challenged Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. to answer questions about whether to lift the cap on charter schools, how to make it easier to remove ineffective teachers and how to make teacher evaluations more stringent, among other issues.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

2015: Reimagine College

Stuart Butler:

In 2015 we are likely to see such a full-blown invasion and transformation of higher education. This will have profound and beneficial consequences for the education and finances of millions of young Americans and their parents.

Pressure for change and the signs of radical reorganization of college and universities have been gathering in recent years, with such things as the growth of online course, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and upstart colleges offering low-cost degrees. The higher-education establishment has ignored or tried to dismiss the warning signs – just as travel agents and the old phone companies did.

But 2015 could open the floodgates. If you have a child in middle or high school, here are four things you can expect to see when you are planning for their college in the next few years:

K-12 cannot be far behind.

A Rural High School with a 21st Century Outlook

Deborah Fallows:

As a supplement its standard academic instruction, the school has started a modified version of the “career academies, ” the career technical education programs, which Jim wrote about here in Camden County, Georgia. In the 2400-student Georgia school, core academic content is infused into the career and technical courses. In smaller Winters, with fewer resources and teachers to go around, the core courses and specialty track courses co-exist, with teachers doing as much as they can to meld them together.

Agriculture is ubiquitous in the lives of everyone in Winters, so it was an easy call to focus on a track for agriculture, along with two others, culinary science (relevant in this farm-to-table locale; students already cater events in town) and engineering, which has proven extremely popular.

Distribution of results of the Matura (high school exit exam) in Poland in 2013. The minimum score to pass is 30%. (

Data is Beautiful:

[–]captainskybeard 1752 Punkte 6 Monate zuvor
I love how, with a simple visualization, it’s immediately and completely obvious what is happening in the data.

To those who don’t get it: graders are bumping up students who are just below the 30% pass line. Essays are subjective so they have some grading flexibility.

I’ll never forget failing a class with 49% and then finding out a few weeks later that one of the other students (and likely many more) had been bumped up to 50% despite having an even lower grade.

The reason I failed? I wanted to learn the actual subject but the teacher had an agenda and was using all of the class time to show anti-racism videos so I complained to the principal. So how did she justify giving me 49%? Arbitrary grading criteria on essays. My mark went from an 86% at mid-term to a 49% by the end of the term as every single essay handed it was failed with no explanation other than she thought “I could do better.”

Now, I’m not opposed to anti-racism, but when it’s the focus of every single class in a class that has nothing to do with racism and I’m not learning the subject itself because we’re too busy watching anti-racism videos, that’s a problem. That was two decades ago and I still get annoyed when the subject comes up.

Err, as true as all of it may be, why did you have such a low grade? I understand her not bumping you up because she’s a bitch and you were a pain in her ass (rightfully so, sure), but why was your score so low that such a situation would be possible?

If you were smart enough to be aware of the problems with the teacher, why couldn’t you get a higher grade? Did she fail you on purpose or something, I mean I get you would never get a 100% on that class but why didn’t you have a 70 or 80?

School Finds Music Is the Food of Learning At Voice Charter School in Queens, Students Have Outperformed Their Peers Academically

Elizabeth Harris:

Academically, students at Voice did significantly better than the city average on New York State math exams last year, with 70 percent of its students passing, compared with 39 percent citywide. Their English performance was less impressive, but with 39 percent passing, it still beat the citywide average of 30 percent.

The children, each in a uniform of a sky-blue shirt and navy skirt or slacks, are instructed to be quiet in the hallways and asked not to shriek during gym class, to protect order as well as their voices. But what really distinguishes the school are the sounds. Songs in English, Spanish, Japanese and German drift through the buildings, pens rhythmically tap against any convenient hard surface, and little bursts of music surface even where they are not meant to be.

How ‘Deprogramming’ Kids From How to ‘Do School’ Could Improve Learning

Katrina Schwartz:

One day, Adam Holman decided he was fed up with trying to cram knowledge into the brains of the high school students he taught. They weren’t grasping the physics he was teaching at the level he knew they were capable of, so he decided to change up his teaching style. It wasn’t that his students didn’t care about achieving — he taught at high performing, affluent schools where students knew they needed high grades to get into good colleges. They argued for every point to make sure their grades were as high as possible, but were they learning?

“I felt I had to remove all the barriers I could on my end before I could ask my kids to meet me halfway,” Holman said. The first thing he did was move to standards-based grading. He told his students to show him they’d learned the material, it didn’t matter how long it took them.

“In 2014, only 39.1 percent of student who had entered community colleges six years before had completed a degree or certificate”

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

A number of colleges have made changes that are starting to lead more students to degrees, but states need “integrated reform strategies” to scale up promising new approaches, the report concludes.

“We know that colleges can redesign themselves in ways that … improve student success … [but] there is no silver bullet,” says Lara Couturier, JFF’s program director. “We need to look more holistically at the environment in which the colleges are operating,” she says.

Eight to 10 states already have a group of community colleges that are creating new “structured pathways” for students, Ms. Couturier estimates. These include elements such as counseling about which courses will help them earn the degree they seek, faster tracks to credit-bearing courses while they catch up on academic skills, and easier ways to transfer credits to four-year institutions.

The Union Future

David Brooks:

ver the past decades, the case for enhancing union power has grown both stronger and weaker. On the one hand, as wages have stagnated while profits have soared, it does seem that there is something out of whack in the balance of power between labor and capital. Workers need some new way to collectively bargain for more money.

On the other hand, unions, and especially public-sector unions, have done a lot over the past decades to rigidify workplaces, especially government. Teachers’ unions have become the single biggest impediment to school reform. Police unions have become an impediment to police reform.

If you look at all the proposals that have been discussed since the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, you find that somewhere or other around the country, police unions have opposed all of them:

The Seven Deadly Sins of the K-12 Education System: Costly and Ineffective Programs and Strategies

Philip S. Cicero:

This book is for anyone who believes that reducing class size, doing more homework, being taught by experienced teachers, using technology, receiving remediation, repeating a grade and increasing school time will improve student achievement. The reason this book is for you is because these long practiced academic interventions just don’t work. Not only do they not work but they are overly priced, costly and put an unnecessary financial burden on school districts and taxpayers. So why do we continue to use them? We use them because we believe they work. However, that’s not the reality. Recent research demonstrates that those respective interventions have little, if any, impact on improving student achievement. This book reviews the research debunking the myths, estimates the various wasteful costs of these ineffective myths and offers practical and alternative means to improving student achievement.

How Parents Experience Public School Choice

Ashley Jochim, Michael DeArmond, Betheny Gross, Robin Lake:

• Parents are taking advantage of choice, but they want more good options.

Parents’ optimism about whether schools are improving varies widely.

Parents with less education, minority parents, and parents of children with special needs are more likely to report challenges navigating choice.

Some parents are forced to make difficult trade-offs between academics, safety, and location.

Some cities have done much more to support parent choice. Denver, New Orleans, and Washington, DC, have made the most progress on transportation, fair enrollment, and information systems. However, all cities have work to do to ensure choice works for all families.

The authors recommend that civic leaders:

Expand the supply of high-quality schools.

Recognize that different families have different needs.

Guarantee free and safe passage to schools.

Invest much more heavily in information systems
This report is the second in CRPE’s Making School Choice Work series.

Obama Spells Out College-Ranking Framework

Douglas Belkin:

The Obama administration spelled out an ambitious college-rating plan on Friday that introduces new metrics to judge the nation’s roughly 5,000 colleges and universities at a time when student debt is hamstringing the U.S. economy and the efficiency of the higher-education sector is in question.

Under the draft framework, schools may be judged on graduation and retention rates; the ability of their graduates to pay back their student loans; and the schools’ accessibility to low-income and first-generation students.

The Department of Education will seek comments to weigh the pros and cons of each metric before finalizing the system before the start of the next academic year.

“The public should know how students fare at institutions receiving federal student aid, and this performance should be considered when we assess our investments and set priorities,” said Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “We also need to create incentives for schools to accelerate progress toward the most important goals, like graduating low-income students and holding down costs.”

Wisconsin won’t admit it, but its new egalitarian policy leads to grading quotas

W. Lee Hansen:

In July, I wrote about the pressure that University of Wisconsin officials have been exerting on the faculty for greater “equity” on campus.

My “Madness in Madison” essay pointed out that university administrators are so caught up in egalitarian groupthink that they want to reduce or eliminate differences in students’ choice of majors and in the distribution of grades.

That essay elicited a defensive reaction from the university. Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims stated in a July 22, 2014 press release that UW’s diversity plan does not entail “a quota system for apportioning grades by race.”

Bringing up quotas, however, is a distraction from the plan’s impact—a red herring.

UW-Madison’s new diversity plan, “A Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence,” calls for the elimination of the grade gap, but in a veiled way that never uses the word “quota.” Unfortunately, the result will hardly be any different than if it did.

Boost Your Chances for College Aid

Annamarie Andriotis:

Here’s another source of stress for families with children racing to finish college applications: The moves you make between now and year-end could mean the difference between collecting or losing thousands of dollars in financial aid.

Timing is crucial because the amount of need-based aid a student qualifies for depends largely on parental income in the calendar year before applying for assistance. If parents sell stocks this month to lock in a large gain, for example, their high school senior could receive less aid next fall.

Good fortune also can backfire if, for example, that same high school senior receives large cash gifts from other relatives at the holidays. The formula for federal financial aid requires students to contribute a much greater share of their income than parents do.

Percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women, by major (1970-2012)

Randall Olson:

One oft-cited problem with Computer Science is its glaring gender disparity: In a given Computer Science class, men will outnumber women as much as 8 to 2 (20% women). This stands in stark contrast to most other college majors, which have women outnumbering men 3 to 2 on average (60% women). This observation made me wonder: Are other STEM majors suffering the same gender disparity?

To get at that question, I checked into the NCES 2013 Digest of Education Statistics and looked at the gender breakdown from 1970-2012 for every major they report on. I charted the data below to offer a bird’s eye view of the trends. You can download the cleaned data set here.

College ratings draft light on details

Alie Grasgreen:

The highly anticipated draft release issued Friday morning was delayed twice before officials settled on an “end of the fall” deadline. (The winter solstice is Sunday.) It’s largely a list of things the department is considering in its analysis of which institutions offer students and families the biggest bang for their buck.

And half the metrics — all of which aim to measure accessibility, affordability and outcomes — can’t even be measured right now. All told, it could be at least a few years before the system that the Obama administration envisions will be in place, though the plan is to rate more than 4,000 two- and four-year colleges by the start of the next academic year. And it will have to survive any challenges by Congress or the next administration.

“The question is, will we actually see ratings for the 2015-16 school year,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University and expert on college ratings. “I’d be surprised … to be honest.”

But in the draft, the department didn’t back down from that schedule. Officials want more input on the ratings framework, which they say was “based on extensive consultation with stakeholders and experts,” and are taking comments through Feb. 17.

Should the Government Rate Our Colleges?

Robert Kelchen:

Should the federal government be in the business of rating colleges? And can it do them right?

That’s been a question ever since the summer of 2013, when President Obama announced the Department of Education’s new plan to score American colleges—a source of intense controversy in the world of higher ed that could explode again in the days ahead, as the department gets set to release a draft of the metrics that will be used to calculate federal college ratings.

A poll released by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed last year found that only 16 percent of 675 surveyed college presidents said the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), as it’s called, is a good idea, compared to 65 percent who said it is not. The powerful American Council on Education, a professional association representing much of the nonprofit higher education community, said in a statement earlier this year that “many question whether rating colleges is an appropriate role for the federal government to play, and most believe it is nearly impossible for the federal government to do such a thing with any degree of reliability or validity.” And members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have expressed concerns about the ratings’ goals.

Throwing money at the ‘Bacon districts’ won’t solve their problems

Laura Waters:

Again, the rut: it’s not just about the money.

So it’s worth going back to those 2009 Assessment Reports and examining whether those non-fiscal obstacles have been addressed. Let’s look at two, Lakewood and Buena Regional.

Lakewood Public Schools (Ocean County) is one of N.J.’s weirder districts: it transports upwards of 25,000 children per day to Jewish day schools at enormous cost while the fewer than 5,000 in-district students, primarily poor and Hispanic, make do with the dregs, especially non-Jewish children with disabilities. State assessors noted in 2009 that the district’s fiscal problems are largely due to the school board’s “decision to direct a large proportion of resources” — over $5 million — “to providing courtesy busing to its public and non-public students,” which is a choice, not a mandate. Five years later, Lakewood’s transportation costs are almost $20 million.

For context, if the State funded the Bacon districts at the level requested by ELC, the total tab for all 16 would come to about $20 million.

Sizing Up the College Rating System

Kevin Carey:

Last year, President Obama announced that his administration would, by the beginning of the 2015 academic year, rate America’s colleges “on who’s offering the best value, so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck.”

Then the president charged the Department of Education with figuring out how, exactly, to build a rating system so that schools that enroll low-income students and give them a good, affordable education would be rewarded and recognized while those that don’t would be penalized and shamed.

This has proved to be a complicated task.

Madison Schools & Reading Recovery. Decades go by….

The Madison School District (PDF):

What Have We Learned?

Nationally and internationally, large body of research on Reading Recovery with mixed evidence

Locally, although some RR students in some schools have success during and after the program, results over time show no consistent positive effects at a systems level

What do these findings mean for interventions overall and for Reading Recovery?

Next Steps
In General for Interventions:

Review current interventions on a cycle that is commensurate with core curriculum review

Central office will provide guidance and support to schools as they select interventions based on student needs

Tighten up system of documentation for all interventions (Oasys)

Continue to identify effective research based interventions that may meet the needs of more students

Continue with our expanded and enhanced professional development model as it is a comprehensive training model that supports coherent instruction

Specific to Reading Recovery:

Based on capacity to implement with fidelity, history of student success, and alignment with School Improvement

Plan, principals have discretion to offer Reading Recovery within their multi-tiered system of supports

Fits with district belief of flexibility within clear parameters

Keeps schools at the center of decision-making because they know their students and staff best

Title 1 schools are no longer required to have Reading Recovery as an intervention

Title 1 schools will not lose any funding if they choose not to implement Reading Recovery

2014 Madison Schools’ Reading Recovery Evaluation (PDF).

Notes and links on Reading Recovery.

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Inaugural National Data Science Bowl

Booz Allen Hamilton & Kaggle:

For us, data science is more than a skill or profession. It is a calling and a way of life. It rewards grit as much as talent. Failure, curiosity, and small successes lead to discovery. Data science grants the power of entire nations or corporations to the individual. It gives a megaphone to those who were previously silent. Our purpose is bigger than any one of us.

Become part of this global movement. Enter the first-ever National Data Science Bowl, co-sponsored by Booz Allen and Kaggle in partnership with Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. The competition will be challenging but it will also be incredibly rewarding. At stake? The very health of our oceans. We will award $175,000 to those able to observe the right patterns, ask the right questions and, in turn, make our beautiful and complex world a little easier to understand and a better place to live. Register for free for the NDSB competition on to become part of something bigger than any one of us.

Private colleges are a waste of money for white, middle class kids

Max Ehrenfreund:

Many parents whose kids have their eye on an exclusive, private college face a difficult question: Is it worth unloading your life’s savings or having your child take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans?

The average four-year private college costs over $42,000 a year for tuition, room and board, after all, while the average four-year public school costs less than half that — $18,943 for in-state students, according to the College Board. So the question is really, really important, especially at a time when nearly half of recent college grads have a job that doesn’t even require a degree.

Fortunately, for many Americans — white, middle-class kids — there’s an easy answer: Don’t pay more to go to a private college.

That means choosing the University of California over Pomona, the State University of New York over NYU and the University of Maryland over nearby American or George Washington.

GOP gives feds’ college rating plan an F

Stephanie Simon and Allie Grassgreen:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he sees rating colleges as “a financial and moral obligation,” meant to help families make wise choices and to ensure taxpayers’ $150 billion annual investment in student aid isn’t squandered.

But GOP critics frame the rating plan — expected Friday — as yet another example of arrogance and imperialism from the White House. They argue that it’s not just presumptuous, but logistically impossible for the Education Department to assess the quality of so many institutions, ranging from Harvard to Honolulu Community College.

And they have some powerful allies in their corner, including several higher education trade associations and numerous college presidents, some of whom have been quietly lobbying their representatives for months — not that it took a lot of lobbying to rouse opposition to the ratings. Republicans on the Hill were already up in arms over the administration’s proposed crackdown on for-profit career-training colleges, calling it an unwarranted intrusion into the free market.

Florida charter schools post more A’s, more F’s in latest high school grades

Travis Pillow:

As is often the case, Florida’s charter schools were likely to earn both A’s and F’s than their district counterparts.

Dozens of Florida charter schools withstood tougher high school grading rules and kept their top marks in a new state accountability report released today.

For both charter and district schools, there were more F’s and fewer A’s in Thursday’s annual release of high school grades than a year ago. Elementary and middle school grades came out earlier this year.

In what has become a familiar pattern, charters were more likely than district schools to land at either the highest or lowest ends of the grading scale, and less likely to receive B’s and C’s.

Just over 56 percent of charter high schools earned A’s for the 2013-14 school year, a decline of about 10 percentage points from a year earlier. The percentage of A-rated district high schools fell to 32 percent, from nearly 48 percent a year earlier.

Certain Parenting Tactics Could Lead to Materialistic Attitudes in Adulthood

Christian Basi & Phil Hayes:

“Our research suggests that children who receive many material rewards from their parents will likely continue rewarding themselves with material goods when they are grown—well into adulthood – and this could be problematic,” said Marsha Richins, Myron Watkins distinguished professor of marketing in the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business at MU. “Our research highlights the value of examining childhood circumstances and parenting practices to understand consumer behaviors of adults.”

Richins, who completed the study with Lan Chaplin, associate professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Business Administration, found that three parenting strategies led to greater materialism:

Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Marcel Adam, Vladimir L. Cherkassky, Augusto Buchweitz, Timothy A. Keller, Tom M. Mitchell::

Autism is a psychiatric/neurological condition in which alterations in social interaction (among other symptoms) are diagnosed by behavioral psychiatric methods. The main goal of this study was to determine how the neural representations and meanings of social concepts (such as to insult) are altered in autism. A second goal was to determine whether these alterations can serve as neurocognitive markers of autism. The approach is based on previous advances in fMRI analysis methods that permit (a) the identification of a concept, such as the thought of a physical object, from its fMRI pattern, and (b) the ability to assess the semantic content of a concept from its fMRI pattern. These factor analysis and machine learning methods were applied to the fMRI activation patterns of 17 adults with high-functioning autism and matched controls, scanned while thinking about 16 social interactions. One prominent neural representation factor that emerged (manifested mainly in posterior midline regions) was related to self-representation, but this factor was present only for the control participants, and was near-absent in the autism group. Moreover, machine learning algorithms classified individuals as autistic or control with 97% accuracy from their fMRI neurocognitive markers. The findings suggest that psychiatric alterations of thought can begin to be biologically understood by assessing the form and content of the altered thought’s underlying brain activation patterns.

What’s So Troubling About Competency-Based Education?

Marni Baker Stein:

In the last week since it was announced that the University of Texas System is diving in to competency-based education (CBE), it has become clear to me that a lot of the controversy around this programming model is grounded in fairly extreme misconceptions around what CBE is …and perhaps more troubling, around just how powerful today’s technology enhanced education has the potential to be.

What are the most concerning of these myths?

1. All CBE is “Direct Assessment” CBE
I haven’t been able to find too many great explanations about what “Direct Assessment” actually means in practice — but here is a set of definitions from a recent white paper, “All Hands on Deck”, written by Patricia Book, that describes in brief the two major types of competency based education:

The MBA is losing its magic

Terence Tse and Mark Esposito:

hat is the staying power of an MBA education? Why year after year do students sign up for the countless MBA programmes across the world? Are they after new skills? Maybe. Eager to learn about the latest academic research output? Unlikely. Keen to go through a learning experience? Possibly. In search of a networking opportunity? Most certainly.

But perhaps a principle motive is to boost their career prospects. The notion that the harder you work, the higher you will climb the corporate — and therefore social — ladder is rooted in our DNA. Very often, this also translates into the higher you are in the corporate echelons, the more successful you are. For many, an MBA degree promises to deliver this; for anyone wishing to progress in their career, just get an MBA and its magic will do the rest.

The SAT is meaningless because it’s so easy to game

Jessica Brondo Davidoff :

I scored a perfect 1600 when I took the SAT test in 2004.

A year after graduating from Princeton, I founded and ran The Edge in College Prep, an elite test preparation and admissions counseling company. Now, as the founder of Admittedly, a college advisory platform and an expert on these high stake tests, I’m convinced they shouldn’t be such a large part of the higher education decision-making game.

There are many, many reasons to take issue with these tests. But one of the reasons which resonates most with me is that it is so easy to improve someone’s score by 20%, 30% even 40%. That kind of improvement shouldn’t even be possible on a test that is supposedly designed to measure aptitude.

Matt Pommer:

The post-World War II baby boom swept into American colleges in the 1960s, driving up total taxpayer costs and sending officials looking for financial answers.

Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, was making headlines. It was enrolling thousands of students, many of them who had attended other schools and were getting second chances. At one point, Parsons College reportedly was paying the highest faculty salaries in America.

Wisconsin business leaders decided Parsons might have the financial answers for the state’s public universities. Companies dispatched their corporate planes to Madison to take officials, legislators and reporters for a junket to Iowa.

What they found was a year-round trimester program and faculty required to spend most of their time in classrooms. The college had a limited number of academic majors. Before the decade was done, Life magazine printed an expose of the college and it lost its accreditation. The college went bankrupt in 1973.

Why the Admissions Office May Be Part of the Problem of College Access

Jon Boeckenstedt:

Access to college is a hot issue these days, with policy makers and colleges looking for ways to enroll more low-income, first-generation, and minority students. Many people see the admissions office as a key part of the solution. But as a longtime admissions professional, I suspect just the opposite is true: That the admissions office, especially at highly selective institutions, is the agent that keeps these students out of college in the first place, by creating a game that is heavily skewed in favor of students from high-income, well-educated families.

I don’t believe that this is a matter of purposeful, overt discrimination, but rather a reliance on traditional means of evaluating students coming out of high school, and our own belief about what will make a student successful.

I’m a fan of digging into the numbers to better understand trends—something I do regularly on my blog, Higher Ed Data Stories. And these days the data are clear: If your parents are educated, you have a much better chance of being educated too.

Our Teacher Diversity Problem Is Not Just About Recruitment. It’s About Retention.

Alexandria Neason:

As a fifth-grade student in Clarksville, Tennessee, a small city near Nashville, I constantly got in trouble. Just about every day, I came home with a pink slip. I didn’t always know what I’d done wrong. But I knew the pink slips weren’t good and that three of them added up to detention. That’s where I—one of only a few black students at the school—spent countless afternoons.

The teacher, who was white, told my mother that I moved around too much and finished assignments too quickly. The teacher said she didn’t understand me; she suggested I get tested for attention deficit disorder.

My mother had a different interpretation. You were “a black student she couldn’t control,” she told me recently. “She wanted a reason for that.”

I was the child of an Army officer, so we moved around a lot. I attended seven different public schools in six states before leaving home for college. In all, I had just one black teacher: Mrs. Bishop, at MacArthur Elementary School in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. That year was my strongest academically. I’m convinced there was a reason for that.

A black hole for our best and brightest

Jim Tankersley:

The thing Deborah Jackson remembers from her first interviews at Goldman Sachs is the slogan. It was stamped on the glass doors of the offices in the investment bank’s headquarters just off Wall Street, the lure of the place in two words, eight syllables: “Uncommon capability.”

Jackson joined Goldman in 1980, fresh from business school and steeped in the workings of government and finance. She found crackerjack colleagues and more business than she could handle. She worked in municipal finance, lending money to local governments, hospitals and nonprofits around the country. She flew first class to scout potential deals — “The issue was, can you really be productive if you’re in a tiny seat in the back?” — and when the time came to seal one, she’d welcome clients and their attorneys to Manhattan’s best restaurants.

Can a simple algebra test predict programming aptitude?

Jenni White:

Every year since the establishment of Computer Science in the 1960s, 30-60% of CS college majors have failed their Introduction to Computer Science course because they simply could not learn to program. Despite hours of studying and tutoring, most of these underperforming students struggle with, and many ultimately give up on, programming as a career

Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Marcel Adam, Vladimir L. Cherkassky, Augusto Buchweitz, Timothy A. Keller & Tom M. Mitchell:

Autism is a psychiatric/neurological condition in which alterations in social interaction (among other symptoms) are diagnosed by behavioral psychiatric methods. The main goal of this study was to determine how the neural representations and meanings of social concepts (such as to insult) are altered in autism. A second goal was to determine whether these alterations can serve as neurocognitive markers of autism. The approach is based on previous advances in fMRI analysis methods that permit (a) the identification of a concept, such as the thought of a physical object, from its fMRI pattern, and (b) the ability to assess the semantic content of a concept from its fMRI pattern. These factor analysis and machine learning methods were applied to the fMRI activation patterns of 17 adults with high-functioning autism and matched controls, scanned while thinking about 16 social interactions. One prominent neural representation factor that emerged (manifested mainly in posterior midline regions) was related to self-representation, but this factor was present only for the control participants, and was near-absent in the autism group. Moreover, machine learning algorithms classified individuals as autistic or control with 97% accuracy from their fMRI neurocognitive markers. The findings suggest that psychiatric alterations of thought can begin to be biologically understood by assessing the form and content of the altered thought’s underlying brain activation patterns.

As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Claire Cain Miller:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Om Malik:

Last week Amazon revealed how it is using robots. Did the company divulge a secret lab where humanoid machines made out of steel are slowly plotting to take over the planet? Hardly. The 320-pound, orange automatons from Kiva Systems (which Amazon acquired in 2012) move high, heavy shelves full of products closer to human employees, speeding up the time it takes to dispatch goods to customers.

Kiva’s robots look remarkably like steroid-enhanced versions of the vacuum-cleaning robot Roomba. Both Kiva and Roomba robots are essentially automation machines guided by software, compute and other sensors to move around and do tasks that humans would have previously done. This stands in stark contrast to what we expect: Real-life robots don’t look like humans or animals, and they certainly can’t wrest control away from the people using them.

As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Claire Cain Miller:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Learning By Doing

Brandis Friedman & Kristen Thometz :

Students at a Northwest Chicago magnet school are getting unique lessons in building everything from robots in the first grade to websites in the eighth grade.

It’s all part of a blended learning model that merges technology with education, and it’s helping students get the most of out of a longer school day.

“We invented them, we were the first ones,” said 6-year-old David Somers.

The 6-year-olds at Wildwood World Magnet School may not have actually invented robots, but their teachers say they’re glad they think they did.

“Then you put the battery on. Tape it on with electric tape,” Somers said. “You’ll need wires. Clip those on battery.”

Taking ownership of their learning is central to the experience at this kindergarten through eighth grade school in Chicago’s Forest Glen neighborhood.

Commentary on a Milwaukee voucher school; contemplating accountability & spending differences

Erin Richards:

The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools.

But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, a private school that’s received more than $35 million in state voucher payments through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since 1996.

Complaints filed with the state in 2014 and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request allege that the school has violated state law by employing people without bachelor’s degrees to teach students.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Ideally, the writer might compare outcomes and spending between voucher and traditional public schools. Voucher spending in Wisconsin is minuscule compared to the present K-12 system. Further, one would hope that all publicly funded schools face the same accountability requirements.

Finally, voucher schools often spend less than half the amount per student than traditional public schools.

Compare Wisconsin’s teacher credential ism with Massachusetts’ (MTEL).

Americans Want Democratic Candidates Who Will “Modernize the Teaching Profession”

Laura Waters:

Third Way, a global research group, has a report today on a recent survey that asked voters what they want to hear from Democratic candidates on the American public education system. The authors note that as recently as twenty years ago, Democrats were widely trusted by voters on education issues, but that support has faltered. Currently, Democratic candidates best GOP candidates by only eight points when voters consider which party will more reliably protect and improve public education. Regard for teacher unions has fallen as well:
In addition, to the extent that the endorsement of teachers’ unions was crucial in the past to a Democratic candidate’s election, the numbers no longer tell that story. Only 20% of voters say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who is endorsed by the national teachers’ unions—a mirror image of the 21% who say that endorsement would make them less likely to support that candidate. A solid majority of voters (54%) say it would make no difference, including 59% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, 62% of liberals, and 46% of teachers.

School Cafeterias Try Haute Cuisine

Tensile Tracy:

The Santa Clarita Valley school systems in California lost $250,000 in cafeteria sales last year when students rejected healthier fare designed to meet new federal nutrition standards. Now the districts are trying to win back diners by hiring a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu, the prestigious culinary school.

To make the lower-fat, reduced-sodium fare more appealing, new hire Brittany Young is employing restaurant-style techniques. She moved popcorn chicken out of a steamy wax bag and into an open boat serving platter. She told kitchen staff to wipe down serving bowls so chow mein noodles don’t hang over the side. “Think about how [you’d] like to see the food,” Ms. Young told them.

Turkish President Erdogan Seeks to Reshape Secular Education

Emre Peker:

Political divisions here are extending into the classroom as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inspired by the country’s Ottoman past, vows to reshape a secular education system.

Turkey’s National Education Council this month recommended the country’s most sweeping curriculum changes in decades, including Islamic religion classes for first-graders who are Muslim, Ottoman-language lessons for some students and a rewrite of textbooks on modern Turkey’s secularist founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The Education Ministry—headed by a member of Mr. Erdogan’s party—has the power to now put those recommendations into effect.

Opposition lawmakers said the shift stems from a broader pivot away from the West to the Middle East, as Mr. Erdogan seeks to turn the country into a regional power.

Teacher Wars and Teaching Machines

Boundary 2:

eaching is, according to the subtitle of education journalist Dana Goldstein’s new book, “America’s Most Embattled Profession.” “No other profession,” she argues, ”operates under this level of political scrutiny, not even those, like policing or social work, that are also tasked with public welfare and are paid for with public funds.”

That political scrutiny is not new. Goldstein’s book The Teacher Wars chronicles the history of teaching at (what has become) the K–12 level, from the early nineteenth century and “common schools” — that is, before before compulsory education and public school as we know it today — through the latest Obama Administration education policies. It’s an incredibly well-researched book that moves from the feminization of the teaching profession to the recent push for more data-driven teacher evaluation, observing how all along the way, teachers have been deemed ineffectual in some way or another — failing to fulfill whatever (political) goals the public education system has demanded be met, be those goals be economic, civic, or academic.

Doctorates Up, Career Prospects Not

dog Lederman:

Universities are awarding doctoral degrees at an accelerating pace, despite the fact that the career prospects of those who receive their Ph.D.s appear to be worsening.

That dichotomy is among the starker findings of the annual data on doctorate recipients from the National Science Foundation, drawn from a survey sponsored by the foundation and other federal agencies and conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. The data may for some reinforce the idea that institutions are turning out more Ph.D. recipients than can be absorbed, at least in some fields.

American universities awarded 52,760 doctorates in 2013, up 3.5 percent from nearly 50,977 in 2012 and nearly 8 percent from 48,903 in 2011. Those large increases followed several years of much smaller increases and one decline (in 2010) since the onset of the economic downturn in 2008, as seen in the chart below.

What Students Do (And Don’t Do) In Khan Academy

Dan Meyer:

tl;dr — Khan Academy claims alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but an analysis of their eighth-grade year indicates that alignment is loose. 40% of Khan Academy exercises assessed the acts of calculating and solving whereas the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s assessment of the CCSS emphasized those acts in only 25% of their released items. 74% of Khan Academy’s exercises resulted in the production of either a number or a multiple-choice response, whereas those outputs accounted for only 25% of the SBAC assessment.


My dissertation will examine the opportunities students have to learn math online. In order to say something about the current state of the art, I decided to complete Khan Academy’s eighth grade year and ask myself two specific questions about every exercise:

NEW REPORT: Most U.S. Colleges Violate Students’ Free Speech Rights

Foundation for individual rights in education:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2015 report and interactive infographic on campus speech codes across America today. FIRE’s findings show that more than half of the 437 schools analyzed maintain policies severely restricting students’ right to free speech.

“Most universities continue to enforce speech codes that don’t satisfy First Amendment standards,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For the seventh consecutive year, however, the percentage of speech codes has dropped, and we’re happy to see that. But the federal government’s efforts to address sexual harassment on campus are leading a number of universities to adopt flatly unconstitutional speech policies.” Lukianoff added, “The greatest threat to free speech on campus may now be the federal government.”

Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2015: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include:

Best Way for Professors to Get Good Student Evaluations? Be Male.

Amanda Marcotte:

Many in academia have long known about how the practice of student evaluations of professors is inherently biased against female professors. Students, after all, are just as likely as the public in general to have the same ugly, if unconscious, biases about women in authority. Just as polling data continues to show that a majority of Americans think being a man automatically makes you better in the boss department, many professors worry that students just automatically rate male professors as smarter, more authoritative, and more awesome overall just because they are men. Now, a new study out North Carolina State University shows that there is good reason for that concern.

One of the problems with simply assuming that sexism drives the tendency of students to giving higher ratings to men than women is that students are evaluating professors as a whole, making it hard to separate the impact of gender from other factors, like teaching style and coursework. But North Carolina researcher Lillian MacNell, along with co-authors Dr. Adam Driscoll and Dr. Andrea Hunt, found a way to blind students to the actual gender of instructors by focusing on online course studies. The researchers took two online course instructors, one male and one female, and gave them two classes to teach. Each professor presented as his or her own gender to one class and the opposite to the other.

“Defense Offsets” Raytheon’s $50m will help start UMass Lowell campus in Kuwait

Bryan Bender:

Waltham-based Raytheon Co. is planning to invest at least $50 million over the next seven years to establish a campus in Kuwait for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, officials said.

The defense contractor called the arrangement a unique way to meet its contractual commitments to invest in Kuwait, one of its foreign customers, in return for the Arab nation’s purchase of its high-tech weaponry. The university hailed the new campus as a major step in raising UMass Lowell’s international profile.

The pact, two years in the making, will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, business, education, and science on the campus of the Gulf University for Science and Technology, set up in Kuwait in 2002. Ultimately, an estimated 1,200 students will be enrolled for up to two dozen degrees through the UMass Lowell-Raytheon partnership.

Classes would be available beginning in January. A new engineering college will also be built on the Kuwait City campus, but the details of the construction have not been disclosed.

Long Term Disastrous Reading Results in Milwaukee….

Dave Umhoefer:

So we did our own look at reading scores at all Milwaukee schools fitting the 80/80 description, including high schools and separate elementary and middle schools that include smaller groupings of grades. Our main data source: the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Why are officials focusing on these schools at all?

High-poverty schools tend to have lower achievement than low-poverty schools. Milwaukee’s highest-poverty schools serve racial minorities. Milwaukee’s black students post some of the lowest achievement scores nationally among black students nationwide in certain grades and subjects.

To the numbers

Under Tyson’s approach, the K-8 schools, we found 57 that met the criteria.

Their average schoolwide reading proficiency score: 7.9 percent.

In the broader pool of schools, which tallied 95 schools, the average was 7.3 percent.

So the 8 percent claim is on target.

Of course, this is the reading average based on the collective reading proficiency at each school. It doesn’t mean every school came in at the overall school average of 7.3 percent.

Five schools, for example, had not a single pupil score proficient in reading on the state tests, which are administered to students in third through eighth grades, and once in high school, in 10th grade. The state assigned those schools a 0 percent score.

On the other end of the scale, the best reading proficiency score at an 80/80 school was 21 percent at Hartford Avenue University School in MPS. Second (20 percent) was Franklin School, also in MPS. St. Marcus Lutheran was third (19 percent).

Madison, too, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Sam Walton’s Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America

Luisa Kroll, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

A vision for the future of education sits within a converted church in the heart of a working-class neighborhood in northern Houston, abutted by auto parts stores and a heat treatment plant. At YES Prep North Central, homogeneity reigns: Of the 953 middle and high schoolers at the 11-year-old charter school, 96% are Hispanic, and a similarly large majority live at or below the poverty line. The kids are dressed the same–blue or khaki pants with school-issued polo shirts. But most important, their outcomes are uniform, too: 100% of graduates get into a four-year college, as the university pennants lining the hallways suggest.

Gliding into the school, 44-year-old Carrie Walton Penner sticks out from the students–older, blonder and, in jeans and a black wrap jacket, more polished than the young collegiate uniforms she weaves through. She’s also the granddaughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, the daughter of current company chairman Rob Walton, an heir to the largest family fortune, to the tune of $165 billion, in the entire world. And as the family’s point person on education issues, she’s arguably the most powerful force in the charter school movement. “How long is the longest-serving teacher?” she asks the school director, amid a flurry of questions. “Is there step-up pay and pay for performance?”

The Lombardi of Teen Running

Kevin Hilliker:

In all of sports, few leaders are more accomplished than Bill Aris, a high school cross-country coach in suburban Syracuse, N.Y.

It isn’t just that his teams have won nine national titles in nine years, including sweeping the boys’ and girls’ competitions last weekend at the Nike Cross Nationals. It’s that Aris coaches at a public school, Fayetteville-Manlius High, meaning that he can’t recruit outside its modest-sized district.

Also, his teams usually lack superstars. No runner of his ever finished first at nationals. Last weekend, his fastest girl finished 11th—but her teammates finished 12th, 13th, 14th and 20th, giving their squad the team title.

“There’s something special going on at that program, for it to win year after year,” says Bob Larsen, a former UCLA cross-country coach who now coaches professional stars such as Meb Keflezighi.

A Brooklyn School’s Curriculum Includes Ambition

Winnie Hu:

As Kareem left school on an overcast afternoon, he looked up and down the street before heading home to the Van Dyke I Houses. Last spring, he recalled, he was jumped a block away by a couple of boys from another project. They threw him to the ground and stomped on him, though he did nothing to provoke them, he said.

“I want to leave Brownsville because a lot of violence goes on,” said Kareem, 12, soft-spoken in a navy sweatshirt and gray cargo pants, a backpack over his shoulder. “I feel that I could have a better life.”

For Kareem, Mott Hall Bridges Academy is more than just a place to learn algebra and history. A public middle school, it is seen by many families as a safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood, and a gateway out of generational poverty for those born with few advantages in life. Nearly all 191 students in grades six through eight are black or Hispanic; more than 85 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Wisconsin Education Political Commentary

Alan Borsuk:

everal years ago, I was writing about how the most significant debates in approaches to improving education didn’t pit Republicans against Democrats. They pitted Democrats against Democrats.

Now, the dynamic to watch is between Republicans and Republicans. Both in Washington and Madison, they have so much power now — and they have some pretty big differences within their ranks.

Early in the Obama administration, the Democratic battles could be summed as education “reformers” vs. the education establishment, including teachers unions. For Republicans, I’d call it the smaller government people vs. the demand-quality-and-results people.

For Democrats, the differences included whether to push creation of charter schools, whether to evaluate teachers in ways that include student progress measured by test scores and, in general, what to think of a rising number of schools with high demands on students when it comes to both academics and behavior.

For Republicans, the differences include whether there should be a nationwide requirement that students take standardized tests in language and math, whether the goals for what students should learn should be a matter of broad agreement or left to each state or school district (the Common Core issue) and, in general, the ways federal or state power should be used to deal with low performing schools. In Wisconsin, but not really in Washington, you can add the question of the future of private school choice.

For context, start 13 years ago, when President George W. Bush and Congress, with sweeping bipartisan support, approved the No Child Left Behind education law. The law was scheduled to be revised by Congress in 2007. And it set the goal that by the end of 2014, all children in America would be on grade level in reading and math.

It is now the end of 2014. Not only are millions of children not on grade level — it was a ridiculous goal in the first place — but Congress has never agreed on how to fix No Child Left Behind. Seven years late and no action! Also ridiculous, right?

What We’re Missing in the Global Education Race

Wendy Kopp:

Nearly 15 years ago, the global community set an unprecedented goal—to give every child access to primary education. We have made progress, but today 58 million children in developing regions remain out of school, and 250 million school-aged children around the world lack basic literacy and numeracy skills.

While the 2015 deadline for delivering on our promise will pass unfulfilled, we are coming to the end of a year that has seen tremendous momentum as the world recognizes the need to improve education: This week, 17-year-old Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Indian child rights’ activist Kailash Satyarthi. In June, developing nations, donor nations and NGOs pledged a historic $28.5 billion in new funding to make quality education available to every child. In September, more than 30 organizations made commitments to increase access to quality education for girls as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, and XPRIZE launched a new $15 million challenge to build technology solutions to make quality education more accessible.

K – 12 tax and spending climate: ongoing property tax increases and the “lost middle class”

Jim Tankersley:

One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.

On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.

On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.

Meanwhile, Madison schools’ plan to seek additional property tax increases (2015 referendumpdf board document) to find bricks and mortar. This proposal, rather ironically, perpetuates decades long demographic gaps.

Will a Mockable Week in Higher Education Help Deflate the College Bubble?

JD Tuccille:

Horse FeathersThis week, Columbia Law School students demanded—and got—delayed exams to compensate for the trauma the fragile things experienced over the Eric Garner case. Also in response to the Garner case, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney had to apologize for insisting that “All Lives Matter” when the acceptable sentiment of the moment is that “black lives matter.” And at the University of Iowa, David Ryfe, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, insisted “I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech” after an anti-racism art installation misfired and upset students who are defintely not spending years of their lives at an institution of higher learning to have their ideas challenged or their feelings bruised.

If this was all, it would still be enough reason for me to start contemplating just how much motorcycle my kid’s 529 can buy. But of course there’s more. College, after all, is where Rolling Stone went dumpster-diving in eager expectation of finding seamy tales of sexual assault, and instead unearthed the revelation that students dipping their toes into adulhood are unpredictable, perhaps unstable—and that its own journalistic practices suck.

Professors Grow Weary of Idea That Technology Can Salvage Higher Education

Hechinger Report:

“They would just blather something,” said Arnold, who teaches higher education and educational administration. “They didn’t have a conversation. It was more like a hoop-jumping exercise.”

That was around 2008, and Arnold has avoided assigning online discussions ever since.

Like other faculty nationwide with memories of failed experiments such as these, she’s pushing back against the widespread notion that technology can necessarily improve teaching and cut costs.

“We are fooling ourselves that we’re getting more efficient,” she said.

It’s been a high-stakes bet. Universities and colleges are marketing themselves to tech-savvy teenagers while promising higher productivity and financial savings. They will pour $10.4 billion into education technology this year, according to the Center for Digital Education, from computers to in-class gadgets such as digital projectors and wireless “clickers” that let students answer questions electronically.

Charter Schools: Revolution and innovation in some of America’s toughest neighbourhoods

The Economist:

AS PUPILS file into their classroom at Kipp Renaissance, a high school in a battered corner of north-east New Orleans, each one stops to shake the hand of a history teacher. “Changes”, a rap song by Tupac about the struggles of being poor and black in America, plays quietly in the background. Within a minute or two, the dozen teenagers—all black—are busily filling in test papers. Soon afterwards, Mr Kullman, the teacher, begins rapping himself—hopping around the room demanding quick-fire answers to questions about the civil war. Pupils shout back answers in chorus.

Kipp Renaissance is one of New Orleans’s newer high schools. Since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, only six traditional public schools, directly run by the city, remain. Instead 94% of pupils now attend charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by independent non-profit organisations such as Kipp (in full, the “Knowledge is Power Programme”).

Six National Takeaways From The CREDO Ohio Charter Report

Andrew Rotherham:

Earlier this week CREDO, the education research outfit at Stanford led by Macke Raymond, released another in its series of city, state, and national evaluations of charter school performance. This one was on Ohio (pdf). The studies are an amusing Rorsarch test for charter critics. The ones about places where charters are underperforming are widely cited and CREDO is presented as an august institution to be heeded in a Solomon-like fashion. When one comes out showing a city or state where charters are dramatically outpacing other schools it’s crickets or suddenly CREDO is another front group for “corporate reform.”

Actually, CREDO is none of those things but it’s a good research shop offering a great analytic view into how charters are playing out in different places. This week’s Ohio analysis, in broader context, offers some important lessons.

First, beware the ecological fallacy. Not every charter in Ohio is dreadful and there are some quite good ones. That said, overall the state is a charter debacle. If your only experience with charter schools was Ohio it would be understandable if you thought the entire idea was essentially flawed. Within Ohio there are cities doing a better or worse job. For instance Cleveland, the site of some interesting charter innovation, is an outlier high within in the state. Also pay attention to the different impact on different socioeconomic, racial, and ethic groups. Still, the overall story remains discouraging.

Second, this isn’t new. Ohio has been a laggard for some time and despite multiple evaluations pointing this out for more than a decade (Sara Mead and I included it in multi-state charter evaluation we led in the early part of the 2000s and things were not good then). More importantly, the state has missed numerous opportunities to improve its policies and by extension its charter operations. Policy mistakes in the early going of chartering were par for the course, that’s what innovation looks like. But Ohio has failed to learn from its own experience and the experience of other states that are higher performing. That’s inexcusable. The CREDO analysis says that more recent reform efforts are only, “dimly discernible” in the charter data. Bellwether is working with some charter leaders in Ohio on ways to use policy to accelerate the pace of improvement.

Public education needs transformation

John Florez:

spite of anything you do, little Oliver or Abigail won’t end up a doctor or lawyer — or, indeed, anything else you’ve ever heard of. … Fully 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet,” according to an article titled Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade in the New York Times in 2011.

If we don’t know what kind of work our students will be doing in the future, why do business folks and politicians keep making incremental changes to education when the world is changing exponentially? We are in the midst of a digital revolution and our schools are being left behind; yet business leaders keep lulling us in to complacency with cosmetic changes. Over the past decade, the business community has proposed plans and held summits to improve education; however, many of their solutions are the same ideas they take from the professional experts that have benefited by keeping the same system.

College Enrollments Drop for 3rd Straight Year

The Chronicle:

Summary: College enrollments dropped by 1.3 percent this fall after slipping 1.5 percent last fall and 1.8 percent in the fall of 2012.

For the public sector over all, the decline was 1.5 percent, with two-year colleges down 3.4 percent and four-year colleges up 0.4 percent. (Those categories have been shifting as more community colleges offer four-year degrees.)

The for-profit sector fared much better than in previous years, with enrollments down by just 0.4 percent in the fall of 2014. That compares with the previous year’s decline of 9.7 percent. Growth in the number of younger students accounted for much of the turnaround.

Also in the good-news column, enrollment inched up by 1.6 percent at four-year private nonprofit colleges.

Looking at the national picture, enrollments declined in 39 states and the District of Columbia. They were up in 11 states, with the largest jumps in New Hampshire (home of Southern New Hampshire University’s booming online program), at 19.9 percent, and Arizona, at 5.2 percent.

The biggest drops were among students older than 24. Their numbers were down by 2.8 percent this fall.

Why Math Might Be The Secret To School Success

Anya Kamenetz:

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there’s still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

In New York City, an ambitious, $25 million study is collecting evidence on the best way to raise outcomes for kids in poverty. Their hunch is that it may begin with math.

Which academic research caught the public imagination in 2014?


At Altmetric, we track who’s saying what about academic papers. Here, we take a look back at 2014, with a review of the 100 papers that received the most attention online – and the conversations that happened around them.

You can find out more about how we collect data and put this list together on our blog.

Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue

Tanzina Vega

To hear Mikia Hutchings speak, one must lean in close, as her voice barely rises above a whisper. In report cards, her teachers describe her as “very focused,” someone who follows the rules and stays on task. So it was a surprise for her grandmother when Mikia, 12, and a friend got into trouble for writing graffiti on the walls of a gym bathroom at Dutchtown Middle School in Henry County last year.

Even more of a surprise was the penalty after her family disputed the role she was accused of playing in the vandalism and said it could not pay about $100 in restitution. While both students were suspended from school for a few days, Mikia had to face a school disciplinary hearing and, a few weeks later, a visit by a uniformed officer from the local Sheriff’s Department, who served her grandmother with papers accusing Mikia of a trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony.

What if a college ditched lecture halls, sports and clubs?

Nichole Dobi:

An experiment in higher education uses computers to give every student a virtual front-row seat in the classroom.

Classes at Minerva Schools at KGI, a four-year undergraduate program, are conducted entirely through a software program created specifically for the school.

During class, there is real-time interaction through the computer between professor and students. They can see each other through the screen. Each class has fewer than 20 students. Professors do not lecture. The virtual experience is recorded each day so it can be reviewed for purposes such as assessment of students and faculty performance.

The first 28 students started their freshman year this fall in San Francisco, Calif. They are not required to attend class from any particular physical location, but they live together in buildings leased by the school. The founder of the school says he intends to compete with the nation’s most elite institutions — at a fraction of the cost to students. Tuition, housing and books are about $28,000 a year. Students must also pay travel costs.

What Makes a School Successful?

OECD Pisa:

Equipping citizens with the skills necessary to achieve their full potential, participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately convert better jobs into better lives is a central preoccupation of policy makers around the world. Results from the OECD’s recent Survey of Adult Skills show that highly skilled adults are twice as likely to be employed and almost three times more likely to earn an above-median salary than poorly skilled adults. In other words, poor skills severely limit people’s access to better-paying and more rewarding jobs. Highly skilled people are also more likely to volunteer, see themselves as actors rather than as objects of political processes, and are more likely to trust others. Fairness, integrity and inclusiveness in public policy thus all hinge on the skills of citizens.

The ongoing economic crisis has only increased the urgency of investing in the acquisition and development of citizens’ skills – both through the education system and in the workplace. At a time when public budgets are tight and there is little room for further monetary and fiscal stimulus, investing in structural reforms to boost productivity, such as education and skills development, is key to future growth. Indeed, investment in these areas is essential to support the recovery, as well as to address long-standing issues such as youth unemployment and gender inequality.

Professor floats idea of three-year B.A. to cut college costs

Jason Song:

Weinstein’s idea isn’t original. Some campuses, including Bates College in Maine and Wesleyan University in Connecticut, have instituted similar programs, but widespread implementation is rare, Weinstein said. In the last five years, 22 private, nonprofit colleges have begun offering three-year degrees, according to the National Assn. of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Gov. Jerry Brown supports the idea of offering more three-year track degrees, and a University of California special panel — the Commission on the Future — suggested that fast-track degrees were worth exploring in 2010, but the UC system has never tried to implement or experiment with a three-year model.

“Colleges and universities are a little like the healthcare industry,” Weinstein said. “They’re not very transparent and tend to be risk averse. Changing them isn’t going to be a grassroots movement among the universities; it’s going to take a visionary to implement it from the top down.”

When unions attack standardized testing they should at least do their homework

Laura Waters:

Last month the Executive Committee of the Delran Education Association (Burlington County) issued a “massive position statement” detailing its “defiant opposition to the New Jersey Department of Education’s obsession with the use of high-stakes standardized testing.” Certainly, the leadership of DEA is not alone in its indignation at the state’s implementation of a new set of standardized tests called PARCC that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Indeed, there’s been demonstrable growth in opposition to public school accountability over the last year or so, and this movement attracts both liberals and conservatives.

But problems crop up when statements of opposition or support are interwoven with distortions. That doesn’t mean we dismiss the sentiment but a little weeding never hurt any garden.