U of California Accused of Favoring Non-Californians

Scott Jaschik:

What did happen was a sudden spike in enrolling out-of-state undergraduates, even as demand increased for spots at the University of California — and especially at the campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles and, to a slightly lesser degree, San Diego. There has been plenty of grumbling by applicants, parents and politicians. Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, complained that “normal” students can’t get into Berkeley anymore.

The state auditor on Tuesday released a report that went well beyond complaints of rejected applicants. It accused the university system of admitting out-of-state applicants who didn’t meet standards set by the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education. And thousands of these non-Californians took the spots of more academically qualified Californians, the audit charged. This narrative counters the image that many admissions officials at popular flagships promote, which is that it is the out-of-staters who must meet higher standards.

Poor white kids are less likely to go to prison than rich black kids

Max Ehrenfreund:

“Race trumps class, at least when it comes to incarceration,” said Darrick Hamilton of the New School, one of the researchers who produced the study.

He and his colleagues, Khaing Zaw and William Darity of Duke University, examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a national study that began in 1979 and followed a group of young people into adulthood and middle age. The participants were asked about their assets and debts, and interviewers also noted their type of residence, including whether they were in a jail or prison.

The researchers grouped participants in the survey by their race and their household wealth as of 1985 and then looked back through the data to see how many people in each group ultimately went to prison. Participants who were briefly locked up between interviews might not be included in their calculations of the share who were eventually incarcerated.

TFA Cannot Downsize Itself Free of Alumni Concerns– Especially Diversity Displacement


n March 21, 2016, education historian and activist, Diane Ravitch, posted a communication dated March 17, 2016, from “a current high-level administrative employee at Teach for America.” The big news is that TFA will be cutting roughly 150 national and regional staff. The communication also notes that when TFA failed to reach its recruitment goals for 2015, jobs were cut, but not at the higher levels. This time (2016), TFA did not reach its recruitment goals for a second year, and this time, the job cuts are not just “rank and file staff.”

On the same day as Ravitch’s post, March 21, 2016, TFA posted news of the cuts on its own web site.

Commentary on Higher Education Financing

Jonathon Deetman

Liberal-arts colleges now find themselves in a brutal competition to attract a certain kind of paying student. By and large, students are not moneymakers for the college if they are poor enough to qualify for need-based aid, pedigreed enough to command major scholarship offers, or a minority who must be lured, with a nice tuition discount, to a place like Crawfordsville, Indiana. In short, white mediocrity is the bread and butter of the contemporary liberal-arts college.

But in order for the formula to work, these colleges must have a critical mass of students. There have to be enough profit-generating students to allow the college to take a loss on the students who will boost selectivity™ and diversity™. This is why Simon Newman wants to increase enrollment at MSMU and why college presidents everywhere lose sleep over enrollment numbers. These pressures are not unique to liberal-arts colleges, just more acute because of their relatively small size and their already inflated tuition.

Can Mills College Save Itself?

Andrea Powell:

Back in October, before the campus became a cauldron of student protests and angst-filled town hall forums, 12 members of Mills College’s student newspaper, the Campanil, gathered around a whiteboard for their weekly editorial meeting. As the all-female staff discussed what issues to report on, one student piped up with some important news: A campus-wide announcement was imminent, she said, and it would reveal proposed curriculum changes affecting multiple academic departments. She had been tipped off by staff members who worried that, once the news broke, students would become anxious and have questions. “I saw the faculty come out [of a meeting], and they didn’t look happy,” she reported to her colleagues.

Sure enough, not two hours after the news team wrapped up its meeting, a memorandum was disseminated among the campus community. Titled “Transforming Mills’ Curriculum for the 21st Century” and sent by the school’s departing president, Alecia DeCoudreaux, the email outlined proposed “teach-outs”—that is, closures—of three undergraduate programs. While it also announced the possible creation or expansion of certain programs, mostly in the STEM and education fields, the letter stated, “We must keep in mind that our programs need to operate with greater efficiencies; some will be revised, some will be created, some will grow, some will need to become more efficient; and some will be eliminated or sunset.” Or, in the plain English befitting a top-tier liberal arts college: Here comes the ax.

Computer Science Video Lectures


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Spying On Students


Schools are issuing laptops and other digital devices to students under 18 years old, as well as requiring students to use cloud-based education platforms. We’re conducting a survey to learn more about these practices. Will you help us by reporting what’s happening at your school? This survey is open to parents, students at least 13 years of age, district or school administrators, and teachers.

‘Free’ College Is A Myth That Smears Trade Schools

Bre Payton:

Rowe is referring to a policy idea popularized by Bernie Sanders that taxpayers should heavily subsidize college — to the extent that it initially wouldn’t cost students anything out of pocket to attend. Obviously, there are some serious flaws in this idea. When one considers where tax dollars come from, it becomes apparent that students would ultimately end up paying for their tuition one way or another.

Under Sanders’s proposal, the difference is that instead of paying for their tuition at enrollment, students (and everyone else, for that matter) will pay for this “free” education when filing taxes every single year for the rest of their lives.

This won’t make college tuition less expensive, either. We can take a look at the impact government subsidies have had on higher education and determine that it’s done nothing to make college more affordable for anyone. In fact, for every dollar the federal government spends on college subsidies, the cost of tuition goes up by 55 to 65 cents.

Grade Inflation, Higher and Higher

Scott Jaschik:

The first major update in seven years of a database on grade inflation has found that grades continue to rise and that A is the most common grade earned at all kinds of colleges.

Since the last significant release of the survey, faculty members at Princeton University and Wellesley College, among other institutions, have debated ways to limit grade inflation, despite criticism from some students who welcome the high averages. But the new study says these efforts have not been typical. The new data, by Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor, and Christopher Healy, a Furman University professor, will appear today on the website GradeInflation.com, which will also have data for some of the individual colleges participating in the study.

The findings are based on an analysis of colleges that collectively enroll about one million students, with a wide range of competitiveness in admissions represented among the institutions. Key findings:

Harold Rayford hopes to narrow achievement gap by addressing early childhood developme

Ogechi Emechebe:

The achievement gap between students of color and their white counterparts in Dane County has been an area of concern for the past several years. In addition to what the Madison School District is doing to try and eliminate the gap, a local grassroots organization is hoping to reduce the achievement gap before kids start kindergarten.

Harold Rayford, pastor of The Faith Place Church in Sun Prairie and President of the African American Council of Churches, will launch the 1800 Days initiative on Tuesday, March 29, at 6 p.m. at the Central Madison Public Library.

1800 Days is a nonprofit organization focusing on a child’s first five years of life where significant intellectual development takes place, said Rayford. The emphasis will be on early childhood development so children can be academically and intellectually equipped to start kindergarten and stay on track once in school.

Rayford said the idea came about after he volunteered as an assistant librarian in a local middle school for about four years. He said he initially began the role to help teachers interact with minority students, but over time he realized the achievement gap was an issue that needed participation from everyone in the community, including minority groups.

A Culture Of Sensitivity

Rachel Huebner:

discourse was a value all Americans hold dear. I presumed that when asked about what makes America so unique, many Americans would respond that our pluralistic society is the foundation of so much of our success. That it was understood that without a marketplace of ideas, our society simply could not flourish.

But then I started college.

Feds to Fine Schools for Not Following Michelle Obama’s Lunch Rules

Elizabeth Harringron:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama.

The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains.

Data Mining Reveals the Four Urban Conditions That Create Vibrant City Life

MIT Technology Review:

Back in 1961, the gradual decline of many city centers in the U.S. began to puzzle urban planners and activists alike. One of them, the urban sociologist Jane Jacobs, began a widespread and detailed investigation of the causes and published her conclusions in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a controversial book that proposed four conditions that are essential for vibrant city life.

Wrong? Campus Unrest, Viewpoint Diversity, and Freedom of Speech

Michael Shermer:

The French political journalist and supporter of the Royalist cause in the French Revolution, Jacques Mallet du Pan, famously summarized what often happens to extremists: “the Revolution devours its children.” I was thinking about this idiom—and its doppelgänger “what goes around comes around”—while writing a lecture for a talk I was invited to give at my alma mater California State University, Fullerton on the topic: “Is freedom of speech harmful for college students?” The short answer is an unflinching and unequivocal “No.”

Feds charge 12 Detroit school principals with bribery

Katrease Stafford and Tresa Baldas

In its latest crackdown on school corruption here, the federal government Tuesday dropped a legal bomb on 12 current and former principals, one administrator and a vendor — all charged with running a nearly $1 million bribery and kickback scheme involving school supplies that rarely were delivered.

Among those charged: Ronald Alexander, principal at Charles L. Spain Elementary-Middle School that’s scheduled to receive more than $500,000 in donations from TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Alexander’s charge, unrelated to DeGeneres’ announcement in February, is bribery for allegedly pocketing $23,000 money from Norman Shy in exchange for using the owner of Allstate Sales as a school-supply vendor, according to federal court records.

As SAT was hit by security breaches, College Board went ahead with tests that had leaked

Renee Dudley, Steve Stecklow, Alexandra Harney and Irene Jay Liu

Internal documents show that the U.S. college entrance exam has been compromised in Asia far more often than acknowledged. And the newly redesigned SAT retains a key vulnerability that the test-prep industry has exploited for years.

Xingyuan Ding is a sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, one of America’s most exclusive public universities. In applying to schools, the 20-year-old from China took the SAT college entrance exam four times.

He had an advantage on his final try: a booklet compiled by a Shanghai test-preparation school he attended.

His study aid was far more valuable than the practice questions that students in America use to prepare for the SAT, the standardized test used by thousands of U.S. colleges to help select applicants. Known in Chinese as a jijing, the booklet was essentially an answer key. It revealed words from the correct responses to multiple-choice questions that had appeared on past SATs – many of which would be used again on the exam Ding took.

Thanks to the booklet, Ding said he already knew the answers to about half of the critical reading section of the SAT when he took the test in Hong Kong in December 2013.

“I felt really lucky,” Ding said.

His score on that section? A perfect 800, he said.

A Cambridge professor on how to stop being so easily manipulated by misleading statistics

Akshat Rathi:

There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Few people know the struggle of correcting such lies better than David Spiegelhalter. Since 2007, he has been the Winton professor for the public understanding of risk (though he prefers “statistics” to “risk”) at the University of Cambridge.

In a sunlit hotel room in Washington DC, Quartz caught up with Spiegelhalter recently to talk about his unique job. The conversation sprawled from the wisdom of eating bacon (would you swallow any other known carcinogen?), to the serious crime of manipulating charts, to the right way to talk about rare but scary diseases.

Why Are Educators Learning How to Interrogate Their Students?

Douglas Starr:

About a year and a half ago, Jessica Schneider was handed a flyer by one of her colleagues in the child-advocacy community. It advertised a training session, offered under the auspices of the Illinois Principals Association (I.P.A.), in how to interrogate students. Specifically, teachers and school administrators would be taught an abbreviated version of the Reid Technique, which is used across the country by police officers, private-security personnel, insurance-fraud investigators, and other people for whom getting at the truth is part of the job. Schneider, who is a staff attorney at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was alarmed. She knew that some psychologists and jurists have characterized the technique as coercive and liable to produce false confessions—especially when used with juveniles, who are highly suggestible. When she expressed her concerns to Brian Schwartz, the I.P.A.’s general counsel, he said that the association had been offering Reid training for many years and found it both popular and benign. To prove it, he invited Schneider to attend a session in January of 2015.

The state has lost control: tech firms now run western politics

Evgeny Morozov

Finally, technology firms – thanks to data they collect – can always position themselves as essential to fighting the terrorist threat. For every Tim Cook fighting the FBI, there’s a Peter Thiel, the famed venture capitalist and the chairman of Palantir, a $20bn machine-learning giant that caters to the defence establishment. In a recent interview, Thiel even boasted that Palantir’s technology had helped thwart terrorist attacks.

The grim reality of contemporary politics is not that it’s impossible to imagine how capitalism will end – as the Marxist critic Fredric Jameson once famously put it – but that it’s becoming equally impossible to imagine how it could possibly continue, at least, not in its ideal form, tied, however weakly, to the democratic “polis”. The only solution that seems plausible is by having our political leaders transfer even more responsibility for problem-solving, from matters of welfare to matters of warfare, to Silicon Valley.

This might produce immense gains in efficiency but would this also not aggravate the democratic deficit that already plagues our public institutions? Sure, it would – but the crisis of democratic capitalism seems so acute that it has dropped any pretension to being democratic; hence the proliferation of euphemisms to describe the new normal (with Angela Merkel’s “market-conformed democracy” probably being the most popular one).

The rise of the ‘gentleman’s A’ and the GPA arms race

Catherine Rampell:

The waters of Lake Wobegon have flooded U.S. college campuses. A’s — once reserved for recognizing excellence and distinction — are today the most commonly awarded grades in America.

That’s true at both Ivy League institutions and community colleges, at huge flagship publics and tiny liberal arts schools, and in English, ethnic studies and engineering departments alike. Across the country, wherever and whatever they study, mediocre students are increasingly likely to receive supposedly superlative grades.

Education’s Mr. Fix-it

Sarah Garland:

Several students sit around a conference table at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia on a surly winter’s day, the kind that makes even the school’s drafty classrooms seem welcoming. They are there to give their assessment of the school – and they’re not afraid to be blunt.

“I like this school, but I kind of don’t,” says Chynah Perry, age 15, a thin girl with straight posture and stylish black-rimmed glasses. “It’s strict. Real strict.”

Quaseem Foxwell, a linebacker on the football team, says several of his friends left the school because of the tough rules. Yet he defends the strictures. He says he improved his own behavior after a heart-to-heart with his teachers and administrators. “When I came here and got into a fight, they told me I could get kicked out, or I could talk to the teachers and some of the deans,” he says. “The strict rules are all for a reason.”

$176M In Wages Garnished For Unpaid Federal Student Loans In Just Three Months

Ashlee Keiler:

Millions of would-be students turn to the federal government in order finance their education, each taking out thousands of dollars in loans. While that influx of funds allows borrowers to seek a better life by obtaining a degree, it also has to be repaid. And when that becomes impossible for some consumers, debt collectors hired by the Department of Education sometimes resort to garnishing wages.

According to recently released data from the Department of Education, that strategy paid off in the last three months of 2015, with debt collectors bringing in more than $176 million in garnishments [PDF].

Debt collectors, even those working for the federal government, can only garnish a borrower’s wages after they’ve defaulted on their debt — failed to pay for a certain number of months — and received a court order allowing the deductions.

After The Hype, Here’s What Went Wrong At Milwaukee’s Lighthouse Charter School

Alan Borsuk:

The importance of principals. The school has had six principals in less than four years. That alone tells you a lot. I interviewed several people who are or were involved in the school and they all pointed to leadership as a problem. “Leadership sets the tone for everything happening in a building,” Knox said.

Lighthouse moved through several principals in rapid order at the start. Other circumstances around the school may have had an impact, but the bottom line is simply that having a good principal who provides steady, effective leadership is crucial to any school.

The importance of leadership more broadly. Adam Peck, current chair of the local Lighthouse board, summed up what went wrong: “Number one, leadership. You have to have the right leadership in place to run a school. And that’s leadership at all levels.”

Shenzhen Says It Plans to Spend Billions to Attract Talent

Kang Shu:

Shenzhen’s government has doubled this year’s budget for programs related to attracting talented people to the city to 4.4 billion yuan this year in a bid to attract more academics and professionals to help nurture innovation.

The city government, which announced the plans through media outlets on March 21, made especially rich offers to top talents. It defined those as world-class scientists and researchers who have led nationally or internationally acclaimed research projects.

Shenzhen gave those luminaries three options should they come to the city. The first was a one-off cash payment of 6 million yuan. The second was a 10-year lease on a 200 square meter apartment, which could be kept if the person stayed for the entire period. That offer also included local household registration privileges, which entitle the holder to health care, education and other public services. The final option was 10 million yuan in cash and benefits, payable after 10 years.

Big Deficits Loom as Candidates Pile on Spending and Tax Cuts

Eric Pianin:

Amid the cacophony of presidential campaign promises promising huge tax cuts and large spending increases, the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday renewed it’s warning that the Obama administration’s celebrated era of shrinking deficits has ended and that serious long- term debt problems are once again on the horizon.

By the end of the current fiscal year, the federal budget deficit will rise to $534 billion – about $100 billion more than last year’s shortfall but slightly better than a previous estimate in January. Then, as a new Democratic or Republican president takes control, the deficit will begin a steady upward march unless the new administration and Congress take steps to slow the rise.

The school safety debate: Mollycoddle no more

Katherine Kersten:

A St. Paul Central High School teacher is choked and body-slammed by a student and hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. A teacher caught between two fighting fifth-grade girls is knocked to the ground with a concussion. Police are compelled to use a chemical irritant to break up a riot at Como Park High School.

Increasingly, some St. Paul Public Schools resemble a war zone. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has branded the trend of violence “a public health crisis.” Teachers threatened to strike over the dangers they face, and their safety was a pivotal issue in recently concluded contract negotiations. “We are afraid,” one told the Pioneer Press.

Though many — including St. Paul school officials — seem reluctant to acknowledge it, the escalating violence and disorder follow a major change in school disciplinary policies. In recent years, district leaders have increasingly removed consequences for misbehavior, and led kids to believe they can wreak havoc with impunity.

College Admissions: A Parent’s Ordeal With The Great Game Of Paisa, Percentage And Placements

Col Bikram Singh:

By Col Bikram Singh

Winters had just set in, and so were the apprehensions of ‘What Next’ syndrome for an anxious father, who himself had missed the experience of a conventional college life. I had joined National Defence Academy and this intended venture was altogether a unique combat zone for me.

As the pre-boards were approaching, the journey dwindled like the grand annual migration of Wildebeest herd towards the great Mara River. The river was in proximity, its eerie noise was increasing day by day, and on its far bank, the green pastures full of life and freedom were alluring us.

Whenever I gazed at my son, I anticipated achievement; and his “look of silence” conveyed to me, “Buddy come what may, you will get me across to those green pastures”. It was a challenge for both of us to live up to. Another cord which connected us both was the “confusion”, which was growing day by day in our minds.

How Emory’s Student Activist Refueling Trumpism

Connor Friedersdorf :

For starters, leftist activists are far more likely than anyone else to use sidewalk chalk and should be pushing to dispense with existing, rarely enforced campus regulations. The medium is unusually suited to the powerless, too: It is cheap, easy to use, and very hard to suppress. Yet they’re signing on to surveillance and punishment for chalk-wielding activism, as if it hasn’t even occurred to them that their allies stand to lose the most from future crackdowns, whereas Donald Trump 2016 could foreswear sidewalk chalk forever without suffering from it at all. I don’t know whether these students have an incoherent theory of how power works, or haven’t thought the matter through, but future leftist activists may rue their behavior.

What’s more, if the sidewalk-chalker is unmasked and punished, the effect will be to fuel the popularity of Trump 2016, not to undermine it. This is so obvious to everyone outside the bubble of campus leftism that I begin to wonder if activists at Emory don’t understand that, or just don’t actually care about outcomes beyond their bubble.

Students to follow robotics industry beneath the waves

Evan Belanger:

After 20 years of competing in land-based robotics competitions, students at the Limestone Career Technical Center are taking their skills beneath the waves.

For the first time, the school will compete in an underwater robotics competition to take place next month at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

The competition is representative of the growing presence of robotics in industrial applications and for scientific research.

It will test the students’ abilities to perform underwater tasks that engineers currently accomplish with remotely operated vehicles or ROVs, as well as tasks they hope swimming robots will perform in the future.

Four reasons Florida Governor Scott should veto education bill

Tampa Bay Times:

One of the most controversial elements of HB 7029 is a move to create more school choice even though there already are ample choices for students and parents in many school districts. The bill would allow parents from any school district in the state whose child is not suspended or expelled to enroll their child in any public or charter school that has an open seat. There are several reasonable parts of the provision, including giving preferential treatment to students who move because of their parents’ military assignment or who seek transfers because of court proceedings such as divorces. But on balance, open choice would create havoc for local districts. It also would create a bias toward students whose families have the time and resources to take them to the school of their choice miles away — even across county lines. It would not help poor children who could benefit from attending higher-performing schools with open seats or special programs but don’t have reliable transportation to get there.

Charter schools

There is another break for charter schools in the bill, although it’s not as generous as supporters originally sought. The bill would allow charter schools to receive capital funding within two years of being established instead of the three years required now. Reducing the time frame would shortchange taxpayers who deserve more proof that a charter school is sustainable and produces solid educational results before it gets construction money. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Nice-ville, attempted to make it more difficult for charters to get state money, particularly if they have ties to private or for-profit entities, but unfortunately lost in horse trading among lawmakers. What remains would make charters even less accountable and foolishly siphon more money from traditional public schools.

K-12 Tax and spending climate: Wisconsin has the highest electric rates in the Midwest

Thomas Content:

The analysis, published by the state Public Service Commission, found that 2015 marked the first year that Wisconsin’s rates for residential, commercial and industrial electric customers ranked higher than Michigan as well as six other nearby Midwestern states.

But monthly residential electric bills on average stood at more than $97 a month last year — nearly $8 a month below the average of all eight Midwest states.

That’s because Wisconsinites are using 19% less electricity per month compared with the Midwest average.

Emory student Amelia Sims says calling campaign slogans ‘hate speech’ is a threat to our democracy

Amelia Sims:

Shortly after the incident, several student groups sent out a petition demanding Trump support be recognized as hate speech.

Many see President Wagner’s email as a harmless appeasement of the protesters’ demands. However, one should not underestimate the kind of precedent his response sets.

While the chalkers may have violated some parts of the vague chalking policy, the remedy for these violations is stated to be a clean-up fee, not a conduct hearing.

Undermining Pell

Stephen Burd:

In the new report released today, “Undermining Pell III: The News Keeps Getting Worse for Low-Income Students,” Stephen Burd, Senior Policy Analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program, examines U.S. Department of Education data showing the average net price that students from low-income families attending 1,400 four-year public and private colleges paid in the 2013-2014 academic year. The average net price is the amount of money that students and their families have to pay after all grant and scholarship aid is deducted from the listed price.

Accompanying the research is a data visualization tool that allows users to view private and public institutions featured in this report—based on the percentage of their student population that receives Pell Grants and the average net price those students are charged per academic year.

UW tenure: as little as possible

Nicholas Fleisher:

The formal decline of tenure in Wisconsin has coincided with renewed media interest in faculty pay. System President Ray Cross said in an interview earlier last week that, while changes to tenure “are causes to make faculty nervous…the real reason I think faculty are being lured away is compensation packages.” The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on faculty retention efforts at UW-Madison, detailing the tens of thousands of dollars in raises and additional research funds that a handful of faculty have negotiated in the face of job offers from elsewhere. The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the end of tenure will bring a financial windfall for UW professors near and far.

Indeed, the elephant in the room last Thursday was money, particularly the Regents’ apparent unwillingness or inability to advocate for more of it in the face of legislative slashing and burning. The overarching goal of the new policies, we were repeatedly told, is to give chancellors flexibility. Flexibility, of course, is code for a host of austerity measures predicated on the consolidation of power in administrative hands. It can also be read here as a byword for Regental buck-passing: far from standing up to legislators, the Regents have turned around and told chancellors to stand up to faculty, all while adopting policies that create a glide path for further cuts. The time to draw a line in the sand was yesterday; instead, our new flexibility-enhanced chancellors will be able to use program prioritization and other means to enact a kind of financial emergency in slow motion.

Let’s Fix Math Education By Redefining Math

John Wihbey:

As we become a more data-driven society, we need to consider education reforms that will address both.

In his new book The Math Myth, Andrew Hacker—a longtime political scientist at Queens College in New York and a professor of numeracy courses—looks at how a new approach to teaching math could help the world. He questions the benefit of advanced math, such as trigonometry and calculus, and says he’s “waiting to be shown that agility with polynomials produces sharper insights on other topics.” Hacker doesn’t deny the virtues of differential equations for budding engineers, but he argues that the way we teach math to millions of other students is deeply flawed and morally misguided. It alienates and fails many, contributes to the dropout rate in high school, blocks even a community college degree, especially for the socioeconomically disadvantaged (a “harsh and senseless hurdle”), and in turn ensures a less equal society. Given how dull most students find math, he’d much rather generate enthusiasm for numbers by focusing on complex real-world problems. He writes that students need to “read, speak, and think numerically,” particularly using public data, from IRS tax figures to census numbers to household spending trends

Nicky Morgan: being a parent is not enough to be a school governor

Richard Adams and Sally Weale:

sufficient qualification to be a school governor, the education secretary has suggested, as she said she wants families and councils to take a businesslike approach to her plans to convert all of England’s schools into academies.

In an interview with the Guardian, Nicky Morgan said she expected that the public were unlikely to have strong feelings about changes to school governance, including plans to scrap the right of parents to have representatives on schools’ boards of governors.

AAUP Slams Education Dept. and Colleges Over Title IX Enforcement

Peter Schmidt:

Both the U.S. Education Department and college administrators are fighting sexual harassment and assault on campuses in ways that trample faculty members’ rights to academic freedom, due process, and shared governance, the American Association of University Professors argues in a draft report released on Thursday.

Moreover, the report warns, colleges’ current focus on eliminating sexual harassment may be contributing to other campus inequities, and may actually be hindering broader efforts to fight sexual discrimination under the gender-equity law known as Title IX.

More Teachers Can’t Afford To Live Where They Teach

Eric Westervelt:

Kelly Henderson loves her job, teaching at Newton South High School in a suburb west of Boston. But she’s frustrated she can’t afford to live in the community where she teaches: It’s part of the 10th most expensive housing market in the nation.

“For people in the private sector, they’re probably saying ‘Oh poor you, you can’t live in the community where you work, what’s the big deal?’ ” says Henderson, 35. “And I guess part of the nature of public education and why it’s a different kind of job, is that it’s all-consuming — as it should be.”

Civics: Five things to know about ‘Truthy’

Mario Trujillo:

initiative is going to ‘assist in the preservation of open debate’ by monitoring social media for ‘subversive propaganda’ and combating what it considers to be ‘the diffusion of false and misleading ideas?’ ” he wrote in an op-ed. “The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.”

More and more, “learn to code” is looking like bad advice.

Douglas Rushkoff:

Anyone competent in languages such as Python, Java, or even Web coding like HTML and CSS, is currently in high demand by businesses that are still just gearing up for the digital marketplace. However, as coding becomes more commonplace, particularly in developing nations like India, we find a lot of that work is being assigned piecemeal by computerized services such as Upwork to low-paid workers in digital sweatshops.

This trend is bound to increase. The better opportunity may be to use your coding skills to develop an app or platform yourself, but this means competing against thousands of others doing the same thing—and in an online marketplace ruled by just about the same power dynamics as the digital music business.

Reform School

Malcolm Harris:

The common idea across most of the American political spectrum is that compulsory state-funded education is the liberal way to create a knowledgeable and engaged democratic citizenry. Without it, children would either be left to work or would never bother to educate themselves. The specter of illiterate future generations is invoked by both school reformers and defenders of the current system. Although there are many people within the public education system who believe in the noble goals of civic pedagogy, that’s not what America’s schools were built to do. Goyal argues convincingly that, before compulsory schooling, unenslaved Americans were not only extraordinarily well-read by international standards but widely covetous of learning. Compulsory schooling was not introduced to solve the problem of uneducated, unengaged, or unthinking masses. If anything, the opposite is closer to the truth.

In 1837, Horace Mann, the founder of American compulsory education, established the Massachusetts Board of Education, the first such agency and one which would become the model for the nation. But Mann didn’t want a more intellectually engaged population—literacy in the state already stood at 99 percent. Social control was a serious concern for Western elites after a series of failed revolutions, and Mann was very impressed by the system he saw on a visit to Prussia. He returned with a plan for public education.

Chicago’s Top Prosecutor Doomed Thousands Of School Kids

Carimah Townes:

After eight years as the Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez may be voted out of the office on Tuesday for her role in Chicago’s scandalous police culture.

In the past few months, she’s been the subject of public outrage for her handling of Laquan McDonald’s shooting, which inspired calls for her resignation. But during her tenure as Chicago’s lead attorney, Alvarez has routinely covered up police violence and failed to prosecute cops for misconduct, including but not limited to deadly shootings, harassment, and making bogus arrests. She’s refused to reopen the cases of people who are likely innocent, criminalized people for recording officers, and bullied college students who were critical of her office.

Considered one of the most aggressive prosecutors in the country by Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, Alvarez has also gone to great lengths to prosecute Chicago’s school children. That’s why the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU), which boasts 27,000 members, endorsed one of Alvarez’ opponents in February — the first time the union ever endorsed a state’s attorney candidate. In February, CTU president Karen Lewis said, “Kim Foxx is (the) only candidate with a real plan to invest in our next generation that will help end the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The real meaning of Rhodes Must Fall

Amit Chaudhuri:

But another reason one might think this movement has a longer history is the nature of its ambitions beyond the removal of these statues, though it is the issue of the statues, and allegations that the students involved wish to rewrite history to suit their sensitivities, that have attracted controversy, particularly in the British media. These larger ambitions of the movement – that is, to bring out into the open institutional racism in university life in South Africa and Britain, and to decolonise education – speak to concerns that many have had for a while. These concerns, by now, have a long itinerary, but they have been awaiting a forum for articulation.

Most of the controversy generated by the movement has revolved around the figure of Cecil Rhodes – but Rhodes himself is not really central to its aims. What is at issue is an ethos that gives space and even preeminence to such a figure, and hesitates to interrogate Rhodes’s legacy. That legacy does not merely include Rhodes’s financial bequests and their educational offshoots, like the Rhodes scholarships, but the vision embodied in his will, which called for:

Reasons Why Highschoolers Should Start Their Own Business


Most of you probably don’t know this, but I am a home schooled highschooler. Mind blowing, right? But, what made me want to start my art career this early? What made me think I was ready, when I hadn’t gone to art school and mostly just doodled in my spare time? Why would I be willing to dive into this scary business of illustrating a children’s book? Well, to be honest, I didn’t think I was ready, not even in the slightest. It was super scary getting started, and it will continue to be scary until I am done with the illustrations for this book. After all, I’m only fifteen. How could I possibly satisfy this person’s needs?

But here are the reasons why I will never ever regret getting a head start on my illustrating career in highschool, and you won’t either.

Chicago braces for Ill. Supreme Court to overturn pension reforms

Fran Spielman:

But over time, Chicago taxpayers will be forced to bear a far heavier, backbreaking burden because employees and retirees won’t be meeting them halfway.

The deal that Emanuel painstakingly negotiated with scores of union leaders raised employee contributions by 29 percent — from 8.5 percent currently to 11 percent by 2019 — and ended compounded cost-of-living adjustments for retirees ineligible for Social Security that have been a driving force behind the city’s pension crisis.

The city started collecting the higher payments on Jan. 1, 2015.

Emanuel initially proposed raising property taxes by $250 million over five years to bankroll the city’s increased contribution to save the two funds.

Should Parents of Children With Severe Disabilities Be Allowed to Stop Their Growth?

Genevieve Field:

icky gazed up toward the pine trees as his mother, Cindy Preslar, pushed him along the village road in an orange jogging stroller. She was marking the route for the Summer 2014 Run Through the Clouds 10K, a fund-raiser for the public schools in Cloudcroft, N.M. “You’ll run with Dad and Max tomorrow,” she said. “Right, Ricky?” She ruffled his fine blond hair. By “run” she meant “ride” — Ricky was 7, but his legs were unable to bear his full weight. As a result of a complication during pregnancy, Cindy says, he was born with a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic quadriplegia with static encephalopathy, which meant permanent brain damage and severely limited eyesight because of cortical vision impairment.

Ricky’s problems were not recognized immediately. He was a fussy eater but an otherwise genial baby; the Preslars’ friends commented on the twinkle in his eyes. Then, at about 3 months, he began to jolt awake at night, the back of his pajamas soaked with sweat. One afternoon, when Cindy laid him on his changing table, he arched and crossed his arms, and his eyes rolled back in his head as if he were in the throes of a seizure. A CT scan taken soon after that revealed a scarred, atypically small, or microcephalic, brain. The Preslars don’t know how much Ricky understands, but based on medical assessments, he is thought to have the developmental age of a 6-month-old infant.

Connecticut Seeks To Tax Yale’s Endowment

Janet Lorin:

Schools with funds of $10 billion or more — affecting Yale only — could face a tax on endowment income, according to legislation introduced this month. Yale’s record $25.6 billion fund is the second largest in U.S. higher education, behind Harvard University’s $37.6 billion.

The richest college endowments, many at their highest values ever, also have drawn scrutiny from federal lawmakers. Last month, the U.S. Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees sent a joint inquiry to the richest 56 private schools about endowments, seeking to understand the impact of their tax-exempt status on the price tag of higher education, among other issues.

Plans for St. Augustine voucher school clear final city hurdle (Milwaukee)

Annysa Johnson:

Plans to build what is expected to be the second-largest private school in the Milwaukee Parental Choice voucher program passed its final hurdle at City Hall and could begin construction as early as April.

Milwaukee’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved a special use permit earlier this month for St. Augustine Preparatory School, the $45 million project unveiled last year by Waukesha County businessman and school reform advocate Gus Ramirez.

Ramirez, chairman of Husco International, declined to comment. He is expected to release updated plans, including school leadership, at an April 12 event at Discovery World.

Ramirez and a limited liability company known as Achieving Educational Excellence have been given the go-ahead to build a 170,000 square foot school at S. 5th St. and W. Harrison Ave. The school would accommodate up to 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12.

Medicine’s Uncomfortable Relationship With Math:  Calculating Positive Predictive Value

Arjun K. Manrai, AB; Gaurav Bhatia, MS; Judith Strymish, MD; Isaac S. Kohane, MD, PhD; Sachin H. Jain, MD:

Casscells et al1 published a small but important study showing that the majority of physicians, house officers, and students overestimated the positive predictive value (PPV) of a laboratory test result using prevalence and false positive rate. Today, interpretation of diagnostic tests is even more critical with the increasing use of medical technology in health care. Accordingly, we replicated the study by Casscells et al1 by asking a convenience sample of physicians, house officers, and students the same question: “If a test to detect a disease whose prevalence is 1/1000 has a false positive rate of 5%, what is the chance that a person found to have a positive result actually has the disease, assuming you know nothing about the person’s symptoms or signs?”

At what cost? School referendums splinter communities

Matthew Albright and Saranac Hale Spencer:

The success of those votes comes down to whether district officials can coax enough parents with children in public schools to go to the polls. They must outnumber those who don’t feel they have a stake in the schools or who feel districts should do more to prove they deserve a tax increase.

“If I go to my boss and haven’t done what I’m supposed to … I don’t ask for a raise,” said Susan Welsh, who wants to see Christina begin to improve student test scores and find efficiencies before she votes in favor. “I love my child enough to vote ‘no’ and hold them [the district] accountable to raising the ranking before I give them a raise.”

District supporters say referendums aren’t a luxury. They are a necessity.

Money that pays for schools is a mix of state, federal and local funds. While the state’s portion grows as districts enroll more students, the local portion comes from property taxes that don’t increase to match growing costs.

Reform School

Malcolm Harris

The common idea across most of the American political spectrum is that compulsory state-funded education is the liberal way to create a knowledgeable and engaged democratic citizenry. Without it, children would either be left to work or would never bother to educate themselves. The specter of illiterate future generations is invoked by both school reformers and defenders of the current system. Although there are many people within the public education system who believe in the noble goals of civic pedagogy, that’s not what America’s schools were built to do. Goyal argues convincingly that, before compulsory schooling, unenslaved Americans were not only extraordinarily well-read by international standards but widely covetous of learning. Compulsory schooling was not introduced to solve the problem of uneducated, unengaged, or unthinking masses. If anything, the opposite is closer to the truth.

In 1837, Horace Mann, the founder of American compulsory education, established the Massachusetts Board of Education, the first such agency and one which would become the model for the nation. But Mann didn’t want a more intellectually engaged population—literacy in the state already stood at 99 percent. Social control was a serious concern for Western elites after a series of failed revolutions, and Mann was very impressed by the system he saw on a visit to Prussia. He returned with a plan for public education.

Little tricks Hong Kong’s wealthy use to keep dim-witted offspring busy

South China Morning Post:

From the 19th century onwards, “trailing spouses” have made their own way in Hong Kong, opening businesses and forging existences quite separate from their husband’s work role.

Among Hong Kong’s earliest such enterprises was a millinery and haberdashery shop set up on Queen’s Road Central in the early 1850s by Harriet Duddell, in premises let to her by her husband, Frederick, who, with his brother George, was in business in Hong Kong. Harriet never left the China coast; she died in 1857, and was buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery, in Macau. Duddell Street, in Central, is named after the family.

Not all “hobby” businesses are intended to turn a profit – or are operated by trailing spouses. Have you ever wondered just how – in times of catastrophically spiralling rents – various small “businesses” found across Hong Kong can possibly make any money? From Kennedy Town to Tai Hang, examples abound of chic patisseries selling “artisanal” this or “hand-made” that, or tiny boutiques lightly stocked with virtually one-of-a-kind homewares or garments.

Sophisticated test scams from China invade U.S. college admissions


the fall of 2013, Yue Zou decided that she wanted to leave Hegang, the city where she lived in the Heilongjiang province of China, and attend college in the United States. Her boyfriend, already a student at the University of Pittsburgh, was eager to help her get admitted to a competitive university.

He didn’t help to edit her essay or arrange for her to be tutored for the SAT. Instead he contacted a Chinese company that specializes in finding American-based test-taking proxies who, for a fee, obtain high scores on the SAT, the graduate school admission test called the GRE, and English-proficiency exams like the TOEFL for their wealthy Chinese clients.

According to court documents, Zou’s boyfriend negotiated a deal with the test broker. Zou then paid the broker $6,000 for the TOEFL and $2,000 for the SAT. The broker then arranged for a graduate student to take Zou’s college-entrance exams in Pennsylvania, the court documents say.
The scheme succeeded, at least for a time. Zou applied to and was accepted at Virginia Tech, where the average SAT score range for the math and reading sections is between 1160 and 1340. She enrolled there in the fall of 2014.

Madison schools grudgingly submit to public education they can’t control

Chris Rickert:

I guess when you risk losing your monopoly over publicly funded education, you’re not likely to roll out the welcome mat for anyone chosen to oversee the creation of non-district-controlled charter schools — no matter what his credentials.

As the man who will establish and lead the new Office of Educational Opportunity for the University of Wisconsin System, Gary Bennett will have a lot of influence over what kinds of independent charter schools Madison and Milwaukee students and their familieswill be able to choose from in the future.

Universities Are Becoming Billion-Dollar Hedge Funds With Schools Attached

Astra Taylor:

Have you heard the latest wisecrack about Harvard? People are calling it a hedge fund with a university attached. They have a point—Harvard stands at the troubling intersection between higher education and high finance, with over 15 percent of its massive $38 billion endowment invested in hedge funds. That intersection is getting crowded. Yale’s comparatively modest $26 billion endowment, for example, made hedge fund managers $480 million in 2014, while only $170 million was spent on things like tuition assistance and fellowships for students. “I was going to donate money to Yale. But maybe it makes more sense to mail a check directly to the hedge fund of my choice,” Malcolm Gladwell tweeted last summer, causing a commotion that landed him on NPR.

Commentary on Madison’s Teachers Union and a State Supreme Court Election

Chris Rickert:

In a brief speech last weekend at the shindig for John Matthews — who retired in January after 48 years as executive director of the Madison teachers union — Kloppenburg said she “couldn’t miss gathering with some of the best people in Wisconsin to honor the most amazing John Matthews.

Matthews is not known for his politically independent views — or his circumspection. He hasn’t been shy about hating on the Madison School Board, for example.

Kloppenburg’s campaign has also hinged on painting Bradley as a partisan because she’s a three-time Walker appointee to the bench and a member of conservative groups such as the Federalist Society.

By contrast, Kloppenburg’s website describes her as “running for Supreme Court to help maintain a judiciary that is non-partisan, independent and free from special interests.”

Bradley makes the same hollow promises on her website, but also self-identifies as a conservative with a few well-known code phrases (e.g., her approach “is to interpret the law, not invent it”).

Much more on John Matthews, here Event photos.

Candidate Links: Joanne Kloppenburg and Rebecca Bradley.

MTI Voters political contributions.

Commentary on Wisconsin K-12 Assessments and Governance Diversity

Alan Borsuk:

Point one: If Milwaukee has demonstrated anything to the nation with its long, broad and deep school choice offerings, it is that school quality is generated far more at the level of individual schools than sector by sector.

There are MPS schools where students score much above the Milwaukee averages and, in a few cases, above the state averages. There are voucher schools where that is true. And the same for charter schools. And there are MPS, voucher and charter schools with scores that raise major questions about the school.

Nobody has a monopoly on success or failure. It’s really a school-by-school subject — and, often times within schools, a classroom-by-classroom subject, with some teachers leading their students to much better outcomes than others.

Point two: There’s little reason to find joy in the overall scores, no matter the sector. Third- through eighth-graders in independent charter schools did better than voucher and MPS students for language arts (also generally labeled, “reading”). That means about a third of the charter kids were rated proficient or advanced, compared with a quarter, give or take several points, of other kids.

The idea of a university as a free space rather than a safe space is vanishing

Nick Cohen:

always admired the liberal Muslims in the Quilliam Foundation. It is hard to take accusations of betrayal from your own community. Harder still to keep fighting when the thought feeling keeps nagging away that out there, somewhere, there are Islamists who might do you real harm.

But Quilliam keeps fighting. To mark the launch by students of the Right2Debate campaign, which seeks to make universities live up to their principles and respect the right to speak and dispute, they have collected accounts from atheists and secularists of the wretched state of higher education.

I should pause to explain that last sentence to the confused.

Massachusetts is a lot like us (Washington State), so why are its schools so much better?

Claudia Rowe:

But when Bay State reformers began their work two decades ago, school outcomes in Massachusetts looked a lot like ours — possibly worse. Thirty percent of elementary- and middle-school kids could not do basic math. Some schools had a student-teacher ratio of 50-to-1. Business leaders worried that a growing underclass could cripple the economy. And there was a lawsuit, similar to the McCleary case in Washington.

“The education of all children was seen as a matter, not only of fairness but of economic self-interest,” said Paul Reville, who was the state’s secretary of education during the overhaul and now teaches at Harvard University.

In his opinion, three strategies — all of them costly and most aimed at low-income schools — are making the difference: beefed-up early education; an expanded school day resulting in significant salary increases; and huge boosts to teacher training.

“You can’t say if I put in x more dollars, I’ll get y results,” he added. “It’s how you spend the money that matters. If you do more of the same, you’ll get more of the same.”

The Rise of Liberal Arts in Hong Kong

Ben Wildavsky:

But he’s also one of the leading advocates for adding a big dose of humanities and social sciences to the curriculum of Hong Kong’s universities.

Chung and other backers of an unprecedented three-year-old curriculum-reform effort are determined to steer the city’s eight universities away from the rote learning, test obsession, and narrow career focus that still characterize much of the Asian education system. They think it’s past time for colleges to introduce a broader range of subjects, to promote greater intellectual curiosity, and to foster creative thinking. And they’re convinced that these changes will, in turn, build a workforce of rigorous, creative thinkers—just what they think is needed to meet the fast-changing needs of a transforming global economy.

An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage

John Elder Robison:

What happens to your relationships when your emotional perception changes overnight? Because I’m autistic, I have always been oblivious to unspoken cues from other people. My wife, my son and my friends liked my unflappable demeanor and my predictable behavior. They told me I was great the way I was, but I never really agreed.

For 50 years I made the best of how I was, because there was nothing else I could do. Then I was offered a chance to participate in a study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching center of Harvard Medical School

Lessons for L.A. on Improving District-Charter Relations

Sarah Yatsko

Michelle King, the new superintendent at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), has been on a listening tour. A 30-plus year veteran of the district who has risen from the teacher ranks, King wants to connect with parents and share her plans for the district, then hear their concerns—standard practice for an incoming schools’ chief. But for her first stop, King chose a low-income neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, where there are some strong and popular charter schools. In front of 700 parents, she made Los Angeles Times headlines when she “called for traditional public school and charters…to work together.” She added that delivering a strong education is “something we need to do together. I can’t do this alone.”

Problems pile up for US public pensions

Attracta Mooney:

Olivia Mitchell, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said public pension plans face “grave difficulties”.

“I do believe that US cities and towns will continue to suffer, and there will be additional bankruptcies following the examples of Detroit and the cities of Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino,” she said.

The worsening pension deficit means cities and states will have to contribute more to retirement plans, according to Mr Aaron, forcing them to either find new sources of revenue, such as by raising taxes, or reducing workforces or cutting services.

The Moody’s research additionally found that fewer than half of the 56 pension plans it examined received government pension contributions at an adequate level to reduce the funding gap.

A study by Wilshire Associates, the consultancy, published earlier this month, showed that state-sponsored pension plans in the US had just 73 per cent of the assets they needed to pay current and future retirees in mid-2015, down from 77 per cent in 2014. In 2007, this was 95 per cent.

If America Neglects Its Rural Schools, Nobody Wins

Paul Hill

Nobody wins as a result of America’s neglect of its rural schools.

Moderate investments of time, money, and thought could unlock the potential of millions of students growing up, but it’s essentially going nowhere in rural areas.

Rural K-12 schools face unique challenges brought on by isolation, limited access to qualified faculty, declining economic bases, and community conflict over taxation and funding. Many face sudden changes in student population – declines in some places and rapid increases in others, the latter often due to influxes of children from former migrant worker families.

State and federal policies on school funding and operation also pose challenges, as they often require bureaucratic capacities that small rural districts can’t and shouldn’t have. Categorical funding programs often force schools to spend money in ways that don’t fit rural needs. Rigid state teacher salary schedules make it difficult for rural schools to compete for talent.

Understanding Student Discipline Practices in Charter Schools: A Research Agenda

Patrick Denice, Betheny Gross, Karega Rausch

Fair use of exclusionary discipline is a rising concern in public schools. At issue is whether this type of discipline is disproportionately applied to certain groups of students and whether some charter schools use it more frequently. For the first time, data compiled by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights capture discipline practices from all public schools, allowing for comparison between the traditional public and charter sectors. However, because they are reported at the school level, not at the individual student level, these data paint an incomplete picture.

To truly understand discipline practices between and within school sectors, a panel of experts recommends a more comprehensive approach to capturing discipline data and evaluating and comparing school discipline practices. A robust research agenda on school discipline might include the reasons why different approaches to discipline policy are developed, how schools define and conceptualize discipline practices, the impact of discipline practices on teacher supply and turnover, the interplay between school culture and discipline and the effects of exclusionary discipline on the affected students and their peers and teachers.

Changing Education – How bootcamps outperform a university education

Liz the Developer:

work at a bootcamp. I’ve chosen to remain in this role long past the average bootcamp-lead-instructor burnout time – just one year. I’ve been doing this since 2012, the beginning of the bootcamp industry. Why haven’t I burnt out? I believe a whole helluva lot in this thing, and keeping it alive, honest, and improving is a worthwhile way to spend my life. I firmly believe that bootcamps are outperforming universities.

It’s a new model for making programmers – a cross between traditional academia and the bootstrapped-learning of the tinkering children of the 70s, 80s, 90s. To me, a bootcamp is like finding another kid at school who also spends their nights nerding out, fiddling with the same toys you’re fiddling with. Only now that kid isn’t on an island in a sea of people disinterested or actively annoyed with your passion. Now that kid is a group of people, learning with you, fascinated by the same stuff.

The Long March From China To The Ivies

Brook Larmer:

For most of her childhood, Monica did as she was expected to. She gave up painting and calligraphy, and rose to the top of her class. Praised as a “study god”, she aced the national high-school entrance exam, but inside she was beginning to rebel. The agony and monotony of studying for that test made her dread the prospect of three more years cramming for the gaokao, the pressure-packed national exam whose result – a single number – is the sole criterion for admissions into Chinese universities.

One spring evening two years ago, Monica, then 15, came home to the compound and made what, for an acquiescent military daughter, was a startling pronouncement. “I told my parents that I was tired of preparing for tests like a machine,” she recalls. “I wanted to go to university in America.” She had hinted at this desire before, talking once over dinner about the freedom offered by an American liberal-arts education, but her parents had dismissed it as idle chatter. This time, they could see that she was dead serious. “My parents were kinda shocked,” she says. “They remained silent for a long period.”

Several days passed before they broke their silence. Her father, a taciturn career officer educated at a military academy, told her that “it would be much easier if you stayed in China where your future is guaranteed.” Her mother, an IT engineer, said Monica would very likely get into China’s most prestigious institution, Peking University, a training ground for the country’s future leaders. “Why give that up?” she asked. “We know the system here, but we know nothing about America, so we can’t help you there. You’d be totally on your own.” Then, after cycling through all the counter-arguments, her mother finally said: “If your heart is really set on going to the US, we will support your decision.”

Vouchers, charters outscore public schools in latest data

Annysa Johnson:

Third- through eighth-grade students in Milwaukee’s private voucher and independent charter schools outperformed their public school counterparts in math and language arts, according to statewide assessment data released Wednesday by the Department of Public Instruction.

But Racine public school students overall outscored their voucher school counterparts. And on the ACT, voucher schools outscored their public counterparts in Milwaukee, Racine and the state.

Those are among the findings that emerged Wednesday after DPI made public the voucher, independent charter and the district-level public schools’ results of the 2014-’15 Badger Exam, ACT scores and the Dynamic Learning Maps exam given to students with severe cognitive disabilities.

School choice and charter school advocates touted the results as proof of the programs’ successes.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf On Liberia & Education

David Pilling:

Yet she’s not happy. “We have not changed the mindset. We have not changed attitudes toward honesty, integrity, hard work. Maybe our educational system has failed us,” she says, almost to herself. “I don’t know. Maybe we’ve had too much turmoil. It’s a history of boom, bust,” she says of an economy whose fortunes have been almost entirely dependent on the vagaries of the weather and commodity prices. “Things are moving up. All of a sudden, boom.” Her hand explodes over the table. “Something happens. Whatever it is. Boom. Then we start to climb again. Boom.”

“The integrity issue is systemic,” she says. I tell her I was stopped by police, only a few days before, at a makeshift roadblock. “Somebody wanted money from you,” she snorts. “Integrity is a longstanding issue in this country. What contribution does deprivation make to this? What contribution does poverty make to this? What contribution does dependency make to this?”

Isn’t Liberia itself in a permanent state of dependency, I say, pointing to its constant need for donor cash. “We’ve been too dependent for too long on giveaways,” she concedes, adding that the country has been a rubber exporter for decades but has never produced a single tyre. “Our budget should be at a much higher level,” she says of the tiny amount at her government’s disposal.

Suddenly she is pointing menacingly at a young waitress. “Do you pay taxes?” demands the president, eliciting a nervous giggle from the startled girl. “You’re terrifying her,” I say.

It takes a nation of empty robes to hold us back

Citizen Stewart:

Maybe I shouldn’t have tangled with people who have advanced education. These folks with acronyms before and after their names are sensitive about their scholarship and they want recognition for their expertise.

Since then I’ve met a stream of Doctors of education who see themselves as the producers of the tablets we should carry down from the mountain, into the hood. They want me to see that charters, choice, testing, and focus on teacher quality aren’t reforms aimed at improving education. Those reforms, they say, are merely vices of a malevolent upper class who design and fund neo-slavery.

Can’t I see the proposals I support are really disguised weapons against my own people?

Maybe I’m a cynical simpleton, but the most learned people are the most tiring for me. Especially those in higher education. Is there some secret room in the academy where their brains are rewired so they wander intellectually, permanently in nuance, without a return ticket to practicality?

we know best“….

Did you know that James Murray… was a prolific preacher of sermons?

Oxford Dictionaries :

2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life and achievements.

Throughout his life Murray was a devout member of the Congregational Church: not only devout, but also very active. Already in his teens he was a Sunday school teacher in his home town of Denholm, and he was soon also giving addresses and sermons. After he took up a teaching post at Mill Hill School—a well-known school for the sons of Nonconformists—in 1870, he gave many sermons in the school chapel. Former Mill Hill boys recalled the vividness of his preaching and reading; one recalled his reading of the biblical passage about the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (which was in fact one of his favourite readings: ‘I never tire of reading it’, he later said). ‘How he scorched them. Why, I am sure many boys of that period felt convinced that Elijah sure had a red beard and wore a scarlet hood.’

Clinton Gets an ‘F’ for Education Funding Claim

The Blaze:

During the Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, Hillary Clinton used a question about teachers’ unions to blame the state of the education system on a lack of funding.

When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper if “unions protect bad teachers,” Clinton replied in part:

A lot of what has happened—and honestly it really pains me—a lot of people have been blaming and scapegoating teachers because they don’t want to put the money into the school system that deserve the support that comes from the government doing its job.

Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses

Douglas Belkin and Miriam Jordan:

a huge wave of Chinese students entering American higher education seems beneficial for both sides. International students, in particular from China, are clamoring for American credentials, while U.S. schools want their tuition dollars, which can run two to three times the rate paid by in-state students.

On the ground, American campuses are struggling to absorb the rapid and growing influx—a dynamic confirmed by interviews with dozens of students, college professors and counselors.

Madison Teachers, Inc. Budget Reductions

Solidarity Newsletter, via a kind Jeanie Kamholtz email (PDF):

On March 7, MTI Executive Director Doug Keillor and MTI Office Manager Yvonne Knoche presented the recommended 2016-17 MTI Budget to MTI’s Finance Committee. The Committee unanimously approved the recommendation. In acknowledgment of the financial uncertainties ahead, the Budget recommends a 20% reduction in MTI expenditures for the 2016-17 school year, achieved primarily via staff salary and benefit savings. The Budget also recommends no dues increases, and the compression of teacher unit dues from twenty (20) levels to only four (4).

Pursuant to MTI Bylaws, the Budget will next be presented at the March 15 MTI Faculty Representative Council meeting. The meeting will commence at 4:15 p.m., at the Madison Labor Temple (Room 201B). All MTI members, from all bargaining units, are welcome to attend. In addition to an explanation of the Budget, we will also discuss the upcoming MTI membership campaign, as we transition from payroll deduction of Union dues to “direct dues” payment via electronic funds transfer.

Following the presentation at the Faculty Representative Council meeting, the Bylaws require that the Budget next be presented for approval at a meeting of MTI’s Joint Fiscal Group (JFG). The JFG is comprised of representatives of all five MTI bargaining units. That meeting will take place at the April 19 Faculty Representative Council meeting.

7 March 2016 Issue (PDF):

When the Collective Bargaining Agreements expire on June 30, 2016, additional Act 10 prohibitions will apply to MTI, including the elimination of fair-share payments and the prohibition of payroll deduction for Union dues. To prepare for these changes, MTI will be engaging in a membership campaign this spring to transition from “payroll deduction” of Union dues to “direct dues” payment (i.e., payment via electronic funds transfer/automatic bank draft).

MTI has contracted with a vendor to develop a “direct-dues” platform (webpage) that will allow Union members to simply log-on to a website and enter their checking/savings account information to have their monthly union dues deducted automatically from their account (rather than deducted from their paycheck). MTI is also working on establishing the MTI budget for 2016- 17, including the dues amounts. After the draft budget is approved by the MTI Finance Committee, an overview of the budget will be shared at the March 15 MTI Faculty Representative Council meeting. MTI members from all units are welcome to attend this meeting to learn more about the budget and the membership campaign.

Once the “direct-dues” platform is operational and the MTI budget is established we will commence a membership campaign to convert MTI members from payroll deduction to direct dues payments. Those who complete this process and continue their membership will continue to benefit from MTI representation and assistance. Those who elect to discontinue their membership will no longer receive MTI representation or assistance.

29 February 2016 Issue (PDF).

Math Education in the U.S.: Still Crazy After All These Years

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

“Hell hath no fury like a mathematician whose child has been scorned by an education system that refuses to know better,” Barry Garelick wrote in his first published article on math education in 2005. He has been at it ever since, and his focus has remained the same: why many of today’s practices for teaching math are ineffective and often destructive.

Garelick states: “In writing these articles, I have often felt that I am explaining in detail why jumping out of an airplane without a parachute will result in death. And while I am heartened that my readers have found these articles useful, I am also disheartened when I hear the education establishment react with arguments that are tantamount to ‘Oh but if you jump out of an airplane the right way, you can survive.’ ”

Nevertheless there is a growing momentum in the U.S. against the well-intentioned but highly injurious nonsense that passes for math education. This collection of articles will assure those people who are convinced that it is being taught poorly that they are right.

CRPE flags serious flaws in UCLA report

Robin Lake:

The question the UCLA report tries to answer is important: Do charter schools use overly harsh discipline practices? There are serious negative consequences for students who are subjected to harsh discipline practices, including loss of learning time, negative self-image, and an increased likelihood of disengagement and dropping out of school. Serious research is needed both to understand where students are being hurt and how schools can do much better. Unfortunately, this report creates more confusion than clarity.

At CRPE, we are committed to an honest assessment of equity and performance in charter schools and we are as interested as anyone in calling out bad actors. CRPE has worked diligently with a panel of research experts to develop principles for how to draw fair comparisons on discipline between charter schools and traditional public schools so that legitimate problems can be tackled head on: The UCLA report disregards most of these principles.

Our expert panel agreed that comparisons must be apples to apples—among individual schools, not between schools and whole districts; among schools serving the same grade levels and demographic groups; and among schools in communities with similar rates of student attendance and school completion. Student behavior issues and penalties must also be defined consistently and recorded in ways that, for example, distinguish between a student’s tenth offense and her first, and between a one-period exclusion from class and a two-week suspension from school. Without appropriate comparisons, one school that is doing a better job than similar schools can actually appear to be doing much worse, and vice versa.

Can Districts Learn to Innovate? Lessons from NYC

Robin Lake:

As part of the iZone effort, the district looked for new ways to procure novel solutions to instructional and other challenges in the school system. This new attempt to connect entrepreneurs with educators and curate new solutions, called “Innovate NYC Schools,” is the subject of the paper we’re releasing today. Steven Hodas, who managed the Innovate NYC effort, writes about why the district took on this challenge and what he and his colleagues learned from the experience. Little things, like locating the office among tech entrepreneurs and doing hack-a-thons and video challenges, rather than traditional RFPs, are examples of how hard Steven tried to shake things up.

Pension plans could be the culprit behind broke big-city school districts.

Lauren Camera:

Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates were asked what they’d do to turn around financially flailing and academically failing school systems, like that of nearby Detroit.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed congressional inaction and front-runner Hillary Clinton said she would create a “SWAT team” at the Department of Education and reinstate a federal program to assist states and districts with funding to repair and modernize schools.

The list of big-city school districts around the country that are broke or well on their way to being in the red is growing. But the real reasons behind their dire financial straits weren’t mentioned by either candidate.

A recent k-12 spending report.

Many scientific “truths” are, in fact, false

Olivia Goldhill:

In 2005, John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, published a paper, “Why most published research findings are false,” mathematically showing that a huge number of published papers must be incorrect. He also looked at a number of well-regarded medical research findings, and found that, of 34 that had been retested, 41% had been contradicted or found to be significantly exaggerated.

Since then, researchers in several scientific areas have consistently struggled to reproduce major results of prominent studies. By some estimates, at least 51%—and as much as 89%—of published papers are based on studies and experiments showing results that cannot be reproduced.

Researchers have recreated prominent studies from several scientific fields and come up with wildly different results. And psychology has become something of a poster child for the “reproducibility crisis” since Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, coordinated a Reproducibility Initiative project to repeat 100 psychological experiments, and could only successfully replicate 40%.

Legislation Would Penalize Some Charters

Leslie Brody & Mike Vilensky:

Advocates for New York City charter schools expressed outrage Monday that the state Assembly’s proposed budget aims to toughen laws requiring charters to serve sufficient numbers of hard-to-teach students.

The United Federation of Teachers said in January that pushing “anti-creaming” legislation was a priority. The budget bill released over the weekend by the Democrat-led Assembly, long allied with labor, includes harsher penalties for charters that don’t enroll and retain the same share of students who are poor, disabled or English language learners as their community.

For example, the bill says that if one site of a charter network falls short of an enrollment target, the entire network can’t open new locations until it hits its goal.

The bill also says that if a charter misses a demographic target, it must keep slots open for students in that underserved category. Charter backers say that requirement would make charters lose per-pupil funding and deny slots to needy students.

Colleges secretive about endowment investments

Collin Brinkley

Despite the calls for transparency, record requests made by The Associated Press to dozens of the nation’s wealthiest colleges show a continued push to keep investments secret.

Out of 50 public and private universities asked to disclose their investments, 39 schools with combined endowments of $255 billion refused to provide a single record. Four never responded to the requests sent in September. None of the private universities, which are not subject to open-records laws, released any information.

Most public universities, which operate with taxpayer money, kept their investments secret. The universities that did provide records in most cases revealed only a small fraction of their portfolios.

Colleges drew on a variety of reasons to withhold records. The University of Virginia and four other public universities said they house their endowments in outside foundations that are not subject to open-records laws. Michigan State University, also public, cited a state law that explicitly keeps college investments confidential. Private Vanderbilt University said it made agreements with financial managers not to share investment details.

An open letter to the Virginia Tech community

Charles Murray:

Dear Virginia Tech community,

Since President Sands has just published an open letter making a serious allegation against me, it seems appropriate to respond. The allegation: “Dr. Murray is well known for his controversial and largely discredited work linking measures of intelligence to heredity, and specifically to race and ethnicity — a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics.”

Let me make an allegation of my own. President Sands is unfamiliar either with the actual content of The Bell Curve — the book I wrote with Richard J. Herrnstein to which he alludes — or with the state of knowledge in psychometrics.

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card; Note Madison’s $pending Rank

Madison, spending more than $17,000 per student, is truly the land of milk and honey, as this useful comparison reveals. Achievement, however…

Bruce Baker, Danielle Farrie, Theresa Luhm and David G. Sciarra:

The National Report Card (NRC) evaluates and compares the extent to which state finance systems ensure equality of educational opportunity for all children, regardless of background, family income, place of residence, or school location. It is designed to provide policymakers, educators, business leaders, parents, and the public at large with information to better understand the fairness of existing state school finance systems and how resources are allocated so problems can be identified and solutions developed.

Handful of Biologists Went Rogue and Published Directly to Internet

Amy Harmon:

On Feb. 29, Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University became the third Nobel Prize laureate biologist in a month to do something long considered taboo among biomedical researchers: She posted a report of her recent discoveries to a publicly accessible website, bioRxiv, before submitting it to a scholarly journal to review for “official’’ publication.

It was a small act of information age defiance, and perhaps also a bit of a throwback, somewhat analogous to Stephen King’s 2000 self-publishing an e-book or Radiohead’s 2007 release of a download-only record without a label. To commemorate it, she tweeted the website’s confirmation under the hashtag #ASAPbio, a newly coined rallying cry of a cadre of biologists who say they want to speed science by making a key change in the way it is published.

Louisiana Teachers Show How Common Core Advances Classroom Learning 

Get it right:

For example, Ms. Richard notes that the previous English/language arts standards might have asked students to identify a main character in a story. “Now, I may ask my students, ‘How do the actions of the main character affect the plot of the story?'” she said. “They’re going so much deeper. They’re having to look at the author’s craft, how the author wrote what they did and why they chose the words they used.”

Should political forces in the state force teachers to revert back to lower-level standards, these teachers say they will still continue to teach Common Core’s higher-level concepts because they have seen the advantages for their students. Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript below for more information.

In the history of truth, a new chapter begins.

Jill LePore:

ed Cruz’s campaign autobiography is called “A Time for Truth.” “This guy’s a liar,” Donald Trump said at a recent G.O.P. debate, pointing at Cruz. Trump thinks a lot of people are liars, especially politicians (Jeb Bush: “Lying on campaign trail!”) and reporters (“Too bad dopey @megynkelly lies!”). Not for nothing has he been called the Human Lie Detector. And not for nothing has he been called a big, fat Pinocchio with his pants on fire by the fact-checking teams at the Times, the Washington Post, and Politifact, whose careful reports apparently have little influence on the electorate, because, as a writer for Politico admitted, “Nobody but political fanatics pays much mind to them.” “You lied,” Marco Rubio said to Trump during the truth-for-tat February debate. Cruz tried to break in, noting that Rubio had called him a liar, too. Honestly, there was so much loudmouthed soothsaying that it was hard to tell who was saying what. A line from the transcript released by CNN reads:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell the truth, I tell the truth.

Eat your heart out, Samuel Beckett.

On the one hand, not much of this is new. “Gen. Jackson is incapable of deception,” Andrew Jackson’s supporters insisted, in 1824. “Among all classes in Illinois the sobriquet of ‘honest Abe’ is habitually used by the masses,” a Republican newspaper reported of Lincoln, in 1860. The tweets at #DumpTrump—“This man is a hoax!”—don’t quite rise to the prose standard of the arrows flung at supporters of John Adams, who Jeffersonians said engaged in “every species of villainous deception, of which the human heart, in its last stage of depravity is capable.”

“When a President doesn’t tell the truth, how can we trust him to lead?” a Mitt Romney ad asked last time around, during an election season in which the Obama campaign assembled a so-called Truth Team to point out Romney’s misstatements of fact. Remember the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, from 2004? This kind of thing comes and goes, and, then again, it comes. Cast back to Nixon: Among all classes, the sobriquet of “Tricky Dick” was habitually used by the masses. “Liar” isn’t what opponents generally called Ford or Carter or the first George Bush, but a Bob Dole ad, in 1996, charged that “Bill Clinton is an unusually good liar,” and much the same was said of Hillary Clinton, dubbed “a congenital liar” by William Safire. A Bernie Sanders campaign ad refers to him, pointedly, as “an honest leader”; his supporters have been less restrained. At a rally in Iowa, they chanted, “She’s a liar!”

Illegal Math

Prakash Venkant:

The ancient Greeks were said to be the first people who used encryption. Every coded message was comprised of two parts: the message itself, and a cipher that decoded it. The most famous set was the scytale a stick of set diameter that, when a piece of parchment with a coded string of text was wrapped around it, the message was legible across the face of the stick.

This was a beautiful solution to the problem of keeping secrets from those not in-the-know. All the receiving party needed was a stick of the right diameter and they could decode any message. In the case of the scytale, “encryption” was writing the message in such a way that it would be unintelligible without having the right decoder stick.

Commentary On Wisconsin’s Most Recent K-12 Assessment Exam (8.5% of Madison students did not take the test, 13% with disabilities)

Molly Beck:

More than 700 students in the Madison School District opted out in 2015, part of the 8,104 public school students who opted out statewide, a substantial increase from the 87 and 583 students, respectively, who opted out last year, state and school district data show.

The surge nationwide in recent years represents a movement of parents opposing testing in growing numbers. Opposition to the number of tests given, how scores are used by lawmakers in determining school accountability, and using scores to evaluate teachers contributes to the growing numbers nationwide.

The increase in Wisconsin also came as lawmakers moved to get rid of the Badger Exam, Wisconsin’s version of the Smarter Balanced exam that was developed using questions from a consortium of states aligned to Common Core, which state Superintendent Tony Evers adopted in 2010.

Statewide data is available here.

How disruptive innovation will revolutionize the legal world

Michele R. Pistone and Michael B. Horn

Facing dramatic declines in enrollment, revenue, and student quality at the same time that their cost structure continues to rise and public support has waned, law schools are in crisis. A key driver of the crisis is shrinking employment opportunities for recent graduates, which stem in part from the disruption of the traditional business model for the provision of legal services.

Although this root problem will soon choke off the financial viability of many schools, most law schools remain unable or unwilling to address this existential problem in more than a marginal way, as they instead prefer to maintain the status quo and hope that the job market soon improves. In reaction to the growing crisis, most law schools have accordingly continued to focus their attention and energies on maintaining their existing status within the legacy model used to rank and compare law schools: the U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings. In the face of the crisis, the dominant focus of law schools and their administrators has been to retain their school’s ranking so that their school can outlast competitor law schools—some of which, the argument goes, may have to shut their doors—until, in the long run they hope, the market evens out and everything returns to the pre-crisis status quo.

Paddles, Stun Guns and Chemical Sprays: How US Schools Discipline Students

Eleanor Bader:

As Parrent speaks, her voice breaks and it is clear that Brian is still vivid in her mind’s eye. “I remember that he was wearing a white shirt and when the teacher finally opened the door, he was covered in blood. My first thought was that he must have cut himself, but no. He’d had a nosebleed, something that happened to him all the time. It was awful. He might have deserved to be reprimanded; I don’t know. What I do know is that more than 50 years later, I can still see the blood.”

Despite the lasting impact of this incident on Parrent — we can only guess how it affected Brian as he continued his schooling and came of age — it’s tempting to assume that this type of discipline is a thing of the past. After all, the encounter took place in 1963

Young people’s prospects are worse than their parents, warns sociologist

Jamie Doward:

More than half a century of sweeping educational reforms have done little to improve Britain’s social mobility, according to one of the country’s leading experts on equality.

Instead, young people from less well-off families entering today’s labour market have far less favourable prospects than their parents or even their grandparents, despite having gained much better qualifications.

Giving the British Academy sociology lecture on 15 March, Dr John Goldthorpe, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, whose work on class has proven widely influential, will claim that little has changed in British society since the second world war, largely because more advantaged families are using their economic, cultural and social advantages to ensure that their children remain at the top of the social class ladder.

The new findings offer a sobering corrective to the prevailing view, favoured by successive governments, that improving access to education has been a powerful weapon in promoting social mobility in Britain

Recruiting foreign students, Catholic schools fill seats and coffers

Kathy Boccella:

This month, for the fourth time in as many years, Dollard flew to China to spend three weeks sales-talking parents. She hands out pens and magnets bearing her school’s name and all-American eagle mascot – giveaways that, she hopes, will help Conwell-Egan stand out among the hundreds of private and parochial schools crowding a fast-growing international market.

Conwell-Egan is one of three high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia capitalizing on a trend that has been building for a decade: foreign students, largely Asian, enrolling in U.S. high schools with the goal of honing their English, acclimating to American culture, and scoring an advantage with admissions officers at top colleges here.