Milwaukee School Takeovers?

Alan Borsuk:

School takeovers? Who said anything about school takeovers?

Well, Republicans in the Legislature did. Which means it’s in state law.

And a lot of other folks did, including opponents, led by the Milwaukee teachers union. The union campaigned energetically on a theme of “not one school” being taken away from the Milwaukee Public Schools system and put under the control of a charter school operator who would answer to a Milwaukee commissioner of education who would answer to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

But the law doesn’t say school takeovers are required, you know. It just opens the way for them.

Last week’s appointment by Abele of Mequon-Thiensville School Superintendent Demond Means as the first Milwaukee school commissioner means the way is closed, at least for the 2016-’17 school year.

Officially known as the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program, the new effort looked initially like a mini version of the New Orleans Recovery School District, which basically replaced that city’s traditional school system with an all-charter system.

But the Milwaukee initiative emerged last week with a sharply different identity. It looks to me like it has a lot more in common with the initiative known as “community schools” than it has in common with takeovers of public schools. And the community schools idea has been backed by MPS leaders and the teachers union in the last couple years. How interesting.

Baby boomers and the end of higher education

Jeffrey Sellingo:

Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act, ushering in an era of massive federal support for college students through a flurry of new programs: tuition grants, guaranteed student loans, and work-study funds. The law allowed a much greater swath of Americans to earn a college degree regardless of their family income. During the following decades, enrollment at campuses across the country grew threefold, to some 20 million students.

But today, Johnson’s vision of the Higher Education Act as a great equalizer in the American economy is at risk. Indeed, the divide between the haves and have-nots in higher education is almost as great today as it was in the mid-1960s. In the past decade alone, the percentage of students from families at the highest income levels who received a bachelor’s degree has grown to 82 percent, while for those at the bottom it has fallen to just 8 percent.

The Rise of the College Crybullies

Roger Kimball:

For more than a week now, the country has been mesmerized, and appalled, by the news emanating from academia. At Yale the insanity began over Halloween costumes. Erika Christakis, associate master of a residential college at Yale, courted outrage by announcing that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society” and it was not her business to police Halloween costumes.

To people unindoctrinated by the sensitivity training that is de rigueur on most campuses today, these sentiments might seem unobjectionable. But to the delicate creatures at Yale’s Silliman College they were an intolerable provocation. What if students dressed as American Indians or Mexican mariachi musicians? Angry, hysterical students confronted Nicholas Christakis, Erika’s husband and the master of Silliman, screaming obscenities and demanding that he step down because he had failed to create “a place of comfort, a home” for students. The episode was captured on video and went viral.

An Adult on Campus Mitch Daniels offers a lesson to college administrators.

Wall Street Journal:

It deserves to be quoted at length: “Events this week at the University of Missouri and Yale University should remind us all of the importance of absolute fidelity to our shared values. First, that we strive constantly to be, without exception, a welcoming, inclusive and discrimination-free community, where each person is respected and treated with dignity. Second, to be steadfast in preserving academic freedom and individual liberty.

“Two years ago, a student-led initiative created the ‘We Are Purdue Statement of Values,’ which was subsequently endorsed by the University Senate. Last year, both our undergraduate and graduate student governments led an effort that produced a strengthened statement of policies protecting free speech. What a proud contrast to the environments that appear to prevail at places like Missouri and Yale. Today and every day, we should remember the tenets of those statements and do our best to live up to them fully.”

So a commitment to tolerance can coexist on campus with a commitment to free speech and open debate. What a concept.

In an era of diminishing state support, what makes UC Berkeley a public institution?

Sahil Chinoy and Chloee Weiner:

In 1960, California passed the Master Plan for Higher Education, which established a framework for public higher education in the state. It envisioned a University of California without tuition that guaranteed access for the top one-eighth of the state’s high school graduates, funded by taxpayers who believed in the university as a source of economic and social mobility.

UC Berkeley, in particular, as an elite public school, has aimed to reconcile its responsibility to the state’s people with its status as a highly selective academic institution — a challenge faced by few others.

Today, state disinvestment, rising tuition costs, more out-of-state students, increased private research funding and a greater emphasis on alumni giving have left some questioning whether UC Berkeley is drifting farther from the public ideal of the Master Plan and closer to the private universities with which it has always competed.

What the Right Couldn’t Take: MTI’s Ability to Collaborate

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

The present condition of politics in education is gloomy. School workers report high levels of stress, health problems, and thoughts of abandoning their career. Numerous teachers in Wisconsin already have, and it’s caused a teacher shortage nationwide. Many pinpoint the source – a lack of respect for the professional by far-right legislators and governors, and that has become the new normal. However, a ray of hope broke its way through the malaise, with the announcement this fall of what has been accomplished with the Madison Metropolitan School District Employee Handbook. It is evidence of what the Right couldn’t take. While Act 10 destroyed a 50 year history of collective bargaining for Wisconsin’s public employees, save police and firefighters, it couldn’t take away the voice or the spirit of MTI’s collaborative ability. There is still power in Union.

The Employee Handbook was a result of the Union and District management working together to map out a path for the future of our students, our schools, and workers. One of the most powerful aspects of this Handbook is that it continues a grievance procedure which provides for a mutually-selected independent hearing examiner.

Also, within the Handbook is a process for its modification. Any modification will be the result of a joint employer/employee committee coming together to make a recommendation to the Board of Education. This follows a procedure similar to the process used to create the original Handbook. It honors collaboration and emphasizes the importance of workers’ voices in the workplace.

Purdue vs. Yale and Mizzou

Scott Jaschik:

The Wall Street Journal couldn’t have been much more excited about what Mitch Daniels said Wednesday about the protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri. “We’ve been wondering all week what happened to the grown-ups on American university campuses, and it appears we have a sighting. Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, spoke up Wednesday about the children’s revolt at Yale and Missouri,” said the Journal in an editorial.

While many conservatives joined in praising Daniels, his comments angered many black students at Purdue and some critics elsewhere. A rally is planned at Purdue today.

Why Students Need to Sit Up and Pay Attention

Eva Moskvitz:

Success Academy Charter Schools, New York City’s largest network of free charter schools, has recently been the center of controversy over its policies on student behavior. Our critics accuse us of pushing out children who might pull down our test scores, and in doing so creating what some call “a kindergarten-to-prison pipeline.” In reality, our attrition rates are lower than those of the district schools. How then do our students, chosen by lottery and mainly children of color, routinely outperform even students from wealthy…

Mizzou leaders squarely at fault for campus fiasco

Charles Smth:

In the history of higher education in our nation, today was gut check time. Both the president and the chancellor at the University of Missouri have now bitten the dust.

This incredibly consequential event is being widely interpreted as a victory for a college football team. No question, the actions taken by the Missouri football team and coach tipped the balance in the ultimate decision. However, make no mistake, the problems at the University of Missouri were much greater than the grievances of a group of football players.

UPDATE: MU director of Greek Life put on leave; Title IX complaint filed against her and Click

Ruth Serven & William Schmitt:

One of the MU employees seen physically forcing a freelance photographer to move at a Concerned Student 1950 camp Monday has been placed on administrative leave, effective immediately.

Mark Lucas, director of the Department of Student Life, sent the following statement late Wednesday afternoon: “Effective Nov. 11, 2015, Janna Basler has been placed on administrative leave and relieved of her duties as Director of Greek Life while we conduct an investigation regarding her recent actions.”

In a video by MU student Mark Schierbecker, which has been widely circulated, Basler is seen with her arms outstretched walking toward and eventually touching Tim Tai, a student photojournalist on assignment for ESPN. Basler issued an apology Tuesday night, saying she regretted how she handled the tense situation at the campsite and that she respected journalists. Schierbecker is a senior photographer for The Maneater, a student newspaper at MU.

Welding vs. Philosophy: College Has Jumped the Shark

Heather Wilhelm:

In Tuesday’s Republican debate, Sen. Marco Rubio offered one of the more memorable lines of the night: “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education,” he said, discussing ways to boost American wages. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” The audience burst into enthusiastic applause.

By Wednesday morning, however, the applause had morphed into a chorus of studious media tsk-tsking. “Sorry, Marco Rubio,” ran a Washington Post headline. “Philosophy majors actually make way more than welders.” CNN International led off with a sizzling welding pun: “Marco Rubio’s quip about welders gets torched.” The more grammar-oriented, always ready to correct, helpfully reminded Rubio that he really meant “fewer” philosophers, not “less.”

‘Grow up,’ tweets former Mizzou football star to students who slammed ‘hero’ professor

Michael Miller:

“If you don’t feel safe coming to class, then don’t come to class,” Dale Brigham replied in an e-mail that appears to have been sent to his entire class. “I will be there, and there will be an exam administered in our class.

“If you give into bullies, they win. The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.

“I know which side I am on,” Brigham wrote. “You make your own choice.”

A College-Rankings World

Alia Wong:

It seems that nearly every major media publication in the United States these days wants to rank colleges. The latest outlet to get on board? The Economist, which scores higher-education institutions based in part on how much graduates earn. But lots of publications’ rankings look at future earnings and, more generally, ROI—return on investment. The Daily Beast’s “Down & Dirty Guide to the Best Colleges,” for example, uses data on graduates’ salaries to inform its “Best ROI” list (which appears to be far less popular than the guide’s “25 Sexiest Colleges” list). And then there’s Money, whose notably nuanced rankings system recently got a shout-out from the (rankings-less) Washington Post for “[coming] the closest” to “[cracking] the code on answering the ROI question.”

Mizzou, Yale and Free Speech

Nicholas Kristof:

This is sensitivity but also intolerance, and it is disproportionately an instinct on the left.

I’m a pro-choice liberal who has been invited to infect evangelical Christian universities with progressive thoughts, and to address Catholic universities where I’ve praised condoms and birth control programs. I’m sure I discomfited many students on these conservative campuses, but it’s a tribute to them that they were willing to be challenged. In the same spirit, liberal universities should seek out pro-life social conservatives to speak.

More broadly, academia — especially the social sciences — undermines itself by a tilt to the left. We should cherish all kinds of diversity, including the presence of conservatives to infuriate us liberals and make us uncomfortable. Education is about stretching muscles, and that’s painful in the gym and in the lecture hall.

One of the wrenching upheavals lately has unfolded at Yale. Longtime frustrations among minority students boiled over after administrators seemed to them insufficiently concerned about offensive costumes for Halloween. A widely circulated video showed a furious student shouting down one administrator, Prof. Nicholas Christakis. “Be quiet!” she screams at him. “It is not about creating an intellectual space!”

The coming campus revolution

Ashe Schow:

We may be seeing the beginnings of a full-blown campus revolution. Not a revolution based on actual oppression, but a revolution stemming from perceived oppression and a desire to attain victimhood status.

The seeds of the revolution sprouted in full force this week, with protests at Yale and the University of Missouri. At Mizzou, students began protesting alleged incidents of racism. In addition to whatever true allegations there might be, false ones have contributed to the mass hysteria, as when Mizzou’s student president was forced to retract a Facebook post informing students that the Ku Klux Klan was on campus.

Racial Hysteria Triumphs on Campus

Heather Mac Donald:

the pathological narcissism of American college students has found a potentially devastating new source of power in the sports-industrial complex. University of Missouri president Timothy Wolfe resigned Monday morning in the face of a threatened boycott by black football players of an upcoming game. Wolfe’s alleged sin was an insufficient appreciation for the “systematic oppression” experienced by students of color at the university. Campus agitators also alleged that racial slurs had been directed at black students and feces had been smeared in the shape of a swastika in a dormitory.

Study on the rise of autism wins Samuel Johnson Prize

Lorien Kite:

A study of autism has won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s most prestigious award for non-fiction writing.

Neurotribes, by the US investigative journalist Steve Silberman, began life in 2001 as an article in Wired magazine that sought to explain higher-than-average rates of the disorder among the children of programmers and engineers in Silicon Valley.

Combining contemporary reportage with a history of medical approaches and social attitudes towards the disorder, the book that emerged tackles the question of why there has been such a rise in diagnoses in recent decades.

Anne Applebaum, the historian and journalist who chaired the five-strong judging panel, described Neurotribes as “a tour de force of archival, journalistic and scientific research”.

Bonfire of the Academy As liberal adults abdicate, the kids take charge on campus.

Wall Street Journal:

By bonfire of the academy we mean a conflict of values about the idea of a university that now threatens to undermine or destroy universities as a place of learning. Exhibit A is the ruin called the University of Missouri.

In the 1960s—at Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley and elsewhere—the self-described Student Left occupied buildings with what they often called “non-negotiable” demands.

Growing Up at Yale

James Kirchick

In 2003, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman at Yale when the Afro-American Cultural Center invited the late Amiri Baraka to speak under its auspices. Baraka (né LeRoi Jones) had been a founder of the Black Arts Movement, Black Power’s artistic arm, but had more recently gained notoriety for his Sept. 11 themed poem “Somebody Blew Up America?,” a long-winded, malevolent tirade whose most infamous verse asked, “Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/ To stay home that day/ Why did Sharon stay away?” Calls came to revoke from Baraka the honor of Poet Laureate of New Jersey, and, legally prevented from stripping him of the title individually, the New Jersey state legislature abolished the position altogether.

Naturally, the decision to host Baraka upset many people on campus, not least Yale’s Jewish community. Appeals to the Afro-American Cultural Center to reconsider its invitation were dismissed. As a 19-year-old Jew from the affluent suburbs of Boston, whose only direct, personal knowledge of anti-Semitism had been as the recipient of elementary school joshing for not celebrating Christmas, I was therefore privileged to witness an eminent Jew-hater being welcomed to an institution I venerated and that I hoped would be my home.

When the campus PC police are conservative: why media ignored the free speech meltdown at William & Mary

Max Fisher:

There is one thing William & Mary does have in common with Yale: Both have recently endured tumultuous and painful internal fights over the line between free speech and cultural sensitivity. Ours culminated in formal hearings at the state legislature, student protests, a brief faculty strike, and, ultimately, the firing of the college president.

Yet you have probably never heard about what happened at William & Mary. There’s any number of reasons for this. Social media had not quite taken off at the time, so students had less of a platform. Our school doesn’t inspire the same fascination as the Ivies. Where Yale’s dispute is over racism, ours was somewhat different.

I have another theory as well, one that has made it difficult for me to digest the barrage of articles warning that left-wing illiberalism and student intolerance are suffocating campus freedoms: The people limiting free speech and punishing ideological transgression on our campus were right-wing adults rather than left-wing students, and this does not fit into the media narrative du jour of terrifying campus political correctness.

Campus Activists Weaponize ‘Safe Space’

Conor Friedersdorf:

At the University of Missouri, student activists succeeded this week in forcing the resignation of President Timothy M. Wolfe, charging that he has not done enough to address persistent racism on campus. Tim Tai, a University of Missouri student, got a freelance assignment from ESPN to photograph the reaction of victorious activists at the tent city they set up in a public area of campus. As a matter of law, he had an indisputable First Amendment right to photograph events transpiring outdoors on public property.

But student activists did not want their tent city or the people in it photographed, and forcibly prevented him from taking pictures. “We ask for no media in the parameters so the place where people live, fellowship, and sleep can be protected from twisted insincere narratives,” a Twitter account associated with the activists later declared, adding that “it’s typically white media who don’t understand the importance of respecting black spaces.” Tim Tai is Asian American.

Fascism at Yale

Bill Parlow:

Usually, we at Harvard are more than happy to see Yale students make fools of themselves on camera. The video that emerged this week of Yale students screaming down one of their professors might make for a good laugh, if its implications were not quite so serious. It’s a scene we’ve seen played out far too often at college campuses in recent years, and it deserves to be called by what it is: a nascent form of fascism.

In case you haven’t heard, Yale has recently endured a firestorm of protest after a lecturer that presides over one of the undergraduate colleges questioned whether concerns about the offensiveness of Halloween costumes had gone too far in impinging on free speech.

In response, hundreds of protesters gathered on the quad, calling for Nicholas and Erika Christakis to be removed from their roles. Nicholas voluntarily came to discuss the matter with them, and soon, a crowd of students enveloped him.

Why I will never pursue cheating again

Panos Ipeirotis:

Last Fall, it was my first semester of teaching as a tenured professor. It was also the semester that I realized how pervasive cheating is in our courses. After spending a tremendous amount of time fighting and pursuing all the cheating cases, I decided that it makes no sense to fight it. The incentive structures simply do not reward such efforts. The Nash equilibrium is to let the students cheat and “perform well”; in exchange, I get back great evaluations.

But let me give you the complete story, as it contains tidbits that I found, in retrospect, highly entertaining.

U-Va. fraternity files $25 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone

T. Rees Shapiro:

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter at the University of Virginia filed a $25 million lawsuit Monday against Rolling Stone magazine, which published an article in 2014 that alleged a freshman was gang raped at the house during a party.

The lawsuit focuses on a Rolling Stone article titled “A Rape on Campus,” which detailed a harrowing attack on a freshman named Jackie at the Phi Psi house on Sept. 28, 2012. The article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, described how Jackie was raped by seven men while two others watched in a second floor bedroom while a fraternity party raged downstairs. The article alleged that the attack was part of a hazing ritual at the long-time U-Va. fraternity.

Who Killed The Liberal Arts?

Heather MacDonald:

What in the world happened to the liberal arts? A degree in the humanities used to transmit the knowledge and wisdom imbued in the works of great Western artists, writers, musicians and thinkers like Shakespeare and Mozart. But today, that same degree stresses Western racism, sexism, imperialism, and other ills and sins that reinforce a sense of victimhood and narcissism. So, what happened? Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute explains.

More from Roger Scruton. Ángel Lamuño.

Yale’s Little Robespierres

Wall Street Journal:

Someone at Yale University should have dressed up as Robespierre for Halloween, as its students seem to have lost their minds over what constitutes a culturally appropriate costume. Identity and grievance politics keeps hitting new lows on campus, and now even liberal professors are being consumed by the revolution.

On Oct. 28 Yale Dean Burgwell Howard and Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee blasted out an email advising students against “culturally unaware” Halloween costumes, with self-help questions such as: “If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?” Watch out for insensitivity toward “religious beliefs, Native American/Indigenous people, Socio-economic strata, Asians, Hispanic/Latino, Women, Muslims, etc.” In short, everyone.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Ex-GAO head – US debt is three times more than you think

Bradford Richardson

The former U.S. comptroller general says the real U.S. debt is closer to about $65 trillion than the oft-cited figure of $18 trillion.

Dave Walker, who headed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said when you add up all of the nation’s unfunded liabilities, the national debt is more than three times the number generally advertised.

“If you end up adding to that $18.5 trillion the unfunded civilian and military pensions and retiree healthcare, the additional underfunding for Social Security, the additional underfunding for Medicare, various commitments and contingencies that the federal government has, the real number is about $65 trillion rather than $18 trillion, and it’s growing automatically absent reforms,” Walker told host John Catsimatidis on “The Cats Roundtable” on New York’s AM-970 in an interview airing Sunday.

The former comptroller general, who is in charge of ensuring federal spending is fiscally responsible, said a burgeoning national debt hampers the ability of government to carry out both domestic and foreign policy initiatives.

A Revolt of the Coddled

Noah Rothman:

It has been said that college is where students go to learn how to learn. That is increasingly looking like an assumption based only in faith. The crisis of enforced intellectual homogeneity on America’s college campuses has been an acute one for several years. Despite the public’s growing concern for the integrity of American higher education, it is a crisis that seems only to get worse.

Colleges have courted a reputation not for shaping young minds and molding them in preparation for entering the workforce, but for mollycoddling a student body that seems forever engaged in one long, defensive, threat display. It is a true paradox that institutions with the mission of exposing students to new ideas, which will inevitably include some offensive or even dangerous ideas, are increasingly under fire for doing their job. Prospective campus speakers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Condoleezza Rice, are perfect examples of this phenomenon. These women of stature who fail to comport to the stereotype of victimization to which women and minorities are, in the progressive mind, supposed to conform were disinvited from their respective speaking engagements following a revolt of the coddled. It wasn’t enough for those students to retreat to the Orwellian-named “safe spaces” that shield oversize children from discomfort. No, these aspiring totalitarians had to ensure that no one else could be exposed to these speakers’ ideas or the example that they as role models set.

The New Intolerance of Student Activism

Mizzou And Yale Show Why It’s Time To Burn Universities To The Ground

Robert Tracinski

Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri—known as Mizzou—resigned early today, brought down by…well, it’s kind of hard to say.

A helpful timeline of the case indicates that it started with two cases in which black students at Mizzou said they had racial epithets shouted at them, and one in which a swastika was scrawled on the wall of a bathroom in a university building. In all three of these cases, nobody knows who did it or why. But they were taken as proof of “systemic racism” at the university, and protesters howled for Wolfe’s resignation. Throughout the case, Wolfe issued condemnations of racism, acknowledgements of the justice of the protester’s cause, and apologies for not seeming to take them seriously enough—which, as we should know by now, are all the signs that he’s doomed and will eventually be forced to resign.

The digital revolution in higher education has already happened. No one noticed.

Clay Shirky:

Thr digital revolution in higher education has happened. In the fall of 2012, the most recent semester with complete data in the U.S., four million undergraduates took at least one course online, out of sixteen million total, with growth up since then. Those numbers mean that more students now take a class online than attend a college with varsity football. More than twice as many now take a class online as live on campus. There are more undergraduates enrolled in an online class than there are graduate students enrolled in all Masters and Ph.D. programs combined. At the current rate of growth, half the country’s undergraduates will have at least one online class on their transcripts by the end of the decade. This is the new normal.

Critical Algorithm Studies: a Reading List

Microsoft Research:

This list is an attempt to collect and categorize a growing critical literature on algorithms as social concerns. The work included spans sociology, anthropology, science and technology studies, geography, communication, media studies, and legal studies, among others. Our interest in assembling this list was to catalog the emergence of “algorithms” as objects of interest for disciplines beyond mathematics, computer science, and software engineering.

As a result, our list does not contain much writing by computer scientists, nor does it cover potentially relevant work on topics such as quantification, rationalization, automation, software more generally, or big data, although these interests are well-represented in these works’ reference sections of the essays themselves.

This area is growing in size and popularity so quickly that many contributions are popping up without reference to work from disciplinary neighbors. One goal for this list is to help nascent scholars of algorithms to identify broader conversations across disciplines and to avoid reinventing the wheel or falling into analytic traps that other scholars have already identified. We also thought it would be useful, especially for those teaching these materials, to try to loosely categorize it. The organization of the list is meant merely as a first-pass, provisional sense-making effort. Within categories the entries are offered in chronological order, to help make sense of these rapid developments.

For now, district drops Thoreau Elementary as site for dual language immersion program

Doug Erickson:

Responding to public feedback, Madison school officials said Monday they have taken Thoreau Elementary School off the table for now as a potential site for a Spanish dual language immersion program.

Additionally, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said her administration will recommend delaying the start of a Spanish dual language immersion program at Falk Elementary School until the 2017-18 school year.

Interview by a 15 Year Old

Paul Graham:

school freshman writing a book sent me some interview questions. Here are my answers.)

What are your thoughts on young kids learning to code?

I think all kids should learn how to program at some point. I’m not sure what’s the right age. And of course before they write programs they can do various forms of proto-programming, like combining functional blocks. There’s almost no lower age limit for that if you make it simple enough.

What do you feel should be taught in regards to kids learning how to code?

It’s pretty obvious what will be most engaging for most kids: programs that manipulate something you can see. The set of things you can manipulate grows with time. When Seymour Papert started working on Logo, all you could do was draw simple pictures, and even that took expensive hardware. Now you can manipulate 3D models, or control a robot. In the future it will be possible to do even more interesting things.

As Wisconsin voucher program grows, remember these questions

Alan Borsuk:

In this space two weeks ago, I offered some thoughts on what has been learned in the quarter-century since Milwaukee became the first American city where publicly funded vouchers paid for educating children in private schools.

But there’s so much more to say, especially in the light of the prospect — I’d even say likelihood — of large growth in coming years in the still-young statewide voucher program.

So let’s pose a few questions that you might want to remember in 2017, 2019, or 2021, when new state budgets take shape.

Who’s going to use vouchers statewide, part one.Will it be predominantly kids who would otherwise be going to private schools? Or will there be a lot of students who otherwise would be going to public schools?

Either answer carries major implications. Making a complex picture probably a bit oversimplified, think of it this way:

Academic Journals: The Most Profitable Obsolete Technology in History

sas confidential:

The music business was killed by Napster; movie theaters were derailed by digital streaming; traditional magazines are in crisis mode–yet in this digital information wild west: academic journals and the publishers who own them are posting higher profits than nearly any sector of commerce.

Academic publisher Elsevier, which owns a majority of the prestigious academic journals, has higher operating profits than Apple. In 2013, Elsevier posted 39 percent profits, according to Heather Morrison, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Information Studies in contrast to the 37 percent profit that Apple displayed.

The Teachers Union Strikes Back

New York:

Mona Davids, head of the reform-minded New York City Parents Union, is a major thorn in the side of the teachers unions. So the unions and their allies in the city school system are striking back.

Most notably, Davids is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher tenure law. Last week, a state judge rejected (for the second time) a motion to dismiss that suit — and the union empire struck back by moving to push her and her allies off her son’s school’s Title I Parent Advisory Council, which oversees how the principal spends nearly $1 million a year in funds. The parents had been questioning use of the money to pay two teachers-union offices to be “floaters” in the school.

Let’s pause before drinking the ‘coding in schools’ Kool-Aid

Patrick Keneally:

Teaching coding to school students has won some pretty heavyweight supporters over the past couple of weeks. Bill Shorten, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott now all think students from primary school upwards should be taught to code – getting little fingers busy with C++ or Python is becoming something of a political cause celebre in Australia. But as always, it’s worth a pause to think before taking a large gulp of the Kool-Aid.

“Coding is the literacy of the 21st century,” Shorten said in his budget reply speech. Malcolm Turnbull, not to be outdone, the next day said: “If we want to succeed, and continue to succeed as a prosperous first-world economy … the key tool for that is coding.”

And now Tony Abbott, despite ridiculing the idea at first (“Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11?” he asked), has jumped on the coding bandwagon.

Crypto for kids


Cryptography is about encoding and decoding messages. One way to encode a message is to substitute each letter for another in the alphabet (e.g., ‘a’ → ‘q’, etc.)—these are called substitution codes (or ciphers). With a shift code each letter is replaced with another from several steps ahead in the alphabet.

A New report suggests that the marriage of AI and robotics could replace so many jobs that the era of mass employment could come to an end

Charles Arthur:

about tyre factories and steel plants closing, you could try relaxing with a new 300-page report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch which looks at the likely effects of a robot revolution.

But you might not end up reassured. Though it promises robot carers for an ageing population, it also forecasts huge numbers of jobs being wiped out: up to 35% of all workers in the UK and 47% of those in the US, including white-collar jobs, seeing their livelihoods taken away by machines.

Haven’t we heard all this before, though? From the luddites of the 19th century to print unions protesting in the 1980s about computers, there have always been people fearful about the march of mechanisation. And yet we keep on creating new job categories.

The best way to learn math is to learn how to fail productively

Jenny Anderson:

Singapore, the land of many math geniuses, may have discovered the secret to learning mathematics (pdf). It employs a teaching method called productive failure (pdf), pioneered by Manu Kapur, head of the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore.

Students who are presented with unfamiliar concepts, asked to work through them, and then taught the solution significantly outperform those who are taught through formal instruction and problem-solving. The approach is both utterly intuitive—we learn from mistakes—and completely counter-intuitive: letting kids flail around with unfamiliar math concepts seems both inefficient and potentially damaging to their confidence.

We Are Teaching High School Students to Write Terribly

Matthew Mallady:

This past Saturday, several hundred thousand prospective college students filed into schools across the United States and more than 170 other countries to take the SAT—$51 registration fees paid, No. 2 pencils sharpened, acceptable calculators at the ready. And as part of the three-hour-and-45–minute ritual, each person taking the 87-year-old test spent 25 minutes drafting a prompt-based essay for the exam’s writing section.

This essay, which was added to the SAT in 2005, counts for approximately 30 percent of a test-taker’s score on the writing section, or nearly one-ninth of one’s total score. That may not seem like much, but with competition for spots at top colleges and universities more fierce than ever, performance on a portion of the test worth around 11 percent of the total could be the difference between Stanford and the second tier. So it’s not surprising that students seek strategies and tips that will help them succeed on the writing exercise. Les Perelman, the recently retired former director of MIT’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, has got a doozy.

Science says those who think they are experts are more likely to be closed-minded

Olivia Goldhill:

Those who count themselves as experts might want to re-evaluate their level of self-confidence, as a new study warns that there’s a downside to feeling knowledgeable.

Researchers led by Professor Victor Ottati from Loyola University of Chicago conducted six experiments on 272 participants in a study due to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and found that those who perceive themselves as experts tend to exhibit more closed-minded behavior.

Ottari and his colleagues hypothesize that social norms allow those who claim expertise to adopt a more closed-minded position.
“Because experts have already given extensive thought to issues within a domain, they have ‘earned’ the privilege of harboring more dogmatic opinions and beliefs,” write the authors.

Settlement seeks to keep high school students out of ‘fake’ classes

Joy Resmovits:

Students in six schools in Oakland, Compton and Los Angeles that are predominantly low-income and minority were taking these types of classes. The schools are Castlemont High School and Fremont High School in the Oakland Unified School District; John C. Fremont High, Thomas B. Jefferson High School and Susan Miller Dorsey High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District; and Compton High School in the Compton Unified School District.

“Generally, students started school at the same time, and the bell to end rang at approximately the same time,” said Mark Rosenbaum, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs and director of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law. “What was happening behind closed doors was very different depending on ZIP code.”

What Environmental Factors Cause Autism?

Sarah DeWeerdt:

In 2013, data from a massive study of more than 85,000 children in Norway suggested that women who take folic acid supplements early in pregnancy lower their risk of having children with autism. In September, an analysis of a similarly designed study of more than 35,000 mothers and babies in Denmark found no link between prenatal vitamins and autism risk, raising doubts about the Norwegian finding. Science is always an iterative process, but in the case of pinpointing risk factors for autism, progress has been remarkably slow and difficult.

A digital portrait of Colonial life

Liz Mineo:

“Dear Sister,” wrote John Hancock on May 1, 1754, as a 17-year-old Harvard student, “I wish you would spend one hour in writing to me.”

Before leaving what years later would become his famous signature, he wrote, “Your ever loving brother, till death shall separate us.”

The letter to his sister Mary, shedding light on Hancock’s raw emotions as he studied in Cambridge in the years before the Revolution, is a sample of the riches in manuscripts and archival material available online at The Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Contract Language

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

The terms and conditions of the 2015-16 MTI/MMSD Collective Bargaining Agreement relative to Parent-Teacher Conferences provides the following:

“All teachers are required to attend up to two (2) evenings for parent teacher conferences per contract year as directed by the teacher’s building administrator. Teachers participating in evening parent‐teacher conferences will be provided a compensatory day off as designated on the School Calendar in Section V‐L. In recognition of 4K, non‐ SAGE 2nd grade, non‐SAGE 3rd grade, 4th grade and 5th grade teachers having more parent‐teacher conferences due to increased class size, such teachers shall be released from the early release SIP‐aligned activities Monday during the months of November and March. At the elementary level conferences will be held in lieu of the report cards for the reporting periods in which they are held.”

High Voter Turn-out Necessary for MTI Recertification Elections

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

Getting Organized! MTI now has over seventy-five (75) Member Organizers including teachers, educational assistants, clerical-technical employees, substitute teachers, and retired MTI members who are committed to helping the next generation maintain their Union. Member Organizers are volunteers who serve as point persons in their building/work location to help build awareness of and support for the recertification election of MTI’s five bargaining units.

Get-out-the-vote! In political elections, voter turnout is critical. Act 10 requires 51% “YES” votes to prevail, not just a simple majority like most elections. Thus, in Union recertification elections, the number voting is even more critical than in any other election. The experiences of other Wisconsin public sector Unions show that when employees vote, they overwhelmingly vote Union YES! Where recertification elections have been lost, it is frequently because less than 51% of the eligible voters cast a ballot. Unlike political elections, in recertification elections a non-vote counts as a “NO vote.”

In MTI’s recertification election, ballots can be cast 24 hours per day, seven days per week, via phone, computer, or iPad. Voting begins at Noon, November 4, and continues through Noon, November 24. The process is quick and efficient and should take no more than a couple minutes. That said, others have reported difficulties where votes were not counted, when they failed to accurately complete each step in the balloting process. It is for that reason that MTI is providing all MTI-represented employees with detailed voting instructions on posters, flyers and palm cards.

What We’re Buying With $1 Trillion in Student Loans

Megan McArdle:

College is expensive, and getting more so every year. Since most families don’t have tens of thousands of dollars lying around, the government has responded with ever-more-generous student loan programs.

First there were the loans themselves, with interest subsidized while you’re in school. Then, when that proved inadequate, we instituted income-based repayment, allowing students to cap their payments at a percentage of their discretionary income (stretching out the loan, and getting forgiveness on any balance remaining after 25 years). Then, since that wasn’t quite enough, we made the terms more generous. Now the Obama administration has announced that it’s making 5 million more people eligible for the program.

Financial Woes Plague Common-Core Rollout

Michael Rothfeld:

Educators in this Oklahoma City suburb jumped into action when state leaders in 2010 adopted the Common Core academic standards that were sweeping states across the country.

The Edmond school district has a big military population that moves frequently, so officials liked the idea of using the same standards as other states. They also saw Oklahoma’s old standards as inferior. They spent about $500,000 preparing teachers and students, collaborating with educators in other states and buying materials and computers for a new Common Core test, finishing a year in advance.

What’s at Risk Without MTI?

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

Over the past few weeks, discussions have been occurring throughout the District about MTI’s upcoming MTI Recertification Elections. One of the most frequently asked questions by newer staff, those who are not aware of MTI’s many accomplishments on behalf of District employees, is “what is at risk if we lose our Union?” To answer, one only needs to look around Wisconsin to see what has happened to employees of other public employers where employees no longer have a collective voice in the workplace.

Act 10 enabled public sector employers to unilaterally establish what employees pay toward health insurance. In many school districts, employers increased the employee’s take-home share to 12% of the premium. Such decreases an employee’s pay up to $220 per month. MTI worked with the District last year to keep to ZERO the health insurance contribution for MTI- represented employees. And, the Union will be working with the District again this year, via the Joint MTI/MMSD Wellness Committee, to collaboratively identify potential sources for health insurance savings rather than implementing a premium co-pay. MTI-represented employees are among the very few public employees in Wisconsin who are not obligated to pay 10-12% toward health insurance premiums. What MTI achieved puts an additional $50 to $171 of take- home pay in each MTI member’s pocket each month, depending on whether they carry single or family health insurance.

For long-time teachers, educational assistants, clerical-technical staff and security assistants approaching retirement, MTI’s Contracts and the new Employee Handbook provide retiring employees with 100% of the value of their accumulated sick leave for the payment of post-retirement insurances. Many school districts have capped or reduced such benefits, given the unilateral authority granted them by Act 10, forcing longtime employees to work longer in order to afford post-retirement insurance premiums.

Technology Won’t Save Our Schools

Austin Dannhaus:

To date, the education sector has seen an over-focus on process and technological change that has led to evolutionary incremental, and sustaining improvements to teaching and learning. It seems we don’t exactly know what to do with all these new tools. In a 2008 op-ed, Clay Christensen and Michael Horn wrote:

“…That schools have gotten so little back from their investment [in technology] comes as no surprise. Schools have done what virtually every organization does when implementing an innovation. An organization’s natural instinct is to cram the innovation into its existing operating model to sustain what it already does. This is perfectly predictable, perfectly logical — and perfectly wrong.”

Milwaukee RFP for Tutoring Services

Milwaukee Public Schools (PDF):

MPS seeks proposals to identify qualified providers of T4U services for the remainder of the 15/16 school year and the 16/17, 17/18 and 18/19 school years. Providers hire and pay tutors and invoice MPS for services rendered.
The target population for T4U services are those K5 – 12th grade students, at under-performing schools as identified by DPI or the District, identified as failing, or most at risk of failing to meet challenging Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS). Of particular need are services for English Language Learners and Students with Special Learning Needs that are aligned to state and national standards.

Academia’s rejection of ideological diversity has consequences

Jonathan Adler:

The ideological imbalance that pervades academia fosters groupthink and undermines critical thinking. The dominance of left-leaning perspectives in academic institutions compromises their commitment to open inquiry and effective education.

Among other things, liberals and conservatives alike can fall prey to motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. One benefit of ideological and viewpoint diversity is that it can provide a check on such tendencies. Writes Brooks:

Parents’ Fears Confirmed: Liberal Arts Students Earn Less

Andrea Fuller:

For the first time, government data back up what some parents have long suspected: Students who choose elite liberal arts colleges don’t earn as much money early in their careers as those who attend highly selective research universities.

The disparity, determined by a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data, means that some liberal arts colleges may face tough questions about the potential payoff of their expensive tuition. That may be especially true for students needing financial aid, the group covered by the government’s figures.

The Education Department in September released salary numbers as part of its College Scorecard, an online tool that compares colleges on cost, student debt and graduation rates. For the first time, the government also paired information on federal student aid recipients with income tax records to compute median earnings figures for each school.

Parents Demanding School District Give Recess To Kids

CBS Tampa

Superintendent Melba Luciano told the parents the school district needs to break down the day by minutes to see where recess can be added.

Amanda Lipham told WKMG her young son came home crying from school because he wasn’t allowed to play outside.

“I could see in his eyes that he lost that enthusiasm for school. He needed that time to socialize, that time to make friends,” she said. “I asked him if he made any friends and he said, ‘No, I don’t have time. I don’t have time to talk to them.’”

“Social Expenditures” In the US Are Higher Than All Other OECD Countries, Except France

Mises Institute:

However, governmental bodies in the US and elsewhere also employ a wide array of mandates and tax-based benefits and incentives to carry out social policy. This distinguishes the US in particular from most European countries that rely more on cash benefits or non-cash benefits administered directly by governments.

But governments are not limited to direct benefits. Governments may also employ “tax breaks for social purposes” (TBSPs) including tax credits for child care, and tax breaks for health-care related spending.

Furthermore, in the United States — more so than in other countries — governments create tax incentives and mandates that lead to high levels of “private social expenditure.” The OECD defines these private expenditures as expenditures that are designed to redistribute wealth, but are not administered directly by government agencies:

The High-Priced Death of Common Core

grumpy teacher:

In other words, the dream that Common Core would be the single educational vision of the entire country– that dream is dead. Dead dead deadity dead.

But Rothfeld’s piece lays out a not-always-recognized (at least, not by people who don’t actually work in education) culprit for the demise. He lists the usual suspects– politics, testing, federal overreach. But the article is most interested in another malefactor– finances.

“There is no way you can blame socioeconomic status for the performance of the United States”

Eduardo Porter:

“There is no way you can blame socioeconomic status for the performance of the United States,” said Andreas Schleicher, the O.E.C.D.’s top educational expert, who runs the organization’s PISA tests. “When you look at all dimensions of social background, the United States does not suffer a particular disadvantage.”

Mr. Schleicher criticized the analysis of the PISA data by Professor Carnoy and his colleagues for using a single indicator: books at home. And he pointed me to a statistic that underscores how the role of socioeconomic status can be overplayed.

Indeed. Madison spends far more than most yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The School as Prison (no pipeline required)

Chris Taylor:

Friends, a proposal: Let’s stop using the phrase “school-to-prison pipeline.” It’s misleading.

When going to school looks not a little like being in a prison, we’re no longer talking about a subject’s itinerary through discrete times and spaces—the narrative geography wherein a student, routed through a school that can only fail her, finds herself pushed into juvenile or adult criminal justice systems. The rigidity of disciplinarity in the post-public public school system intimates the tendential identity of the prison-function and the school-function. When a teacher calls an administrator who calls a cop who then brutalizes a student for failing to move from her seat when ordered, neither students nor observers need schooling in Althusser or Foucault to see the school operating as a prison.

All the same, school and prison’s tendency toward an identity of function can be hard to see. First, it is only emergent, a tendency, a possible future that nonetheless enacts itself in the present and points us toward what is in the process of becoming. To read this process of becoming is not the same as declaring an accomplished identity. Indeed, to say today “the school is a prison” is also to compute with the fact that it also is not a prison, not really, not yet. In describing a tendential identity, then, one always risks a kind of overdramatization, the inflation of an instance into a sign of things to come.

Online schools ‘worse than traditional teachers’

Sean Coughlan:

Charter schools – publicly funded independent schools – have continued to expand across the US, with supporters seeing them as a way of re-energising standards in state education.

And the educational technology sector has been pushing to bring some hi-tech start-up innovation to teaching and learning.

So it’s easy to see how the next step for a 21st Century education seemed to be a virtual classroom, combining the autonomy of charter schools with the flexibility of learning online.

Except a major report, based on research in 17 US states with online charter schools, has found “significantly weaker academic performance” in maths and reading in these virtual schools compared with the conventional school system.

Why universities should offer a programming interview prep elective course

Philip Guo:

Four years ago I went through the programming interview prep process (which I wrote about in Programming Interview Tips) to get a software engineering job at Google. Since on-campus hiring season is in full swing right now, a bunch of students are asking me about how to prepare for interviews. Here’s a thought:

University CS departments should offer a programming interview prep elective course.

Why? (Listicle warning)

How the widening urban-rural divide threatens America

Victor Davis Hanson:

The urban ideal tends to be just the opposite. Looking to cement his lead among urban unmarried women during his 2012 reelection campaign, Barack Obama ran an interactive Web ad, “The Life of Julia.” Its dependency narrative defined the life of an everywoman character as one of cradle-to-grave government reliance — a desirable thing. Julia is proudly and perennially a ward of the state. She can get through school only thanks to Head Start and federally backed student loans. Only the Small Business Administration and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act enable her to find work. In her retirement years, only Social Security and Medicare allow her comfort and the time to volunteer for a communal urban garden, apparently a hobby rather than a critical food source.

Spending More & Getting Less: Here’s why $7 billion didn’t help America’s worst schools

Caitlin Emma:

The difference between the schools was in their readiness to make use of the sudden infusion of money. In Miami, school district officials had prepared for the grants. They had the support of teachers, unions and parents. In Chicago, where teachers fought the program and officials changed almost yearly, schools churned through millions of dollars but didn’t budge the needle.

Now, the Department of Education is preparing for another multi-million grant competition. But interviews by POLITICO with nearly two dozen analysts, teachers, administrators and policymakers, who have studied the performance of SIG schools, raise questions about whether any of the changes ordered by the Department of Education or Congress will actually yield better results for the money spent.

History is useful: Kansas City exploded K-12 spending as well…

Locally, Madison spends more than most yet has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Breaking The Ivy League Monopoly

The American Interest:

One possibility is a system of national exams, sponsored by employers, that would allow students from less prestigious schools to demonstrate that they had learned as much as or more than Ivy grads. As it stands, the top companies companies tend to recruit only at the top schools, so it is difficult for students from West Texas University or California State Chico to demonstrate their qualifications. Hundreds of companies use university prestige as an imperfect proxy for intellectual ability.

Needless to say, this system is deeply unfair. Whether or not someone impressed an admissions committee at age 17 (and admission committees are imbued with the usual higher education pieties and prejudices) is hardly the best way to measure what he or she has learned by age 22. People mature in different ways and at different paces, and use their time in college differently as well. Since it can be hard to perform poorly at grade inflation mills like Harvard, especially in the soft subjects, almost everybody who gets in graduates—no matter how little they learn.

The student loan system works very well if the government is doing the lending.

Malcolm Harris:

If you visit, that’s exactly what you find. It’s a stark display, black on white, with an ominous ticker counting up. “Current student loan debt in the United States.” Right now it’s at $1.339 trillion, but by the time you read this, the sum will be larger. The site is owned and operated by self-styled maverick billionaire Mark Cuban, who uses it to drive home a point he makes whenever the media will listen: American higher education is overpriced, and the bubble is going to pop.

Higher education has been pegged as the next bubble since the 2008 housing crisis, and the evidence is compelling. Increases to university tuition and fees outpaced both pre-crisis housing prices and climbing healthcare costs. The growth over the last 35 years certainly looks unsustainable when you plot it on a graph, and America remembers what happens when an asset bubble collapses. But it’s been seven years since the housing crisis, and while new home prices dipped, tuition and fees haven’t really. College costs have sustained more public scrutiny—the cure for bubbles—than real estate ever did before the crash, and still no pop. The average undergraduate now takes out $30,000 in loans. Universities keep expanding, building new facilities and introducing all sorts of auxiliary services. Despite omens to the contrary, the higher education industry is going strong. Analysts are waiting for the bubble to pop; this is the story of why it won’t.

Mills & Capital

Julian Francis Park

Today at the “Student Forum” discussing the glowing technofuture of the 21st century curriculum at Mills College there was something fundamental mentioned twice, but only in passing – a driving assumption behind the proposed curricular “revisions.” As the reader may know, these “revisions” include proposals to close the American Studies and Book Arts programs and eliminating the Dance major. It is worth trying to consider the total implications of the proposed changes, but that is not what I will do here (nor does any of us have the capacity to do that alone). What I will do is address the driving assumption and my understanding of some immediately relevant context surrounding that assumption.

The assumption is this: the college needs more students. There were two reasons for this articulated today by the administrators conducting the forum, one of which is radically misleading, the other of which is insane in the exact same way that capitalism is insane and this is because it is precisely the insanity of capitalism we are dealing with.

Study of half a million people reveals sex and job predict how many autistic traits you have

University of Cambridge:

Autistic traits are not the same as having a diagnosis of autism; instead, these are characteristics of personality and behaviour that are found throughout the general population and are linked to what is seen in the clinical condition of autism. Everyone has some autistic traits – such as difficulty in taking another person’s point of view, difficulty in switching attention flexibly, and excellent attention to detail – and there is a wide range in the population. 15 years ago a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge developed a way of measuring these, using a questionnaire called the Autism Spectrum Quotient, or AQ. This comprises 50 questions, each one representing one autistic trait.

How to Study and Take Notes from a Textbook Using the Cornell Note Taking Method


The Cornell Note Taking Technique is one of the most popular and effective methods for taking down notes for all kinds of subjects. It’s especially useful for studying and taking notes right from a textbook.

We’ve covered the skeleton basics of the Cornell Note Taking Method in our previous post but this time, we’d like to point out techniques on how to use this particular note taking strategy in reading and studying your textbook materials.

Worms in the apple

Sol Stern:

Over nearly three decades fighting to improve the nation’s largest public school district, I have discovered a dispiriting but undeniable fact: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I started writing about public education because of what I saw, up close and personal, at PS 87 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the elementary school my two sons attended from 1987 to 1997. It was at this elite school, favored by the neighborhood’s middle-class parents, that I first glimpsed the harm done to children — particularly, poor children — by a retrograde teachers’ contract and the dominance of progressive-education ideas in the classroom.

Despite two decades of often turbulent efforts at reform and a doubling of spending under Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg, these two fundamental problems still plague Gotham’s schools today.

MCAS standards aren’t good enough for today’s world

Richard Freeland & John Davis:

Massachusetts is facing an education decision of vital importance to our fellow business and higher-education leaders. This month, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will determine whether to raise standards for our schoolchildren to help them keep pace with the rapidly changing economy, or continue with a measurement system developed 20 years ago. The choice should be obvious.

In 1993, our state adopted an ambitious set of standards for our K-12 system as part of a comprehensive education reform effort. To measure those standards, the state instituted the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS. At that time, the benchmarks were considered rigorous — they set a higher bar than what our schools were used to. But what was considered challenging 20 years ago is not good enough in today’s highly competitive and increasingly globalized business environment.

Heads in sand locally, where disastrous reading results reign.

High Expectations: Sports & Benton Harbor

Robert Klemko:

Elliot Uzelac took over this moribund football program at a struggling school in a worse-off town with clear goals. The boys would pass their classes. They would commit their weekday afternoons to practice. And they would make the playoffs. He even wrote that word—playoffs—on a chalkboard during his first team meeting, underlining it three times for emphasis. Never mind the fact this team had won four games in eight years.
Incredulous, a few players pulled out their smartphones and Googled this crazy man with white hair and a gruff voice. Before them stood a football lifer who had once coached under Bo Schembechler and Bill Belichick, a 74-year-old who had once been the head coach of Division I college programs.

High expectations should drive everything in the K-12 world, rather than spending more and delivering disastrous reading results.

The Hidden Reasons People Spend Too Much

Charlie Wells:

In a forthcoming study in the Journal of Marketing Research, Ms. Sussman found that even though people were theoretically earning 1% interest from their savings, they were willing to borrow money at much higher rates to keep their savings at a certain level.
 “I’m not at all saying people shouldn’t save,” says Ms. Sussman. “But even people with an appropriate liquidity cushion want to keep more money in their savings accounts because it makes them feel responsible, even though it might lead them to do these behaviors that are potentially economically costly.”

To reduce inequality, abolish Ivy League Subsidies

Glenn Reynolds:

As former Labor secretary Robert Reich recently noted, Ivy League schools are government-subsidized playgrounds for the rich: “Imagine a system of college education supported by high and growing government spending on elite private universities that mainly educate children of the wealthy and upper-middle class, and low and declining government spending on public universities that educate large numbers of children from the working class and the poor.

“You can stop imagining,” Reich wrote. “That’s the American system right now. … Private university endowments are now around $550 billion, centered in a handful of prestigious institutions. Harvard’s endowment is over $32 billion, followed by Yale at $20.8 billion, Stanford at $18.6 billion, and Princeton at $18.2 billion. Each of these endowments increased last year by more than $1 billion, and these universities are actively seeking additional support. Last year, Harvard launched a capital campaign for another $6.5 billion. Because of the charitable tax deduction, the amount of government subsidy to these institutions in the form of tax deductions is about one out of every $3 contributed.”

Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems

Jason Pontin:

But Silicon Valley’s explanation of why there are no disruptive innovations is parochial and reductive: the markets—in particular, the incentives that venture capital provides entrepreneurs—are to blame. According to Founders Fund’s manifesto, “What Happened to the Future?,” written by Bruce Gibney, a partner at the firm: “In the late 1990s, venture portfolios began to reflect a different sort of future … Venture investing shifted away from funding transformational companies and toward companies that solved incremental problems or even fake problems … VC has ceased to be the funder of the future, and instead become a funder of features, widgets, irrelevances.” Computers and communications technologies advanced because they were well and properly funded, Gibney argues. But what seemed futuristic at the time of Apollo 11 “remains futuristic, in part because these technologies never received the sustained funding lavished on the electronics industries.”

Sorry, kids, the 1st Amendment does protect ‘hate speech’

Michael McGough:

A recent poll of college students’ attitudes toward free speech (in general and on campus) is a mixed bag.

The survey by McLaughlin & Associates for the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale shows that 87% of respondents agreed with this statement: “There is educational value in listening to and understanding views and opinions that I may disagree with and are different from my own.”

That’s good news that runs counter to the narrative that campuses have been seized by a speech-stultifying political correctness.

On the other hand, 21% students — and 30% of self-described liberals — agreed with the statement that the 1st Amendment was an “outdated amendment that can no longer be applied in today’s society and should be changed.”

Also remarkable was the fact that 35% of respondents agreed that “hate speech is NOT protected under the 1st Amendment.”

Welfare Schools and Psychoanalyzing Education Reformers

Matt Bruening:

Conor P. Williams has a piece at 74 million that purports to be a simulation of what critics of Teach for America must be like. Apparently, in Wiliams’ view, they are coffee shop elite hipsters. As far as this genre of writing goes, Williams’ piece is not particularly funny, insightful, or well-executed. It comes off, like some of his other pieces, as Williams wanting to demonstrate that he and people like him are personally cool and heroic while those on the other side are actually the lame losers. It is a brand of ego-stroking akin to the guy who likes to play up the time he did a humanitarian spring break in Africa, not (only) because he wants to advocate humanitarian spring breaks to Africa, but also because he wants people to think he’s righteous for what he did.

I thought about doing a similar piece where I simulated what Teach for America enlistees are like. I knew people who signed up to TFA around the time that they did so, and so I have some ample material to work with. But instead of creating some fictionalized parody of the arch TFA participant, I’ll just tell you what I think directly. This account is based on people I’ve known and some speculation beyond that.

When We Betray Our Students

Corey Robin:

A couple of months ago, at the beginning of the semester, I posted on Facebook a plea to my fellow faculty that they not post complaints there about their students. I said that I considered such public commentary a kind of betrayal, even when the students weren’t named.

Yesterday, Gothamist reported that an undercover cop had been spying for months, if not years, on a group of Muslim students at Brooklyn College, leading to the arrest of two women last spring for allegedly planning to build a bomb.

Set aside the problem of entrapment with these schemes. Set aside Mayor de Blasio’s promise to stop this kind of surveillance of Muslims in New York. Let’s focus instead on the leadership of CUNY that either knowingly allows this kind of spying on our students to continue or does little to nothing to stop it.

School leaders in metro Milwaukee declined over 5-year period

Breann Schossow:

Over a five-year period, the number of public school leaders in metro Milwaukee has not only gotten smaller — it’s also less educated, less experienced and mostly white, according to a new report.

The report, “Guiding Principals,” from the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum, is the second in a three-part series looking at teachers and school leaders in the Milwaukee area. The report focused on school leaders and their characteristics. The first report, released earlier this year, looked at the teacher workforce. That workforce also got smaller, was less experienced, and was mostly white.

Mathematical Treasure: Mesopotamian Accounting Tokens

Frank J. Swetz:

Archaeological digs in the Mideast have uncovered thousands of small clay objects, dating from as far back as 7500 BCE. These objects, referred to as “tokens,” have specific shapes and markings indicating a designated, but until recently unknown, purpose. This mystery was solved by the art historian Denise Schmandt-Besserat who began researching these items in 1969. The extraordinary results of her research were published in a number of articles and books, including How Writing Came About (University of Texas Press, 1996).

Her conclusion? The tokens were counters. Their use evolved over thousands of years from simply shaped tokens (see Figure 1) to more complex tokens bearing markings (see Figure 2). Each counter shape represented a specific quantity of a specific commodity. For example, a cone stood for a small measure of grain and a sphere for a large measure of grain. Using different shapes of counters to count different commodities is evidence of concrete counting, meaning that each category of items was counted with special numerations or number words specific to that category. There is a hint of concrete counting in our own society in our preference for phrases such as “a pair of shoes” or “a couple of days” over “two shoes” or “two days.” However, we almost always use abstract counting with our abstract numbers “two,” “three,” “four,” … that can be used to count any item. After 3300 BCE, the tokens were sometimes stored in clay envelopes with their imprints made on the envelope’s surface to make visible the number and shapes of tokens enclosed (see Figure 3). According to Schmandt-Besserat, the transformation of three-dimensional tokens to two-dimensional signs to communicate information was the beginning of writing. Eventually, the tokens were replaced by signs made by their impressions onto solid balls of clay, or tablets (see Figures 4 and 5). The impressed signs evolved to become cuneiform writing.

Data mining Instagram feeds can point to teenage drinking patterns

University of Rochester:

Using photos and text from Instagram, a team of researchers from the University of Rochester has shown that this data can not only expose patterns of underage drinking more cheaply and faster than conventional surveys, but also find new patterns, such as what alcohol brands or types are favored by different demographic groups. The researchers say they hope exposing these patterns could help develop effective intervention.

Instagram is very popular among teenagers and it offers large amounts of information about this target population in the form of photos and text. As Jiebo Luo, professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, and his colleagues describe in a new paper, underage drinkers “are willing to share their alcohol consumption experience” in social media. Studying the social media behavior of this group allows the researchers to observe it passively in an “undisturbed state.”

They are presenting their work this week at the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Big Data in Santa Clara, California.


Rishawn Biddle:

Yesterday’s analysis of exclusion data from the reading portion of this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that far too many states were excluding numbers of children in special education ghettos and English Language Learner programs far above what is allowed under federal law. But none of those revelations are a stark as what Dropout Nation learned from analyzing the reading exclusion data from the federal exam’s Trial Urban District Assessment of big-city school systems.

NYPD Undercover “Converted” To Islam To Spy On Brooklyn College Students

Aviva Stahl:

This past April, four years after Mel’s public act of faith, two Queens residents, Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, were arrested and charged with allegedly planning to build a bomb. The US Justice Department issued a release stating that the women were linked to members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State, and revealed that a Detective from the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau was heavily involved in bringing the women to justice.

Among the ISO members, some of whom ran in the same social circles as Velentzas and Siddiqui, the arrests set off a chain of frantic text messages, phone calls, and Facebook posts: “Mel” wasn’t “Mel.” She was an undercover cop.

What We Know About the Computer Formulas Making Decisions in Your Life

Lauren Kirchner:

We reported yesterday on a study of Uber’s dynamic pricing scheme that investigated Uber’s surge pricing patterns in Manhattan and San Francisco and showed riders how they could potentially avoid higher prices. The study’s authors finally shed some light on Uber’s “black box,” the algorithm that automatically sets prices but that is inaccessible to both drivers and riders.

That’s just one of a nearly endless number of algorithms we use every day. The formulas influence far more than your Google search results or Facebook newsfeed. Sophisticated algorithms are now being used to make decisions in everything from criminal justice to education.

But when big data uses bad data, discrimination can result. Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently called for “algorithmic transparency,” since algorithms can contain “embedded assumptions that lead to adverse impacts that reinforce inequality.”

Here are a few good stories that have contributed to our understanding of this relatively new field.

Seven Ways the Department of Education Has Made Higher Ed Worse

Richard Vedder:

Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee recently, I was asked by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) if, with respect to higher education, I would favor eliminating the U.S. Department of Education.

She was aghast when I said “yes.”

Before I go into the damage our national educational ministry has done to higher education, it is worth reviewing its creation in 1979.

The Democrats then controlled all of the federal government, with large congressional majorities. The party had promised to create the Department in its 1976 platform. President Jimmy Carter advocated it, as did the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Educational Association (NEA).

Yet the bill barely passed. The House committee considering it advanced it to the floor on a 20-19 vote—with seven Democrats voting no. The liberal press such as the New York Times and the Washington Post opposed it editorially.

In particular, the criticism leveled by the Times in its May 22, 1979 editorial “Centralizing Education Is No Reform” was sharp and prescient:

The Closing of a Newsroom’s Mind

Donald Graham:

For the first time since I left the newspaper business, I feel I have some news. And it’s news that might shake up a stagnant Washington policy debate.

For-profit colleges have become a standard target of the progressive left (and not them alone). Their charges include: The students are recruited aggressively; the prices are too high; most of the students drop out and many incur high levels of debt and then default; for those who stick it out and graduate, the degrees aren’t worth much.

These charges have been so widely publicized and so often repeated that they have entered the realm of accepted truth. In some quarters, to defend any for-profit education company is to defend the indefensible. Hear me: There are huge differences among for-profit colleges, as among other colleges. Some for-profit colleges have behaved disgracefully to their students; I do not defend them.

K-12 Government Tax & Spending Climate: The Mystery of the Vanishing Pay Raise

Steven Greenhouse:

In fact, the labor market is a lot softer than a 5.1 percent jobless rate would indicate. For one thing, the percentage of Americans who are working has fallen considerably since the recession began. This disappearance of several million workers — as labor force dropouts they are not factored into the jobless rate — has meant continued labor market weakness, which goes far to explain why wage increases remain so elusive. End of story, many economists say.

But work force experts assert that economists ignore many other factors that help explain America’s stubborn wage stagnation. Outsourcing, offshoring and imports exert a steady downward tug on wages. Labor unions have lost considerable muscle. Many employers have embraced pay-for-performance policies that often mean nice bonuses for the few instead of across-the-board raises for the many.

Peter Cappelli, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, noted, for instance, that many retailers give managers bonuses based on whether they keep their labor budgets below a designated ceiling. “They’re punished to the extent they go over those budgets,” Professor Cappelli said. “If you’re a local manager and you’re thinking, ‘Should we bump up wages,’ it could really hit your bonus. Companies have done this in order to increase the incentive to hang tough on budgets, and it works.”

Classical and Molecular Genetic Research on General Cognitive Ability

Matt McGue & Irving I. Gottesman:

Arguably, no psychological variable has received more attention from behavioral geneticists than what has been called “general cognitive ability” (as well as “general intelligence” or “g”), and for good reason. GCA has a rich correlational network, implying that it may play an important role in multiple domains of functioning. GCA is highly correlated with various indicators of educational attainment, yet its predictive utility is not limited to academic achievement. It is also correlated with work performance, navigating the complexities of everyday life, the absence of various social pathologies (such as criminal convictions), and even health and mortality. Although the causal basis for these associations is not always known, it is nonetheless the case that research on GCA has the potential to provide insights into the origins of a wide range of important social outcomes. In this essay, our discussion of why GCA is considered a fundamentally important dimension of behavior on which humans differ is followed by a look at behavioral genetics research on CGA. We summarize behavioral genetics research that has sought to identify and quantify the total contributions of genetic and environmental factors to individual differences in GCA as well as molecular genetic research that has sought to identify genetic variants that underlie inherited effects.

Open Letter to DeRay Mckesson on TFA and Racial Justice in Education

The Caucus Blog:

As the social justice caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, we were surprised to see that you are coming to Philadelphia to speak alongside leaders of Teach for America (TFA). The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) is committed to racial justice in our schools and society, and we stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

We see Teach for America as working in opposition to the goals of publicly funded education for all students in Philadelphia and to the goal of increasing the number of teachers of color and teachers who are committed to building relationships with communities over the long term, which we see as an integral component of culturally responsive teaching. We view the hiring of cadres of racial, cultural, and geographical outsiders with very little teaching preparation as part of a larger neoliberal effort to privatize education and replace unionized teachers (many of whom are teachers of color) with young, inexperienced teachers (most of whom are white and do not intend to stay in the teaching profession and commit to the long-term improvement of their teaching practice).

This practice of displacing African American teachers, in particular, is already underway. While Philadelphia’s teaching force increased by 13 percent from 2001-2011, the percentage of Black teachers dropped by 19 percent. This has contributed to Philadelphia having the greatest disparity between the race and ethnicity of the student body and those who teach them. Only 31 percent of Philadelphia teachers are of color compared to 86 percent of the student body they are teaching. This is unacceptable.

Academia’s Rejection of Diversity

Arthur Brooks:

ONE of the great intellectual and moral epiphanies of our time is the realization that human diversity is a blessing. It has become conventional wisdom that being around those unlike ourselves makes us better people — and more productive to boot.

Scholarly studies have piled up showing that race and gender diversity in the workplace can increase creative thinking and improve performance. Meanwhile, excessive homogeneity can lead to stagnation and poor problem-solving.

K-12 Government Schools Climate: There’s No Escaping Competition:People Need a Way to Decide Who Gets What

Steven Horwitz:

“The motives of fear and greed are what the market brings to prominence,” argues G.A. Cohen in Why Not Socialism? “One’s opposite-number marketeers are predominantly seen as possible sources of enrichment, and as threats to one’s success.”

Cohen further notes that these are “horrible ways of seeing other people” that are the “result of centuries of capitalist civilization.”

If only we had a different economic system where people viewed each other as brothers and sisters in a common effort rather than competitors trying to grab the largest share of the economic pie.

College Pays Off, on Average. Your Results May Vary.

Megan McArdle:

Why don’t more people get college degrees? In a new working paper, Sang Yoon Lee, Yongseok Shin and Donghoon Lee write: “In the early 1980s, American men with at least four years of college education earned about 40 percent more on average than those whose education ended with high school. By 2005, this college wage premium rose to above 90 percent. During the same time period, the fraction of men with a four-year college degree in the working-age population all but remained constant.”

This is a bit of a mystery. College tuition has gone up, to be sure, but financing that tuition is easier than it used to be, what with the panoply of repayment options for government-sponsored student loans. Moreover, more people start college than did in 1985; it’s just that they don’t finish. So you can’t explain this by saying that people are avoiding college because of the size of the potential tuition bills.

Supporting Public School Choice, Rather Than One Size Fits All

Alan Borsuk:

Until Thursday evening, I never dreamed I would write a “profiles in courage” piece about Wendell Harris. I apologize, Wendell. You earned it, and here it is.

Of course, an example of political courage can also be seen as an example of betrayal and broken promises. Harris will get those reactions, too. I assume he burned just about every political bridge he had when he voted for the proposal to put a Carmen high school program in the Pulaski High School building on Milwaukee’s south side.

Electrifying is a word I believe I have never used to describe a Milwaukee School Board meeting until now.

But the stakes Thursday night were high, the outcome uncertain, and the tension in the room palpable enough to lead Milwaukee Public Schools officials to bring in extra security. The proposal became an intense battle between supporters of conventional public schools and supporters of independent charter schools.

Deciding the issue meant making a statement about what kind of change is going to fly or not fly in MPS.

Carmen has two high-expectations charter schools in Milwaukee, operating under authorization of the School Board but employing its own teachers and its own education plans. Pulaski is a venerable, large high school with declining enrollment and low achievement. Its new principal, Lolita Patrick, supports the Carmen-Pulaski plan as a path to change.

If they won, advocates of the “partnership” plan would undertake the ambitious, but very difficult pursuit of a vision of these two schools creating excellence together in the same building.

More, here.

Meanwhile, Madison continues its one size fits all government schools model, most recently rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, despite long term disastrous reading results.

Poor white boys get ‘a worse start in life’ says equality report

Declan Harvey:

If you’re white, male and poor enough to qualify for a free meal at school then you face the toughest challenge when starting out in life.

That’s what the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said in “the most comprehensive review ever carried out on progress towards greater equality in Britain”.

The suggestion is because white male poor pupils do worse at school their chances of getting good jobs is reduced.

The EHRC, an organisation set up to get rid of discrimination, defines anyone who qualifies for a free school meal as poor.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Growth in State Medicaid Spending Crowding Out Spending on Other Major State Programs

Marc Joffe:

According to recent research, expanding state Medicaid spending is “crowding out” spending on other major state programs, most notably education and transportation infrastructure. This growth in state Medicaid spending, however, does not seem to be increasing state debt burdens.

As the chart below shows, in 2000, state spending on Medicaid amounted to 19.1 percent of the total of state budgets. Education made up 22.3 percent, while transportation constituted 8.9 percent of state spending. Fourteen years later, in 2014, total state spending on Medicaid had increased to 25.8 percent of state budgets, while education fell to 19.5 percent and transportation spending declined to 7.7 percent of state budgets.