Social sciences and humanities faculties to close in Japan after ministerial decree

Jack Grove:

Many social sciences and humanities faculties in Japan are to close after universities were ordered to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.

Of the 60 national universities that offer courses in these disciplines, 26 have confirmed that they will either close or scale back their relevant faculties at the behest of Japan’s government.

It follows a letter from education minister Hakuban Shimomura sent to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to take “active steps to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.

The ministerial decree has been denounced by one university president as “anti-intellectual”, while the universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, regarded as the country’s most prestigious, have said that they will not comply with the request.

Impact of smartphones on behaviour in lessons to be reviewed

An investigation into how to train teachers to tackle poor pupil behaviour will be expanded to cover wider issues such as the use of mobile phones and other devices in schools, Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced today (13 September 2015).

In June, the government expert former teacher Tom Bennett to lead a review into how initial teacher training prepares teachers for tackling low-level disruption in class – but now his role will be expanded to look at all of the challenges of managing behaviour in 21st-century schools.

Appropriately used, technology can offer opportunities to enhance the educational experience of pupils – devices such as tablets and smartphones are used by many schools to aid teaching. Teachers, however, have reported that the growing number of children bringing personal devices into class is hindering teaching and leading to disruption.

The Story Of Scrabble

Hephzibah Anderson:

Fancy a game of Lexiko? Or how about Alph? Appropriately enough for a word game, it was only when Scrabble acquired the name millions now know it by that it really started to take off, spawning special sets for kids and travellers, tournaments with fat cash prizes, a television show – even a dirty-word version.

Today, more than 150 million sets have been sold in 29 languages. It has found its way into one in three American homes and an estimated 30,000 games are started around the world every hour – which is an awful lot of rainy afternoons and otherwise congenial family gatherings ruined by spats over whether ‘za’ is a legitimate word or not.

Civics: Homeland Security Shuts Down Library’s TOR Node Citing “Situational Awareness”

John Biggs:

In a move that is sure to end well for the Department Of Homeland Security and the police in Lebanon, New Hampshire, officials have asked a New Hampshire public library to shut down its TOR node to prevent terrorism and other mean, nasty things.

The library was the first in the country to run a secure TOR exit node – essentially a system that allows users to web surf anonymously from anywhere in the world – and the DHS and local police quickly approached library officials after launch. The Lebanon Public Libraries are part of the Library Freedom Project, an effort to add more exit nodes in existing libraries. This would help web users desiring to remain anonymous on the Internet and ensures that folks browsing from their homes can’t be spied upon by touchy regimes. Wrote Vice:

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

By his own lghts, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator, sociologist, and itinerant American intellectual, was the product of a broken home and a pathological family. He was born in 1927 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but raised mostly in New York City. When Moynihan was 10 years old, his father, John, left the family, plunging it into poverty. Moynihan’s mother, Margaret, remarried, had another child, divorced, moved to Indiana to stay with relatives, then returned to New York, where she worked as a nurse. Moynihan’s childhood—a tangle of poverty, remarriage, relocation, and single motherhood—contrasted starkly with the idyllic American family life he would later extol. “My relations are obviously those of divided allegiance,” Moynihan wrote in a diary he kept during the 1950s. “Apparently I loved the old man very much yet had to take sides … choosing mom in spite of loving pop.” In the same journal, Moynihan, subjecting himself to the sort of analysis to which he would soon subject others, wrote, “Both my mother and father—They let me down badly … I find through the years this enormous emotional attachment to Father substitutes—of whom the least rejection was cause for untold agonies—the only answer is that I have repressed my feelings towards dad.”

College Graduates Don’t Know Basic Facts About the Constitution


According to the study, nearly 10% of college graduates think Judith Sheindlin — commonly known as Judge Judy — is on the Supreme Court; one-third of college graduates can’t identify the Bill of Rights as a name given to a group of Constitutional amendments; and 32% believe that Representative John Boehner is the current president of the U.S. Senate. Shockingly, 46% of college grads don’t know the election cycle — six years for senators, two years for representatives. Turning to the general population, the report finds that over half (54%) of those surveyed cannot identify the Bill of Rights accurately, and over 1 in 10 (11%) of those ages 25–34 believe that the Constitution must be reauthorized every four years.

The survey coincides with the upcoming commemoration of Constitution Day, September 17. Nearly a decade ago, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) spearheaded the designation of the day, mandating that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming to improve knowledge of the Constitution. Just this year, higher education leaders called on Congress to eliminate the Constitution Day educational requirement as undue interference in a university’s autonomy.

For Silicon Valley Hopefuls, Is College Irrelevant?

Kathryn Joyce:

On a sunny day in July, some 35 budding computer science students sat in a large room with beige walls and blocks of tables arranged into nine group work stations. The room was a temporarily commandeered art gallery in New York City, directly underneath the city’s High Line park, in a now-gentrified neighborhood that was once the seedy heart of Bohemia. Below the tables snaked power strips secured to the floor with electrical tape. Above them, a sea of adolescent faces — overwhelmingly male — stared intently into their MacBooks, typing and occasionally reaching for bowls of snacks that seemed rarely out of reach.

Bye Bye Blackboards

From Einstein and Others:

Blackboards were wiped after use: they were meant for immediate communication, not for record. Even as they were being used, their messages were continuously revised, erased and renewed. But when Einstein came to Oxford in 1931, he was already an international celebrity. After one of his lectures a blackboard was preserved and has become a kind of relic. It is the most famous object in this Museum.

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD

Sean Coughlan:

Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance, says a global study from the OECD.

The think tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.
The OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher says school technology had raised “too many false hopes“.

Tom Bennett, the government’s expert on pupil behaviour, said teachers had been “dazzled” by school computers.

How new data-collection technology might change office culture


The giant Japanese conglomerate Hitachi has also developed what it calls Human Big Data, a wearable device that is outfitted with sensors and collects data 50 times per second.

Hitachi says the data gathered from the device is used to gauge the happiness of the group.

Meanwhile, Seattle-based Volometrix is hoping to help large companies bump up their efficiency rates by offering a service that scrapes the address and subject fields of email and calendar appointments from employees, and then aggregates the data to chart how workers are spending their time and with whom.

Volometrix counts Boeing, Facebook, Qualcomm and Seagate among its clients.

Charter advocates back closing badly performing peers

Martha Woodal:

It may sound counterintuitive, but two Philadelphia organizations that favor expanding successful charter schools are calling for changes to make it easier to close charters with poor academic track records.

In a position paper scheduled to be released Friday, the Philadelphia Charters for Excellence and the advocacy arm of the Philadelphia School Partnership call on the School Reform Commission and the legislature to streamline the closing of charters that are chronically low performers.

Now, they say, the process can drag on for years “while students attending these low-performing schools continue to receive a substandard education.”

Equal governance standards for the far more numerous traditional government schools?

Why Aren’t There More Higher Ed Programs Behind Bars?

Eric Westervelt:

America, by far, has the highest incarceration rate among developed nations. The rate of imprisonment in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years, fueled by “three strikes” and mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

Studies show that prisoners who get access to education behind bars are far less likely to return to prison, are are more likely to land a job once they’re released.

But few of America’s crowded prisons have higher education programs that reach inmates face-to-face.

One exception is San Quentin State Prison on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay in Marin County, Calif. While the prison has a nasty national reputation, the fact is that some inmates want to get transferred to San Quentin to access its university, with volunteer teachers from top schools.

Understanding The Biocode

Dawn Field:

n case you weren’t paying attention, a lot has been happening in the science of genomics over the past few years. It is, for example, now possible to read one human genome and correct all known errors. Perhaps this sounds terrifying, but genomic science has a track-record in making science fiction reality. ‘Everything that’s alive we want to rewrite,’ boasted Austen Heinz, the CEO of Cambrian Genomics, last year.

It was only in 2010 that Craig Venter’s team in Maryland led us into the era of synthetic genomics when they created Synthia, the first living organism to have a computer for a mother. A simple bacterium, she has a genome just over half a million letters of DNA long, but the potential for scaling up is vast; synthetic yeast and worm projects are underway.

Two years after the ‘birth’ of Synthia, sequencing was so powerful that it was used to extract the genome of a newly discovered, 80,000-year-old human species, the Denisovans, from a pinky bone found in a frozen cave in Siberia. In 2015, the United Kingdom became the first country to legalise the creation of ‘three-parent babies’ – that is, babies with a biological mother, father and a second woman who donates a healthy mitochondrial genome, the energy producer found in all human cells.

Companion app promises you’ll never walk home alone again

Samantha Rhodes:

It’s 11:30 p.m. and you’re walking home alone from the library. You’ve heard that some areas are unsafe. You think about texting a roommate to let her know that you’re on your way back, but decide not to because it really isn’t that far of a walk. Besides, this wouldn’t exactly be of help if you ran into trouble. Instead, you just hope that no one will bother you.

Now however, Companion, a free app developed by five University of Michigan students, gives that friend you reached out to the ability to actively participate in ensuring your safety.

Recent Federal Student Loans Look A Lot Like Subprime Mortgages


“Federal student loans made in recent years resemble the toxic subprime mortgage loans that helped cause the Great Recession, new data show,” according to The Huffington Post.

“Rather than paying down their balances after leaving school, borrowers with recent federal student loans are experiencing an increase in debt as they fail to make enough payments to offset the accumulating interest on their loans.

The situation parallels subprime mortgages before the financial crisis, when lenders gave borrowers loans they couldn’t afford by allowing them to make payments that didn’t actually reduce their balances.

Monetizing Higher Education: Can Investors Replace Government Lenders?

Thomas Donlan:

In a mythical country church a long time ago, the minister preached a sermon every year on the subject of coeducation. He was horrified, because, “They take decent boys and girls and make them matriculate together. They even have to use the same curriculum.”

Nowadays matriculation is far more shocking than the fictional minister could have imagined, and not just because coeducation with all of its benefits is nearly universal. Starting college signals the beginning of four years of wretchedly excessive tuition payments for many parents and a decade or more of burdensome loan payments for many students.

Published prices for tuition at private, four-year, nonprofit colleges and universities have more than tripled in real terms, adjusted for inflation, in the past 40 years. The College Board’s annual report on “Trends in Higher Education” says the sticker prices at government-supported four-year colleges have risen almost as fast.

Compare the inflation-adjusted price of room and board—the other main product produced at institutions of higher education. It hasn’t quite doubled in the same period. That doubling would be outrageous if it were not overshadowed by the price of tuition.



In the endless typing of modern life, from filing reports at work to composing papers for school — let alone our nonstop texting, online messaging, and commenting— we rarely hold a pen or pencil to paper anymore. Though our phones may be ubiquitous, only our handwritten words can physically mark a place or object. To those who know us best, our handwriting bears our personality and reveals our identity, even without signing our names. And in certain cultures, handwriting is even an art form. From hastily scrawled reminders to painstakingly lettered invitations or heartfelt love notes, some sentiments are still most poignantly expressed by hand.

Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data

Kevin Carey:

Colleges give prospective students very little information about how much money they can expect to earn in the job market. In part that’s because colleges may not want people to know, and in part it’s because such information is difficult and expensive to gather. Colleges are good at tracking down rich alumni to hit up for donations, but people who make little or no money are harder and less lucrative to find.

On Saturday, the federal government solved that problem by releasing a huge set of new data detailing the earnings of people who attended nearly every college and university in America. Although it abandonded efforts to rate the quality of colleges, the federal government matched data from the federal student financial aid system to federal tax returns. The Department of Education was thus able to calculate how much money people who enrolled in individual colleges in 2001 and 2002 were earning 10 years later.

Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools

Jennifer Medina:

advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. In essence, Ms. Powell Jobs and her team of high-profile educators and designers hope they can crowd-source a solution to a problem that has flummoxed policy makers for decades.

“The system was created for the work force we needed 100 years ago,” Ms. Powell Jobs said in an interview here Friday. “Things are not working the way we want it to be working. We’ve seen a lot of incremental changes over the last several years, but we’re saying, ‘Start from scratch.’ ”

Called XQ: The Super School Project, the campaign is meant to inspire teams of educators and students, as well as leaders from other sectors, to come up with new plans for high schools. Over the next several months, the teams will submit plans that could include efforts like altering school schedules, curriculums and technologies. By fall next year, Ms. Powell Jobs said, a team of judges will pick five to 10 of the best ideas to finance.

Related: Madison’s “High School Redesign” and “Small Learning Community” adventures.

The Math I Learned After I Thought Had Already Learned Math


True story: it’s possible to fly through your own secondary math education – honor roll bumper sticker on your mom’s minivan and all – but miss some of the Very Big Ideas of secondary math.

For one example: in our last post on simplifying rational expressions, the process of turning a lengthy rational expression into a simpler one, Bill F writes:

Another benefit of evaluating both expressions for a set of values is to emphasize the equivalence of both expressions. Students lose the thread that simplifying creates equivalent expressions. All too often the process is seen as a bunch-of-math-steps-that-the-teacher-tells-us-to-do. When asked, “what did those steps accomplish?” blank stares are often seen.

Past a certain point, those operations are trivial. But it’s only past a point much farther in the distance that the understanding – these two rational expressions are equivalent – becomes trivial.

The Trouble With Digitizing History

Fast Company:

Driving through the Dutch countryside near the town of Hilversum, I have an overwhelming feeling that the surrounding water will wash out the road, given that my car is almost level with it. So it’s surprising that the Netherlands’ main audiovisual archives at the Sound and Vision Institute reside in a multilevel underground structure here, ostensibly below sea level.

Sound and Vision, together with two other national institutions, finished digitizing the bulk of the Netherlands’ audiovisual archives last year, for a cost of $202 million over seven years. The project ran smoothly and transparently, digitizing 138,932 hours of film and video, 310,566 hours of audio, and 2,418,872 photos.

The art of writing: Omission

John McPhee:

At Time in the nineteen-fifties, the entry-level job for writers was a column called Miscellany. Filled with one-sentence oddities culled from newspapers and the wire services, Miscellany ran down its third of a page like a ladder, each wee story with its own title—traditionally, and almost invariably, a pun. Writers did not long endure there, and were not meant to, but just after I showed up a hiring freeze shut the door behind me, and I wrote Miscellany for a year and a half. That came to roughly a thousand one-sentence stories, a thousand puns.

I am going to illustrate this with one, and only one, example. A person riding a bicycle on a street in Detroit fell asleep at the handlebars. My title was “Two Tired.”

From Somaliland to Harvard

Nicholas Kristoff:

— OF the millions of young men and women settling into college dorms this month, one of the most unlikely is Abdisamad Adan, a 21-year-old beginning his freshman year at Harvard. Some of his 18 siblings are illiterate and never went even to first grade, and he was raised without electricity or indoor plumbing by an illiterate grandmother in a country that doesn’t officially exist.

Yet he excelled as he studied by candlelight, and he’s probably the only person in Harvard Yard who knows how to milk a camel

Interviews With Fascinating Mathematicians

donald J. Albers and Gerald L. alexanderson:

How do the words of mathematicians, dis- cussing their work, their careers, their lives, become known to a larger audience? There are, of course, biographies and autobiogra- phies of mathematicians going as far back as Pythagoras. There are letters galore. Some off-the-cuff remarks have been preserved (e.g., those of Lagrange). Thus, authentic words of bygone mathematicians are not dif- ficult to come by, and out of them it would be easy to construct an imaginative mock interview:

Saxon Reparations

Will Fitzhugh:

Some people say that when offenses are old enough, they should be allowed to lie undisturbed, and while the Crow may feel that way about the Sioux, and the Croatians about the Magyars, and the Rus about the Huns, and the Parthians about the Romans, we Saxons should never forget what the Normans did to our people.

Eurocentric history teachers portray the Battle of Hastings as a great victory for civilization in 1066, but they seldom note that while the Norman invaders had a nice dinner with their wives and families before their easy crossing of the Channel, we Saxons had to fight a bloody battle with the Danes in York and then had to march all the way down to Hastings, just arriving in time to form a battle array of our Carls, having had no sleep and almost nothing to eat. This clearly discriminatory ethnic imbalance in the battle conditions is rarely emphasized in the history books.

As might have been predicted, after an exhausting day of battle, the Normans “conquered,” to use that odious expression. And that was just the beginning of our oppression. The Normans immediately took over the administration, the courts, the army, the navy, and all the good jobs. The glass ceiling for Saxons was about 100 feet thick. In every walk of life Saxons were treated like second-class citizens. Even to hear the word “Saxon” pronounced in the Medieval French of the invaders did a number on our self-esteem.

Of course, some argued we should go along to get along, and learn the Continental ways of our oppressors. And most of us did, eventually. It is very hard to find anyone now, just 949 years later, who identifies herself primarily as a Saxon. The Celtics and the Huns are remembered, as are the Apaches and the Aryans, but who ever thinks about the plight of the Saxons, demoralized and defeated so long ago?

Some argue that it is too late to do anything about it, that the Normans are too deeply entrenched and too oblivious to their guilt to be affected by anything we Saxons might say or do.

Nevertheless, the true leaders of the Saxon community have asserted that it is never too late to address a grievance, thus: “Dear Grievance, think of all the good you can now do for us, even though we have neglected to press your claims for so long?”

It may be impracticable to try to arrest all the Norman descendants and deport them back to France, or better, back to Norway, but it is not too late to identify them and expose them publicly. The Domesday Book gives a place to start, and many Normans have foolishly taken pride in tracing their own ancestry back to the Battle of Hastings itself.

These people can be contacted and presented with our claims for restitution. They will try to defend themselves of course. They will cite the thousands of historical examples of peoples who have been overrun and enslaved by other people, and over the due course of some centuries, have gone about the daily business of making something of their own lives anyway.

Nevertheless, if we approach it right and time it well, it is not too much to hope that we might press for an apology for the intolerable oppression of the Saxon people from 1066 to the present, and once we have that apology in hand, we can push on to the real practical business of significant cash compensation. It is difficult to estimate how many Norman descendants are now in positions of power and wealth, but it seems likely that many CEOs, Senators, Consultants, Movie Stars and others have more than a trace of Norman blood and can be shown their obligations to Saxon survivors.

In spite of the example history has put before us of the horrific battles among the Ruthenians, Greeks, Slovenians, Montenegrans, Bulgarians, Bosnians, Albanians, Serbians, Macedonians, Turks, Roumanians, Croatians, and others in the Balkans during their ethnic battles of the 20th century, which might have suggested to us that we follow John Kennedy’s advice to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” now is Saxon time, while identity politics is still the name of the blame game in the United States. We must press on, against the claims of Navajos, Ukrainians, Cambodians, Iroquois, Jamaicans, Arabs, Cubans, Hungarians, Comanche, and other Americans, lest we be left out in the spoils of U.S. balkanization…

[Next—Dravidian Reparations from the Aryans]

The College Board Lowers Standards

Will Fitzhugh:

The College Board and Atlantic Magazine, recently joined their forces to lower standards for academic expository writing in the English-speaking world. Although their efforts did not match in scope and daring those of groups like InBloom, Amplify, and others, they persuaded 3,000 secondary students to meet their contest guidelines. They asked for papers of less than 2,000 words, on a single document, and published the “winner,” a piece from a student in New Zealand on the benefits of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech for better relations with the Maori.

High School students interested in being published in The Concord Review—the only journal in the world for the history papers of secondary students—must understand that their serious academic history research papers could not meet the guidelines for The College Board and Atlantic Magazine. Essays in the Fall 2015 issue, for example, (#106), averaged 7,400 words in length, with endnotes and bibliography, not on one speech, but on dozens of sources—books, articles, and others. Their topics included the Tape v. Hurley case in California, Abraham Lincoln’s changing attitudes about Christianity, Margaret Sanger’s fights with feminist groups of her day, Augustus’ imperial cult in Rome, varying identities among the Manchus in the Qing Dynasty, the records of women in combat in ancient Greece and China, relations among Nietzsche, Wagner and Mahler, the influence of Friedrich Hegel, Footbinding in China, the denial about AIDS in the South African government, and the development of the Socialist Parties in France.

Clearly, they were not limited to a single document or prevented from writing a paper longer than 2,000 words, as The College Board and Atlantic Magazine demanded for their submissions. Some years ago one of The Concord Review’s authors wrote:

I am extremely honored in having my paper on Chinese Communism published in the The Concord Review. I truly thank you for providing the wonderful opportunity and motivation for students like me passionately to pursue research and history.

I wrote this paper independently, during my own time out of school. My motives for doing so were both academic and personal. Although history has always been my favorite subject, I had never written a paper with this extensive research before. After reading the high quality of essays in The Concord Review, I was very inspired to try to write one myself. I thought it was a significant opportunity to challenge and expand my academic horizons. Thus during the summer before my Senior year, I began doing the research for my own paper.

Choosing the topic of Chinese Communism was not difficult. As I briefly mentioned in my biographical information, my own Chinese heritage greatly influenced me to study this subject. My own family past has been touched by the often scarring effects of Communism. For instance, my paternal great-grandmother—the wife of a landlord—was a victim of the Communists’ “authorized” land redistribution. Like many members of China’s property classes, she and my grandmother were thrown off their land and survived the next few years by begging on the streets. From the chaotic Cultural Revolution to the outrageous Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, I have often been told firsthand of the devastating effects of Communism. From all of these background experiences, a singular and upsetting question emerged in my mind: if Communism has had so many damaging effects on the Chinese people, why and how did it succeed in taking over the country in the first place? As in many cases, only the past provided the answers. It was the determination to find them that empowered me to write this paper.

Furthermore, by choosing a topic so intimate to my own family background, I was able to experience history on a new and more exciting level. Exploring places and events which once had involved my own ancestors gave history an almost magical sense of life and vivacity. All in all, writing this paper has definitely been a rewarding experience in every way. By exploring China during the 1930s and 1940s, I am now better able to understand and bond with my grandparents (who have been constantly impressed—and a bit surprised—that their American granddaughter can tell them the exact route of the Long March).

Next year, I will be attending Columbia University as a John Jay National Scholar—an honor given to incoming students who demonstrate a variety of achievements and independence in thinking. I plan to major in Economics-Political Science and/or East Asian Studies. Given Columbia’s excellent humanities departments, I cannot imagine a better choice for me. Needless to say, I am very excited about starting my college career, one that will no doubt be happily filled with many history classes and continued research.

Fortunately, this young lady was better prepared for college because she did not have to shrink her research and her academic expository writing in history to the dumbed-down requirements of The College Board and Atlantic Magazine. Nevertheless, by asking for and publishing the short paper they made their “winner,” these two organizations have only limited the academic horizons of the many secondary students they have been able to reach with their “contest.” Other students have been able to read, see, or hear of The Concord Review, and they know there is a place with the high academic standards that more than 1,000 of their peers from 41 countries have met since 1987, and quite a few of them still decide that they would like to meet those standards for themselves.

Will Fitzhugh

Colleges Flush With Cash Saddle Poorest Students With Debt

Annie Waldman and Sisi Wei:

A ProPublica analysis of newly available federal data shows that some of the nation’s wealthiest colleges are leaving their poorest students with plenty of debt.

New York University’s commencement ceremony in 2012. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty)
New York University is among the country’s wealthiest schools. Backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, the school has built campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, invested billions in SoHo real estate, and given its star faculty loans to buy summer homes.

But the university does less than many other schools when it comes to one thing: helping its poor students.

Debt By Degrees

Use our interactive database to search new federal data on almost 7,000 schools in the U.S. to see how well they support their poorest students financially. Explore the app.

(Sisi Wei and Annie Waldman, ProPublica)
A ProPublica analysis based on new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that students from low-income families graduate from NYU saddled with huge federal loans. The school’s Pell Grant recipients – students from families that make less than $30,000 a year – owe an average of $23,250 in federal loans after graduation.

That’s more federal loan debt than low-income students take on at for-profit giant University of Phoenix, though NYU graduates have higher earnings and default less on their debt.

NYU is not the only university with a billion-dollar endowment to leave its poorest students with heavy debt loads. More than a quarter of the nation’s 60 wealthiest universities leave their low-income students owing an average of more than $20,000 in federal loans.

At the University of Southern California, which has a $4.6 billion endowment, low-income students graduate with slightly more debt than NYU’s graduates: $23,375. At Boston University ($1.5 billion endowment), it’s $27,000, and at Wake Forest University ($1.1 billion endowment) low-income students graduate with $29,150 in debt.

More from Michael Shear.

Debt by degrees.

When an outsider arrives to shake up a school system, a tightrope walk follows

Dale Russakoff:

When an outsider arrives to shake up a school system, a tightrope walk follows
By Dale Russakoff
PUBLISHED: September 10, 2015 – 6:30 pm EDT
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder/Chalkbeat
What could $100 million do for an urban school district plagued by low performance, a slow-moving bureaucracy, and deep student poverty? That’s what Newark set out to learn in 2010, when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged that sum to the small city’s schools. Journalist Dale Russakoff followed the twists and turns of that process and in “The Prize,” out this week, she documents the politics, policy shifts, and unfulfilled promises of the $100 million gift.
This excerpt comes from early in superintendent Cami Anderson’s tenure, which began after officials couldn’t agree on a hire and former New York State Education Commissioner John King turned the job down, and illustrates the characteristics of urban education that she hoped to upend in Newark as well as the consequences of that upending. Many of those consequences — including intense community opposition to school closures and the concentration of especially high-needs students in certain district schools — have unfolded in New York City as well. Read to the end for a chance to win your own copy of Russakoff’s book.
The Newark Public Schools has its headquarters in a drab, ten-story downtown office building occupied mostly by state agencies. The school district fills the top three floors, crowned by the superintendent’s suite and a photo gallery of its many occupants stretching back to 1855. The early leaders sport high collars, bushy mustaches, and wire-rimmed glasses. Over time, styles change, but through 118 years and eleven superintendents, two things remain constant: everyone in the photographs is white, and everyone is male.

Madison has long resisted substantive governance change, illustratedby its long term, disastrous reading results.

Civics: U.S. Drops Charges That Professor Shared Technology With China

Matt Apuzzo:

But months later, long after federal agents had led Dr. Xi away in handcuffs, independent experts discovered something wrong with the evidence at the heart of the Justice Department’s case: The blueprints were not for a pocket heater.

Faced with sworn statements from leading scientists, including an inventor of the pocket heater, the Justice Department on Friday afternoon dropped all charges against Dr. Xi, an American citizen.

It was an embarrassing acknowledgment that prosecutors and F.B.I. agents did not understand — and did not do enough to learn — the science at the heart of the case before bringing charges that jeopardized Dr. Xi’s career and left the impression that he was spying for China.

Is It Time to Tax Harvard’s Endowment?

Jordan Weissman:

“The joke about Harvard is that it’s a hedge fund with a university attached to it,” Mark Schneider tells me. It’s a quip that, for obvious reasons, has become pretty popular in recent years. In 2014, the university’s legendary endowment, overseen by a team of in-house experts and spread across a mind-bending array of investments that range from stocks and bonds to California wine vineyards, hit $36.4 billion. “They’re just collecting tons, and tons, and tons of money,” says Schneider, a former Department of Education official who is currently a fellow at the American Institutes for Research.

Of course, normal hedge funds have to pay taxes on their earnings. Because it’s a nonprofit, Harvard doesn’t. And since bestowing tax exemptions is the same as spending cash from the government’s perspective (budgeteers call them “tax expenditures” for a reason), that means the American public effectively subsidizes Harvard’s moneymaking engine. The same goes for Stanford (endowment: $21.4 billion), Princeton (endowment: $21 billion), Yale (endowment $23.9 billion), and the country’s other elite institutions of higher education.

Chicago & Milwaukee Public Schools: Compare Governance And Spending

Alan Borsuk:

I’ve been involved in a lot of discussion in the last three years about whether there should be more cooperation between the Chicago and Milwaukee areas in spurring economic development. There’s a lot to be said for that.

But I can tell you two areas where Chicago and Milwaukee stick to their own turf in ways that I doubt will ever change.

One is the Packers vs. the Bears. But on the weekend of the renewal of this great rivalry, we’ll leave commentary on football to others.

The other is schools. You ever heard of Chicago and Milwaukee people talking to each other about schools? My answer: Not never, but close.

That’s understandable. Schools are a classic local and state matter, so people are focused on their own turf.

But Chicago and Milwaukee face such similar issues — big systems facing too much poverty and too little educational success.

Are there perhaps things people in each place could learn from the other? I’d say yes. To support that, let me offer a glimpse of the Chicago situation and some thoughts on what each metropolis could learn from the other.

“They’re in a world of hurt” — that’s how one person put it when I asked about the current state of Chicago Public Schools.

End of the road for journalists? Tencent’s Robot reporter ‘Dreamwriter’ churns out perfect 1,000-word news story – in 60 seconds

He Huifeng:

Chinese social and gaming giant Tencent published its first business report written by a robot this week, ramping up fears among local journalists that their days may be numbered.

The flawless 916 -word article was released via the company’s portal, an instant messaging service that wields much sway in China, a country now in the throes of an automation revolution.

“The piece is very readable. I can’t even tell it wasn’t written by a person,” said Li Wei, a reporter based in the southern Chinese manufacturing boomtown of Shenzhen.

It was written in Chinese and completed in just one minute by Dreamwriter, a Tencent-designed robot journalist that apparently has few problems covering basic financial news.

Madison Schools Plan To Replace One On One Parent Meetings With Group Conferences

Ogechi Emechebe:

Rather than the typical one-on-one conferences where parents meet with teachers for 15 minutes, schools may follow the model of the Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT).

APTT replaces standard parent-teacher conferences with three group meetings during the academic year, where teachers meet with parents all at once in the classroom. The meetings typically take place once during the fall, winter and spring.

During the sessions, parents are provided with information on their child’s performance. Teachers then explain how how to interpret the data based on overall classroom performance, state standards and school benchmarks. Parents and teachers work together to set goals for the students individually and as a class.

In the Madison School District, first grade classrooms at Thoreau Elementary school were first to pilot the new program. Kindergarten and second grade classrooms will also hold parent-teacher team meetings this academic school year.

Nichelle Nichols, family, youth and community engagement director, said the new model will be used at several more schools this year.

How might this change affect Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results?

Price Discrimination in The Princeton Review’s Online SAT Tutoring Service

Keyon Vafa, Christian Haigh, Alvin Leung, Noah Yonack:

Prices for online tutoring services from The Princeton Review differ based on the consumer’s geographical location in the United States. It is understandable that tutoring companies have different prices across different geographic locations for in-person tutoring, as tutoring quality and labor costs can differ across geographical regions. Online tutoring, however, should theoretically be priced consistently because it draws from the same group of tutors, regardless of the geographic location of the consumer.

Results summary: The Princeton Review website gives a price for its SAT Private Level 24-hr Online Tutoring Package based on the 5-digit ZIP (or postal code) in the United States entered. After capturing the prices given for each of 32,989 5-digit ZIP codes in the United States, we found 3 different prices for the same online tutoring package: $2,760 or $115 per hour (in 24,492 ZIPs or 74.2 percent of the ZIP codes), $3,000 or $125 per hour (in 5,971 ZIPs or 18.1 percent) and $3,240 or $135 per hour (in 2,526 ZIPs or 7.66 percent). ZIP codes receiving the higher prices were in the Northeast and parts of New York. Bands of the middle prices appeared in parts of California, Texas, and the Midwest. Consumers who enter almost any ZIP code outside these areas will receive the lowest price.

The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues

Angela Hanscom:

I still recall the days of preschool for my oldest daughter. I remember wanting to desperately enrich her life in any way possible – to give her an edge before she even got to formal schooling. I put her in a preschool that was academic in nature – the focus on pre-reading, writing, and math skills. At home, I bought her special puzzles, set up organized play dates with children her age, read to her every night, signed her up for music lessons, put her in dance, and drove her to local museums. My friends and I even did “enrichment classes” with our kids to practice sorting, coloring, counting, numbers, letters, and yes….even to practice sitting! We thought this would help prepare them for kindergarten.

[Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today]

Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong. Yes, my daughter would later go on to test above average with her academic skills, but she was missing important life skills. Skills that should have been in place and nurtured during the preschool years. My wake-up call was when the preschool teacher came up to me and said, “Your daughter is doing well academically. In fact, I’d say she exceeds expectations in these areas. But she is having trouble with basic social skills like sharing and taking turns.” Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!

Is College Tuition Really Too High?

Adam Davidson:

To understand the feeling of crisis that many see in higher education right now, it’s useful to start with some figures from 40 years ago. In 1974, the median American family earned just under $13,000 a year. A new home could be had for $36,000, an average new car for $4,400. Attending a four-year private college cost around $2,000 a year: affordable, with some scrimping, to even median earners. As for public university, it was a bargain at $510 a year. To put these figures in 2015 dollars, we’re talking about median household income of $62,000, a house for $174,000 and a sticker price of $21,300 for the car, $10,300 for the private university and $2,500 for the public one.

A lot has changed since then. Median family income has fallen to about $52,000, while median home prices have increased by about two-thirds. (Car prices have remained steady.) But the real outlier is higher education. Tuition at a private university is now roughly three times as expensive as it was in 1974, costing an average of $31,000 a year; public tuition, at $9,000, has risen by nearly four times. This is a painful bill for all but the very richest. For the average American household that doesn’t receive a lot of financial aid, higher education is simply out of reach.

Wisconsin DPI’s Ongoing Assessment Process (those Who Brought Us The WKCE)

Molly Beck:

State education officials have tapped a former state lawmaker’s company to create a new exam for Wisconsin elementary and middle school students, replacing the problematic Badger Exam that students took for the first and last time this spring.

The state is negotiating a contract with Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corporation to build a test called the Wisconsin Forward Exam that will still be aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English and math, despite Gov. Scott Walker’s opposition to them.

Susan Engeleiter, chief executive officer and president of DRC, was the Republican Senate minority leader in the 1980s. She also ran an unsuccessful campaign against former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat, in 1988.

Much more on DPI’s multi-million dollar WKCE disaster.

Some Rules for Teachers

Anne Boyer:

1. only ask the questions to which you really need answers

2. demonstrate uncertainty

3. reconstruct for your students your own previous errors of thought and elucidate to your students what factors lead to a changed mind

4. do not let the terms with which you understand the world get in the way of understanding it

5. give up any desire to be the smartest person in the room

6. remember that students have bodies and that bodies require movement, sustenance, rest, and relief

7. leave an inheritance of dialectic

8. preserve and sustain whatever delusions you’ve found necessary to behave in good faith

How one of America’s last free colleges screwed its students and betrayed its legacy

Felix Salmon:

The best piece of in-depth investigative reporting you’re likely to read this week comes not from any journalist, but rather from the office of Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general. His 55-page report into what went wrong at Cooper Union should be required, and sobering, reading for anybody who cares about higher education in America.

The story here is narrowly about Cooper Union, and the way in which two presidents – George Campbell first, then Jamshed Bharucha – managed to bring a great institution to its knees, destroying its most precious and unique principle. More broadly, the report is an indictment of otiose trustees, egotistical technocrats, and a culture where university administrators gone wild can effectively railroad all stakeholders, including students, faculty, alumni, and even the attorney general’s office.

There’s a hint of good news, too, primarily in the fact that the New York authorities were willing and able to conduct a year-long investigation into Cooper Union. They write:

Intel to End Sponsorship of Science Talent Search

Quentin Hardy:

The contest, called the Science Talent Search, brings 40 finalists to Washington for meetings with leaders in government and industry and counts among its past competitors eight Nobel Prize winners, along with chief executives, university professors and award-winning scientists.

Over the years, the award for work in so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — has made national headlines and been an important indicator of America’s educational competitiveness and national priorities. When it was started as an essay competition in 1942, its first topic was “How science can help win the war.” The male winner, or “Top Boy,” went on to develop an artificial kidney. The “Top Girl” became an ophthalmologist. A single winner was first named in 1949.



Architect Lior Ben-Shitrit designs an innovative space where children with learning disabilities can shine

“They push them into classrooms so that they will sit quietly like everyone else, and they simply can’t do this,” says Michal Hazan, director of the “Darca” high school in Kiryat Malachi in southern Israel, about the disturbing reality that students with learning disabilities and ADHD face. In a trial that began last week at the start of the school year, a new special classroom was designed for 55 students suffering from these disabilities. This is a small project, 60 square meters in total, but when entering the new classroom it’s easy to spot the differences: a wall made of vegetation, balls instead of chairs, transparent walls and moving tables on wheels.

An Uberized education

Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

An Uberized education is when –as in antiquity — one goes to a specific teacher to get lectures, bypassing the university. The students and the teachers are thus matched. If a piece of paper is necessary, it would be given by *that* teacher, or a group of teachers. It is not too different from the decentralized apprentice model.

This already works well for executive “education”. I give short workshops in my specialty of applied probability (I have given a few with PW, YBY and RD, though only lasting 1-2 days), limited to professionals. An Uberization would consist in making longer workshops, say of 2-3 week duration, after which the attendees would be getting a piece of paper of sorts.

The Limits of Language

David Auerbach:

Te best class I took in college was on the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Until that point, I had avoided philosophy of language as simply being too esoteric and hermetic to be of use. David Pears, a prodigious yet modest and approachable figure visiting from Oxford, changed my mind. In large part because of Pears’ instruction, Wittgenstein’s philosophy has been directly relevant to my thinking about computer science, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. When other scholars were thinking that language and thought could be reduced to a universal, logical language, Wittgenstein turned the matter to practical questions and raised incredibly inconvenient questions that gained traction in artificial intelligence in the 1970s, 40 years after he was working on them.

The Ottoman Club at Columbia University

Ottoman Detective:

In 1910 the United States and the Ottoman Empire began an unprecedented era of friendship. The Ottomans had undergone some major changes in the preceding years. A party of reformers calling themselves the Young Turks had swept into power, proclaimed a new constitution and deposed of the autocratic Sultan Abdulhamid II, and instituted a new era of government. Many Americans saw new opportunity to extend ties. Richard Gottheil, the chair of the Semitic Languages department at Columbia, had just spent a year in the Ottoman Empire, primarily in Palestine. By his account, only Germany seemed to see the potential in the market there and that the Americans had a large opportunity. Speaking to a group of Columbia students in September of 1910 he noted that the Young Turks were removing barriers to Jewish immigration to Palestine and setting up new irrigation system. A couple of months later at a round table at Teachers College on the same issue he claimed that reasons for all these positive signs could be traced to three sources: the new generation of literati, the role of American Colleges, especially Robert College in Istanbul, and the clear influence of women. Though we know in hindsight that the Ottoman Empire would only last another decade, for many at that time there was no end in sight. Many had noted its recent fall in fortunes, with massive loss of territory in the Balkans, but it had been around for 800 years and it seemed to be newly reinvigorated.

Washington State Supreme Court: Charter schools are unconstitutional…

John Higgins:

After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional, creating chaos for hundreds of families whose children have already started classes.

The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.

Eight new charter schools are opening in Washington this fall, in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year.

It was not immediately known what would happen with the schools that are already running. The parties have 20 days to ask the court for reconsideration before the ruling becomes final.

Related: WEAC, $1.57 million for four senators.

A New Cooper Union

Student Activism:

This afternoon at two o’clock the New York State Attorney General will announce the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Committee to Save Cooper Union, a group of activist students, faculty, and alumni against the Cooper Union trustees. The settlement will impose various reforms to Cooper Union governance, establish an independent financial monitor for the college, and begin the slow, difficult process of re-establishing Cooper Union as a free, healthy institution.

Today’s settlement is a huge victory for those who have fought to preserve the mission that Cooper Union has advanced since its founding a century and a half ago and a final repudiation of the failed administration whose financial mismanagement, fomenting of division, and punitive governance laid Cooper low.

The signs of rebirth at Cooper have been visible for months. Five of the most recalcitrant trustees resigned (in an extraordinary fit of pique) in June, and widely-despised president Jamshed Bharucha quit the following day. Other resignations and retirements followed, as it became clear that the Attorney General’s investigation of Cooper Union had real teeth.

There’s a tremendous amount to unpack here, and I’ll be writing much more in the coming days. In particular, the release of the full text of the settlement this afternoon will answer a lot of questions (and likely raise many others). In the meantime, though, a few highlights:

Education Debt Burdens Students, Economy; Elite Schools Lobby Against Proposal To Cap Graduate School Loans

Jim Puzzanghera:

Students around the country — and often their parents — have racked up so much college debt since the recession that it now threatens the nation’s economic growth.

The debt weighs down millions of Americans who might otherwise buy homes or start businesses. And the financial horror stories of debt-saddled students, combined with continued increases in tuition, could deter others from attending college and could produce a less-educated workforce.

“The impact on future [economic] growth could be quite significant,” said Cristian deRitis, who analyzes consumer credit economics for Moody’s Analytics.

The amount of outstanding student loans has skyrocketed 76% to almost $1.2 trillion since 2009 as college costs have shot up and graduates have had difficulty finding good-paying jobs.

Dear Dad, Send Money – Letters from Students in the Middle Ages


A recent poll in Canada revealed that 51 per cent of post-secondary students had asked their parents for additional financial support last year because they ran out of money. This news prompted experts to comment on how necessary it was to teach students “the importance of balancing a budget.” However, the idea that students were asking their parents for money is not a new phenomenon – it began soon after the emergence of universities in medieval Europe. As one medieval Italian father puts its, “a student’s first song is a demand for money, and there will never be a letter which does not ask for cash.”

Here is a typical example from the 1220s:
B. to his venerable master A., greeting This is to inform you that I am studying at Oxford with the greatest diligence, but the matter of money stands greatly in the way of my promotion, as it is now two months since I spent the last of what you sent me. The city is expensive and makes many demands; I have to rent lodgings, buy necessaries, and provide for many other things which I cannot now specify. Wherefore I respectfully beg your paternity that by the promptings of divine pity you may assist me, so that I may be able to complete what I have well begun. For you must know that without Ceres and Bacchus Apollo grows cold.

Teaching Teachers: Big Costs, Little Payoff

Dan Dempsey:

A study, entitled “The Mirage,” was based on surveys of 10,000 teachers and 500 school leaders, along with interviews with more than 100 staff involved in teacher development. The surveys and interviews were conducted in three large school districts and a mid-sized charter school network.

PD costs were found to average $18,000 per student per year. Based on findings, it is estimated that the 50 largest U.S. school districts alone spend about $8 billion annually on teacher development, far more than was previously thought.

Given the large increase in instructional time, it is extremely hard to believe that the new fidelity of implementation to the new K-5 Everyday Math textbook series and associated professional development accompanying the adoption were of any value.

There was NO … observable, measurable progress toward an ambitious standard for teaching and student learning due to this fall 2007 adoption of EDM materials and accompanying professional development.

It is way past time to REEVALUATE existing professional learning supports and programs.

It would also be a good idea to use relevant data in the selection of textbooks and materials.

Charles Chieppo: Teaching Teachers: Big Costs, Little Payoff:

Given that it’s become a truism that teacher quality impacts student learning more than any other variable within the four walls of a school, the results of a new study of teachers’ professional development programs are particularly troubling. There are two main takeaways from the report by TNTP, a nonprofit formerly known as The New Teacher Project: Taxpayers invest a lot more resources in teacher development programs than previously thought, and there is no link between these programs and improved classroom performance.

That second finding, in particular, will have a positive impact if it prompts school districts to clearly define what teacher effectiveness looks like and to measure professional development programs in terms of how they help teachers get closer to that goal.

The study, entitled “The Mirage,” was based on surveys of 10,000 teachers and 500 school leaders, along with interviews with more than 100 staff involved in teacher development. The surveys and interviews were conducted in three large school districts and a mid-sized charter school network.

Orthodoxy in the Classroom

Natalia Antelava:

Georgia’s liberal politicians say only alignment with Europe and US will allow Georgia to overcome its post-Soviet past and survive as an independent nation. But in the way of Georgia’s pro-Western course stands its Orthodox neighbour Russia and, increasingly, the country’s own Orthodox Church. Natalia Antelava visits her old school in Tbilisi to see how the country’s most conservative, anti-Western institution is influencing the next generation.

The Privatization of Childhood

Megan Erickson:

Today, nearly half of American children born to parents with low incomes grow into adults with low incomes, and 40 percent of children born to wealthy parents become high-income adults. In the United States, which has based much of its social safety net on educational mobility, the ability to do better than one’s parents by completing more years of schooling did indeed rise between 1947 and 1977, but it has decreased sharply since.

Correlation of educational attainment between parents and children is now higher in the United States than in European countries, particularly Nordic countries, where a tiny fraction of low-income children becomes low-income adults. As Richard Wilkinson, coauthor of The Spirit Level, has said, “If Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark.”

NY Fed Study Should Redefine How We Think About Student Loans and College Costs

Mike Konczul:

Sometimes you hear something that sounds so much like common sense that you end up missing how it overturns everything you were actually thinking, and points in a far more interesting and disturbing direction. That’s how I’m feeling about the coverage of a recent paper on student loans and college tuition coming out of the New York Federal Reserve, “Credit Supply and the Rise in College Tuition: Evidence from the Expansion in Federal Student Aid Programs,” by David Lucca, Taylor Nadauld, and Karen Shen.

They find that “institutions more exposed to changes in the subsidized federal loan program increased their tuition,” or for every dollar in increased student loan availability colleges increased the sticker price of their tuition 65 cents. Crucially, they find that the effect is stronger for subsidized student loans than for Pell Grants. When they go further and control for additional variables, Pell Grants lose their significance in the study, while student loans become more important.

There’s been a lot of debate over this research, with Libby Nelson at Vox providing a strong summary. I want to talk about the theory of the paper. People have been covering this as a normal debate about whether subsidizing college leads to higher tuition, but this is a far different story. It actually overturns a lot of what we believe about higher education funding, and means that the conservative solution to higher education costs, going back to Milton Friedman, will send tuition skyrocketing. And it ends up providing more evidence of the importance of free higher education.

Bullying Causes Teen Suicide, But What Causes Bullying?

Dr Hurd:

Schools have long since lost sight of what education actually is. Government schools are particularly guilty. Public schools are government schools. If we called them what they are — government schools — many of us might not be so prone to defend them.

By their very definition, the purpose of nationalized, federally subsidized government schools is to turn out “good little citizens” — as the government currently in power defines them.
Bear in mind that this is neither a Republican nor a Democrat issue. Each party stands ready to get its turn in the sun and utilize the coercive apparatus of the federal regulatory and funding structure in an attempt to assert their visions, priorities and will into the minds of young people. Social engineering (right wing or left wing) imposed on children, propped up by government coercion, subsidies and mandatory attendance laws … It’s truly the intellectual equivalent of child abuse.

Contrary to principles of education discovered and articulated by geniuses like Maria Montessori, most schools approach education collectively, not individually. We utilize the German model, based on the kind of thinking that gave rise to Hitler, nationalism and fascism; there’s nothing American about it. A distinctively American approach to education would be based on individualism, for-profit and competitive excellence, and parental choice in a totally free marketplace. Innovation and genuine diversity would be the dominant themes in a privatized education marketplace. We presently have none of those things.

Children are not taught to learn in their own ways at paces they can personally handle, while still adhering to objective standards of truth, fact and knowledge. Instead, we strive for normalcy, as defined by the rulers in charge. We seek out teachers who pursue master’s degrees in the nonspecific (and indefinable) field of “education,” while knowing little or nothing about the subjects they’re expected to teach. We require teachers to teach for the sake of nationalized tests, more in the pursuit of attaining scores that make the schools look collectively good rather than actually catering to the highly individualized, while still objective, process of learning and thinking.

Teaching Taste

Kartik Agraram:

Basically, my student now indents just like any other programmer (to the extent that anybody should care about it) but knows why he does so, the concrete benefit he derives from it. He is open to changing his habits in the face of changing circumstances, and not to dwell overly on minor local details compared to the prize: understanding what this program does.

Once I happened upon this happy result — learning useful skills without harmful metaheuristics — I noticed that the same arc has been playing out in parallel along several other frontlines. My student used to use single-letter variable names, and now he’s starting to use words in some situations. He’s starting to add comments. He went from having no comments, to commenting every line (including, yes, “increment x”), to noticing that that wasn’t useful. Ok, he might take a few decades to figure out that one. I’m looking forward to seeing the same dynamic evolve in where he draws his function boundaries.

Charters chief kept quiet about bad studies

Catherine Candisky, via a kind reader:

While getting grilled in July about leaving online schools out of charter-school sponsor evaluations, David Hansen, the former Ohio Department of Education’s school-choice head, did not share a report critical of the online schools.

Three days later, Hansen resigned.

And in December, he directed staff to not talk publicly about another study showing Ohio students fared much worse at charter schools.

“No comment about it outside the department,” Hansen wrote in an email to staff members days before the report was released.

On Friday, several members of the Ohio Board of Education said they had never heard about the most recent report, commissioned by Hansen’s office, until told about it by The Dispatch.

Myths about College Degrees and the Job Economy

Changing Universities:

Thus as education levels and technological advances have increased since 1970, the profits generated from these activities have not been shared with the average worker. The problem then is not a question of education or skills or even technology, the issue is how profits are distributed.

In an act of great ideological deception, business leaders and politicians have been able to turn our attention to higher education as the solution to wage stabnation because they do not want us to look at some of the real causes, like profit hording, de-unionization, financial speculation, executive pay, regressive taxation, and outsourcing. Cassidy points out that in place of dealing with these real economic issues, we are told that America has a fair meritocracy, and the key to economic advancement for individuals and the country as a whole is to produce more people with college degrees.

The myth of the meritocracy is an effective ideological tool because it tells us that if someone does not have a good job, it is their own fault. After all, we have a fair system of equal opportunity, which provides everyone the chance for social mobility. The reality of the situation is that our economic system is enhancing inequality and higher education is making things worse. Looking at the relation between family income and college attainment since 1970, we see that people in the top quartile income bracket who enter college have increased their degree attainment from 55% to 99%, while people from the bottom bracket have moved from 22% to 21% during the same forty-three-year period:

Higher education’s real censors: What we’re missing in the debate over trigger warnings and “coddled” students

Corey Robin:

No one knows the power of literature better than the censor. That’s why he burns books: to fight fire with fire, to stop them from setting the world aflame. Or becomes an editor: Stalin, we now know, excised words from texts with about as much energy and attention as he excised men and women from the world. As Bertolt Brecht archly noted of the East German regime’s efforts to control what he wrote: “Where else in the world can you find a government that shows such interest and pays such attention to artists?”

This week, as I head back to the classroom amid controversy — from Columbia to Berkeley to Duke — over what college students will or will not read, I’m mindful of Brecht’s observation. Could it be that the men and women who most appreciate what we, professors of the humanities and social sciences, have to offer are the students who’ve been vilified as coddled and cosseted, demanding trigger warnings on syllabi or simply refusing to read the books we’ve assigned them because those books make them uncomfortable? Could it be that they, like the censor, are the ones who truly understand the power of the books we teach?

Civics: A philosopher tries to parse the logic of propaganda in democracies

David Johnson:

The 9/11 attacks occurred the week I had to defend my dissertation in philosophy. I took my first tenure-track job (yes, such a thing existed back then) during the launch of our now fourteen-year-old “war on terror.” As I made my way in academia in the midst of George W. Bush’s presidency, my new colleagues and I would inevitably discuss the authoritarian and distorting turn of American public discourse. How could so many be so cowed and so misled into supporting such an obvious misadventure as the Iraq war? How could our leading institutions—and especially the media—fail so miserably to underline the immorality of torture and question the claims as to Saddam Hussein’s threat to national security? This dismal time raised the specter of propaganda, and posed the questions of how the false alibis of power could hold such sway in a liberal democracy and what could be done about it.

In 2004–2005, I was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Michigan. By then, I had become so radicalized by the American political situation and so frustrated by the restrictive horizons of my research—my specialty was ancient Greek philosophy—that I felt I had to make a choice. On the one hand, I might continue on the academic track and try to speak out where I could. (Like many of my peers, I was an active extramural blogger.) On the other, I could leave the ivory tower behind and plunge into journalism.

A Proposed Heuristic For Academic Budgeting Decisions

Ed Kazarian :

It occurred to me, in the midst of a conversation where folks were marveling at the money being spent by a flagship state university on a marketing initiative, that it should, at this juncture,* be possible to formulate a very simple test for evaluating the wisdom of this and other university spending initiatives:

“How many part time lines could be made full time and / or how many adjunct lines could be made permanent with the money being spent on this**?”

“empower teachers by empowering unions”

Jennifer Reuf:

So unions protect the working conditions of teachers, which protects the learning environments for children. If you want decent learning conditions for students, protect decent working conditions for their teachers. It is no coincidence that there is a record shortage of teachers to staff Wisconsin’s famously excellent public schools this year.

A colleague once told me she really appreciated university students who hailed from Wisconsin public schools because they can think critically. The tide is turning, and informed Wisconsin citizens need to make sure it does not sweep Wisconsin children out to sea. Please examine the evidence. It is not too late. It is time to empower teachers by empowering unions.

Academics are being hoodwinked into writing books nobody can buy

Anonymous Academic:

A few months ago, an editor from an academic publisher got in touch to ask if I was interested in writing a book for them.

I’ve ignored these requests in the past. I know of too many colleagues who have responded to such invitations, only to see their books disappear on to a university library shelf in a distant corner of the world.

If someone tried to buy said book – I mean, like a real human being – they would have to pay the equivalent of a return ticket to a sunny destination or a month’s child benefit. These books start at around £60, but they can cost double that, or even more.

This time, however, I decided to play along.

So I got the editor on the phone and he asked if I had an idea for them. “Sure,” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic. “Perhaps I could write a book about…” – and here I started piling up ugly-sounding buzzwords.

The History of Cartography, the “Most Ambitious Overview of Map Making Ever,” Now Free Online

Open Culture:

Worth a quick mention: The University of Chicago Press has made available online — at no cost — the first three volumes of The History of Cartography. Or what Edward Rothstein, of The New York Times, called “the most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken.” He continues:

People come to know the world the way they come to map it—through their perceptions of how its elements are connected and of how they should move among them. This is precisely what the series is attempting by situating the map at the heart of cultural life and revealing its relationship to society, science, and religion…. It is trying to define a new set of relationships between maps and the physical world that involve more than geometric correspondence. It is in essence a new map of human attempts to chart the world.

If you head over to this page, then look in the upper left, you will see links to three volumes (available in a free PDF format). My suggestion would be to look at the gallery of color illustrations for each book, links to which you’ll find below. The image above, appearing in Vol. 2, dates back to 1534. It was created by Oronce Fine, the first chair of mathematics in the Collège Royal (aka the Collège de France), and it features the world mapped in the shape of a heart. Pretty great.

So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class …

Andrew Ross Sorkin:

In 2008, shortly after Bill Gates stepped down from his executive role at Microsoft, he often awoke in his 66,000-square-foot home on the eastern bank of Lake Washington and walked downstairs to his private gym in a baggy T-shirt, shorts, sneakers and black socks yanked up to the midcalf. Then, during an hour on the treadmill, Gates, a self-described nerd, would pass the time by watching DVDs from the Teaching Company’s “Great Courses” series. On some mornings, he would learn about geology or meteorology; on others, it would be oceanography or U.S. history.

Stop Hyping Academic Freedom

Simon During:

Universities may be among the oldest of our institutions, but they have changed significantly during the millennium or so since they were established.

Roughly speaking, the history of the European university proceeds through four phases.

First, the medieval ecclesiastical-juridical phase in which, first in Italy and gradually across Europe, universities were granted and then claimed privileges from sovereign authority, often on the model of the guild. At this time, their primary purpose was to prepare students for careers in the law, medicine, and most of all the church.

Class Dismissed: It’s Not Homeschooling, It’s Unschooling

Jenny Burman;

Like money that grows on trees, it seems like a child’s impossible dream: not to go to school today, next week, next season—to stay up late, play Minecraft, read comics, climb a tree, with permission to boot.

But for some children this is no fantasy. As the number of homeschooled children grows nationwide, so too does the number of “unschoolers,” families whose children follow no formal curriculum, unless the children themselves devise it. Instead of going to school, the kids plan their own day and largely do what they want. While they do sometimes take organized classes, it only happens when the child wants to. There are not a lot of statistics available for unschoolers—the U.S. Census counts them as homeschoolers—but anecdotal evidence suggests unschooling appears to be largely the purview of middle-class families with educated parents. “Research in unschooling remains in its infancy,” according to Kellie Rolstad and Kathleen Keeson, who wrote “Unschooling, Then and Now,” in a 2013 volume of The Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning.

Justices receive political contributions from lead party in charter school lawsuit

Washington policy center :

New research finds that some justices on the state supreme court have received political contributions from a lead party in a key lawsuit now before the court.

Parties in the case, League of Women Voters, Washington Education Association, et al vs State of Washington, are asking the court to strike down Washington’s charter school law, passed by voters in 2012, and bar children from attending a charter public school.

Charter schools are community-based public schools that operate independently of central district management. They are tuition-free and open to all students. In Washington, charter schools are designed to help poor families and children underserved by traditional schools.

Charter schools are popular with low-income parents who see education as the path to a better future for their children. Demand far exceeds supply. While 10 charter schools are set to open, the Charter School Commission this year rejected applications from 12 community charter school groups, leaving 4,900 children to wait for a future round of approvals.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for four senators.

The Website that got Me Expelled

The Code Word:

All teachers and students are equal. But teachers are more equal than students.

Each of us is entitled to freedom of expression, as long as the expression has been approved in advance by the administration.

The article spoofed every category in the original Winston’s Way. I no longer have it, so I’ve paraphrased the above examples from memory, but I’m sure you get the general idea.

The other thing I did was create and print some forms that would facilitate the feature of my newsletter that I expected to be its crowning glory: Teacher Report Cards. We spit-balled a lot of silly ideas around the library table on that fateful afternoon, but the one that struck a chord with all of us–the one we all agreed would be the defining feature–was the teacher report cards. Our plan was to surreptitiously allow our fellow students to grade and leave anonymous comments about their teachers, which we would collect and publish. The teachers graded us, after all, wasn’t it only fair for us to return the favor?

Commemtary on Wisconsin’s $14 Billion K-12 Spending Priorities

State Senator Jennifer Shilling:

It’s clear that we need to take a close look at how student funding cuts and increasing poverty rates are affecting classroom learning. Instead of taking more resources away from Wisconsin children, we must work together to invest in local schools, reduce student hunger and improve student achievement.

For too long, Republicans have prioritized tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of funding for our schools and communities. In recent months, Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions have overshadowed the real challenges facing families and distracted from our ability to find solutions to this growing crisis.

It is high time we focus on the important issues affecting Wisconsin families and local schools. Together, we can work to end childhood hunger in Wisconsin and provide all hardworking students the opportunity to succeed.

Related: recent Wisconsin K-12 budget comments.

Jennifer Shilling notes and links.

Madison’s Teacher Hiring Practices

Doug Erickson:

Candidates still got scored this year, but on a newly developed set of core competencies that district officials say better match the skills that matter most for teaching in Madison. One of the new competencies is “data proficiency,” described as the ability to “use data beyond standardized assessments to diagnose student learning needs and differentiate instruction in the classroom.”

In a break from the past, only those candidates with clear deficiencies, such as not having the right professional certification, were dropped right away, said Hargrove-Krieghoff, hired in August of last year.

“We did not look solely at a number and say, ‘You’re in or you’re out,’” she said. “We looked at a variety of information, because we want to move away from this idea of a cut score and more toward looking at the competencies and understanding each candidate’s strengths.”

Hundreds more than usual advanced to a phone interview, and the interview length was expanded from five or 10 minutes to a half-hour or more, she said.

The process took more time — retired district administrators came back to help. But at least in the first year under the new rules, the district wanted to collect as much information as possible on as many candidates as possible. It can now go back and study whether an applicant’s initial score ended up being a good predictor of being hired, Hargrove-Krieghoff said.

The district also revised its interview questions to reduce the potential for unconscious cultural bias, Hargrove-Krieghoff said. This meant replacing opinion-based questions with scenario-based ones that ask, for instance, how applicants would handle certain classroom situations.

“It’s much more about the craft of teaching and about the skills the person will bring to the job, not whether the person looks or sounds like you do,” Hargrove-Krieghoff said.

Related (2009): an attempt to change teacher credentialism.

A New Online Computational Biology Curriculum

David Searls:

Less than two years ago, the author published an online bioinformatics curriculum in this journal and made the claim (with some important caveats) that a sufficient number and variety of free video courses had made their way to the web that it was possible to obtain a reasonably comprehensive bioinformatics education on one’s laptop [1]. In that compilation of courseware, only a few entries originated from the then-nascent Coursera platform (, and none came from its academic competitor edX ( In the intervening time, these platforms and several others have fairly exploded with new content, such that on the order of a thousand courses are now available online from over a hundred academic institutions. That fact alone justifies an update to the curriculum and a reassessment of the viability of online education in this field.

To begin with the latter, it should first be acknowledged that MOOCs are controversial in many regards. This article will not attempt to review or comment on the generic issues beyond making a few general observations in the Conclusion below. It is the opinion of the author that MOOCs are indeed a valuable resource even if they are not a magic bullet. The general limitations as regards bioinformatics were discussed in the previous article [1] and in a companion piece giving practical advice to online learners [2] and need not be recapitulated here. Certainly the sizeable increases in content that have occurred in the interim have improved the prospects, yet they have also raised the bar, and it is now clearer than ever where the gaps and shortcomings are in the available curriculum. Specific instances will be commented upon in the appropriate contexts below. One general observation is that the MOOC universe provides good coverage at the introductory level and plenty of specialized “elective” courses, but comprehensive intermediate and advanced courses are thin on the ground in some areas, including biology. For example, as of this writing there are no MOOCs dedicated to the subject of structural biology, which is surprising given the importance of visualization in the field and the availability of excellent online resources. Nevertheless, the sizeable expansion of courses available, particularly in allied fields such as neurosciences and evolutionary biology, has been deemed sufficient to widen the scope of this edition to encompass the more expansive term “computational biology” as opposed to “bioinformatics” (for those who consider the distinction important).

University Of Iowa Gets President That Faculty Dislike

Kelli Woodhouse:

Come November, the University of Iowa will have a businessman with little experience in academe at its helm — and many faculty members and others in Iowa City aren’t happy about it.

The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously appointed former IBM senior vice president Bruce Harreld as Iowa’s next president, despite outspoken criticism of Harreld as lacking the necessary qualifications to lead a university.

Harreld was one of four publicly announced finalists for the position and the only one without experience in higher education administration. He is a consultant who formerly worked as an executive at IBM, Kraft General Foods and Boston Market Company restaurants. His higher education experience is limited to eight years as an adjunct business professor at Harvard University and Northwestern University.

Faculty members have expressed concerns that Harreld lacks the knowledge and skills to work under a shared governance model and understand the complexities of leading a multibillion-dollar academic and research organization. Many worry that he will view the institution with a corporate mind-set, and that he will allow the regents to make the wrong changes to the university.

“Bruce Harreld is taking on the presidency under an enormous cloud and it’s going to take a lot of work to begin to make his presidency work effectively and to gain the trust of the community,” said Ed Folsom, an English professor who served on the presidential search that produced Sally Mason, whose retirement in August created the vacancy that the board is filling. “The fear of a good part of the university community is that he is assuming a presidency that … looks to the Board of Regents for guidance and approval, rather than looking to the university community for guidance and approval.”

Harvard Class of 2019 Survey

Harvard Crimson, via a kind reader:

Part III of The Crimson’s survey of the Class of 2019 looks at the beliefs and lifestyles of the incoming freshmen. Almost two-thirds of the surveyed students are virgins, but respondents who took a gap year between high school and college were more likely to report having had sexual intercourse before arriving in Cambridge. Most have minimal experience with drugs and alcohol. A majority identify politically as at least somewhat liberal, but a plurality—45 percent—reported feeling unsure about whether their new school should divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry, a raging debate on campus. Forty-one percent said they are “not confident at all” that the police treat white people and black people equally.

Commentary on 1.8% of Wisconsin’s $14,000,000,000 in K-12 Spending

Molly Beck:

The number of students using vouchers to attend private schools grew from 22,439 during the 2011-12 school year to 29,609 last school year, according to the DPI. At the same time, 870,650 students attended public schools last year — which is about the same number that did in the 2011-12 school year. Enrollment grew to 873,531 in the 2013-14 school year before decreasing last school year.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers have created new voucher programs in Racine and statewide to join the program in Milwaukee, created in 1990 as the country’s first.

Milwaukee and Racine school districts are allowed to raise property taxes to offset their reductions in state aid.

Related: SIS

Ongoing education spending rhetoric often lacks facts, such as the recent Wisconsin State Journal Headline replaying annual school budget theatre (thankfully, the article did mention the planned 9(!) increase in healthcare spending).

I recently requested historic data on Wisconsin education spending and have posted the results below, along with the raw data. Tap the charts to view a larger version.

Students under surveillance

Helen Warrell:

week after students begin their distance learning courses at the UK’s Open University this October, a computer program will have predicted their final grade. An algorithm monitoring how much the new recruits have read of their online textbooks, and how keenly they have engaged with web learning forums, will cross-reference this information against data on each person’s socio-economic background. It will identify those likely to founder and pinpoint when they will start struggling. Throughout the course, the university will know how hard students are working by continuing to scrutinise their online reading habits and test scores.

Behind the innovation is Peter Scott, a cognitive scientist whose “knowledge media institute” on the OU’s Milton Keynes campus is reminiscent of Q’s gadget laboratory in the James Bond films. His workspace is surrounded by robotic figurines and prototypes for new learning aids. But his real enthusiasm is for the use of data to improve a student’s experience. Scott, 53, who wears a vivid purple shirt with his suit, says retailers already analyse customer information in order to tempt buyers with future deals, and argues this is no different. “At a university, we can do some of those same things — not so much to sell our students something but to help them head in the right direction.”

Why Data Matters

Rishawn Biddle:

Two things can be said about California’s state government when it comes to its efforts on school data. The first? That the Golden State has always blundered when it comes to developing robust comprehensive data systems that can be easily used by families, school leaders, researchers, and policymakers. As I reported seven years ago in A Byte At the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, bureaucratic incompetence, failures to fully fund development of data systems, and the byzantine structure of state education governance have all combined to ensure that none of California’s data systems provide the comprehensive longitudinal data that is needed to spur systemic reform. Little wonder why California only implemented four of the 10 standards for high-quality data systems set by the Data Quality Campaign in 2012 — and why it hasn’t participated in the organization’s evaluations for the past two years.

The second: That affiliates of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, along with traditional districts within the Golden State, have worked together to make it even harder for families or anyone to gain any data on school and student performance at all, much less anything that is simple-yet-comprehensive. Four years ago, the Big Two successfully convinced Gov. Jerry Brown to kibosh development of the CalTIDES teacher performance data system (and ending efforts to use objective student test score growth data in evaluating how instructors are improving student achievement). Last year, the Big Two and traditional districts successfully convinced Brown and state legislators to pass Assembly Bill 484, which all but gutted the state’s accountability systems — under the guise of implementing Common Core reading and math standards — by eviscerating all but four of the state’s battery of exams.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Labor Force Participation Rate Stuck at 38-Year Low for 3rd Straight Month

US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The nation’s civilian noninstitutional population, consisting of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 251,096,000. Of those, 157,065,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 157,065,000 who participated in the labor force equaled only 62.6 percent of the 251,096,000 civilian noninstitutional population — the same as it was in July and June. Not since October 1977, when the participation rate dropped to 62.4, has the percentage been this low.

Forbes says UW-Madison is 11th best public college in the country

Doug Erickson:

UW-Madison is the 11th best public college in the country and the 69th top college overall, according to Forbes Magazine.

The magazine is out this week with “The Smarter College Guide,” a 360-page book that ranks colleges and universities in the U.S.

This is the second year in a row UW-Madison placed 11th among public colleges. It’s up one notch overall, having placed 70th last year.

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, Lawrence University in Appleton placed 129th overall, Marquette University in Milwaukee 157th overall and Beloit College 158th overall.

UW-Madison ranked 23rd in the list of Best Value Schools, up from 24th last year.

Princeton’s School of Hard Knocks

Virginia Postrel:

Worrying about the angst of high-achieving students has become a minor industry. “America’s culture of hyperachievement among the affluent” has led to suicides, depression, and anxiety among college students, suggested a July New York Times feature. “These cultural dynamics of perfectionism and overindulgence have now combined to create adolescents who are ultra-focused on success but don’t know how to fail,” wrote Julie Scelfo. The rhetoric of concern barely conceals contemptuous disapproval.

In this popular narrative, America’s best college students are making themselves miserable trying to please pushy parents and grab lucrative jobs. They’re soulless grinds — the products of insensitive parenting and a sick culture. This fable leaves no room for intellectual enthusiasm or the pride of seeing oneself as smart and accomplished. It assumes every activity these students pursue is instrumental, undertaken merely to look good on an application for the next stage in their upward climb. Their drive for success, it suggests, cloaks an ignoble lust for fame or money. The moralism of this tale may flatter the tellers, but the story itself largely misses a deeper underlying struggle on elite campuses.

Of white bread, papier-mâché, and the original “education reformer”

Mike Vaughn:

CPS runs Consuella B. York Alternative School, a school located inside the jail at 26th and California. I was there to visit an art class and write a story about it for the Chicago Educator, a newspaper that CPS started when Mayor Richard M. Daley first took control of the school system and named Paul Vallas as its first CEO.

The students at York are not guilty of anything. They are awaiting “adjudication” on an arrest charge. Some are there for a couple days, others much longer.

I felt out of place. First of all, it was an art class involving papier-mâché. I don’t have an artistic cell in my body (not to mention that I’ve always had a thing against papier-mâché because of its pretentious, “Hey, look at me!” spelling). Second of all, I was pretty much an alien to the guys in the class—a creature from a very pale planet that prides itself on lame haircuts.

But 10 minutes in, we were just a bunch of guys hanging out, doing papie…um, an art project, and talking about Michael Jordan, school, movies, and whatever else came up. They were smart, funny, friendly, and great company (not to mention, very forgiving of my hair).

Amsterdam’s Microbe Museum

Ed Yong

On a warm summer afternoon in Amsterdam, a line of visitors snaked toward the entrance of the Artis Royal Zoo, queuing to see the typical assortment of elephants, giraffes, penguins, lions, and so on. I, however, was more interested in the building opposite the ticket booths, which had a very different menagerie inside. A large banner draped over the building’s two stories displayed a collection of fuzzy colored balls, shaped like a waving person. This towering gestalt figure represented the human microbiome—the trillions of bacteria and other microörganisms that inhabit our bodies. With its purposeful stride and genial wave, it welcomed passersby into Micropia, the world’s first museum devoted entirely to microbes.

Micropia launched in September, 2014, after twelve years of development and ten million euros of investment. None of the creatures in its exhibits is bigger than an ant, and most are substantially smaller—zipping water fleas, invincible tardigrades, green algae, and innumerable bacteria. The place is a shrine to the super-small, a haven for charismatic minifauna, a place where the cages and paddocks of the neighboring zoo have been swapped for agar plates and glass slides. The fact that it exists at all is a tribute to the growing realization that the great majority of microbes are neither signs of filth nor bringers of disease but vital parts of the world around and within us.

Will kids ditch education to make $15 an hour? Opponents behind new billboard say so

Payton Davis:

The prospect of earning $15 an hour might encourage young adults to ditch endeavors in education if nationwide efforts to raise the minimum wage come to fruition, a Times Square billboard indicates.

“What? I get $30,000 a year with no experience or skills?” reads the sign featuring a young man with headphones in and cap turned around. “Who needs an education or hard work when Gov. Cuomo is raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour?”

Inside Facebook’s plan to build a better school

Casey Newton:

Looking back, Mike Sego says, he was always meant to work in education. His dad taught fifth grade for 37 years, three of his older siblings were K-12 teachers, and he spent free time as a kid grading papers for fun. But like so many people who arrive in Silicon Valley after college, Sego first started working in tech. He worked on The Sims, and later got to know Mark Zuckerberg when his virtual pets game, (fluff)Friends, was one of the first hits on Facebook’s new games platform. Around that time, Zuckerberg had become interested in education as part of his philanthropy, donating $100 million to Newark schools in 2010. After a stint as CEO of Gaia Interactive, Sego decided to turn his attention to education. He called Zuckerberg and asked if they could work together.

Inevitable, given cost disease and Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

An Alternative View on Charter Schools and Backfill

Robin Lake:

Paul has legitimate concerns about the “backfill” issue (whether charter schools should be required to take students mid-year or after traditional entry grades), concerns that are grounded in his research with Gail Foster and Tamar Gendler at RAND back in the 80s. High Schools with Character is one of the best things I’ve read about the importance of school-level coherency and is foundational reading at CRPE. Paul is worried that by asking the most effective, “high-output” charter high schools to backfill, they will begin to look like traditional comprehensive high schools, compromising high standards and the learning opportunities for high-achieving students.

We at CRPE have always believed that the real promise of chartering rests on the ability of the school to act as a focused, results-oriented organization. A school should be able to define a clear vision of the skills, character, and competencies of its graduates, and it should be able to define how instruction, culture, and resources are aligned in support of producing those kinds of graduates. It is essential that everyone in the school community—teachers, students, parents, and even the cafeteria staff—is on board with that plan. Focus and coherency are especially important at the high school level, where student interests, skills, and behaviors can vary dramatically. Trying to respond to those diverse needs led us to where we are today, with comprehensive high schools that often produce award-winning football teams and jazz bands but struggle to ensure that every student leaves on a path to success.

From Russia With Math

Anna Kuchment:

Every parent with an appreciation of science wants her child to love math. But not all of us are equipped to help them see the beauty in numbers.

Last year my daughter, who is going into 4rd grade, came home and announced for the first time that she “hates” math. So I went in search of an afterschool program that might inspire her to change her attitude.

I discovered “Math Circles,” informal math clubs for kids run by mathematicians who often hail from the former Soviet Bloc. The small groups spend their time working out problems, solving various riddles and puzzles, and going on math field trips to places like art museums.

Math circles originated in Eastern Europe more than a century ago but did not arrive in the United States until quite recently – one account dates their arrival to the launch of a math circle in Boston in 1994. Today, there are more than 200 groups across the country.

Sebastian Thrun: The pioneer of Google’s autonomous cars wants to teach people how to face the future

The Economist:

“BECAUSE of the increased efficiency of machines, it is getting harder and harder for a human to make a productive contribution to society,” says Sebastian Thrun. This is what you might expect to hear from the man who suggested Google’s controversial Street View project to photograph the world’s roadsides, who developed the company’s eerie self-driving cars and who founded the secretive Google “skunk-works” project responsible for Glass, a wearable computer that resembles spectacles. Yet that does not mean Mr Thrun is in thrall to the march of the machines. “To the extent we are seeing the beginning of a battle between artificial intelligence (AI) and humanity, I am 100% loyal to people,” he says.

“Democracy, Deliberation, and Education”

WORT’s A Public Affair:

Just in time for the new school year, today guest host Mike Wagner talks with UW professor Robert Asen on his new publication, “Democracy, Deliberation, and Education,” on the difficult decisions school boards have to make the democratic process behind it.

From Penn State University Press, “Democracy, Deliberation, and Education” looks at three Wisconsin school boards and democracy at the local level that occurs to make decisions for school districts.

Asen is a Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin- Madison Robert, with a focus in public policy debate, public sphere studies, and rhetoric and critical theory, and the way political and economic inequalities interact with relations of power to shape public discourse.

I believe Professor Asen overstates the role and applied power of most school boards. While they are certainly capable of great change, Madison’s experiences is illustrative. In general, the Madison School Board has operated as a go along, get along governing body. One example: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results: 2005, 2013 editions…

A “focus on adult employment“.

On Losing a Student

Maria Lam:

The red markers started to disappear from classrooms. In some of the brand-new marker boxes, the count became seven instead of eight. It was always the red one missing. We, the teachers, hadn’t thought much of it initially; rarely do we end the school year with the same amount of supplies with which we begin. But that was changing now that the students needed red to make corrections and complete their schoolwork—or, for some, to color in the hearts they’d scribbled on love notes. A blend of orange and yellow wouldn’t suffice as a substitute, so we were determined to find the culprit.

But even before investigating, red writing started showing up all over our classrooms. On desks. On folders. On looseleaf. On whiteboards. It became clear that the red markers had a new owner. And that owner he left us little opportunity to apply our Law and Order sensibilities: He used the red to tag his name. And by tagging, I don’t mean the kind of elaborate graffiti that once covered the murals at 5 Pointz in Queens—it was just his handwritten name. If his handwriting were a font, it’d be pretty close to Comic Sans: child-like, nothing distinct or loud—besides the color.

Via handwriting analysis, scholar discovers unknown Magna Carta scribe

Angela Becerra Vidergar:

Scholars have long thought that the Magna Carta was issued by the king in the Chancery, the king’s central court, written by his scribes there and then sent out to other locations in the shires, or counties, of England.

According to Treharne, her research suggests the Salisbury Magna Carta was not just received and preserved at Salisbury, but that the Salisbury Magna Carta was written at Salisbury by one of the cathedral’s own scribes. She recently co-published her findings with University of Glasgow historian Andrew Prescott.

Treharne, a professor of English at Stanford, says that knowing about this difference in authorship “changes the way we think about the transmission of texts in the Middle Ages from the court.”

Instead of the charter being something passive that the king produced and sent out from the central court to be put away in satellite locations, Treharne says versions of the charter “were written in the regions and then taken to the court for sealing by the king’s Great Seal.”

Purdue’s new student loan program literally invests in their students

Payton Alexandrr:

An innovative model of tuition financing from Purdue University in Indiana is poised to disrupt the student loan industry, solve the debt crisis, and open the possibility of higher education and well-paid careers to millions.

Beginning in 2016, University President Mitch Daniels wants to allow private investors to invest in the success of Purdue students using a new financial model: Income Share Agreements (ISA).

ISAs allow private investors to buy shares of a student’s future income for a fixed period of time in exchange for covering the cost of tuition – an idea that has the potential revolutionize the student loan industry. This idea is not new.

School Funding Rhetoric & Legal Battles; Remember Kansas City’s Spending Explosion…

Samantha Winslow, Alexandra Bradbury

Washington teachers waged rolling one-day strikes calling attention to decades of underfunding. Photo: WEA.

Lawmakers in Washington state are scrambling to get ready for a special session after the state’s highest court announced it will start charging a penalty of $100,000 per day while legislators continue illegally underfunding the public schools.

The court’s move comes on the heels of one-day strikes that rolled across the state this spring. Half the members of the Washington Education Association (WEA), in some 65 school districts covering 40,000 teachers, walked out—including on the state’s conservative side, east of the mountains.

The state’s attorney general claims teacher strikes are illegal, but that didn’t stop the teachers.

Picket signs read, “On Strike against Legislature,” highlighting that this strike was against the state government, not the school districts. In fact, some districts announced their support.

Money And School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment.

Future Jails May Look and Function More Like Colleges

Linda Poon:

With its grassy fields, brightly colored walls, and wide open spaces, the Las Colinas Detention and Re-Entry Facility in San Diego County, California, looks more like a college campus than a jail for women. Communal buildings have large windows to allow in plenty of natural light, and designers have replaced stainless-steel furniture with items made from wood and softly colored plastic. Outside, walking paths guide inmates from one building to another, and the central quad lets inmates interact with each other.

For this particular jail, which in 2014 replaced a bleak and overcrowded facility built in the 1960s, the county and the designers looked to higher-education campuses for inspiration. It’s certainly a different way of thinking about adult correctional facilities. But with traditional designs heavily focused on punishment and failing to reduce the rate of recidivism, this new approach could be a model for the future.

“All that reflects what their daily lives would be when [the inmates] return to the community,” says Jim Mueller, who was the principal in charge of the project at KMD Architects. “The intent was to replicate, as much as possible, the demands and responsibilities they would face out in the community within this particular facility.”

Kids & the future of robotics: wires, duct tape & dreams

Tammy Mannetta:

Where are the robots? By now, they were supposed to be everywhere: cleaning our homes, replacing our pets, and saving our lives. The optimistic 50s futurist would be terribly let down by today’s robots. The year 2001 passed without any deep space travel, never mind HAL, and it’s nearly 2019 and we’re far from developing Blade Runner’s replicants. Sure, Curiosity is up finding nitrates on Mars, and there are some pretty sophisticated military robots in the works.

But the robots we’ve got in our homes are a lot simpler than we expected. While I was researching robots for Tinybop’s new app, The Robot Factory, one thing became increasingly clear: we’ve got Big Hero dreams and we live in a Roomba world.

Schools ‘demand money from parents’

Hannah Richardson:

At least 100 schools in England are pressurising parents or demanding they contribute financially to budgets, potentially in breach of the law, research suggests.

The British Humanist Society (BHA) found many were state faith schools.

Schools in England are permitted to seek voluntary donations from parents, but must make it clear there is no obligation to contribute.
The government said any claims of rules being breached would be examined.

LA Unified board picks Hazard Young to find next superintendent

Mike Szymanski:

The LA Unified school board yesterday picked the search firm to find the district’s next superintendent, completing a relatively speedy process that suggests the members want a successor in place when Ramon Cortines steps down in December.

The search process began Sunday, when the board narrowed the field to two head-hunter firms from five and was completed last night following a long day of meetings, in public and private.
After some discussion and a decision not to delay the actual selection, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Rosemont, Ill. prevailed in a unanimous vote over Leadership Associates of La Quinta, Calif. Hazard Young projected the highest cost, $160,000, of any of the five firms bidding, but its executives promised that they would deliver a choice of candidates “who meet your criteria” for the job.