Skipping Copper: The Consumerization Of Edtech

Ben Wallerstein & Jacob Stieglitz:

Asia accounts for nearly half of the mobile learning revenues in the world. Thousands of hagwons, or “cram schools,” line the streets in South Korea, which has about 15 percent of the global tutoring market. Parents spend an average of $1,000 per month on private tutoring — an estimated 20 percent of the monthly cost to raise a child there. In India, 7.5 percent of consumers’ monthly spending goes toward education. Affluent Chinese households devote 9.5 percent, and the Vietnamese spend a whopping 40 percent.

The U.S. consumer-education market is, in contrast, anemic. Parents in the middle-income bracket spend just 1 percent of their expenses on education. The highest tax bracket spends 3 percent. It’s not that U.S. parents are apathetic:, which provides school ratings, is one of the nation’s most viewed websites, but search Google for “algebra help” and you may not be served a single ad. That won’t hold.

Cristiano Antonelli was one of the first researchers to use the phrase “leapfrogging” to describe the concept that countries can speedily adopt new technologies by skipping intermediate technologies used in more developed countries (e.g., copper wire). The U.S. may be poised for its own leapfrog moment as big brands and new delivery models enable consumers to experience — for the first time — supplemental learning online.

Is college worth it? Goldman Sachs says not so much

Brooke Metz:

Recent graduates can relate to the report. Mary Kate Baumann, a 2010 graduate of a private college in upstate New York who also graduated from journalism and business graduate programs at the University of Missouri this year, said, “My undergraduate education was over $200,000 in total and my first job paid only $28,000. That’s a large disparity.”

Goldman Sachs calculated the economic return on college education as the “total all-in cost of college (net of grants and scholarships) and the wages foregone during the 4 years of study versus the wage premium that undergraduate degree holders enjoy versus high school graduates over their working life.”

While the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in October that the job market for grads has seen recent improvements, Goldman Sachs said wages still aren’t cutting it to make up for education costs.

Schools continue to grapple with ‘Huckleberry Finn’

Justine McDaniel:

We don’t let concerns about censoring or banned books shape” our curriculum, the spokeswoman said.

In recent years, the ALA has recorded about 300 to 400 challenges each year, Caldwell-Stone said, which represent “a snapshot” of what’s happening across the country.

Removing a text from curriculum because of concerns about its content is generally considered a challenge to the book by those who track bans.

Mini districts are on the rise in Milwaukee’s evolving school scene

Alan Borsuk:

The Marcia Spector School District. That’s the term I used in 2005 to describe how Spector and Seeds of Health, the organization she leads, had created a set of schools in Milwaukee that were publicly funded yet independent in important ways from the conventional public schools system.

The schools were each good, and the rise of what I would call a mini district like this struck me as cutting edge.

It’s 2015 now and the Marcia Spector School District is doing well.

It now includes six schools with a total of about 1,250 students. A child can go from kindergarten through 12th grade entirely within the Seeds of Health network.

But Spector’s network is no longer cutting edge. The mini district has become a key part of the Milwaukee education landscape.

I count at least nine mini districts in Milwaukee, defined as schools that are not part of the conventional public school system and are run by organizations operating at three or more locations.

For this purpose, I’m not counting the general roster of Catholic schools, a much longer standing and not-so-mini district, but a bit of a different thing.

However, I am counting two Catholic schools that operate like mini districts.

The mini districts are enrolling about 12,500 students this year, more than 10% of the children getting publicly funded education in Milwaukee. Three are close to or above 1,900 students, which is more kids than in three-quarters of the public school districts in the state.

Why 2015 Was a Breakthrough Year in Artificial Intelligence

Jack Clark:

After a half-decade of quiet breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, 2015 has been a landmark year. Computers are smarter and learning faster than ever.

The pace of advancement in AI is “actually speeding up,” said Jeff Dean, a senior fellow at Google. To celebrate their achievements and plot the year ahead, Dean and many of the other top minds in AI are convening in Montreal this week at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. It started in 1987 and has become a must-attend event for many Silicon Valley companies in the last few years, thanks to the explosion in AI. NIPS was where Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg chose in 2013 to announce the company’s plans to form an AI laboratory and where a startup named DeepMind showed off an AI that could learn to play computer games before it was acquired by Google.

QuickTake Artificial Intelligence

There should be plenty to discuss this week. The unprecedented advancements in AI research this year can be attributed to a confluence of nerdy factors. For one, cloud computing infrastructure is vastly more powerful and affordable, with the ability to process complex information. There are also more plentiful datasets and free or inexpensive software development tools for researchers to work with. Thanks to this, a crucial class of learning technology, known as neural networks, have gone from being prohibitively expensive to relatively cheap.

Madison schools need global goals

Dave Baskerville:

Madison will elect three School Board members in the spring. Our school taxes are set to rise 4.9 percent to accommodate a $504 million budget. A very well qualified and able superintendent is in place and will in several ways make the schools better.

So what’s missing? Simply no mention or concern by the educational community and citizens that our kids’ classroom achievements can ever come close to matching those of the rest of the First (and emerging) World.

Students age 15 in the United States rank 36th in math, 27th in science and 21st in reading, according to a worldwide assessment by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The “best and brightest” students in America are dead last versus their counterparts in a composite of those subjects among 30 countries.

Though no direct comparisons are available because we don’t administer the same test as most of the advanced world, our Madison kids likely are faring even worse.

Somehow we have convinced ourselves that rigorous academic achievement is not possible or necessary for social justice, individual self-esteem or the ability of our future science, technology, engineering, math and blue-collar workers to compete with the global workforce. We seem to think Wisconsin having average wages below Georgia is OK, and that 70 percent of Madison Area Technical College matriculants needing remedial reading is acceptable.

The aspirations of our black leaders are being dumbed down from a highly goal-oriented, disciplined and innovative preparatory school for boys to a goal of more “neighborhood schools.” Madison is seeking a few improvements in discipline and the achievement gap — as if that’s enough.

I would rather challenge our “progressive” Madison School Board to go back to the real progressive goals of “Fighting” Bob La Follette. We need real social and economic advancement for the “common man.” We need a challenging and sustainable 20-year goal that citizens can understand and monitor. The goal should be to raise the scores of our non-special education students to the top 10 globally in critical subjects.

Though no other school district has set radical and accountable long-term goals, I believe Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is up to planning and executing it. It also would likely be the only way to keep a leader of Cheatham’s caliber in Madison.

Baskerville, of Madison, is an international business consultant. To learn more about his efforts to set high international goals for local schools:

Reviewing and Renewing Madison’s Wright Middle School and Badger Rock Middle School “Charters”

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

Issue: The charter contracts for Badger Rock Middle School (BRMS) and James C. Wright Middle School (Wright) expire on June 30, 2016. Per respective contracts, the Board is required to make a decision whether or not to renew Wright’s contract at least six months before the contract’s expiration and BRMS’ contract at least three months before the contract’s expiration. As a result, the Board discussed both charter schools’ performance and future plans on December 7, 2015 to support final action to renew the contracts at the Regular Meeting on December 14, 2015.

Background: In November 2013, MMSD adopted a new charter school renewal process that requires charter schools and their governing bodies to prepare an evidence-based report detailing the implementation, efficacy and plan for the future term across six domains 1) Purpose and Vision, 2) Governance, 3) Teacher and Learning, 4) Operations, 5) Fiscal Management, 6) Legal Compliance. Given that the process was successful in supporting the Board’s renewal of Nuestro Mundo’s charter, we implemented the same process to support the renewal of BRMS and Wright. On February 12, information about the timeline for review and action by the Board was shared via the Weekly Update. In June and September, MMSD administration met with school leadership and governing council members to share the timeline and process for completing the term reports. Schools submitted first drafts of their term reports which were then reviewed by MMSD administration in October. Thereafter, MMSD administration provided feedback to support schools’ refinement of their reports. The final reports were then used to create executive summaries for the Board of Education to support final recommendations on renewal of the charter contracts. On December 4, per request of a Board member, the full term reports were shared with the Board.

If the Board approves the motion to renew contracts for BRMS and Wright, the contracts for each school will be revised to reflect clear expectations we have for improvement over the upcoming year (see detail in Analysis section below). There will also be certain modification we will need to make to reflect changes in state laws since the contracts were last negotiated, including changes to governance structures. The contracts will come back to the Board prior to the required April 1 finalization date. We anticipate providing ample time to the Board for review and consideration.

Much more on Wright Middle School (Originally conceived as “Madison Middle School 2000“) and Badger Rock Middle School.

Madison School District slides: Badger Rock Middle School:

Student Achievement
The first goal in the district’s Strategic Framework is for every student to be on-track to graduate as measured by key milestones which include proficiency and growth in literacy and mathematics as measured by MAP. Badger Rock showed positive trends in the percent of students meeting growth targets from 2012-2015, increasing annually in nearly all subgroups and is above the national average for growth. Overall proficiency, however, has seen a decrease over the last several years with the exception of a significant increase for students with disabilities. Note that some significant changes in proficiency and growth trends in certain subgroups may result from small numbers of students in those groups, an example being the change in reading proficiency for multiracial students.

While the results in MAP math growth vary, the percentage of students meeting growth targets is still far above the national average. While we have seen some incremental improvement overall in math proficiency, we’ve seen a decline in proficiency levels for African America students.

Looking at the data in a different way, the BRMS Governance Council compared fall to spring growth targets for BRMS students to MMSD middle schools overall. This comparison showed BRMS students outpacing MMSD middle school students each year in meeting math growth targets 2012-2015 as well as in meeting reading growth targets in 2014-2015.

Additionally, BRMS students have shown growth from year to year, outpacing MMSD middle school students in math growth target spring to spring 2012-2015 and in reading growth target spring to spring for 2014-2015.

and Wright Middle School:

Student Achievement
The first goal in the district’s Strategic Framework is for every student to be on-track to graduate as measured by key milestones which include proficiency and growth in literacy and mathematics as measured by MAP. While Wright showed some decline in the percent of students meeting MAP reading growth targets from 2012-2015, they are still above the national average and for almost all student groups. While improvement in reading proficiency has been incremental overall, there has been a more positive trajectory for African American students, which is a focus group for the school.

The trends in MAP math growth 2012-2015 varied but the school is above the national average and for most student groups. Trends for MAP proficiency across subgroups did not change significantly from 2012-2015; it is mostly flat or slightly down.

Wright examined students’ academic progress in comparison to the national average MAP reading RIT score. Graph 1 shows that overall and in all but one racial/ethnic groups for the past three years, an increasing percentage of Wright students outpace the national average MAP reading RIT score.

Graph 2 shows that overall and among economically disadvantaged students, an increasing percentage of Wright students outpace the national average for the past three years. Sixteen percent (16%) of Wright’s ELL students have met or surpassed the national average MAP RIT score in the last two years, while Wright’s students with identified disabilities showed a decrease (from 7% to 5%) in the percentage of students at or above the national average MAP RIT score.

Madison’s “charter” schools operate within the constraints of the legacy government schools. Unlike other districts, Madison has not offered significant governance model diversity, nor parental choice within the District. Perhaps that will change one day, given its long term, disastrous reading results.

The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School would have operated independently, that is outside of the governance and teacher union contract requirements.

Concerns over Academic Analytics at Rutgers

Martin Kich:

Academic Analytics, a private database contracted to measure faculty productivity at Rutgers, may undermine our tenure process, while narrowing the range of scholarship. If you belong to SASNB [School of Arts and Sciences—New Brunswick], please attend the School’s faculty meeting on Monday, 14 December from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in Voorhees 105 (College Ave.) to vote on a resolution addressing these issues.

Over the past year or so, many of you have shared concerns regarding the Administration’s use of a database owned by Academic Analytics, LLC. That firm tallies our productivity–measured quantitatively on the basis of articles, books, citations, awards, grants, grant dollars, and conference proceedings—and compares us against a global mean. The more details we’ve learned about Academic Analytics, the more convinced the union is that faculty must act to limits its use.

The Guinness Brewer Who Revolutionized Statistics


One of the greatest minds in 20th Century statistics was not a scholar. He brewed beer.

Guinness brewer William S. Gosset’s work is responsible for inspiring the concept of statistical significance, industrial quality control, efficient design of experiments and, not least of all, consistently great tasting beer.

But Gosset is certainly no household name. Books and articles about him are sparse, and he is rarely discussed among history’s most important statisticians. Because he used a pseudonym, his name isn’t even familiar to most people who frequently use his most famous discovery. Gosset is the “student” of the Student’s T-Test, a method for interpreting what can be extrapolated from a small sample of data.

Universities’ universal irrelevance

Ross Baker:

As late as the mid-20th century, university presidencies were launching pads for the White House. Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to accept the presidency of Columbia University was designed to convey the impression of intellectual heft. Likewise, Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen’s occupancy of the presidential chair at the University of Pennsylvania was calculated to position him for a White House run. Going back as far as James Garfield’s leadership of Hiram College in Ohio, a university presidency was a crown jewel on the résumé of a presidential hopeful. Making a White House bid today from the top position on a U.S. campus would be justly viewed with puzzlement or even amusement.

While there is much debate over the value of political endorsements, top executives at American universities would probably be among the last people sought out to provide testimonials for a presidential aspirant; a Republican hopeful would do better getting the nod from the pastor of a small evangelical church and a Democrat from the leader of an obscure labor union. The political coinage of the university is debased.

Madison Schools’ Governance Priorities (Reading???)

Meeting Objectives

1. Reflect on the National Equity Project work

2. Review Strategic Framework implementation progress through an equity lens

3. Update the Board on the Priority 3: Family, Youth, and Community Engagement theory of action

4. Discuss strategy examples: Report Cards

Meeting Handouts

Targeted Universalism

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The Moral Failure of Computer Scientists

Kaveh Waddel

Computer scientists and cryptographers occupy some of the ivory tower’s highest floors. Among academics, their work is prestigious and celebrated. To the average observer, much of it is too technical to comprehend. The field’s problems can sometimes seem remote from reality.

But computer science has quite a bit to do with reality. Its practitioners devise the surveillance systems that watch over nearly every space, public or otherwise—and they design the tools that allow for privacy in the digital realm. Computer science is political, by its very nature.

That’s at least according to Phillip Rogaway, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Davis, who has helped create some of the most important tools that secure the Internet today. Last week, Rogaway took his case directly to a roomful of cryptographers at a conference in Auckland, New Zealand. He accused them of a moral failure: By allowing the government to construct a massive surveillance apparatus, the field had abused the public trust. Rogaway said the scientists had a duty to pursue social good in their work.

Should We Let Our Kids Fail?

Abby Schachter:

Dr Jean Twenge argues in her book Generation Me that those born in the 1980s and 1990s are “tolerant, confident, open-minded, and ambitious but also disengaged, narcissistic, distrustful, and anxious.”

There’s the best-selling book How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, which tracks this trend and chastises parents for how poorly they are preparing kids for adulthood. As she said in a recent Washington Post interview, “We want so badly to help them by shepherding them from milestone to milestone and by shielding them from failure and pain. But overhelping causes harm,” she writes. “It can leave young adults without the strengths of skill, will and character that are needed to know themselves and to craft a life.”

“Google classroom has also changed how I learn. I can look at other people’s answers and that helps me learn and improve myself.”

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

One thing that has changed is that I have to be more responsible now that I have a device. Google classroom has also changed how I learn. I can look at other people’s answers and that helps me learn and improve myself. I have assignments on TenMarks math and it has hints and videos to help me learn and finish my assignment. The picture on this slide is my homepage on TenMarks.

A friend and I are making a Google Slide Show together about dancing. We get to work on it during choice writing time. I e-mailed her and asked if I could edit our slides. We can both work on the same slide show at school or at home.

One time this year, we had to write about an occupation in Madison as part of a slide show. It was fun and I had to cooperate with other kids because I didn’t know a lot of things about making slide shows.

It is exciting when I get to create on my device. I love when I type and make new things. One time I made a calendar for a slide show. Another time I made a video to show good behaviors in the classroom. Not only is the device helping me, it is helping other students. I also get excited to do Kahoot quizzes on my device. This is a fun quiz that helps me improve what I know.

Madison has the lowest student to licensed staff ratio among the five largest Wisconsin school districts

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

Some of the ways in which MMSD has invested in people include:

Increased the number of PK-12 staff from 3,497 in 2008-09 to 4,027 in 2013-14. This effectively grew the district’s total employees by 15% over 5 years (largely due to 4K implementation during this time), while maintaining a student to all staff ratio of 6.7.

Covered 100% of the cost of employees’ benefits (90% for administrators) for employees working at least 19.5 hours per week. On average, benefits cost $21,188 per teacher and $12,927 per employee annually.

Increased the starting salary 2% per year, resulting in starting pay shifting to $36,108 in 2013-14 from $32,913 in 2008-09 – effectively, a 10% increase in starting salary for teachers over a 5-year period.

Madison has the lowest student to licensed staff ratio among the five largest Wisconsin school districts.

Compensation is, by far, MMSD’s largest expense, representing 85% of all costs

Emerging Opportunities
Starting and average salaries for teachers are:
Low relative to other industries in Madison
Near the middle of local and regional districts
Low compared to urban school districts, which presents a challenge for recruitment

It takes longer (compared to other districts and industries) to reach maximum salaries

A large portion of a teacher’s lifetime earnings are earned near the end of a teacher’s career

MMSD spent $7.6M in 2013-2014 on stipends and additive wages (e.g., teachers taking on extra duties both during school year and summer)

Salary schedules for different roles overlap

There is no cap on the number of steps

There are limited financial incentives to pursue leadership roles

MMSD does not offer financial incentives to work in hard-to-staff subjects or schools but has sole discretion on initial placement on the salary schedule

A focus on years of service and educational attainment misses key opportunities to promote equity, student engagement, employee engagement and employee retention

Some Districts have thought and operated differently regarding teacher opportunities and compensation. Oconomowoc is one example.

School for frugal innovation

The Economist:

SPARK is determined to provide private education for less than the 18,000 rand ($1,200) a year that it costs to educate a state-school student. The schools specialise in “blended learning”: pupils spend some time in conventional classes and some time in a computer room where they complete lessons on the screen. The schools save money by renting their premises, centralising their administration, getting parents to help with maintenance and paying their teachers less than in state schools.

Ms Brewer and her business partner, Ryan Harrison, a fellow GIBS graduate, have scoured the world for ideas. They modelled SPARK on California’s Rocketship Schools, a chain of charter schools. They will measure SPARK students’ progress against the best in the world—British students in English and Singaporeans in mathematics. They believe that modern technology will allow them to scale up much faster than used to be possible in education: teachers can share materials over the internet and supporters can build the school’s brand via social networks.

Apple Won’t Make The “Test Machines” Taking Over Classrooms

Molly Hensley-Clancy:

Google’s Chromebooks have overtaken Apple products as the most popular devices in American classrooms, but Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will not be following the search giant’s approach to the education market, which has been a stronghold for Apple since the early days of the Mac.

“Assessments don’t create learning,” Cook said in an interview with BuzzFeed News Wednesday, calling the cheap laptops that have proliferated through American classrooms mere “test machines.”

“We are interested in helping students learn and teachers teach, but tests, no,” Cook said. “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level.”

New PARCC scores: Only 1 in 5 CPS students can do enough math for college

Lauren Fitzpatrick:

Just one in five Chicago Public Schools students can do enough math to get into college, results released Wednesday from the first-ever round of tougher, new tests for measuring college readiness show.

CPS students overall fared somewhat better in reading and writing — one in about four students in grades three through eight and in high school performed at the pace experts say they’ll need for a post-secondary education. Statewide, 37.7 percent of students — or one in three — earned a proficient score on the English Language Arts test and 28.2 percent — or one in four — on math, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace

Stephen Wolfram:

Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago today. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada”.

It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there’s a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.

St. Marcus Lutheran School celebrates groundbreaking for a second campus expansion

Milwaukee NNS:

We are thrilled to be breaking ground to expand the North Campus, giving us the space we urgently need for both our students and to serve the surrounding community,” said Henry Tyson, St. Marcus’ Superintendent. “The outpouring of support from individual donors, foundations, community partners and corporations in the community has been a true blessing. This expansion allows St. Marcus to continue to grow its reach and respond to parent’s demands for a high-quality education for their children. Thank you to everyone who has supported St. Marcus scholars and made their success possible.”

The ceremony featured a student-centered welcome as 160 students greeted guests with a morning assembly singing “He knows my name” and “Underneath the shining star” and the school’s theme poem, Be Strong. Superintendent Henry Tyson addressed attendees and spoke about the struggles within the City of Milwaukee and the need to continue to grow so that as many students as possible receive a high-quality education. Tyson acknowledged and thanked all those who made the expansion possible starting with parents, staff, individual donors and foundation/corporate representatives in attendance. Attendees included representatives from the Fleck Foundation, Bradley Foundation, Lakeview Foundation, Siebert Lutheran Foundation, Sommer’s Automotive, Schools That Can Milwaukee, PAVE, Park Bank, Partnership Bank, Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Rinka Chung Architecture and Catalyst Construction.

Henry Tyson interview.

Can you solve GCHQ’s Christmas card puzzle?


Britain’s most secretive organisation – GCHQ – has added a cryptic twist to Christmas card season by including a baffling brainteaser.

This year spy agency director Robert Hannigan is sending out a complex grid-shading puzzle inside his traditional Christmas cards of the nativity scene.

While university presidents earn millions, many professors struggle

Story Hinckley:

In all, 32 private university presidents earned $1 million or more in compensation in 2013. And private college presidents aren’t the only ones raking it in. The average public college president earned over $428,000 in 2014, reported the Chronicle.

“Many times when I talk to trustees, they refer to university presidents as running companies – which they could also do if they chose to enter the private sector – so to keep a president at the university they will pay what it takes,” Sandhya Kambhampadi, the lead author of the Chronicle report, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview Tuesday. “They will pay the market value.”

Charter School Governance Comparison

National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) PDF:

Across America, there is much debate about charter schools. Some of that debate is about the existence of charter schools and whether there should be more or fewer of them. More of the debate is about the quality and oversight of charter schools.

This publication is part of that debate and speaks to the state laws and policies that greatly determine how many charter schools exist (accessibility), the exibility they have to operate (autonomy), and the standards of quality and oversight they must meet (accountability).

It is easy to nd zealous voices arguing for or against charter school policies based on theories or ideologies. Some believe charter schools should be heavily regulated, along the lines of school districts. Some believe that 6,700 charter schools serving more than 2.9 million children can somehow all be eliminated. Others argue for less regulation and faster growth, even in places where some charter schools or types of operators are failing.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) approaches this debate from a unique position— real-world experience—and that position is re ected in this publication. NACSA is a professional membership organization of the agencies that approve, monitor, renew, and sometimes close charter schools. NACSA staff has worked in virtually every state and major city with charter schools. Here is what we know from our experiences:

Perhaps someone will compare oversight practices with tradtional government schools.

America’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Choice

Priscilla Wohlstetter, Ph.D.,
Dara Zeehandelaar, Ph.D., David Griffith

More than twelve million American students exercise some form of school choice by going to a charter, magnet, or private school—or opting for homeschooling—instead of attending a traditional public school. Countless others use district-wide lotteries, attendance waivers, or interdistrict transfers to attend public schools other than the ones in their neighborhoods. But some cities are significantly more “choice-friendly” than others…and some are downright hostile.

Using nearly fifty markers of “choice friendliness,” this report shows which of thirty American cities are the best and worst for school choice.

The Tipping Point: Most Americans No Longer Are Middle Class


Americans have long lived in a nation made up primarily of middle-class families, neither rich nor poor, but comfortable enough.

This year, that changed, according to the Pew Research Center.

A just-released analysis of government data shows that as of 2015, middle-income households have become the minority. The trend is so firmly established that it may well continue; Americans have experienced “a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point,” Pew researchers concluded Wednesday.

Thanks to factory closings and other economic factors, the country now has 120.8 million adults living in middle-income households, the study found. That compares with the 121.3 million who are living in either upper- or lower-income households.

Millions of teens are using a new app to post anonymous thoughts, and most parents have no idea

Moriah Balingit:

Millions of teenagers in high schools nationwide are using a smartphone app to anonymously share their deepest anxieties, secret crushes, vulgar assessments of their classmates and even violent threats, all without adults being able to look in.

The After School app has exploded in popularity this school year and is now on more than 22,300 high school campuses, according to its creators. Because it is designed to be accessible only to teenagers, many parents and administrators have not known anything about it.

Grinnell will reduce investment in “merit aid” as tradeoff in remaining “need blind” in its admissions

Stephen Burd:

Grinnell is “need blind” in admissions, meaning that it doesn’t take financial considerations into account when admitting students. It also pledges to meet the full financial need of students with grants and a relatively small amount of federal loans.

These policies have proven to be extremely expensive for a college that admits such a large share of low-income students, enrolls far fewer “full-pay” students than many of its peers, and generates considerably less in philanthropic support that can be spent on need-based financial aid. Worried that these practices were not sustainable, the college’s Board of Trustees created a stir on campus when it considered abandoning the institution’s need-blind policy in 2012.

“Larger proportions of adults in the United States than in other countries have poor literacy and numeracy skills”


Larger proportions of adults in the United States than in other countries have poor literacy and numeracy skills, and the proportion of adults with poor skills in problem solving in technology-rich environments is slightly larger than the average, despite the relatively high educational attainment among adults in the United States.

Socio-economic economic background has a stronger impact on adult literacy skills in the United States than in other countries. Black and Hispanic adults are substantially over- represented in the low-skilled population.

Literacy skills are linked not only to employment outcomes, but also to personal and social well-being. In the United States, the odds of being in poor health are four times greater for low- skilled adults than for those with the highest proficiency – double the average across participating countries.

New group names 28 L.A. schools — more of them charters — as models

Howard Blume:

A new organization set up to create new, higher-performing public schools in Los Angeles has released a list of 28 successful campuses that it said would serve as models.

Those schools, which include charters, magnets and traditional public campuses, are viewed as stellar examples of how to educate students in the L.A. Unified School District. They are being touted by those who, at least initially, had proposed enrolling half of L.A. students in charter schools over the next eight years.

Stop Attacking Successful LA Charter Schools

Nina Rees:

of the reasons the late union leader Al Shanker advocated for the creation of charter schools was to give teachers more freedom to explore new ways of teaching without the bureaucratic stranglehold that comes with one-size-fits-all solutions. Nowhere is the need for this freedom more important than in large school districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District – the nation’s second-largest. Thanks to the freedom to create charter schools, LA now has the highest number of students in charter schools – and more than 68,000 students on charter school waitlists. LA also happens to have some of the nation’s strongest charter schools.

Some of the best are Alliance College-Ready Public Schools. Founded by a former LA Unified School District teacher, Alliance now runs 27 charter schools educating nearly 12,000 middle and high school students who are overwhelmingly from disadvantaged communities. More than 90 percent of Alliance students graduate from high school, and 95 percent of Alliance graduates are accepted to college. Many are the first in their families to ever have the opportunity to attend college.

Higher Education and Authoritarian Resilience: The Case of China, Past and Present

Elizabeth J. Perry:

Why are some autocracies more durable than others? In analyzing the institutional mechanisms that sustain authoritarian regimes, and help to explain their historical longevity as well as their persistence in the 21st century, we may first want to take a brief detour back in time to consider the most durable authoritarian political system in world history: imperial China. Two millennia of Chinese imperial rule offer rich material for generating hypotheses about the bases of authoritarian resilience. Moreover the surprising success of the contemporary People’s Republic of China (PRC), where a largely unreformed Communist Party has presided over stunning and sustained economic growth, renders that country’s long experience with authoritarian rule of particular relevance. Inasmuch as PRC leaders and Party theoreticians frequently point to the Chinese past as a source of valuable lessons for present-day governance, consideration of China’s historical record is of more than arcane academic interest.

How to write a 21st Century Proof

Leslie Lamport:

Mathematicians have made a lot of progress in the last 350 years, but not in writing proofs. The proofs they write today are just like the ones written by Newton. This makes it all too easy to prove things that aren’t true. I’ll describe a better way that I’ve been using for about 25 years.

This is What It’s Like to Be a Muslim Schoolkid in America Right Now

Kristin Rizga:

Last week, during an event hosted by the nonprofit organization Muslim Advocates, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressed concerns about what she sees as an uptick in anti-Muslim incidents in schools. The Department of Justice has partnered with the Department of Education to advise schools on anti-bullying measures. Lynch added that the DOJ is investigating MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas; the school in September called the police and suspended 14-year-old Ahmed Muhammad when he brought a clock he had made to school, to show it to his engineering teacher. School administrators assumed it was a bomb.

Fix the Chicago Public Schools

Meribah Knight:

Even if you work at Chicago Public Schools, its organizational chart is probably foreign. At the top sits one all-powerful mayor, at least when it comes to schools. Then come his appointees: a seven-member school board, a chief executive officer and a chief education officer. Beneath them are nearly a dozen cabinet-level appointees overseeing the bulk of the district’s central office, which includes more than 60 administrative offices.

Let’s focus on just one of those offices: school networks. CPS clusters 431 of its 660 schools in 13 networks by geography. Each network is run by a chief, who, in turn, often employs a deputy, who, in turn, employs anywhere from five to 10 people. These mini-departments recruit principal candidates, administer budgets, oversee school progress and make sure schools are following policy and curriculum. (The other schools in CPS, including charters, schools slated for improvement with increased support and alternative schools, have their own deputy network chiefs and staffs, including a few teachers, some on the CPS payroll and some not.)

Here Come the Public-School Consultants

Alissa Quart:

“This school would be more of a safety,” Joyce Szuflita explained to the parents. She gestured at the colored paper handouts fanned out between them, and then pointed at another zoned school on a different sheet. “That’s a curated class of parents because they chose to move into the zone of the school that they wanted,” said Szuflita. “So, you don’t have to have G&T if you have that,” she added, referring to gifted-and-talented programs.

It was early morning at a diner in Brooklyn’s South Slope neighborhood, and the couple had contacted Szuflita for advice. The couple—an academic and a public-health researcher—was moving from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to New York City and was nervous about the schooling of their two-year-old and their not-yet-born child. They knew that securing a spot in one of the borough’s handful of coveted high-performing elementary schools was notoriously difficult.

Useful in many cities, particluarly those with vibrant charter and voucher options. Madison’s school climate has not materially changed in many decades. Parents face the “choice” of a largely monolithic, one size fits all government school system along with several private school options.

A Math Teacher’s Day at Ed Camp

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

I attended an “Ed Camp” recently. This is one of many types of non-professional development and informal gatherings where teachers talk about various education-related topics. The camp I attended was free of charge and took place at a charter school that prided itself on a student-centered approach to learning. In keeping with the school’s focus, the camp also took a student-centered approach which it boasted about in its announcement, calling the event an “unconference”. It stated that the Ed Camp “is not your traditional educational conference; sessions will be created by attendees.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Participants wrote ideas for sessions on Post-It notes which were placed on a whiteboard. The conference organizers then put the Post-It notes in categories that formed various sessions which were then led by whomever wanted to lead them.
– See more at:

Do Years Studying in America Change Chinese Hearts and Minds?

Tea Leaf Nation:

Over the past decade, students from China — the world’s largest Communist country and America’s chief geopolitical rival — have flooded into U.S. universities. In 2014, according to the Institute for International Education (IIE), over 304,000 Chinese were studying at American colleges, almost one-third of the total international student population. The influx is notable for its sheer numbers alone. But set against the backdrop of official Chinese rhetoric increasingly critical of Western values, the phenomenon is even more remarkable.

China U. is an FP series devoted to higher education’s role as a major and growing node of connection between the world’s two powers. How will a new generation, fluent in China and in America, shape the future of bilateral ties?
The appearance, at least, of a growing schism between the two nations raises the question of what exactly happens to the worldview of a Chinese person who studies in today’s United States. Do the broad freedoms of information, assembly, and religion of which the United States is so proud open students’ eyes to new ideas and modes of thinking? Or, as some have reported, do Chinese students stick perhaps too tightly together, forming insular communities that sustain their old habits and worldviews until they are ready to return home?A Foreign Policy investigation suggests that the reality of Chinese student life in the United States defies both of these narratives. Chinese students in the United States learn much from the contrasts between America’s education system, media, and social and intellectual life and those they find at home. And they often emerge with more admiration for the United States as a result. But they also gain more respect for the enormity of the task involved in running China — and learn that America’s streets aren’t exactly paved with gold.

Executive Compensation at Private and Public Colleges

The Chronicle:

The Chronicle’s executive-compensation package has been updated with information on private-college presidents for the 2013 calendar year.

The update provides data on 558 chief executives at 497 private nonprofit colleges in the United States. The median salary for leaders in office for the full year was $436,429. Thirty-two of the presidents earned more than $1 million.

Public Schooling in Southeast Wisconsin 2014-15

Public Policy Forum:

For the last 30 years, the Public Policy Forum has collected and analyzed education data to produce an annual report on the demographics, academic performance, and finances of public school districts in southeast Wisconsin. In the three decades of producing this report, few years have exhibited as much change and transformation as this one.

The 2014-15 school year saw a number of changes to student demographics, as well as a shifting regulatory environment. Southeast Wisconsin continues to enroll the majority of public school students in the state, but the number and makeup of those students both are changing. A new state assessment aligned to new academic standards – the Badger Exam – was implemented, but just as quickly discarded. The biennial budget process served as a vehicle for lawmakers to propose and adopt a number of provisions that modify and change state education policies.

Bring on The Real Computer Revolution

Omar Rizwan:

This editorial argues that the dominant conception of computing ignores most of its transformative potential as a medium to express ideas, especially in the humanities and social sciences. I advocate, in the tradition of Alan Kay and Douglas Engelbart, for a “real computer revolution” where computer technology enables immediate and dynamic exploration of systems. I suggest that the computer medium is best compared to writing in its possible cognitive and social impact. Finally, I reference promising early works, suggest principles which typify the new medium, and propose ways for the interested reader to become involved with this field.

The era of distrust and disloyalty

Gerry McGovern:

Everywhere we look we see corrupt, greedy, out-of-touch leadership. As customers become better and better informed, this narcissistic leadership is ushering in an era of deep distrust. That will have significant implications for design thinking.

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has had a long and successful history. It used to be that when you became head of the IFA you were paid enough to hire someone to run your farm while you were running the IFA. You also got paid basic travel expenses.

But something happened along the way and the ‘modern’ executives started giving themselves incredible pay rises until the head honcho was earning nearly half a million euro a year, not to mention lavish pension plans. Secrecy was everything to these boys. They absolutely scoffed at the idea of transparency, hiding behind the fact that some big accounting firm ‘audited’ them and agreed that, yes, these most super of supermen deserved to get paid super, super well.

Mapping Student Debt

Marshall Steinbaum and Kavya Vaghul:

More than 42 million Americans owe a total of $1.1 trillion in student debt, making it the second-largest liability on the national balance sheet. A generation ago, student debt was a relative rarity, but for today’s students and recent graduates, it’s a central fact of economic life that we don’t know much about. Mapping Student Debt is changing that. The maps below show how borrowing for college affects the nation, your city, and even your neighborhood, giving a new perspective on the way in which student debt relates to economic inequality.

Supreme Court Revisits University of Texas Race-in-Admissions Case

Jess Bravin & Douglas Belkin:

The Supreme Court revisits affirmative action in college admissions Wednesday, and if recent history is a guide, the justices are likely to pare back the use of racial preferences to increase minority enrollment at public universities.

Two years ago, the court passed up a chance to undo affirmative action at the University of Texas, instead asking a lower court to decide whether the Austin campus adequately justified classifying individual applicants by race. Now the case is back at the high court. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the justices have, on issues such as campaign finance and voting rights, taken a partial step in an initial case that later paves the way for a more consequential opinion that shifts the law to the right.

UW survey finds half of community college students risk hunger, homelessness

Pat Schneider:

This first national testing of food and housing insecurity — students at Moraine Park Technical College in Wisconsin were among the total 4,300 surveyed — had a relatively low response rate of 9 percent. But Goldrick-Rab said the demographic characteristics of respondents correlated closely to community college students in general.

Because the survey was conducted by email and low-income students can have unreliable access to computers, Goldrick-Rab said she did not expect to see such high rates of food and housing challenges.

“If the rates are higher than this, I’m really worried,” she said.

More than half of all respondents, 52 percent, were at least marginally food insecure over the past 30 days, the survey found. “Food insecurity” was determined through six questions on access to meals used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


African American Intellectual History Society:

The idea of the #mizzousyllabus was conceived by Dr. Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. An historian by training, Dr. Wright Rigueur received her B.A. in History from Dartmouth College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. Before joining the Kennedy School faculty, she was a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Her research interests include 20th Century United States political and social history, and modern African American history. Her first book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power (Princeton University Press, 2015) covers more than four decades of American political and social history, and examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials and politicians, from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan’s presidential ascent in 1980. This semester, Professor Wright Rigueur is teaching a course entitled “Race, Riot, and Backlash in the United States.” You can download a copy here.

Education myth: American students are over-tested

Jill Barshay:

Andreas Schleicher, an international education expert based in Paris, attended a summit at the White House last month, and left feeling frustrated by the anti-testing backlash in this country.

“I listened to several presentations. You got this impression, if they would only get rid of tests, everything would improve,” said Schleicher, who oversees the education and skills directorate at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “That certainly isn’t the bottleneck for improvement. The U.S. is not a country of heavy testing.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Debt Maturity

John Cochrane:

Here’s the nightmare scenario: Suppose that four years from now, interest rates rise 5 percent, i.e. back to normal, and the US has $20 trillion outstanding. Interest costs alone will rise $1 trillion (5% of $20 trillion6 ) – doubling already unsustainable deficits! This is what happened to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Don’t think it can’t happen to us. It’s even more likely, because fear of inflation – which did not hit them, since they are on the Euro – can hit us.

Moreover, the habit of rolling over debt every two years leaves us vulnerable to a rollover crisis. Each year our Treasury does not have to just borrow $1 trillion to fund that year’s deficits. It has to borrow about $4 trillion more to pay off maturing debt. If bond markets say no, we have a crisis on our hands.

Going long buys us insurance against all these events. And bond markets are begging us to do it! Most large companies are issuing as much long-term debt as they can.

‘Outsiders’ Crack a 50-Year-Old Math Problem

Erica Klarreich:

Mathematicians in these disciplines greeted the news with a combination of delight and hand-wringing. The solution, which Casazza and Tremain called “a major achievement of our time,” defied expectations about how the problem would be solved and seemed bafflingly foreign. Over the past two years, the experts in the Kadison-Singer problem have had to work hard to assimilate the ideas of the proof. Spielman, Marcus and Srivastava “brought a bunch of tools into this problem that none of us had ever heard of,” Casazza said. “A lot of us loved this problem and were dying to see it solved, and we had a lot of trouble understanding how they solved it.”

“The people who have the deep intuition about why these methods work are not the people who have been working on these problems for a long time,” said Terence Tao, of the University of California, Los Angeles, who has been following these developments. Mathematicians have held several workshops to unite these disparate camps, but the proof may take several more years to digest, Tao said. “We don’t have the manual for this magic tool yet.”

The Meaning of the Library

Alberto Manguel:

We are intrinsically nostalgic animals for whom mourning is a form of recognition. Our preferred genre is the elegy. As long as something remains obviously present, we pay little attention to it, but as soon as we believe that it’s fading away, we feel irresistibly attracted to the ruins. The examples are many. When, in the mid-twentieth century, the automobile became our principal means of locomotion, Bill Bowerman, an athletics coach at the University of Oregon, published Jogging, the book that first celebrated the use of our own two feet. A few decades after film became the most popular form of entertainment, theatre, considered moribund, was revived, re-examined and redefined by Stanislavski, Brecht and Artaud. And in the late fifteenth century, when the recent invention of printing seemed to threaten the survival of the manuscript, handbooks of calligraphy began to flourish, collections of letters (such as those of Cicero) became bestsellers, and scribes produced manuscripts for avid collectors by copying texts from newly printed books.

Newark Schools Spent $18,208 Per Pupil Last Year. So Why Are They In ‘Extreme Chronic Fiscal Distress?’

Jim Epstein:

The public schools in Newark, New Jersey are in a state of “extreme chronic fiscal distress,” according to a new report by the nonprofit Education Law Center (ELC). “The ongoing budget crisis has eroded essential resources,” and students are being deprived of their rights to an adequate education under the state constitution.

How does the ELC define “extreme chronic fiscal distress?” Newark’s traditional public schools spent a whopping $18,208 per pupil in 2014-15. That tops average per pupil spending in every state except New York. (Though, of course, there are many cities and towns that spend more.)

The ELC was founded in 1973 on the theory that dramatically boosting state spending could fix New Jersey’s failing schools, and 42 years later it’s still pushing that theory—despite mounting empirical evidence to the contrary. The ELC was behind the landmark 1981 lawsuit Abbott v. Burke that sought to increase school funding in the state’s poorest districts. Decades later, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in its favor and a boatload of additional state funding started flowing to cities like Newark. But the schools barely improved. It turns out that how schools spend money also matters.

‘Use More Expressive Words!’ Teachers Bark, Beseech, Implore

James Hagerty:

English teachers were once satisfied if they could prevent their pupils from splitting infinitives. Now some also want to stop them from using words like “good,” “bad,” “fun” and “said.”

“We call them dead words,” said (or declared) Leilen Shelton, a middle school teacher in Costa Mesa, Calif. She and many others strive to purge pupils’ compositions of words deemed vague or dull.

“There are so many more sophisticated, rich words to use,” said (or affirmed) Ms. Shelton, whose manual “Banish Boring Words” has sold nearly 80,000 copies since 2009.

Her pupils know better than to use a boring word like “said.” As Ms. Shelton put it, “ ‘Said’ doesn’t have any emotion. You might use barked. Maybe howled. Demanded. Cackled. I have a list.”

Preparing For The Technology Revolution Created By Artificial Intelligence

Randy Komisar:

Robots For An Aging Population
An aging population and low birth rates will change society. People are relying on and relating to machines in a more intimate way. Ultimately, demographic changes in the population have a far greater impact than any influence of technology, such as in the case of China. With a rapidly aging society, robots could be introduced at a time when the workforce is contracting.

Drones That Kill
Machines can sense their environment and make decisions on who to kill. If machines don’t feel remorse, then the very human moral instinct is eliminated. In the wrong hands, there could be ethical concerns over how the technology is used.

Robots Will Take Your Job
Jobs may disappear as tasks become automated. Historically, the introduction of technology into the workforce has advanced agriculture, accounting, law, genetics, information technology and other fields. However, the people who were doing those jobs, have now lost their jobs. Social policies need to reflect what’s happening in the economy as well as technological advances.

Should Anyone Be Eligible for Student Loans?

Josh Mitchell:

A surge in the share of Americans defaulting on their student debt is generating support for an obvious but controversial idea: restrict who can borrow for higher education.

For decades, the federal government has imposed no underwriting standards in its student-loan program. Just about any American can borrow as much as $57,500 for college—and essentially unlimited amounts for graduate school—with little regard for the person’s ability to repay. Everyone taking out federal loans in a given year pays the same interest rate.

Supporters of that no-questions-asked policy say it guarantees every American a shot at a degree and a secure middle-class income. Imposing underwriting standards would deny a higher education to many poor people who can’t get loans from private lenders, they argue.

Can we predict which jobs will be replaced by robots?

Ana Swanson:

We’re used to thinking that the jobs that are most likely to be taken over by automation are low-skilled ones: clerks, lowly paper pushers, assembly line workers. In contrast, those on the very high end of the wage scale — doctors, CEOs and hedge fund managers — seem like they will be comfortably insulated from the robot revolution.

But new research from McKinsey & Company, a consultancy, shows that that isn’t quite right. While there is a connection between a job’s skill level and the likelihood it will be automated, there are a lot of jobs that don’t fit that pattern. One example: CEOs, whose jobs will be more affected by automation than landscapers, the researchers say.

The researchers argue that the way we usually talk about robots displacing workers is misleading. We typically try to identify the jobs that will disappear because of automation. In the near term, however, very few occupations will be automated away entirely. McKinsey estimates that, with the technology available today, fewer than 5 percent of occupations could be entirely turned over to robots.


The bottom line is that 45 percent of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology. If the technologies that process and “understand” natural language were to reach the median level of human performance, an additional 13 percent of work activities in the US economy could be automated. The magnitude of automation potential reflects the speed with which advances in artificial intelligence and its variants, such as machine learning, are challenging our assumptions about what is automatable. It’s no longer the case that only routine, codifiable activities are candidates for automation and that activities requiring “tacit” knowledge or experience that is difficult to translate into task specifications are immune to automation.

In many cases, automation technology can already match, or even exceed, the median level of human performance required. For instance, Narrative Science’s artificial-intelligence system, Quill, analyzes raw data and generates natural language, writing reports in seconds that readers would assume were written by a human author. Amazon’s fleet of Kiva robots is equipped with automation technologies that plan, navigate, and coordinate among individual robots to fulfill warehouse orders roughly four times faster than the company’s previous system. IBM’s Watson can suggest available treatments for specific ailments, drawing on the body of medical research for those diseases.

Not a Math Person’: How to Remove Obstacles to Learning Math

Katrina Schwartz:

Stanford math education professor Jo Boaler spends a lot of time worrying about how math education in the United States traumatizes kids. Recently, a colleague’s 7-year-old came home from school and announced he didn’t like math anymore. His mom asked why and he said, “math is too much answering and not enough learning.”

This story demonstrates how clearly kids understand that unlike their other courses, math is a performative subject, where their job is to come up with answers quickly. Boaler says that if this approach doesn’t change, the U.S. will always have weak math education.

How an iPad is changing education at Susquenita High School

Rachel Bunn:

In Kyla Falzarano’s classroom, some kids show her their homework on notebook paper, while others hold up their iPads.

In Kathy Kisner’s classroom, students are typing on their iPads, developing characters a final creative writing project.

And in Kathy Becker’s anatomy classroom, an app on student’s iPads provides an alternative from the heavy books where students are looking up information about bones for a quiz.

What started as an experiment in 2013 has now become a fully-integrated learning program in the Susquenita School District in Perry County.

High-poverty schools often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes

Emma Brown:

Gwaltney hired 56 teachers this summer, out of a total of approximately 140 on staff. Eighty-six percent of her staff members have between zero and three years’ experience.

She is striving to change her school’s culture and thinks she has improved morale; two teachers have left this year, down from five at the same point last year. But she worries: “The bottom line fact is I will have great people and train them up, and they’ll transfer and go to a school that’s not quite so complex.”

The scope of the substitute problem is difficult to gauge because comprehensive data on this kind of classroom instability is not reported in a uniform way and often is not reported at all.

Drip by drip, enrollment share at MPS-staffed schools drifts toward half

Alan Borsuk:

The mountain keeps eroding and the foothills keep growing. Where does this lead?

It’s time for my annual look at Milwaukee’s changing and amazing educational landscape, as shown by enrollment numbers for the several streams of publicly funded education that flow strongly in the city.

It’s been a quarter-century since the launch of private school vouchers and charter schools ended the days when saying you got a publicly funded education meant you went to schools in a centralized system.

Now, publicly funded education comes in a lot of flavors. Enrollment trends offer an important view of what is happening.

I’m going to break this into pieces. This week, the mountain, namely, the Milwaukee Public Schools system.

Next week, the molehills, namely, the development in recent years of more than half a dozen of what I would call mini-school districts in Milwaukee.

Life on the mountain offers a lot of what we could diplomatically call challenges.

A big one is that the enrollment picture for the conventional MPS system gets worse, notch by notch, year by year.

Focus on this number: 56%. That’s the percentage of Milwaukee children who get publicly funded education who were enrolled this fall in MPS (defined basically as the schools where staff members are employees of MPS).

The MPS share has gone down by a percentage point or two in pretty much every recent year. I thought it was a big deal when it fell to 67% in the mid-2000s. By two years ago, it was 59%, and last year 57%. How far away is the day when it’s half?

A Review Of “Will College Pay Off?”

Gene Epstein:

For one thing, college payoffs vary widely by major and school. According to PayScale data for 1,310 colleges, “Brigham Young and Georgia Tech both top the list with a 12.5% annual return, but there are many schools that generate a negative return.”

Good advisors are also upfront about the risk of failure. The returns to college are normally reported for graduates who finish on time. Yet such students are the exception, not the rule: “Less than 40 percent of full-time students entering four-year colleges in recent years have been graduating in four years.…For those who are sure that their kids will graduate in four years or else, I can say from personal experience that demanding that your kids will do so doesn’t guarantee that they will.”

A deeper methodological problem with the standard approach is that it gives college all the credit for the extra money that college grads enjoy. But on graduation day, the college-bound already outshine their classmates.

Will College Pay Off? makes a compelling overall case. Yet the book is sadly peppered with omissions, errors, and implausibilities. As a result, mainstream education economists will find Cappelli’s wise book easy to dismiss.

Human Gene Editing Research Should Proceed, Concludes Historic Tech Summit

Ronald Bailey:

Everything is possible with CRISPR,” the Baylor geneticist Hugo Bellen told Science News this week. “I’m not kidding.”

Others view the technology more darkly. The Brazilian bioethicist José Roberto Goldim argues that CRISPR has endowed humanity with “dangerous knowledge”—that is, knowledge that supposedly “accumulates more rapidly than the wisdom required to use it.”

The summit was convened on Tuesday at the headquarters of the National Academy of Sciences, which co-hosted the meeting with the National Academy of Medicine, the British Royal Society, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In his opening remarks, the Caltech biologist David Baltimore declared: “The overriding question is when, if ever, we will want to use gene editing to change human inheritance.” Few researchers or ethicists object to eventually using CRISPR to fix broken genes in adults, but many are haunted by the specter of the much-dreaded “designer babies.”

These fears were ratcheted up earlier this year, when researchers at Sun Yat-Sen University published a study that described using CRISPR to modify genes for the inheritable disease beta thalassemia in nonviable human embryos. While some of the targeted genes were successfully changed, there were many off-target changes in the genomes too. The high rate of off-target edits could have been the result of using very early versions of the technology and the fact that the embryos had been double fertilized, which means that they carried three sets of chromosomes rather than the standard two.

Humanity’s track record of attempting to play God is not terribly encouraging.

The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence

Tim Urban:


Imagine taking a time machine back to 1750—a time when the world was in a permanent power outage, long-distance communication meant either yelling loudly or firing a cannon in the air, and all transportation ran on hay. When you get there, you retrieve a dude, bring him to 2015, and then walk him around and watch him react to everything. It’s impossible for us to understand what it would be like for him to see shiny capsules racing by on a highway, talk to people who had been on the other side of the ocean earlier in the day, watch sports that were being played 1,000 miles away, hear a musical performance that happened 50 years ago, and play with my magical wizard rectangle that he could use to capture a real-life image or record a living moment, generate a map with a paranormal moving blue dot that shows him where he is, look at someone’s face and chat with them even though they’re on the other side of the country, and worlds of other inconceivable sorcery. This is all before you show him the internet or explain things like the International Space Station, the Large Hadron Collider, nuclear weapons, or general relativity.

Signaling and Productivity in the Private Financial Returns to Schooling

Paul Bingley, Kaare Christensen, and Kristoffer Markwardt:

Does formal schooling contribute to individual labor market productivity or does it act as a signal to employers of predetermined labor market skills? We test for whether employers statistically discriminate between workers on the basis of their schooling, by assuming we can observe a proxy for worker productivity that the em- ployer cannot – father, brother and co-twin earnings. Using population-based Danish administrative data, we find that employers initially statistically discriminate be- tween workers on the basis of schooling, but schooling earnings differentials fall over time as employers learn about worker productivity. We further propose a novel test for job market signaling using differences in twin pair earnings growth, and find that signaling is important at the upper end of the schooling distribution – explaining a large proportion of the college wage premium.

Madison high school student arrested for having a loaded gun at Lapham Elementary

Jason Joyce:

“Students in the alternative program have their classes on the third floor, separate from the elementary students,” said Rachel Strauch Nelson in an email. “I would note that we have already been considering other possible locations for these programs as our district works to strengthen our alternative program options.”

Strauch Nelson added that “interaction with the elementary students is very limited.”

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sent an email to all district parents under the subject “Safe Schools.” The complete email reads:

Dear MMSD community,

As we read about disturbing events of violence across the country, we recognize that there can be cause for concern about day to day safety. I want to reassure you that safety is a top priority in our district.

At each of our schools, we have strong safety protocols in place, we continuously train our staff and review these procedures, and we work very closely with the Madison police to keep our school communities safe. We also continuously strive to have good communication between staff, parents and students and community members.

I say this, in part, because you may have heard about an incident in which a high school age student brought a firearm to a school today. Unlike other incidents we have seen around the country, the student made no threats and indicated that he did not intend any harm to anyone at school. Our district staff and police responded immediately, recovered the firearm and took the student into custody.

While this situation is very different than incidents we’ve heard about throughout the country, it is a good example of why we have strong safety protocols in place. Our staff followed those protocols very well to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

Whenever there are safety incidents in our schools, we work hard to communicate with you quickly and ensure that you have up to date information.

That is important because we also recognize that parents have the most important role in providing comfort and reassurance to their children when they express concern about events around the country. As parents, our role is to remain calm, explore with them what they know, and what they are worried about, and to provide reassurance and routine. This is also the role of our educators in schools. If your child is having difficulty or needs support, please seek support from your school’s student services staff or principal.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me or your school principal.


Jennifer Cheatham


Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum, and

Police calls to Madison Hogh Schools Schools: 1996-2006

House Restores Local Education Control in Revising No Child Left Behind

Emmarie Huettemen:

House on Wednesday approved a sweeping bill to revise the contentious No Child Left Behind law, representing the end of an era in which the federal government aggressively policed public school performance, and returning control to states and local districts.

No Child Left Behind, which had strong bipartisan backing when it passed in 2001, was the signature education initiative of George W. Bush, who said the failure of public schools to teach poor students and minorities reflected the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

The Emerging Neuroscience of Social Media

Dar MeshiDiana I. TamirHauke R. Heekeren:

Social media use is a global phenomenon, with almost two billion people worldwide regularly using these websites. As Internet access around the world increases, so will the number of social media users. Neuroscientists can capitalize on the ubiquity of social media use to gain novel insights about social cognitive processes and the neural systems that support them. This review outlines social motives that drive people to use social media, proposes neural systems supporting social media use, and describes approaches neuroscientists can use to conduct research with social media. We close by noting important directions and ethical considerations of future research with social m

Teen Privacy Toolkit

Alison (pdf):

Disk encryption
● OSX: Filevault
● Windows: Device Encryption
and Bitlocker
● Linux: dm-crypt and LUKS
● Android: depends on phone
● iOS: built in to latest versions

The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone’s Feelings

Ryan Holiday:

There is a trend afoot to conveniently remember the works of authors like Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley as warnings against distant totalitarianism and control. But this only scratches the surface of what these books are about.

Earlier this year a community college student in San Bernardino protested being required to read a Neil Gaiman graphic novel in one of her classes. It was too graphic, apparently. Her father—who does not seem to understand that his daughter is a separate human being (an adult one no less)—told The Los Angeles Times, “If they [had] put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.” A mom in Tennessee has complained that the gynecological information in the book in the bestselling nonfiction science book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is too pornographic for her 10th grade son.

While these conservative complaints about the content of books is unfortunately as old as time. We’re also seeing surge in a different type.

A Rutgers student has proposed putting trigger warnings on The Great Gatsby. Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” was banned on many college campuses for promoting rape. Last year, Wellesley students created a petition to remove an art project featuring a lifelike statue of a sleepwalking man in his underwear in the snow because it caused “undue stress.” Controversial speakers (many conservative) have been blocked from speaking at college commencements. Pick up artists—never convicted of any crime—have had their visas revoked due to trending Twitter hashtags.

Median income takes sharp downturn in most of Wisconsin; Madison Legacy K-12 Spending And Taxes Continue To Grow

Kevin Crowe:

Median household income fell by a significant margin in two-thirds of Wisconsin counties from 2009 to 2014, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Milwaukee County, the median income fell by 10.3% to $43,385. Waukesha County, which had the highest median income in the state at $76,319, saw a 7.1% drop. Washington (-5.2%), Ozaukee (-7.7%) and Racine (-7.9%) counties all experienced declining incomes, as well.

Learn more about Madison’s $454M 2015-2016 budget, which spends around $17k per student, far above the national average.

Touring the Mediocrity Factory (meeting with principal of rich suburban public school)

Philip Greenspun, via a kind reader:

Based on what people said at the forum, the core driver of mediocrity seems to be the dual function of the American school. A home-schooled child studies for three hours per day. A Russian child studies for about four hours, from just after breakfast until just before lunch (with 10-minute breaks, but no recess). Children are parked at an American school for 6-7 hours per day and thus necessarily much of the time is spent on stuff other than learning. This leads to the school becoming a place for “social/emotional development” during 2-3 hours per day. The “social/emotional” aspects were the foremost concerns of the parents at the forum. One mother described how the first 20 minutes out of a 25-minute parent/teacher conference were spent discussing a child’s social life during recess. This was not a complaint, just a response to the question of how such conferences were going. When asked what was on their mind, nearly every other parent led with “social/emotional.” It makes sense if you step back from the situation and ask “What is urgent for a parent?” Of course we would all like our children to be well-educated at age 25 (or 30?) when they are done with the master’s degree that is now our entry-level credential. But the immediate (and therefore urgent) goal is to see one’s child smiling. If a child comes home in tears because of something that happened at recess it would be a rare parent who would say “let’s talk about how what you learned writing this history essay is going to affect your performance in college.”

As this was a new principal and the forum was a place for open discussion, I asked if anyone had read The Smartest Kids in the World, which was a New York Times bestseller and recommended heavily by Amazon, The Economist, and various newspapers. Everyone in the room was either employed by a school or interested enough to take time to show up at this forum, but nobody had read the book. So I mentioned that the Russian system (not much better results than ours, but absurdly cheap to run by comparison) and the Finnish system had schools and teachers concentrate on the single mission of academics. Day care, sports, and social/emotional were handled by people other than teachers in venues other than school. Then I asked if there were state regulations that would prevent the town from setting up a Russian-style system in which teachers taught until lunch and then a separate set of employees took over for the lunch+afternoon social/emotional/daycare shift. That way parents could concentrate on academics when talking with teachers. The principal responded that “children aren’t built that way” (i.e., the American way of alternating academic and daycare activities for 6-7 hours is the only possible way to run a school).

Mediocre math standards are not a new issue.

Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting bac

Will Hobson and Steve Rich:

To rich athletic departments, these fees represent guaranteed revenue streams that, unlike ticket sales or booster donations, are unaffected by on-field success. To less flush departments, increasing student fees is one way to keep up.

Athletic directors defend fees as well worth what their programs give back to schools.

“Athletics is a common good, bringing people together, developing relationships, unifying the institution, bringing fantastic exposure,” said Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, whose department charges undergraduates $657 annually.

To advocates fighting to keep college affordable, however, athletic departments that continue to charge mandatory student fees as their income rises are making America’s student debt problem worse.

Zuckerberg & Personalized Learning

Naomi Mix:

That the students are in the same class tackling the same subject at the same time but not at the same level of difficulty or with the same approach is the point of what’s called personalized learning.

The academy, part of the public school system in this industrialized city of 125,000, is one of dozens across the country experimenting with a new personalized learning model called “Teach to One: Math,” which allows students to follow a math curriculum at their own pace, using group work, traditional classroom teaching and virtual tutoring.

“The students really like it,” said iPrep Principal Lawrence Roodenburg, who first started using the program in 2013. “They are not always doing the same thing.”

Math…. Our sons’ $189,000 student debt is delaying our retirement


Waiting tables despite degree

The couple is currently paying $744 a month on their 24-year-old son Tim’s roughly $129,000 of student loans.

Tim graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies. He’s especially interested in a Hollywood career, but has found it hard to land a job there, though he’s picked up some spots as an extra on TV shows. Tim is mostly trying to make ends meet by working as a waiter and bartender.

“He’s a struggling young artist out there. He has next-to-no income,” said Bill, who is 57 years old and cosigned his son’s loans.

Parents who cosign on a child’s student debt assume equal responsibility for repaying the loan. That means late payments can hurt the parent’s credit rating, not just the child’s.

Their other son, Sean, lives at home and is pursuing a second degree. He has about $60,000 in student debt from earning a bachelor’s degree in technology management from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

The 28-year-old’s student loans are in deferment, which means he can temporarily postpone the payments. However, the loan continues to accumulate interest.

Sean is now pursuing another bachelor’s degree, this time in computer science, from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. He is paying for this degree as he goes, with help from an internship program with the U.S. Navy.

The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work

Philip Rogaway:

Cryptography rearranges power: it configures who can do what, from what. This makes cryptography an inherently political tool, and it confers on the field an intrinsically moral dimension. The Snowden revelations motivate a reassessment of the political and moral positioning of cryptography. They lead one to ask if our inability to effectively address mass surveillance constitutes a failure of our field. I believe that it does. I call for a community-wide effort to develop more effective means to resist mass surveillance. I plea for a reinvention of our disciplinary culture to attend not only to puzzles and math, but, also, to the societal implications of our work.

Google Deceptively Tracks Students’ Internet Browsing, EFF Says in FTC Complaint

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The campaign was created to raise awareness about the privacy risks of school-supplied electronic devices and software. EFF examined Google’s Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many schools across the country by students as young as seven years old.

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

Google’s practices fly in the face of commitments made when it signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.

This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!

Dr. Everett Piper:

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.

I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”

Why the Public Can’t Read the Press

John Heltman:

had a job with a Washington, D.C.-based newsletter called Water Policy Report. It wasn’t exactly a household name, but I was covering Congress, the federal courts, and the Environmental Protection Agency—a definite step up from the greased-pig-catching contests and crime-blotter stories I had chased at a community newspaper on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, my first job out of college.

Python Teaching Resources for a Modern Classroom


small teaching revolution. As a teaching community we can now share our lesson plans, materials, and experiences with the whole world. We can use other’s resources as a foundation to build our own courses so that we iterate towards ever better learning materials. This process is only just beginning, so to help we’ve put together a list below of some of the best Python teaching resources available. If you’re teaching a Python class, hopefully these can save you time and effort that you can instead invest into delivering the best course possible!

Most resources below have an open source license permitting their use and modification anywhere (with attribution to the original source). If we’re missing anything that you think we should feature, please let us know.

K-12 Tax and Spending Climate:  The price of growing Federalization

Philip Longman:

What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around

Investors buying shares in college students: Is this the wave of the future? Purdue University thinks so.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel:

This week, Purdue University took a step toward answering some of those questions by partnering with Vemo Education, a Reston-based financial services firm, to explore the use of income-share agreements, or ISAs, to help students pay for college.

Through its research foundation, the school plans to create ISA funds that its students can tap to pay for tuition, room and board. In return, students would pay a percentage of their earnings after graduation for a set number of years, replenishing the fund for future investments. Purdue is relying on Vemo, along with nonprofits 13th Avenue Funding and the Jain Family Institute, to flesh out the terms.

There’s nothing new about ISAs. Economist Milton Friedman floated the idea in the 1950s, and a handful of Latin American countries use the agreements. Yet they have been slow to catch on in the United States. A handful of small companies and nonprofits, including Cumulus Funding and 13th Avenue, are piloting programs or offering contracts on a limited basis, but the market is in its infancy.

How Hard Is New York’s Algebra Exam?

New York Times:

On this year’s New York Regents Algebra I exam, which was aligned with the Common Core curriculum, the percentage of students passing fell, even as the minimum passing grade was scheduled to increase. Below is a sample of questions from the test.

Madison Teachers Union Seeks Names Of Members Who Voted In Recent Recertification Election

Patrick Marley:

The union Madison Teachers Inc. on Nov. 10 sought documents under the open records law that would show who had voted so far in the election that ran from Nov. 4 to Nov. 24.

On June 16, the commission’s chairman, James Scott, denied the request, saying the ballots were in the hands of a contractor who runs the elections for the commission and arguing the interests of “avoiding the potential for voter coercion while balloting is ongoing outweigh the interests favoring disclosure.” Scott also contended releasing the records would undermine the secrecy of the ballot because non-votes are considered “no” votes.

Doug Erickson follows up.

Much more on Madison Teachers, Inc. and Act 10, here.

Meanwhile, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Think Millennials Prefer The City? Think Again.

Ben Casselman:

The numbers tell a different story. Whether by choice or economic circumstance, young Americans are still more likely to leave the city for the suburbs than the other way around.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data released this week, 529,000 Americans ages 25 to 29 moved from cities out to the suburbs in 2014; only 426,000 moved in the other direction. Among younger millennials, those in their early 20s, the trend was even starker: 721,000 moved out of the city, compared with 554,000 who moved in.1 Somewhat more people in both age groups currently live in the suburbs than in the city.

Indeed, for all the talk of the rebirth of American cities, the draw of the suburbs remains powerful. Across all ages, races, incomes and education groups, more Americans are still moving out of cities than in. (Urban populations are still growing, but because of births and immigration, not internal migration.)

For thin-skinned students, we have nobody to blame but ourselves

Kathleen Parker:

This isn’t necessarily to excuse them. Everyone has a choice whether to ignore a perceived slight — or to form a posse. But as with any problem, it helps to understand its source. The disease, I fear, was auto-induced with the zealous pampering of the American child that began a few decades ago.

The first sign of the epidemic of sensitivity we’re witnessing was when parents and teachers were instructed never to tell Johnny that he’s a “bad boy,” but that he’s “acting” like a bad boy.

Next, Johnny was handed a blue ribbon along with everyone else on the team even though he didn’t deserve one. This had the opposite effect of what was intended. Rather than protecting Johnny’s fragile self-esteem, the prize undermined Johnny’s faith in his own perceptions and judgment. It robbed him of his ability to pick himself up when he fell and to be brave, honest and hardy in the face of adversity.

Learn Storm 2016

Khan Academy:

LearnStorm rewards hustling to learn new things, rather than just testing what you already understand.

You only have to know one thing:
you can learn anything.

The Other Student Activists

Melinda Anderson

In February 1960, four black students from North Carolina A&T walked into Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and sat down at its “whites only” lunch counter. Every day for six months black students returned to the lunch counter; over time their numbers swelled. The sit-in—central in the fight for black civil rights—soon sparked similar nonviolent protests across the South. From its inception, the 1960s civil-rights movement was fueled by youth leaders and student activists. In many cases college students were the ones leading marches, voter-registration drives, and social-justice actions. Yet in lesser known, equally defining moments, younger students of color were spearheading efforts to tackle inequalities and systemic factors that worked against them.

This was the case in Chicago, where public schools in segregated black neighborhoods were under-resourced and overcrowded. In what’s been called “one of the largest and most overlooked civil rights actions of the 1960s” 250,000 students staged a one-day boycott in October 1963. Estimates are that half of Chicago students participated in the walkout, with about 20,000 marching to the Chicago Board of Education in a mass demonstration for equitable resources for black children. The following year (1964) over 450,000 black and Puerto Rican students protested de facto segregation in New York City’s public schools, a decade after Brown v. Board of Education struck down segregated schooling.

Four tough things universities should do to rein in costs

Steven Pearlstein:

Universities in the United States are the best in the world, but the cost of attending them is rising faster than the cost of almost anything else. Professors blame administrative bloat, administrators blame a decline in state funding, politicians blame unproductive faculties who’ve become too set in their ways.

Yet while students are paying more, they are getting less, at least as measured by learning outcomes, intellectual engagement, time with professors and graduation rates. And although students are working more hours at outside jobs and receiving more tuition assistance, student debt now exceeds credit card debt and has become something of a national obsession.

University yoga class canceled because of ‘oppression, cultural genocide

Justin Wm. Moye:

Jennifer Scharf was told that the free class she taught at the University of Ottawa had been canceled. (Courtesy of Jennifer Scharf)
In studios across the nation, as many as 20 million Americans practice yoga every day. Few worry that their downward dogs or warrior poses disrespect other cultures.

But yoga comes from India, once a British colony. And now, at one Canadian university, a yoga class designed to include disabled students has been canceled after concerns the practice was taken from a culture that “experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,” according to the group that once sponsored it.