“Why I’m Sticking to the Union – and Others Should Too”

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

(By Andrew McCuaig, English teacher, LaFollette High School)

Joining a union is an act of faith: a belief that people coming together with similar daily work lives can have an impact on those people who may have goals that don’t take into account anything but the bottom line. By joining a union, you are asserting that you were not put on this earth merely to do what you were told, but that you believe you should have a say in your own livelihood. But more than that, as a union member you believe that wealth should be more evenly
distributed, that supervisors should not have absolute power, and that the details of the actual work should be mutually agreed upon, because you cannot get that coal out of the ground, that car made, or that student to graduate without a contract that respects both sides. Renew at www.madisonteachers.org

But joining a union is also a practical matter. Wherever unions exist, wages are higher. That is one reason why corporate interests throughout history have tried to weaken unions whenever they can. Fair wages, vacation days, sick leave, maternity leave, overtime, seniority, even the notion of a 40 hour work week – all exist because of the Labor Movement, and all cut into a company’s bottom line. When you pay union dues, you are supporting a staff that bargains on your behalf, that defends you when you require defending, or, more likely, defends someone else you might not even know who has your same job and is being treated unfairly. If the accused has truly screwed up, they get due process and what’s coming to them. If they haven’t, they are not simply fired in a Donald Trump dreamworld but are given their job back. The employer, meanwhile, is given a message not to abuse its authority.

Madison teachers are now actively responding to two union-busting rules justified by our state legislature’s notion of fairness: the elimination of automatic dues deductions by employers, and the option for teachers to not pay their “fair share” dues once our contract expires on June 30th. “Fair share” dues refers to the decades-old court ruling that workers who choose not to join a union must still pay for those services that they benefit from. The recent 4-4 Supreme Court deadlock on “fair share” upholds this practice for private sector unions but doesn’t affect Wisconsin’s teachers and other public employees under Act 10. Starting this month, teachers in every Madison school will be encouraging each other to continue their membership with MTI by supplying their bank’s routing number to pay dues. Some will need convincing, and some will want to pocket their dues now that they can. This will surely cause tension among colleagues. Also causing tension will be the teacher who keeps the money and then finds himself unfairly disciplined and in need of union representation he is now not entitled to. It’s a nice divide and conquer ploy, and those responsible deserve credit for their meanness.

On the other hand, heading into this new, mean work environment gives Madison teachers a chance to come together in solidarity, to freshly justify our existence, and to educate a new generation of teachers why we have just cause, paid sick days, and other things we now take for granted. The continued existence and influence of MTI will no doubt keep the meanest politicians up at night, which is just another reason to sign up.

April 11 and April 18 editions.

Athletics and Student Outcomes: The Madison School District

The Effect of Interscholastic High School Athletics Participation on Student Outcomes for the Classes of 2012-2014 (PDF):

Key Findings

Across MMSD, approximately 50% of all students in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 graduating cohorts participated in interscholastic athletics at some point during their high school careers. Of those participants, 11% participated for one year and 38% participated for 2+ years.

Overall, students who participated in interscholastic athletics at any point in their high school careers demonstrate better academic, behavior, and graduation/postsecondary outcomes than those who did not, with differences particularly pronounced for students who participated in 2+ years of athletics.

MMSD interscholastic athletes outperformed similar non-athletes on all academic and behavioral outcomes.

During 2015, athletics has been a topic of interest for MMSD’s Board of Education. Athletics participation ties directly into MMSD’s Strategic Framework Goal #2: Every student has access to a challenging and well-rounded education, which is measured in part by access and participation data for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities like athletics. In particular, the Board has asked questions regarding whether high school students who compete in school-sponsored athletics show different outcomes than non-participants, in an effort to understand how to prioritize athletic program funding. In this report, we investigate the following questions of interest:

1. For the 2012-2014 graduating cohorts, who participated in interscholastic high school athletics?

2. What are the academic and behavioral outcomes for interscholastic high school athletics participants?

3. How do academic and behavioral outcomes for interscholastic high school athletics participants compare to similar non-participants?

Nationwide, approximately 7.8 million high school students participated in school athletics during 2014-15. Of these participants, about 42% are female, a share that continues to increase over time. The most popular sports for boys are football, track, and basketball, while the most popular for girls are track, volleyball, and basketball. Wisconsin ranks 14th in the nation in athletics participation, with more than 185,000 student athletes (National Federation of State High School Associations, 2015). The four conventional MMSD high schools participate in the Big 8 Conference, which includes 10 local high schools, and are members of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA).

Additional documents:

Principals Are Not at the Top of States’ Talent Agenda—But They Should Be

Christine Campbell, via a kind Robin Lake email:

Teachers have been at the center of most states’ talent discussions to date. Although principals play a critical role in virtually all school-improvement reform efforts, most states lack a coherent school leadership strategy. This is a major oversight.

But a few forces are afoot that may help refocus state attention on principals:

Education policy leaders increasingly realize that policy alone won’t trigger desired changes in schools and student performance. Principals are a key lever to influence any policy’s success since they sit at the nexus between policy and practice: implementation starts with principals.

A growing body of research demonstrates real inequities for students when they are not taught by educators of similar races and backgrounds. While roughly 40 percent of public school students are black or Latino, just 17 percent of principals are, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. States have a vested interest in ensuring their pipelines deliver the number, quality, and diversity of school leaders needed.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: End of Golden Era for Investors Spells Troubles for Millennials

Rich Miller:

The next two decades won’t be nearly as lucrative, even on the optimistic assumption that the world economy snaps out of its recent funk and resumes growing at a faster clip, according to the McKinsey Global Institute report titled “Diminishing Returns: Why Investors May Need to Lower Their Expectations.”
“We’ve had a wonderful 30-year period in terms of returns, way more than the 100-year average,” said Richard Dobbs, a McKinsey director in London. “That era is coming to an end.”

Bond investors have already reaped much of the benefits from declines in inflation and interest rates from the sky-high levels that prevailed in the 1970s.

Getting to the root of cultural understanding in Brussels

Veronique Mistiaen:

For me the most moving moment is when children turn their [family] trees upside down and the roots become branches – branches that will help them grow and blossom,” says Racines founder Vinciane Hanquet.

Racines (or Roots) is a Belgium-based multicultural school programme that helps pupils trace their family history. Through activities such as building a genealogical tree, drawing migration maps and collecting stories and mementos from family members, they discover and learn to value their identity.

A teacher with 40 years of experience, Hanquet wanted a tool that would both help children feel more comfortable with who they are and be more understanding of people from different backgrounds.

Civics & Economics: Puerto Rico And Illinois

George Will:

The United States actually needs to have a salutary crisis in Illinois. It will be salutary because it will be a cautionary example for other states if Illinois suffers, without offloading pain on taxpayers elsewhere, the severe consequences of decades of ruinous choices. And Puerto Rico’s troubles will benefit America if the bond market, sobered by a demonstration that government bonds can be risky, becomes a restraint on state legislatures by raising the cost of borrowing where the legislatures are most irresponsible.

Email Is Not Secure: Email privacy bill unanimously passes U.S. House

Dustin Volz:

Privacy Act, which updates a decades-old law, authorities would have to get a warrant to access emails or other digital communications more than 180 days old. At present, agencies such as the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission only need a subpoena to seek such data from a service provider.

Supporters of the legislation say it is needed to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Technology companies and privacy advocates say that statute was written before the rise of the Internet and so is outdated.

The issue of law enforcement access to private electronic communications has been at the center of an international debate.

Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy

Joanne Barkan:

Big philanthropy was born in the United States in the early twentieth century. The Russell Sage Foundation received its charter in 1907, the Carnegie Corporation in 1911, and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. These were strange new creatures—quite unlike traditional charities. They had vastly greater assets and were structured legally and financially to last forever. In addition, each was governed by a self-perpetuating board of private trustees; they were affiliated with no religious denomination; and they adopted grand, open-ended missions along the lines of “improve the human condition.” They were launched, in essence, as immense tax-exempt private corporations dealing in good works. But they would do good according to their own lights, and they would intervene in public life with no accountability to the public required.
From the start, the mega-foundations provoked hostility across the political spectrum. To their many detractors, they looked like centers of plutocratic power that threatened democratic governance. Setting up do-good corporations, critics said, was merely a ploy to secure the wealth and clean up the reputations of business moguls who amassed fortunes during the Gilded Age. Consider the reaction to John D. Rockefeller’s initial request for a charter from the U.S. Senate (he eventually received one from New York State):

The real reasons you procrastinate — and how to stop

Ana Swanson:

Have you ever sat down to complete an important task — and then suddenly discovered you were up loading the dishwasher or engrossed in the Wikipedia entry about Chernobyl? Or perhaps you suddenly realize that the dog needs to be fed, emails need to be answered, your ceiling fan needs dusting — or maybe you should go ahead and have lunch, even though it’s only 11 a.m.?

Next thing you know, it’s the end of the day and your important task remains unfinished.

How Hyperconnected Cities Are Taking Over the World, According to Parag Khanna

Tanva Misra:

In the medieval period, empires battled and colluded with each other in the quest for land. The resulting system, in which nations became the main actors on the global stage, is perhaps the one most of us know best. But it’s changing.
 We’re now moving toward a new era where insular, political boundaries are no longer as relevant. More and more people are identifying as “global citizens,” and that’s because we’re all more connected than we’ve ever been before. As a result, a “systems change” is taking place in the world today in which cities—not nations—are the key global players, argues Parag Khanna in his new book, Connectography: Mapping the Future of the Global Civilization. In it, Khanna, who is a global strategist and world traveler, writes:

Who Was Ramanujan?

Stephen Wolfram:

They used to come by physical mail. Now it’s usually email. From around the world, I have for many years received a steady trickle of messages that make bold claims — about prime numbers, relativity theory, AI, consciousness or a host of other things — but give little or no backup for what they say. I’m always so busy with my own ideas and projects that I invariably put off looking at these messages. But in the end I try to at least skim them — in large part because I remember the story of Ramanujan.

On about January 31, 1913 a mathematician named G. H. Hardy in Cambridge, England received a package of papers with a cover letter that began: “Dear Sir, I beg to introduce myself to you as a clerk in the Accounts Department of the Port Trust Office at Madras on a salary of only £20 per annum. I am now about 23 years of age….” and went on to say that its author had made “startling” progress on a theory of divergent series in mathematics, and had all but solved the longstanding problem of the distribution of prime numbers. The cover letter ended: “Being poor, if you are convinced that there is anything of value I would like to have my theorems published…. Being inexperienced I would very highly value any advice you give me. Requesting to be excused for the trouble I give you. I remain, Dear Sir, Yours truly, S. Ramanujan”.

U.S. high school seniors slip in math and show no improvement in reading

Emma Brown

The nation’s high school seniors have shown no improvement in reading achievement and their math performance has slipped since 2013, according to the results of a test administered by the federal government last year.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also show a longer-term stagnation in 12th-grade performance in U.S. public and private schools: Scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.

“These numbers are not going the way we want,” said William J. Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent panel established by Congress to oversee NAEP policy. “We have to redouble our efforts to prepare our students.”

The sobering news, released Wednesday, comes at the same time the nation is celebrating its highest-ever graduation rate, raising questions about whether a diploma is a meaningful measure of achievement.

Eighty-two percent of high school seniors graduated on time in 2014, but the 2015 test results suggest that just 37 percent of seniors are academically prepared for college course­work in math and reading — meaning many seniors would have to take remedial classes if going on to college.

Related: Math Forum audio/video links.

College Prep for All: Will San Diego Students Meet Challenging New Graduation Requirements?

Julian R. Betts, Sam M. Young, Andrew C. Zau, Karen Volz Bachofer

Several of California’s major urban school districts have adopted ambitious new high school graduation requirements, making college preparatory coursework mandatory. This analysis—which focuses on San Diego—finds that the new requirements are likely to help many students but may damage the prospects of others. San Diego and other districts can take steps to help lower-achieving students meet the new graduation goals.

It sounded like my child’: the ‘virtual kidnappers’ scamming Americans

Sam Levin:

driving with a friend to their writers’ group in a suburb of Los Angeles when she got a terrifying call on her cellphone from a number she didn’t recognize. A hysterical girl was screaming on the other end of the line.

“Mommy, please help me! Someone grabbed me, and I’m in a van. I don’t know where I am!”

It was 4.45pm on 22 March, and it was immediately clear to Holczer that she was experiencing the most unimaginable horror any parent could comprehend: her 14-year-old daughter, Maddy, whom she had left at home 30 minutes earlier, had been kidnapped.

The shuffling of mathematics problems improves learning

Doug Rohrer Æ Kelli Taylor:

In most mathematics textbooks, each set of practice problems is comprised almost entirely of problems corresponding to the immediately previous lesson. By contrast, in a small number of textbooks, the practice problems are systematically shuffled so that each practice set includes a variety of problems drawn from many previous lessons. The standard and shuffled formats differ in two critical ways, and each was the focus of an experiment reported here. In Experiment 1, college students learned to solve one kind of problem, and subsequent practice problems were either massed in a single session (as in the standard format) or spaced across multiple sessions (as in the shuffled format). When tested 1 week later, performance was much greater after spaced practice. In Experiment 2, students first learned to solve multiple types of problems, and practice problems were either blocked by type (as in the standard format) or randomly mixed (as in the shuffled format). When tested 1 week later, performance was vastly superior after mixed practice. Thus, the results of both experiments favored the shuffled format over the standard format.

Why Are Schools Abandoning Literature?

Stephanie Cohen:

recently spent time with a class of fourteen-year-olds, talking about words, specifically words strung together to form speech. I started out by asking them whether they thought words could make people act in a particular way. “Can words lead to action?” I asked. There was some thinking and mulling over.

We spent several weeks discussing, reading, and studying many of the greatest (and infamous) words read aloud: the Gettysburg Address, Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech in Germany, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, a host of Winston Churchill speeches from World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor speeches, and some of the best contemporary commencement addresses given in the US in recent years. Many of these speeches were written in reaction to events, and most of them called on their respective audiences to do something (be calm, have fortitude, ensure victory, reach for success). Whether or not the words we read actually shaped (or changed) history can be debated, but the more important question is whether words can shape conscience, which affects not just one action but a lifetime of actions. This is something teachers have long relied on the power of literature to do.

How Online Courses Will Disrupt Higher Education

AJ Agrawal:

Disruption is happening more and more with the continuing dominance of the Internet and what’s going on in the online world. Online courses are on the edge of disrupting higher education in a number of ways. It will demonstrate that this is no longer the preserve of colleges and universities.

So why will your exam preparations soon happen from an online interface, rather than a college library?

Experience Over Education

The big problem with a lot of conventional education programs is that they are not sufficiently preparing people for the real world of work. There are so many organizations that are increasingly turning away from traditional degrees because they want candidates with real skills.

GSoM German Summer Camp

Via a kind email:

Dear German School Families and Friends,

Our German Summer Camp is open for registration! The camp cost will go up after April 15th!

All summer camp participants registered ON or BEFORE April 15th will receive GSoM summer camp t-shirts. We cannot guarantee t-shirts sizes for kids registered after April 15th.

1st Camp:
Monday-Friday, June 13th-17th from 9 am to 12 noon
at Bethany United Methodist Church
The cost for the entire week is only $150! ($175 after April 15th)

2nd Camp:
Monday-Friday, August 22nd-26th from 9 am to 12 noon
at Bethany United Methodist Church
The cost for the entire week is only $150! ($175 after April 15th)

To register you can click on the link below to go to the GSoM website and click on the link to our Google registration form:

The registration is ONLY complete after we have received both the online registration and the payment for the camp.

More information on the attached flyer. Please contact us with any questions.


Chris Tabisz

German School of Madison-Deutsche Schule Madison, Inc.
Madison, Wisconsin
Email: GermanSchoolofMadison@gmail.com
Visit our website at: www.GermanSchoolofMadison.org
Themenlogo ZFA

Following the Money in Personalized Learning

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Our center has taken the first systematic look at what implementing personalized learning schools costs, how school leaders are spending their funds, and what it might take to make personalized learning financially sustainable with public dollars. We studied 16 charter elementary and secondary schools with a wide range of personalized learning models from across the country (we hoped to include district schools, but the data were not available). All of these schools received financial support through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges, the earliest and most significant philanthropic investment in personalized learning to date. (The Gates Foundation also funded our study.)

While we can’t make overly sweeping generalizations from our research (we looked at a particular set of schools with particular characteristics), this first analysis of personalized learning finances enables educators and policymakers to learn from these early frontrunners and, ideally, to more clearly understand potential fiscal implications.

You’re The Parent, Start Acting Like One.

Abby Scachter:

Last weekend, our five-year-old daughter yelled at an adult friend of ours. When I found out about it later that day, I made my daughter call and apologize for yelling. It was very hard for her to do (oh, the waterworks!). She has a strong personality and doesn’t like to say sorry—at all. But I also found it difficult because when I got back on the phone with our friend, he sounded more pained than my daughter about the exchange. His response led me to rethink the whole thing. Had I gone overboard? Trying to enforce rules for respecting others is tough and I started to think that it wasn’t worth it.

But an amazing thing happened just three days later. I got a call from a parent in my two-year-old son’s class telling me that his son needed to speak to my boy. Why? Because the son needed to apologize for biting my kid. It was cute to hear my boy’s little friend say sorry and my son say (distractedly, because he was watching TV), “It’s OK. Bye!” Beyond cute, it was also meaningful because I immediately felt validated for my own efforts to instill and demand respect for others. Turns out, I needed the reinforcement.

Parents Are Bankrupting Themselves to Look Adequate

Megan McArdle:

people seem to save any money? The number of people scraping along from paycheck to paycheck is astonishing; surveys routinely find that somewhere between a third and half of all Americans don’t have the savings to fund ordinary emergencies — a moderately large repair, a month with no income. These are not the kind of astonishing runs of bad luck that no one could realistically expect to cover, like a $100,000 medical bill, or a multi-year illness that makes it impossible to work. They’re just the normal vicissitudes of regular life, and somehow, Americans are unprepared.

After inflation, NC teacher pay has dropped 13% in past 15 years (not unique to teachers)


Ben Casselman:

The government’s release last week of income and poverty data for 2013 brought renewed attention to the apparent stagnation of the American middle class — not just since the financial crisis hit six years ago this month, but for much of the decade that preceded the crash. The report showed that the economic recovery has yet to translate into higher incomes for the typical American family. After adjusting for inflation, U.S. median household income is still 8 percent lower than it was before the recession, 9 percent lower than at its peak in 1999, and essentially unchanged since the end of the Reagan administration.

10 Best Math Apps for Adults

Geek and Nerd:

our lives without smartphones and laptops. They help us in solving various problems from getting up on time (alarm clocks) to checking grammar mistakes in our academic papers and business reports. We also use them as calculating tools to make our life less complicated. Besides, downloading the right app can make you forget about complicated math problems. If you need some help with difficult calculations or simply like playing math games and solving logical problems, these applications are exactly what you need.

The Class of 2015 Despite an Improving Economy, Young Grads Still Face an Uphill Climb

By Alyssa Davis, Will Kimball, and Elise Gould • May 27, 2015:

The Great Recession has had lasting effects on employment prospects of young people entering the workforce after graduating from high school or college. Despite officially ending in June 2009, the recession left millions unemployed for prolonged spells, with recent workforce entrants such as young graduates being particularly vulnerable. The slow pace of the recovery means that seven classes of students have graduated into an acutely weak labor market and have had to compete with more-experienced workers for a limited number of job opportunities. This is on top of the fact that graduates since 2000 have confronted suboptimal labor market conditions, resulting in stagnant wages and limited job opportunities. While recent improvements in economic conditions have finally begun to brighten young graduates’ job prospects, the labor market is still far from recovered from the Great Recession.

Why So Many Smart People Aren’t Happy

Joe Pinsker:

There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.

But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.

Fears Grow About Toxic Environments in Chinese Schools

Te-Ping Chen:

Fear gripped parents across China this week after national media reported that hundreds of students in separate schools had fallen ill after classroom exposure to toxic fumes emitted from chemical plants.

The latest worries surfaced in eastern China, where scores of students at a primary school said they had begun to develop rashes, itching, nosebleeds and stomach pains. Their parents suspected a link to a nearby industrial park where they said chemical plants emitted a pungent odor.

“It’s such a good school, with great teachers,” said a mother whose 7-year-old son had recently broken out with spots on his face and itchy skin. “But now we just feel pained because of this issue. It’s like all the good has been offset.”

Civics: only 6% expressed “a lot of confidence” in the press”


There is no incongruity in the fact that a new poll conducted by the Media Insight Project, a joint project of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds the American media’s popularity way down with that of Washington politicians. With 2,014 adults surveyed, only 6% expressed “a lot of confidence” in the press.

That’s because they correctly view the major media as virtually indistinguishable from that same political establishment. No wonder that when Woodward himself began turning critical of the Obama administration, and questioned the president’s trustworthiness, the same media filled with reporters who wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein turned on their once-idolized elder statesman.

The public knows very well that most of the leading political reporters are not the intrepid crusaders for truth they claim to be, and whom Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman played in “All the President’s Men,” but rather ideological warriors devoted to one side winning and the other losing.

Why Do People Still Go To Grad School?

Fredrik deBoer:

ura McKenna’s piece is part of a perennial microgenre in the world of #Content: the “What Are They Thinking?” piece. It’s a type of essay that presents a certain group’s professional choices as daft and self-injurious, and asks (with more or less faux-sympathy, depending) why they persist. Don’t they know how deluded this is? Don’t they see? The secret sauce in this well-worn type of click-generation is that it provides people who don’t feel very good about their lives with some other group of people who, we are to imagine, feel even worse about theirs. I may never have written that novel; I may not have played past single-A ball; I may have never gotten further than Improv Olympic; but, by god, I’m not some sad French poetry PhD student. That person, that’s the real loser. The person set up as the object of greater scorn isn’t a gas station worker or someone on food stamps, because those people are seen as too lowly to be part of the competition in the first place. The targets have to be people who are seen as potential competition within aspirational culture. The ego-salving function of “What Are They Thinking?” pieces is what they call in the biz the “value added,” the click generator. It’s such a proven revenue generator that Slate hired Rebecca Schuman to do it full time.


Costly Broken Wind Turbines Give College Whopping Negative 99.14% Return On Investment

Andrew Follett:

Lake Land College recently announced plans to tear down broken wind turbines on campus, after the school got $987,697.20 in taxpayer support for wind power.

The turbines were funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, but the turbines lasted for less than four years and were incredibly costly to maintain.

“Since the installation in 2012, the college has spent $240,000 in parts and labor to maintain the turbines,” Kelly Allee, Director of Public Relations at Lake Land College, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The college estimates it would take another $100,000 in repairs to make the turbines function again after one of them was struck by lightning and likely suffered electrical damage last summer. School officials’ original estimates found the turbine would save it $44,000 in electricity annually, far more than the $8,500 they actually generated. Under the original optimistic scenario, the turbines would have to last for 22.5 years just to recoup the costs, not accounting for inflation. If viewed as an investment, the turbines had a return of negative 99.14 percent.

“While they have been an excellent teaching tool for students, they have only generated $8,500 in power in their lifetime,” she said. “One of the reasons for the lower than expected energy power is that the turbines often need to be repaired. They are not a good teaching tool if they are not working.”

The Largest Voucher Program You’ve Never Heard About

James Ryan:

handful of states and cities around the country sponsor universal pre-K for four-year-olds, including Georgia, Oklahoma, and, most recently, New York City. Others, including Boston, are moving in that direction. Many believe, with justification, that these are wise investments, given the evidence that high-quality pre-K offers long-ranging benefits to students, which can more than make up for the cost of the programs. The nature and extent of these benefits are the subject of debate among scholars and advocates, but one fascinating aspect of these programs has gone largely unnoticed: the reliance on private providers who receive public funding.

College Sex-Assault Trials Belong in Court, Not on Campus

Philip Cohen:

s we endure scandal after scandal concerning sexual assaults on college campuses—scandals that repeatedly show administrators failing to properly investigate, punish, or educate their way out of the problem—I fear that we are drawing the wrong conclusions. Colleges don’t have the ability to investigate sex crimes or the right to properly punish them any more than they can enforce the law regarding robbery or homicide. Those failures compromise colleges’ most important obligation and best hope for solving the problem: educating students to change the culture around sexual violence.

Wargaming in the Classroom: An Odyssey

James Lacey:

Several years ago, as a new professor at the Marine Corps War College, I spent a huge amount of time putting together the best presentation on Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War ever presented at any war college at any time. After accounting for the 125-page a night reading limit, I had selected the perfect set of readings. These were reinforced by an unbelievably entrancing and informative lecture, and a slideshow employing stunning period visuals. My plan even set aside copious amounts of time for critical thinking, and what I knew would be an intense Socratic dialogue.

Schools are helping police spy on kids’ social media activity

Karen Turner:

The school system in Orange County, where Orlando is located, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the program, which partners the school system with local police departments, has been successful in protecting students’ safety, saying that it led to 12 police investigations in the past year. The school district says it will pay about $18,000 annually for SnapTrends, the monitoring software used to check students’ activity. It’s the same software used by police in Racine, Wis., to track criminal activity and joins a slew of similar social media monitoring software used by law enforcement to keep an eye on the community.

The American Scientist Magazine Understands Nothing about the Traveling Salesman Problem

Michael Trick:

I like to think there are some solid foundations to my life. I will be able to do the Monday New York Times crossword and I will not be able to do the Thursday version. My dental hygienist will not be satisfied with the amount of flossing I do. I will get my favorite spaghetti meal served on my birthday.

And I can trust American Scientist to write articles that teach me science in an accessible, yet challenging, way. American Scientist is the magazine of the honor society Sigma Xi and is my favorite science magazine since the demise of The Sciences, my all-time favorite science magazine. Or it was.

On the University of California, II: Chancellors Gone Wild

Hank Reichman:

On March 5, I began a post on this blog entitled “Corporatizers Gone Wild!” with these words: “For those who don’t yet understand what academics mean when we talk about the ‘corporatization’ of the university, a good way to begin learning might be to take a look at recent events surrounding the University of California (UC) at Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, previously notorious for presiding over the pepper-spraying of her own students” in November 2011.

More than a month later the controversy surrounding Katehi continues. In case you missed it, Katehi initially came under fire for taking a board position with DeVry Education Group, a for-profit firm that offers college degrees online and on 55 campuses nationwide, including 13 in California, and is under federal scrutiny for allegedly exaggerating job placement and income statistics. She resigned that post and apologized soon after. Then it was revealed that Katehi had received a total of $420,000 in income and stock across the 2012-2014 fiscal years as a board member for John Wiley & Sons, a publisher of textbooks, college materials and scholarly journals. Her tenure came as students and state leaders sought to reduce the cost of textbooks and encouraged public colleges to use free, digital alternatives. Then it was revealed that Katehi had also moonlighted as a board member at a Saudi Arabian university that has been accused of buying its way to an impressive international ranking. Katehi served on the board of King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah at about the time the university came under fire for its aggressive global recruitment of highly cited researchers with offers of $6,000 or $7,000 a month and free stays at five-star hotels.

How Chicago elites imported charters, closed neighborhood schools, and snuffed out creativity.

Rick Perlstein:

This past September, an award-winning Chicago Public Schools principal named Troy LaRaviere published a post on his blog that began, “Whenever I try to take a break from writing about CPS to focus on other aspects of my professional and personal life, CPS officials do something so profoundly unethical, incompetent and/or corrupt that my conscience calls me to pick up the pen once more.”

What had Principal LaRaviere going this time? We’ll get there eventually. But first we have to back up and survey what brought the Chicago Public Schools to this calamitous pass in the first place. It’s hard to know where to begin. Though when it comes to the failings of America’s institutions you can rarely go wrong by looking to the plutocrats.

It’s Time to Face the Whole Truth About the Atlantic Slave Trade

Sheldon M. Stern, via Will Fitzhugh::

The AMISTAD America website stresses the need to educate the public about the history of slavery “through common experiences and dialogue.” By “confronting the past” and promoting “reconciliation and social healing” the Amistad’s Atlantic Freedom Tour aims to help all people work toward “transforming the future.”

However, confronting the history of the Atlantic slave trade requires more than a sentence acknowledging that the Amistad prisoners “had been captured in Africa by Africans who sold them to European slave traders.” Website readers must understand that this terrible traffic in millions of human beings had been, as affirmed by the PBS Africans in America series, a joint venture: “During this era, Africans and Europeans stood together as equals, companions in commerce and profit. Kings exchanged respectful letters across color lines and addressed each other as colleagues. Natives of the two continents were tied into a common economy.”2

Clemson admin offers recusal after students questions relation to protest leader

Peter Fricke and Anthony Gockowski:

Several Clemson students got a hostile reception Thursday when they started asking questions about a possible conflict of interest in the school’s investigation of a racial bias incident.

The following day, the official in question declared that she had recused herself from the matter.

“It is also disturbing that there is a possibility of her own involvement in preventing the investigation of the arrested #Clemson5 under the student code of conduct.”

Students affiliated with an unofficial organization called “See The Stripes” began a sit-in last week at Sikes Hall, which houses the school’s administrative offices, demanding that the school take action in response to the discovery of a bunch of bananas hanging from a banner honoring African American history at Clemson. WYFF reports that they ended the occupation Thursday night, nine days and five arrests after it began, having determined that they had little prospect of securing additional concessions beyond those the school outlined that afternoon.

See The Stripes had issued a list of seven demands, including a commitment to prosecute “defamatory speech,” increased funding for minority student groups, and hiring more faculty of color.

A Tale of Two (New) Schools


the world today, there are two efforts to massively scale new school systems that are based on agile, technology focused learning systems. One has raised $133M and is currently educating about 750 students in six schools in three American cities; the other has raised $3M and is currently educating 7,500 students in 50 publicly (and privately) financed schools in three countries (The Netherlands, Spain and South Africa). You would be challenged to find out much about the latter, mainly because it hasn’t raised much money, which seems to have become the key metric for sexiness and media coverage.

There is nothing wrong with the grand vision of AltSchool, the company that has raised $133M. In fact, it really is a sexy story where the founder got frustrated looking for a school for his kids, so he started a new approach to schools. Fortunately, he had sold a company to Google so he had the money, experience and contacts to raise a huge amount of money and really go after the opportunity to transform education. Here are stories about AltSchool in The New Yorker, Huffington Post, The New York Times, and there are hundreds of others.

The rise of mostly-autonomous systems

The Foretellix Blog:

Take, for instance, future assistive robots (which assist the disabled / elderly, as I described here). They will be able to take the customer downstairs, take her to the movies, help her with some medical procedures and so on. This covers the vast majority of the time.

However, in some cases (e.g. the customer faints, or some policeman across the street hollers incomprehensible stuff at the robot, etc.) this mostly-autonomous robot should alert an operator. The operator would probably take over remotely, using the robot’s sensors (e.g. vision, hearing) and actuators (e.g. locomotion, grabbing) to understand the situation and “do the right thing”.

Gender—good for nothing

Lionel Shriver:

From childhood, I experienced being female as an imposition. Growing up between two brothers, I was the one who had to wear stupid dresses, and worry about (the horror, in my day) letting my panties show on the swings. My brothers got to take off their shirts during sultry North Carolinian summers, while I wasn’t allowed to, even during the years my chest looked just like theirs.

Yet the impositions were just beginning. Periods were hideous. Did my brothers get puffy once a month, suffer terrible back aches and go back to wearing smelly de facto diapers? I was the one, too, who had the fear of God put in her about getting pregnant. In comparison to their sons, my parents clearly had reduced expectations for my career prospects. Ruefully, at 87, my father finally conceded last year: “You know, we may have underestimated you.” He still hasn’t quite brought himself to admit why: I was the girl.

Guns on university campuses: The Colorado experience

David Kopel:

Texas appears poised to join the growing number of states allowing licensed, trained adults to carry concealed handguns for lawful protection on the campuses of public universities and colleges. In Texas, as elsewhere, opponents offer a parade of horribles about the supposed results: heated classroom discussion of Sophocles will result in gunfights; students will threaten to kill professors who gave them a bad grade, and so on. Since Colorado has had licensed guns on campus for over a decade, it may be helpful to look at the experience there.

For most of Colorado’s history, firearms were legal on public university campuses. That began to change in 1970, due to concerns about campus violence by terrorist organizations such as the Weather Underground.

What Would Tommy Do?

Marc Eisen

The disharmony stems in part from the tensions of a generally liberal-minded university working with a decidedly conservative state government. Further exacerbating the relationship is the obliqueness of UW System bookkeeping and the Republican belief it hid a huge slush fund. (This became a key factor in the GOP-enforced tuition freeze and UW budget cut.) Add in the troubling geographic complaints that the UW System is Madison-centric and shorts the rest of the state and Milwaukee in particular.

UW advocates, in turn, are reeling from the $250 million UW budget cut, the four-year tuition freeze, the stripping of tenure protection from state statutes and Gov. Scott Walker’s surprise attempt in an earlier budget to bowdlerize the “Wisconsin Idea” that guides the UW’s mission to the citizenry.

All this makes for an unpleasant stew of missed signals, aggravation, suspicion and wheel spinning. Not to mention a nagging sense that the state as a whole is grievously hurt by the failure of the pols and profs to make nice.

Somewhat related: theriselinggroup.com/about-us

State and Local Individual Income Tax Collections Per Capita

Jared Walzcak:

Individual income taxes are the single largest source of state tax revenue in the United States, accounting for 36.5 percent of all state revenue in fiscal year 2013 despite the fact that nine states forego a tax on wage and salary income. Among states (and the District of Columbia) imposing an individual income tax on wage income, the tax accounts for an average of 43.4 percent of all state collections.

Income taxes tend to be less important to local governments overall, accounting for 4.8 percent of local tax collections. Over 91 percent of all state and local income tax revenue flows to state governments. Low collections at the local level is at least partly due, however, to their lesser ubiquity. They represent 13.8 percent of collections in the thirteen states (and the District of Columbia) permitting local income taxes, ranging from de minimus collections in Oregon to 31.7 percent of local revenue in Maryland. Local governments in six states—Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—generate more than 10 percent of their revenue from individual income taxation, as does the District of Columbia.

Stop Trashing Public Schools

Aim Collins:

Now that my girls are 10 (!) I look back and am so grateful and happy for the wonderful education they’ve received. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to share positive stories about my experience to counter the inaccurate and crazy-making rhetoric about how difficult it is to enroll in a “good” public school.

With this in mind, I recently posted some resources on NextDoor about the kindergarten enrollment process. I wanted to reassure parents who are just embarking on the kindergarten enrollment process that everything will work out great, and also share tips for any family (public or private) on how to ease the transition to kindergarten. In addition, I offered to be a resource to answer questions about local schools.

Initially, I got a few positive responses from local parents, chiming in on their great public school experiences. Unfortunately, as I have learned, you can’t get away posting anything on NextDoor without getting snarky comments from folks eagerly awaiting the chance to rain on your parade.

Madison Schools Share Data with Forward Madison

Agreement (PDF):

The data listed below will be made available to Forward Madison researchers upon request. There are two types of data potentially needed – individual-level data and aggregate by school. Individual, student-level data

Student demographics, including: o Student ID #
Special Education services required o ELL status
Advanced learner status
Student academic and behavior data, including:
Current school enrollment
PALS English and Espanol Grades 1-2 scores for Fall and Spring o MAP Grades 3-8 Reading and Math scores for Fall and Spring o ACT/Aspire Grades 9-11 scores
Out-of-School Suspensions

Aggregate data

MMSD Climate Survey data for staff, students, and parents by school Staff data – Year 4 Educator Effectiveness scores

Number of TEEM Scholars hired by MMSD
Student demographics (school level), Including:
Special Education services required o ELL status
Advanced learner status

Student academic and behavior data (school level), including:
PALS English and Espanol Grades 1-2 scores for Fall and Spring o MAP Grades 3-8 Reading and Math scores for Fall and Spring o ACT/Aspire Grades 9-11 scores
Out-of-School Suspensions

MMSD will provide this data to the Forward Madison research team at the end of each school year through 2022. See attached Forward Madison MOA for more details.

A plan for preventing others from viewing and using the data that addresses Confidentiality of Information and Security of the system:

Data will be stored in a University of Wisconsin-Madison Box account. Box adheres to the highest industry standards for security, including:

Content is stored on enterprise-grade servers that undergo regular audits and are monitored 24/7

Files are backed up daily to additional facilities

All files uploaded to Box are encrypted at rest using 256-bit AES encryption.

For files in transit, use RC4-128 encryption, currently considered safe and secure.

Name and contact Information of the researcher involved In day-to-day operation Involving use of data, and conducting the research and analysis.

Forward Madison is under the administrative lead of the Education Outreach and Partnerships Office (EOP), UW Madison School of Education, 264 Teacher Education Building, 225 N. Mills Street, Madison, WI 53706. Principal Investigator: Beth Giles-Klinkner; Project Coordinator: Ann Halbach. External evaluation will be conducted by Matthew Hora, Research Scientist, WI Center for Education Research, 960 Ed Sciences Bldg, Madison, WI 53706. Project Strand Evaluator – TBD


Campus Activism

Conor Friedersdorf:

The student activists had occupied a small room outside Katehi’s office, planning to stay until their chancellor resigned or was removed from her post. By the time they left 36 days later, a petition that now bears roughly 100 signatures of UC Davis students and staff were demanding that they prematurely end their occupation, criticizing their tactics, and alleging a number of grave transgressions: The signatories accused the student activists of sexism, racism, bullying, abuse, and harassment, complaining that many who used the administration building “no longer feel safe.” The student activists say that those charges are unfair.

The conflict illustrates a pattern that campus observers are likely see more and more in coming years: Insofar as progressives succeed in remaking campuses into places unusually sensitive to psychological harms, where transgressing against “safe spaces” is both easy to do and verboten, confrontational activism will no longer be viable.

Too many people feel upset by it.

Fingerless Russian Pianist Is Incredible

Tod Perry:

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right,” is a famous quote often attributed to automaker Henry Ford. In many respects, he’s right. Far too many of us live with limitations we’ve unfairly placed on ourselves or accepted from other people. But 15-year-old pianist Alexey Romanov of Zelenodolsk, Russia has defied all expectations by becoming an excellent pianist even though he has no fingers, and only one leg.

Romanov was born with a terrible illness that left him without hands and a leg. After being adopted four years ago, he fell in love with Mozart and Vivaldi and decided to learn how to play the piano. He has prosthetic arms, though he prefers not to use them while playing because he finds them uncomfortable. Sadly, his prosthetic leg is broken, but he still walks o

Should you be saving for college using a 529 plan or a Roth IRA?

Daniel Douglas-Gabriel:

Putting away money for your child’s education is a no-brainer in the era of five-figure student debt, but it can be a little tricky figuring out the best ways to save. While 529 plans are a go-to option for many families, Roth IRAs are emerging as a popular alternative investment vehicle to save for college.

Both accounts come with tax advantages and could grow your money, so which one is right for you? (Although investing is one of the best ways to increase your savings, be mindful of market volatility. You can lose as much as you gain.)

Named for a section of the U.S. tax code, 529 plans are designed specifically to save for college. The most popular plans function much like a 401k retirement account because the money you put in is invested in stocks, bonds or money market funds. Earnings on the plans are not subjected to federal taxes so long as you use the money for “qualified education” expenses — tuition, books, fees, room and board — at any accredited school. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and anyone else can contribute to these accounts. The plans can transfer to other members of a family, but the money must be used for education or withdrawals will come with tax consequences.

Dealing With Autism

The Economist:

IN AMERICA in 1970 one child in 14,000 was reckoned to be autistic. The current estimate is one in 68—or one in 42 among boys. Similarly high numbers can be found in other rich countries: a study in South Korea found that one in 38 children was affected. Autism is a brain condition associated with poor social skills. It has a wide spectrum of symptoms, from obsessive behaviour to hypersensitivity to sound, light or other sensory stimulation, the severity of which ranges from mild to life-blighting. The range of consequences is also wide. At one end, the autism of a computer scientist may be barely noticeable; at the other, a quarter of autistic children do not speak.

Autism is a condition that defies simple generalisations. Except one: the potential of far too many autistic people is being squandered. Although around half of those with autism are of average intelligence or above, they do far worse than they should at school and at work. In France, almost 90% of autistic children attend primary school, but only 1% make it to high school. Figures from America, which works harder to include autistic pupils, suggest that less than half graduate from high school. In Britain, only 12% of higher-functioning autistic adults work full time. Globally, the United Nations reckons that 80% of those with autism are not in the workforce.

Why Physics Is Not a Discipline

Philip Ball:

Have you heard the one about the biologist, the physicist, and the mathematician? They’re all sitting in a cafe watching people come and go from a house across the street. Two people enter, and then some time later, three emerge. The physicist says, “The measurement wasn’t accurate.” The biologist says, “They have reproduced.” The mathematician says, “If now exactly one person enters the house then it will be empty again.”

Hilarious, no? You can find plenty of jokes like this—many invoke the notion of a spherical cow—but I’ve yet to find one that makes me laugh. Still, that’s not what they’re for. They’re designed to show us that these academic disciplines look at the world in very different, perhaps incompatible ways.

Charted: The most tragically banal ways to begin a college application essay

Amy Wang:

Take pity on college admissions officers. Of the thousands of gushing essays from eager students that wash across their desks each year, a great number are virtually the same.

Per the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS), the UK organization that manages applications to British universities, far too many teenagers’ personal statements begin with “hackneyed phrases.” UCAS looked at submissions from 700,000 students who applied to British schools in the past year and found several opening lines being used again and again, which suggests that the subject matter is often drearily similar, too.

“The personal essay is supposed to be personal,” admonished UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook. “Learning to write about yourself in a compelling way is a vital skill when applying for jobs.” Teens don’t seem to have gotten that message yet. Below are 10 most repeated first sentences from those 700,000 apps:

How referendums expand the gap between haves and have-nots

Alan Borsuk:

Nicolet High School serves students from Fox Point, Bayside, River Hills and Glendale. Nicolet is both a high-performing school and a high-spending one. This year’s budget works out to more than $18,000 per student.

On April 5, voters in those communities approved allowing Nicolet, for the next six years, to spend $3.15 million a year more than the revenue cap that the state imposes on public schools. A $2.15 million a year addition to school spending that has been in place for five years ends this year.

Without the voters’ approval in the referendum, Nicolet would have cut spending by 15%, cut a dozen teachers and increased class sizes from typically about 23 to about 30, Superintendent Robert Kobylski said. The approval means about $7 per $100,000 of home value in additional taxes annually for Nicolet-area residents.

Madison is spending more than $17k per student.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: A Complex Tax System Prevents Americans From Saving

Dave Brat & Jeff Flake:

Today, many lack the recommended savings level of three to six months of income. In fact, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey, only 53 percent of adults would be able to cover an emergency expense of $400 without selling an asset or borrowing.

Part of the problem is the tax code being too complex, making it difficult for people to understand their options to invest and save for the future. A more streamlined and flexible saving account to enable and encourage savings is needed. To that end, we have introduced the Universal Savings Account Act, legislation that will empower all individuals to set aside money for all of life’s challenges and opportunities.

Expanding Madison’s Least Diverse Schools: Exclusionary Zoning Robs Our Cities of Their Best Qualities

Sightline Institute:

What drew far less attention—and what is ultimately far more important—is the rest of HALA’s assertion. Those other 43 words point directly at local restrictions on housing construction in Seattle, prominently including its vast allocation of land to single-family lots as “among the largest obstacles to equity and affordability.”

Across North America, such statements are vanishingly rare in the official pronouncements of policymakers. Zoning, especially single-family zoning, is presumed sacrosanct. What may be surprising to those not steeped in land-use and urban economics, however, is that HALA’s words are not strong at all in light of the growing body of evidence that restrictive zoning undermines equity and social justice.

Much more, here.

Jobs Are Scarce for Ph.D.s

Laura McKenna:

If you’re a grad student, it’s best to read the latest report from the National Science Foundation with a large glass of single-malt whiskey in hand. Scratch that: The top-shelf whiskey is probably out of your budget. Well, Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” is good, too!

Liquid courage is a necessity when examining the data on Ph.D.s in the latest NSF report, “The Survey of Earned Doctorates,” which utilized figures from the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. The report finds that many newly minted Ph.D.s complete school after nearly 10 years of studies with significant debt and without the promise of a job. Yet few people seem to be paying attention to these findings; graduate programs are producing more Ph.D.s than ever before.

Milwaukee Governance

Annysa Johnson:

The much-anticipated proposal by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and his appointed school commissioner to take control of some of Milwaukee Public Schools’ poorest performing schools drew sharp rebukes from board members this week, with at least one suggesting he will not sign off on the deal.

MPS board Director Terry Falk likened the plan, in which Mequon-Thiensville Superintendent Demond Means would operate the schools as a consultant to MPS, to “a shotgun marriage.”

“It’s almost impossible for us to walk down the aisle with you and say ‘I do,'” Falk told Means during a school board working session Thursday night in which Means laid out the proposal as Abele’s Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program commissioner.

You can now be identified by your ‘brainprint’ with 100% accuracy


Binghamton University researchers have developed a biometric identification method called Cognitive Event-RElated Biometric REcognition (CEREBRE) for identifying an individual’s unique “brainprint.” They recorded the brain activity of 50 subjects wearing an electroencephalograph (EEG) headset while looking at selected images from a set of 500 images.

The researchers found that participants’ brains reacted uniquely to each image — enough so that a computer system that analyzed the different reactions was able to identify each volunteer’s “brainprint” with 100 percent accuracy.

In their original brainprint study in 2015, published in Neurocomputing (see ‘Brainprints’ could replace passwords), the research team was able to identify one person out of a group of 32 by that person’s responses, with 97 percent accuracy. That study only used words. Switching to images made a huge difference.

This Parent’s Craigslist Ad For A Women’s Studies Tutor Proves America Is Over

John Daniel Davidson:

If you ever doubted that a single Craigslist ad could capture the decline and fall of Western civilization, doubt no more. A Craigslist ad posted over the weekend by a concerned helicopter parent in the upscale neighborhood of Bel Air, Los Angeles, seeks a tutor for his or her adult son, a 22-year-old student at the University of California-Los Angeles who is having trouble with his gender studies class.

How university students infantilise themselves

Jonathan Zimmerman

In June 1962, 59 student activists met in Port Huron, Michigan to draft a manifesto of their core principles. They condemned racism in the United States and the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. Most of all, though, they indicted their own institution, the modern US university, for ignoring and suppressing their voice. Students needed to ‘wrest control of the educational process from the administrative bureaucracy’, The Port Huron Statement declared. Otherwise, the empty suits who ran the university would drown its emancipatory potential in a sea of bland rituals and senseless rules.

US faces ‘disastrous’ $3.4tn pension funding hole

Attracta Mooney:

The US public pension system has developed a $3.4tn funding hole that will pile pressure on cities and states to cut spending or raise taxes to avoid Detroit-style bankruptcies.

According to academic research shared exclusively with FTfm, the collective funding shortfall of US public pension funds is three times larger than official figures showed, and is getting bigger.

Devin Nunes, a US Republican congressman, said: “It has been clear for years that many cities and states are critically underfunding their pension programmes and hiding the fiscal holes with accounting tricks.”

Mr Nunes, who put forward a bill to the House of Representatives last month to overhaul how public pension plans report their figures, added: “When these pension funds go insolvent, they will create problems so disastrous that the fund officials assume the federal government will have to bail them out.”

Large pension shortfalls have already played a role in driving several US cities, including Detroit in Michigan and San Bernardino in California, to file for bankruptcy. The fear is other cities will soon become insolvent due to the size of their pension deficits.

Pressure Mounts on Harvard’s All-Male Clubs to Admit Women

Melissa Korn:

For more than 150 years, the “final clubs” at Harvard University have sat atop a rigid social hierarchy, the original all-male clubs at the country’s oldest college. Now, they are in a spat with school administrators, who want to address sexual assault on campus by forcing the clubs to welcome women members.

Undergraduate leaders of the clubs, whose members have included Roosevelts and Kennedys, were told at a meeting with Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana late last month that they had until April 15 to decide whether to go coed, or face unknown consequences, according to multiple students who attended the meeting. The request included the newer all-female clubs as well, they said.

Undergraduate and alumni representatives from all-male and all-female clubs met with Mr. Khurana again for nearly three hours Wednesday night, pressing him for details of potential sanctions against members of groups that don’t go coed, according to two attendees. One of those attendees said his responses were “noncommittal”; the other called them “nonspecific.”

Why big state colleges are increasingly dominated by wealthy students

Jillian Berman

Public higher education is often thought of as a way to help level the playing field between Americans of all stripes, but there’s evidence that flagship public colleges aren’t the engines of mobility we think.

These schools are often thought a way to provide students from a variety of backgrounds with a high-quality education at an affordable cost. But a new study adds to the growing body of evidence that these schools increasingly serve wealthier students.

Between 1972 and 2007, the share of applicants to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the bottom fifth of the income distribution stayed roughly the same at less than 5%, according to a study published last week in the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. During the same period, the share of applicants from the second-lowest income quintile declined from at least 20% or more to just 11.5% in 2007. But the share of applicants from the top two highest income levels grew from 42.6% to 64.1%.

The university does make efforts to reach more low-income applicants, including through outreach, scholarship programs and transfer agreements with two-year colleges, whose classes typically include a large share of low-income students, according to Meredith McGlone, a University of Wisconsin-Madison spokeswoman. In addition, the school upped its need-based grant aid from $6.6 million during the 2007-2008 academic year to $31.3 million this past academic year, she said.

Peer review: Troubled from the start

Alex Csiszar:

Referees are overworked. The problem of bias is intractable. The referee system has broken down and become an obstacle to scientific progress. Traditional refereeing is an antiquated form that might have been good for science in the past but it’s high time to put it out of its misery.

What is this familiar litany? It is a list of grievances aired by scientists a century ago.If complaining about the faults of referee systems is nothing new, such systems are not as old as historical accounts often claim. Investigators of nature communicated their findings without scientific referees for centuries. Deciding whom and what to trust usually depended on personal knowledge among close-knit groups of researchers. (Many might argue it still does.)

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans

Neal Gabler:

Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

One of the nation’s largest pension funds could soon cut benefits for retirees

Jonnelle Marte:

embers of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and their supporters attend a rally outside the Capitol in Washington on April 14. The demonstrators protested a plan by the Central States Pension Fund to reduce payments to retirees. (Drew Angerer/Bloomberg)
More than a quarter of a million active and retired truckers and their families could soon see their pension benefits severely cut — even though their pension fund is still years away from running out of money.

Within the next few weeks, the Treasury Department is expected to announce a crucial decision on whether it will approve reductions to one of the country’s largest multi-employer pension plans.

The Managerial University: A Failed Experiment?

David West:

Recent decades have seen a protracted attack and painstaking demolition of the traditional or ‘old’ university and an associated purging of academics. The rise of managers and ‘managerial’ doctrines were supposed to make universities more efficient and productive, more lean and transparent, and above all, more modern. In practice, managerial reforms have given rise to a range of pathologies and side effects. Bullying is widespread, many staff are unhappy. But the spread of managerialism is also threatening the university’s role as a centre of committed teaching scholarship and critical research. Examination of the actual effects – rather than stated aims – of the managerial experiment is long overdue.

How politicians poisoned statistics

Tim Harford:

This statistical capitulation was a dismaying read for anyone still wedded to the idea — apparently a quaint one — that gathering statistical information might help us understand and improve our world. But the Guardian’s cynicism can hardly be a surprise. It is a natural response to the rise of “statistical bullshit” — the casual slinging around of numbers not because they are true, or false, but to sell a message.

Politicians weren’t always so ready to use numbers as part of the sales pitch. Recall Ronald Reagan’s famous suggestion to voters on the eve of his landslide defeat of President Carter: “Ask yourself, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?’” Reagan didn’t add any statistical garnish. He knew that voters would reach their own conclusions.

The British election campaign of spring last year, by contrast, was characterised by a relentless statistical crossfire. The shadow chancellor of the day, Ed Balls, declared that a couple with children (he didn’t say which couple) had lost £1,800 thanks to the government’s increase in value added tax. David Cameron, the prime minister, countered that 94 per cent of working households were better off thanks to recent tax changes, while the then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was proud to say that 27 million people were £825 better off in terms of the income tax they paid.

Could any of this be true? Yes — all three claims were. But Ed Balls had reached his figure by summing up extra VAT payments over several years, a strange method. If you offer to hire someone for £100,000, and then later admit you meant £25,000 a year for a four-year contract, you haven’t really lied — but neither have you really told the truth. And Balls had looked only at one tax. Why not also consider income tax, which the government had cut? Clegg boasted about income-tax cuts but ignored the larger rise in VAT. And Cameron asked to be evaluated only on his pre-election giveaway budget rather than the tax rises he had introduced earlier in the parliament — the equivalent of punching someone on the nose, then giving them a bunch of flowers and pointing out that, in floral terms, they were ahead on the deal.

Each claim was narrowly true but broadly misleading. Not only did the clashing numbers confuse but none of them helped answer the crucial question of whether Cameron and Clegg had made good decisions in office.

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

Double standard on American college campuses

Lawrence Summers:

It has seemed to me that a vast double standard regarding what constitutes prejudice exists on American college campuses. There is hypersensitivity regarding prejudice against most minority groups but what might be called hyper-insensitivity with respect to anti-Semitism.

At Bowdoin College, holding parties with sombreros and tequila is deemed to be an act of prejudice against Mexicans. At Emory, the chalking of an endorsement of the likely Republican presidential candidate on a sidewalk is deemed to require a review of security tapes. The existence of a college named after a widely admired former US president has under the duress of a student occupation been condemned at Princeton. At Yale, Halloween costumes are the subject of administrative edict. The dean of Harvard Law School has acknowledged that hers is a racist institution, while the freshman dean at Harvard College has used dinner placemats to propagandise the student body on aspects of diversity. Professors acquiesce as students insist that they not be exposed to views on issues like abortion that make them uncomfortable.

As I have discussed in the past, this is in my view inconsistent with basic American values of free speech and open debate. It fails to recognise that a proper liberal education should cause moments of acute discomfort as cherished beliefs are challenged.

Read it and Weep: Is some literature simply too disturbing to teach? The new university culture wars pit students against their professors

Elaine Moore:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a medieval romance composed by an unknown poet, a mishmash of religious allegory and folklore that has survived through a single copy to become a keystone of English literature.

It is also, according to academics at the University of Cambridge, the source of one of the earliest known examples of a rape joke, which is why this tale of Arthurian Britain, unintelligible to those not conversant in Middle English, has been dragged into a very modern debate about the phenomenon known as “triggering”.

At Cambridge, students who attend lectures on the poem are now issued with a warning — accompanied with a small exclamation mark — that what they are about to read contains potentially sensitive or upsetting material.

“Trigger warnings” have long been a mainstay of feminist websites, used to alert readers to graphic descriptions of abuse or violence, the sort of things that might stir up traumatic memories for those who had suffered similarly. They’ve also made an impression on US campuses. But even though there is no obligation for lecturers to apply the warnings, their introduction at one of Britain’s oldest universities is proving to be a source of contention.

Advocates of content warnings see them as a simple means for students to make informed decisions. Critics, meanwhile, see the debate as emblematic of millennial over-sensitivity and censoriousness, in line with their neurotic preoccupation with “safe spaces” and “micro-aggressions”. Academics have been caught in the middle: sympathetic to students who have had difficult personal experiences, but uneasy at the idea of warnings being imposed.

The Great Equalizer: Harriet Tubman

Charles Cooke:

In her harrowing 1892 treatise on the horrors of lynching in the post-bellum American South, the journalist, suffragist, and civil-rights champion Ida B. Wells established for her readers the value of bearing arms. “Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year,” Wells recorded, “the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves.” She went on to proffer some advice: “The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense. The lesson this teaches, and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”

Conservatives are fond of employing foreign examples of the cruelty and terror that governments may inflict on a people that has been systematically deprived of its weaponry. Among them are the Third Reich’s exclusion of Jews from the ranks of the armed, Joseph Stalin’s anti-gun edicts of 1929, and the prohibitive firearms rules that the Communist party introduced into China between 1933 and 1949. To varying degrees, these do help to make the case. And yet, ugly as all of these developments were, there is in fact no need for our augurs of oppression to roam so far afield for their illustrations of tyranny. Instead, they might look to their own history.

“Do you really think that it could happen here?” remains a favorite refrain of the modern gun-control movement. Alas, the answer should be a resounding “Yes.” For most of America’s story, an entire class of people was, as a matter of course, enslaved, beaten, lynched, subjected to the most egregious miscarriages of justice, and excluded either explicitly or practically from the body politic. We prefer today to reserve the word “tyranny” for its original target, King George III, or to apply it to foreign despots. But what other characterization can be reasonably applied to the governments that, ignoring the words of the Declaration of Independence, enacted and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act? How else can we see the men who crushed Reconstruction? How might we view the recalcitrant American South in the early 20th century? “It” did “happen here.” And “it” was achieved — in part, at least — because its victims were denied the very right to self-protection that during the Revolution had been recognized as the unalienable prerogative of “all men.”

When, in 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney buttoned his Dred Scott v. Sandford opinion with the panicked warning that if free blacks were permitted to become American citizens they might begin “to keep and carry arms wherever they went,” he was signaling his support for a disgraceful status quo within which suppression of the right to bear arms was depressingly quotidian. Indeed, until the late 1970s, the history of American gun control was largely inextricable from the history of American racism. Long before Louisiana was a glint in Thomas Jefferson’s eye, the French “Black Codes” mandated that any black person found with a “potential weapon” be not only deprived of that weapon but also beaten for his audacity. British colonies, both slaveholding and free, tended to restrict gun ownership to whites, with even the settlements at Massachusetts and Plymouth prohibiting Indians from purchasing or owning firearms. Throughout the South, blacks were denied weapons. The intention of these rules was clear: to remove the means by which undesirables might rebel or resist, and to ensure that the majority maintained its prerogatives. In 1834, alarmed by Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia, Tennessee amended its state constitution to make this purpose unambiguous, clarifying that the “right to keep and to bear arms” applied not to “the freemen of this State” — as the 1794 version of the document had allowed — but to “the free white men of this State.”

In much of America, this principle would hold for another century, emancipation notwithstanding. As Adam Winkler of UCLA’s law school has noted, a movement comprising the Ku Klux Klan and those Democrats who sought to thwart the gains of the Civil War “began with gun control at the very top of its agenda.” In theory, by mandating that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” the 14th Amendment would bring an end to Dixie’s confiscatory schemes; in reality, its passage provoked white supremacists in the states of the former Confederacy to achieve their aims in a more subtle manner. Nowhere in Tennessee’s illustrative “Army and Navy” law (1879) was race so much as hinted at. Instead, the measure limited residents of that state to a few expensive firearms, thereby outlawing the small derringers and low-caliber revolvers that impoverished blacks could afford. Like the poll taxes and literacy tests that went along with them, such laws achieved their aims without telegraphing their intent.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: 45% of Americans pay no federal income tax

Catey Hill:

Many Americans don’t have to worry about giving Uncle Sam part of their hard-earned cash for their income taxes this year.

An estimated 45.3% of American households — roughly 77.5 million — will pay no federal individual income tax, according to data for the 2015 tax year from the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington-based research group. (Note that this does not necessarily mean they won’t owe their states income tax.)

Professional Educator: Grades, Showing Up On Time Are A Form Of White Supremacy

Blake Neff:

A professional education consultant and teacher trainer argued at the White Privilege Conference (WPC) in Philadelphia that great teachers must also be liberal activists, and described in detail her goal for destroying the “white supremacist” nature of modern education.

Heather Hackman operates Hackman Consulting Group and was formerly a professor of multicultural education at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University, where she taught future teachers. On Friday, Hackman was given a platform at WPC to deliver a workshop with the lengthy title “No Freedom Unless We Call Out the Wizard Behind The Curtain: Critically Addressing the Corrosive Effects of Whiteness in Teacher Education and Professional Development.” The long title masked a simple thesis on Hackman’s part: Modern education is hopelessly tainted by white supremacy and the “white imperial gaze,” and the solution is to train prospective teachers in college to be activists as well as pedagogues.

In fact, Hackman argued teachers shouldn’t even bother teaching if they aren’t committed to promoting social justice in school.

“Education is not about the mere reproduction of knowledge,” Hackman said. “Education is the practice of freedom. And as a result, we have to have [teaching] students becomes activists as well as teachers.”

Creating educators who are proper activists, Hackman continued, means training them to not only to encourage diversity but also to engage with the systemic oppression she says is pervasive in the entire educational system. In Hackman’s telling, virtually everything associated with being a good student in modern education is actually just a tool of racist white supremacy.

One-Child Policy: China’s Grieving Parents Demand Compensation

Janis Mackey Frayer:

Bereaved parents are demanding more compensation from China’s government, blaming the now-defunct one-child policy for robbing them of the chance to have more kids.

“I don’t have any hope anymore,” said Zhou Ru Xian, whose 24-year-old daughter died in 2013.

Image: Protest in Beijing, China
Parents seeking compensation after China axed its one-child policy attended a rally outside the Ministry of Health in Beijing on Tuesday.

50 jobs eliminated as University of Missouri cuts hit cleaning, maintenance operations

Rudi Keller:

The Columbia campus is trying to cover $22 million of an expected $32.5 million shortfall because of declining enrollment and new commitments such as the new Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, spokesman Christian Basi said. The cuts do not take into account possible state budget reductions or increases.

Of the 50 positions in operations to be cut, 21.75 currently are vacant and will not be filled, and many others are in auxiliary departments such as campus catering or facilities, Basi said. Many are held by students, he said.

Flipped Classroom Pioneer: YouTube Videos Might Replace Teachers in Taiwan

Yuan-ling Liang:

On April 17, Jonathan Bergmann, inventor of the “flipped classroom,” attended an educational conference in Taiwan held by UDN, sharing the spirit of the unconventional teaching method and his opinions on Taiwan’s education system. During the conference, Bergmann pointed out that teachers in Taiwan might be replaced by YouTube videos if they don’t change their teaching methods.

Teachers should promote problem-solving abilities
Bergmann is a high school chemistry teacher in the US and has more than 20 years of teaching experience. In 2007, he filmed his lectures in class for absent students, but was accused of encouraging them to not come to school. This urged him to contemplate on the real function and value of teachers.

NYC Refuses to Provide Information About $100 Million ‘Absent Teacher Reserve,’ Advocates Claim

Mareesa Nicosia:

Advocates and parents with the education reform group StudentsFirstNY are demanding that New York City release records of the roughly 1,100 public school teachers who are on its payroll indefinitely but don’t have a job to do.

The teachers are part of what’s known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, which costs taxpayers an estimated $100 million per year. Teachers end up in the reserve if their jobs have been eliminated due to a school closure or downsizing, or they may be placed there during misconduct hearings.
Regardless of the reason, teachers in the ATR receive full salaries and benefits while they wait to be assigned to a classroom or for disciplinary proceedings to proceed, sometimes languishing for months or years at a time.

Texas, Arizona high schools dominate new U.S. News rankings

T Rees Shapiro:

High schools in the Southwest dominate the 2016 U.S. News and World Report rankings of the country’s best high schools, taking six of the top 10 spots in the rankings released Tuesday.

Texas and Arizona high schools earned the top four rankings, and the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology a Fairfax County, Va. magnet school, was in the fifth spot nationally.

The news magazine collected data on more than 21,500 schools for the report, which for the first time included graduation rates as a factor in the rankings.

Wisconsin high schools.

Middleton appears to be the highest ranked Madison area high school (#656 nationally).

The serious reason boys do worse than girls

Jeff Guo:

The latest research from Autor and his colleagues shows that early-life adversity causes boys to struggle much more than girls. It’s not yet clear why girls are so tough, but they seem much better suited to the challenges of modern childhood. The gender differences are minimal in households with resources — but among poorer families, boys systematically fall short of their sisters and female peers. This pattern implies that if income inequality continues to worsen, the gender inequalities will worsen, too.

Now, in a new paper released Monday, the economists have found additional evidence that bad schools exacerbate the differences in academic achievement between boys and girls. The phenomenon is illustrated in a stunning chart, seen below.

The economists plotted the average test scores of boys and girls at various middle schools in Florida. The schools are ranked by quality, based on how good they are at improving kids’ test scores. At the far left are the worst schools. At the far right are the best schools.

Battle of bilingual education once again brewing in California


Last spring, 9-year-old Derrick Fields sat in his social studies classroom at Sherman Elementary School, learning about the creation of the telegraph. The machine was invented so that “someone can connect to someone who is far away,” he said.

This was pretty normal stuff for a fourth grade history lesson, except for one thing: The entire lesson — from the textbooks to the teacher’s instructions to the students’ short essays — was in Spanish.

In fact, half of Derrick’s time is spent learning in Spanish and the other half in English in what’s known as a dual language immersion program.
Teaching academic subjects in Spanish, or any foreign language, has been widely understood to be illegal in California since 1998. [Proposition 227](https://ballotpedia.org/CaliforniaProposition227,theEnglishinPublicSchoolsInitiative_(1998))
appeared on the June ballot that year, offering voters a chance to weigh in on whether or not students should be taught primarily in English in public schools. While opponents saw the measure as racist, it was loudly championed by Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire with political aspirations, as the best way to integrate the state’s booming immigrant population.

Are Colleges Too Obsessed With Smartness?

Eric Hoover:

Alexander W. Astin has something to say — a lot to say, really — about smartness. He knows some people won’t want to hear it, especially if they happen to teach college students for a living.

Mr. Astin, a professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles, believes that too many faculty members “have come to value merely being smart more than developing smartness.” That line comes from his new book, Are You Smart Enough? How Colleges’ Obsession With Smartness Shortchanges Students.

In the short yet provocative text, Mr. Astin peers into the faculty lounge as well as the admissions office. There he finds more concern with “acquiring” smart students, as defined by conventional metrics, than with helping students improve after they enroll.

“When the entire system of higher education gives favored status to the smartest students, even average students are denied equal opportunities,” he writes. “If colleges were instead to be judged on what they added to each student’s talents and capacities, then applicants at every level of academic preparation might be equally valued.”

Helicopter Parenting Has Given Birth To A Generation of Entitled Victims

Abilash Gopal:

Overparenting is widely recognized as a problematic approach to raising kids. For nearly a decade, studies have shown how the rise of the “helicopter parent” has been worsening children’s anxiety and school performance in the K-12 years. Now we’re witnessing what happens when the overparented child grows up, and it’s a trainwreck that is painful to watch, but impossible to ignore.

As an inpatient adolescent psychiatrist, I see the most severe cases. Oftentimes, the overly-involved parents have been impeding the development of autonomy in their child for years. The child comes to the hospital anxious and depressed but doesn’t have the tools to make a change. So the parents become even more involved, and the child becomes more dependent and emotionally stunted. It’s a vicious cycle laced with the best intentions.

I try to help these adolescents become more well-adjusted adults by teaching them how to develop an authentic identity that is separate from their parents. I encourage them not to slip into the victim role and blame their parents and the world, because that is both counterproductive and psychologically harmful. If they can be open to taking responsibility for their choices and are willing to develop insight into their strengths and limitations, they will be on the path to self-empowerment and confidence.

The Program Era: A cultural history looks at how word processing changed the way we write

Eric Banks:

I can’t remember the last time I used an electric typewriter. It most likely would have been in the course of typing out an address on an envelope—but then again, I can’t readily call to mind the last time I did that with anything other than that old-fashioned technology, the ballpoint pen, which itself is not really all that old school. The mass commercial distribution of the ballpoint pen in the United States dates only to about 1945, which means its triumphal appearance in the writing market occurred just under twenty years before that of the Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter, IBM’s radically rethought typewriting device. Released in 1964, the MT/ST was the first machine of its kind, equipped with a magnetic-tape memory component that allowed you to edit text before it was actually printed on the page. Corporations were considered the primary beneficiaries of the new technology, a wrinkle on the electric typewriter that arrived with considerable media enthusiasm. The makers of the MT/ST saw the contemporary office groaning under the weight of metastasizing paperwork and envisioned making money off companies hoping to streamline the costs of secretarial labor and increase productivity. Writers were something of an afterthought: Whatever effect IBM’s product would have on authors—high or low, commercial or experimental—was collateral.

Creativity Is Much More Than 10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice

Scott Barry Kaufman:

Creative products, by definition, are the antithesis of expertise. This is because creativity must be original, meaningful, and surprising. Original in the sense that the creator is rewarded for transcending expertise, and going beyond the standard repertoire. Meaningful in the sense that the creator must satisfy some utility function, or provide a new interpretation. This constantly raises the bar of what is considered useful, and puts immense pressure on creators to find new meanings. Finally, creative products must be surprising in that the original and meaningful creative product must be surprising not only to oneself, but to everyone. This is exactly how the United States Patent Office evaluates new applications. Original and meaningful ideas that could have been created by any expert in the field are considered “obvious” and are therefore unpatentable. Creative products– such as the discoveries of Galileo and Leeuwenhoek– are surprising to everyone, novices and experts alike.

School tells A-level students to wear target grades around their necks

Danny Boyle:

A-level students have been told to wear their target grades on ID cards around their necks, leading to pupils complaining of suffering from “unnecessary pressure”.

Sixth-formers at a Bedfordshire school have been given lanyards bearing their predicted exam marks, along with their names and photographs.

But pupils have described the scheme as “alienating” and “stressful”, with some teachers who do not approve of the move reportedly referring to the badges as “the noose”.

Some students at Sharnbrook Upper School, near Bedford, were so upset by the request that they began crossing out their target grades, which are based on their GCSE results.

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While similar services exist, they restrict users in what they can search for (only offline tutors or just online courses or just academic subjects) and are mostly listing based services where they charge tutors to list their names. We want to keep it free for the users, including people who list as a teacher, and earn through advertising, affiliate marketing.

We already have a working product at www.tutorack.com – however, it still needs a lot of data.

What Bill Bennett Got Wrong and Right About New York’s Opt-Out Movement and Teacher Unions

Laura Waters:

Today at The 74 Bill Bennett suggests that the opt-out movement in New York is driven solely by teacher union leaders and allies who have spent millions of dollars on robocalls, emails, forums, and other tactics. Their motivation to increase test refusals this year is engineered to undermine “tough, high-quality standardized exams” that “will hold their members accountable and make the possibility of grade inflation more difficult.” It’s “a move by teachers unions and far-left policy leaders to completely abolish any serious accountability within student assessments.”

Certainly, the union campaign to eliminate links between student outcomes on benchmarked tests and teacher evaluations is a major driver in New York. But it’s not the only one, nor the only reason why this year’s opt-out rates appear as high as last year’s, at least in white suburbs. (Best estimates, still preliminary, are that students are opting out in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties at about the same rate as last year while other regions — school districts around Rochester and Albany, for example — are showing lower rates. Minority and lower-class students throughout the state are mostly opting in.)

Haunting chalkboard drawings, frozen in time for 100 years, discovered in Oklahoma school

Elahe Izadi:

Teachers and students scribbled the lessons — multiplication tables, pilgrim history, how to be clean — nearly 100 years ago. And they haven’t been touched since.

This week, contractors removing old chalkboards at Emerson High School in Oklahoma City made a startling discovery: Underneath them rested another set of chalkboards, untouched since 1917.

“The penmanship blows me away, because you don’t see a lot of that anymore,” Emerson High School Principal Sherry Kishore told the Oklahoman. “Some of the handwriting in some of these rooms is beautiful.”

University students are struggling to read entire books

Rachel Pells

Students have reacted to claims from university professors that they struggle to read books from cover to cover by admitting it is true – but insisting it’s because universities don’t give them enough time to finish them.

University academics caused a furore this week by claiming many students found the thought of reading books all the way to the end “daunting”, due to shorter attention spans and an inability to focus on complex philosophies.

Jenny Pickerill, a professor in environmental geography at the University of Sheffield, told Times Higher Education magazine: “Students struggle with set texts, saying the language or concepts are too hard”.

Randi, We Don’t Need a Photo-Op, We Need Better Schools

Sharif El-Mekki:

Recently, Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite announced that North Philadelphia school E.W. Rhodes Elementary would be among four schools undergoing a district-run turnaround plan—requiring staff to reapply for their jobs, with only half able to remain.

In opposition, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, stood with other union leaders and politicians in defense of this persistently failing school. After an hour-long tour of the school Weingarten had this to say:


No pressure: NSF test finds eliminating deadlines halves number of grant proposals

Eric Hand:

Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, has struggled with the logistics of evaluating a rising number of grant proposals that has propelled funding rates to historic lows. Annual or semiannual grant deadlines lead to enormous spikes in submissions, which in turn cause headaches for the program managers who have to organize merit review panels. Now, one piece of the agency has found a potentially powerful new tool to flatten the spikes and cut the number of proposals: It can simply eliminate deadlines.

This week, at an NSF geosciences advisory committee meeting, Assistant Director for Geosciences Roger Wakimoto revealed the preliminary results from a pilot program that got rid of grant proposal deadlines in favor of an anytime submission. The numbers were staggering. Across four grant programs, proposals dropped by 59% after deadlines were eliminated. “We’ve found something that many programs around the foundation can use,” Wakimoto told the advisory committee on 13 April.

Do Cheaters Ever Prosper? A Lesson From N.Y. Student Tests

Jeffrey Sparshott:

anything good come of cheating?

A 2011 analysis by The Wall Street Journal showed a bulge in New York City students’ test scores right over the passing mark. The evidence strongly suggested teachers were manipulating grades on statewide Regents Exams and helped spur changes to testing procedures.

Thomas Dee, a professor at Stanford University, updated the numbers from the initial analysis after the state took steps to eliminate grade inflation. The findings: Teachers who manipulated scores appear to have been motivated by altruism, score manipulation was eliminated by 2012, and the graduation gap between black and white students is about 5% larger in its absence.