America’s K-12 Climate

Neerav Kingsland:

Not that America needs anything greater than a picture of a flag with *both* an eagle and some unnamed founding document superimposed across it.

But in case you’re hungry for more goodness, one of the great parts of my job is I get to travel the country and see innovative work, much of which doesn’t get a lot of national press.

So here’s some highlights, most of which are early stage, none of which are proven, but all of which give me a lot of hope.

Innovation Schools in Indianapolis

Indianapolis has built broad community support for a model that gives great educators autonomy, allow for new school entrepreneurship, and, perhaps most importantly, provides non-profit governance – all within a district construct that is still accountable to a publicly elected school board.

I once wrote a parable about this re: blacksmiths. What’s happening in Indianapolis is even better. This could be a breakthrough in both school site governance (a non-charter path for sustained entrepreneurship and autonomy) and system level governance (how a district reinvents itself as a public steward of great schools).

Don’t expect less of low-income minority students and their families

Esther Cepeda

We’ve heard for years that when it comes to African-Americans, Hispanics and low-income minority communities in general, expectations for academic achievement are low.

Indeed, the Center for American Progress found in 2014 that 10th-grade teachers thought African-American students were 47 percent, and Hispanic students were 42 percent, less likely to graduate college than white students.

But parents and families of these students disagree. They want public schools to be rigorous and to set high expectations for their children.

According to a new nationwide survey conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund on the attitudes and aspirations of African-American and Hispanic parents — who were interviewed in person and via landline and cellphone, in both English and Spanish — a third of African-Americans and a quarter of Latinos do not believe that the nation’s schools are really trying to educate low-income students in their communities.

This belief goes hand in hand with these parents’ certainty that their students should be challenged more in school than they currently are to help ensure they are successful later in life.

This could be a potentially groundbreaking insight if we can get it into the heads of teachers.

You see, educators insist they have a particularly difficult time teaching low-income and minority students because these kids tend to show up in classrooms lacking the fundamentals of a stable home — reliable schedules, quiet places to study, nutritious meals, enough sleep, the ability to control impulses — that set them up for success in the classroom

If a child doesn’t do homework and does not participate constructively in class or show the adults in school respect — perhaps because the child does not have the basic routines and resources a college-educated teacher might expect at home — it becomes easy for teachers to believe that his or her parent must not care about the child’s education.

According to Wade Henderson, the Education Fund’s president, not only are minority parents (which his group calls “new majority parents,” since students of color are the new majority in schools) highly interested in their children’s education, they are “a sophisticated group of respondents who are savvy consumers of public education, want more funding for schools and more rigor for their kids.”

Interestingly, though one might have expected such a survey to confirm that African-American and Hispanic parents prioritize racial issues at school — due to news headlines about violence in schools and the school-to-prison pipeline — the parents who responded actually listed good teachers as the No. 1 important quality, by far, of a great school. Good core curricula and parental involvement rounded out the top three.

Not to say that diversity is completely unimportant to these families — it is in the eighth spot on a list of nine factors for ensuring great schools — but it certainly takes a back seat to the same qualities that white parents expect from their schools: adequate funding, low class size and high standards.

A full 90 percent of both African-American and Latino parents said that they believe expectations for low-income students should be either the same or higher than those of other students.

And both minority groups take personal responsibility quite seriously, saying that when low-income students succeed, it is mostly because of the support they receive at home. Their student’s own hard work is seen as the next biggest reason, while few parents cited schools as the driving factor in a low-income student’s success.

This is, potentially, a revelation for school systems, administrators and teachers who have for years equated poor educational outcomes for students with a lax attitude at home about academic potential.

If the results of this survey truly reflect the mindset of minority parents, then it bodes well for schools to partner with them. After all, education leaders are always talking about how crucial parents are to the task of catalyzing changes necessary to ensure low-income community schools meet their academic potential.

At a bare minimum, these findings should provide education policymakers a new lens through which to view low-income and minority students: Don’t underestimate them — and don’t expect less of their parents and families, either.

If schools endeavor to push these kids harder and expect them to achieve on par with their white peers, they are likely to find that parents, too, will rise to the challenge of helping their students succeed.

Continue reading Don’t expect less of low-income minority students and their families

Norway’s Barnevernet: They took our four children… then the baby

Tim Whewell:

The case of a young couple in Norway whose five children were taken away by the state has fuelled mounting concern within the country and abroad over its child protection practices. Protesters around the world – and leading Norwegian professionals – say social workers are often too quick to separate children from their families, with too little justification, particularly when parents are immigrants.

Ruth and Marius’s life was torn apart without warning one Monday afternoon last November when two black cars approached the farm where they live in a remote Norwegian valley.

Their two little boys, aged five and two, and their three-month-old baby son, were in their big, bright, modern living room overlooking the steel-grey fjord.
Ruth was waiting as usual for the school bus that would bring back their two daughters, aged eight and 10.

Norway view
But that Monday, it never came. Instead, Ruth saw the two unknown cars. One continued along the main road; the other turned up the farm track – and a woman from the local child protection service knocked at the door.

She told Ruth to come to the police station for interrogation.

We know best” is hardly perfect.

Urban Day School’s honorable end closes a Milwaukee story

Alan Borsuk:

So many schools have come and gone from the Milwaukee scene. For many, their departure was more of a public service than their opening.

The Urban Day School story is different. The school is a significant and honorable part of Milwaukee history. For many, including me, feelings about its impending departure include a strong element of sadness.

About 10 days ago, school leaders announced Urban Day would close at the end of this school year. By the end of last week, it was not resolved what was really going to happen at the building at W. Vliet and N. 24th streets, the school’s principal facility, after June. At least one school organization and possibly more are considering taking over in a way that could be seen as carrying on the mission of Urban Day.

LA unions call for exemption from $15 minimum wage they fought for

Jana Kasperkevic

Los Angeles city council will hear a proposal on Tuesday to exempt union members from a $15 an hour minimum wage that the unions themselves have spent years fighting for.

The proposal for the exemption was first introduced last year, after the Los Angeles city council passed a bill that would see the city’s minimum wage increase to $15 by 2020. After drawing criticism last year, the proposed amendment was put on hold but is now up for consideration once again.

Union leaders argue the amendment would give businesses and unions the freedom to negotiate better agreements, which might include lower wages but could make up the difference in other benefits such as healthcare. They argue that such exemptions might make businesses more open to unionization.

MPS says mandated sale of vacant buildings will hurt reform efforts

Annysa Johnson:

The city’s decision to move forward with the state-mandated sale of vacant or surplus Milwaukee Public School buildings to competing operators will hinder the district’s own reform efforts and its ability to serve returning students when private voucher and charter schools go belly-up, an MPS spokesman said Saturday.

The common council on Friday — acting under a threat of a lawsuit by school choice proponents — set the stage for the sale of as many as seven buildings, under a procedure dictated by a new state law.

“We are disappointed and concerned that this latest development may limit our ability to continue to grow programs with a track record of success that families in our community are seeking,” MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia said in an email to the Journal Sentinel.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative public interest law firm that had threatened to sue the city if it did not comply with the statute, issued a statement lauding the vote.

Health concerns over tire-filled turf have some parks, schools seeking substitute

John Keilman:

Rain had fallen steadily for hours, the kind of shower that turns grass fields to mush and forces young athletes to take the day off. But there they were, a squad of 9- and 10-year-old Oak Park soccer players practicing their skills on a damp but playable surface made of plastic and rubber.

“I got here and was super excited because any other field, there would be standing water,” said Todd Hover, the team’s coach.

Rain-or-shine playability is a big reason why thousands of schools and park districts around the country have turned to artificial turf, but increasingly, some parents worry that the convenience has come with a trade-off.

Smart Kids Should Skip High School

Sonya Ellen Man:

Skipping college is almost middle-class mainstream at this point. For example, not graduating is an oddly inverted rite of passage in the world of tech startups. Of course, working-class people have been going straight from high school to full-time jobs forever. For as long as there have been universities, educated middle-class or wealthy parents — who are disproportionately white and otherwise privileged — have looked down their noses at the less-rich “unwashed masses”.

However, lacking a bachelor’s degree doesn’t incur the same amount of disapproval as being a high-school dropout. Dropping out of high school is like getting an MFA — it guarantees you’ll end up at McDonald’s (if you can believe the snide, faux-pitying comments). Unlike skipping college, dropping out of high school is reserved for losers and astonishing child geniuses who get admitted to Stanford at twelve. If you can believe the widespread perception.

A Question of Privilege

Marti Leimbac:

I don’t know what it would be like to grow up in a derelict building in a dangerous neighbourhood, to have drug addicts for parents, to fear for my safety Nonetheless, this whole notion of “privilege” vexes me.

We talk about it as though we can all recognise what it is. I am not always so sure. I can tell one narrative of my life and it seems to describe someone who grew up without privilege, and I can tell another narrative and it seems almost as though my life was one of ease and privilege from the time I was born.

Worthless degrees: graduates earn less than school-leavers

Greg Hurst:

Men who studied at any of 23 of the lowest-performing British universities went on to earn less than those who did not enter further education, research has revealed.

The findings will fuel debate about the cost to the taxpayer of universities with the worst employment records, because a large proportion of graduates do not repay their student loans.

The study, the first to match tax data with student loan records, also highlighted the big differences in earnings of graduates depending on their choice of degree.

How Wall Street Profits From Student Debt

Raul Carrillo:

As the presidential primaries rumble on, the candidates — especially Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton — have debated college affordability and Wall Street greed. Unfortunately, no one is confronting the links between the two.

More than 40 million Americans have student debt, totaling at least $1.2 trillion. On average, borrowers out of school owe $36,000, with a monthly payment of $680. Roughly 11 percent of borrowers are in default. Overall, indebtedness discourages people from starting degrees, families and businesses, dragging everyone down.

Or almost everyone. One person’s debt is another person’s asset. What some owe, others own. And student debtors don’t just cut checks to lenders. Our money flows to third parties — including investors.

One rarely discussed feature of the “student loan industrial complex” is the $200 billion market for student loan asset-backed securities (SLABS). This is a circular business, involving lenders like Sallie Mae and big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Like mortgages, student loans get pooled and repackaged into new financial products (securities). The lenders then sell the securities to investors. Investors receive the reward of monthly loan payments, plus interest. They can hold the securities themselves, trade them or bet on them. In turn, lenders receive quick cash, including fees and commissions, and push the risk of the underlying loans onto investors. This shift allows lenders to make more, and larger, loans.

The most famous book set in every state

Melia Robinson:

Whether you come from the California coastline or the snowy forests of Maine, reading a book set in your home state can make you feel a warm nostalgia for that beloved place.

After scouring the internet and surveying our colleagues on their picks, we rounded up the most famous book set in every state in America.

Did we get your state right? Let us know in the comments if you have another pick.

UC Davis paid $175,000 or more to scrub police pepper spray incident from web searches

Xeni Jardin:

Looks like the geniuses who run UC Davis never Googled the words “Streisand Effect.”

After a police officer pepper-sprayed UC Davis students in a widely reported 2011 incident, the California university contracted with SEO consultants for $175,000 (or maybe more) to scrub unfavorable online items about the incident and boost online reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

The Sacramento Bee reported on the SEO scandal, and based their story on documents newly released in response to requests filed last month under the California Public Records Act.

In January 2013, UC Davis contracted a Maryland firm, Nevins & Associates, for a six-month contract that paid $15,000 a month. Nevins was the first of many “reputation management firms” paid off by the university administrators. And that payment was just the start.

Glitches During STAAR Testing Don’t Bode Well For Texas’s New Test Vendor

Doyin Oyeniyi:

Tests can already induce anxiety in students, especially one they need to pass in order to graduate. That’s when testing administration errors are the least welcome, but last week during the administration of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, answers on 14,220 of the tests across the state were lost due to a computer glitch.

The affected students—who’d been inactive for 30 minutes, who’d momentarily lost internet connection, or who’d logged out to take a break—tried to submit online tests, they would instead receive an error message, only to log back in to find that their answers were missing. Additionally, some visually impaired students, who had also been prepared to take their braille STAAR tests last week, never got a chance to take the tests because their tests never arrived.

The Texas Education Agency is investigating both of these mishaps. For districts where students lost the answers, TEA announced that individual districts could determine for themselves whether students needed to retake the exam. The agency also ensured “that there are no adverse consequences for students who do not resume testing and for districts that elect not to have students resume testing.” TEA emailed an apology to families of visually impaired students who never received their tests:

Pepper-sprayed students outraged as UC Davis tried to scrub incident from web

Anita Chabria:

Students pepper-sprayed by campus police at the University of California at Davis have reacted in anger at the “vastly inappropriate” and “insulting” decision by their university to contract firms to systematically scrub mentions of the story on the internet.

The university is being accused of censorship after quietly seeking to hide web references to a widely reported incident in which police sprayed student activists from the then-nascent Occupy movement four years ago.

The photograph and video went viral across the world, prompting a major backlash against the California university and its chancellor Linda PB Katehi, who was accused of using heavy-handed tactics against peaceful activists Students are once again calling for Katehi’s resignation.

What It’s Like to ‘Wake Up’ From Autism

Alexa Tsoulis-Reay:

For a long time, it was thought that people with autism spectrum disorder lacked emotion, that even the higher-functioning among them navigated the world like logical robots oblivious to “real” feelings. More recently, research has shown their social issues are more likely to stem from difficulty expressing emotion or reading the emotions of others.

Though he wasn’t diagnosed with autism until he was 40, John Elder Robison felt isolated and disconnected throughout his entire youth and early adulthood. But in 2008, at 50, he took part in what became a three-year research project looking at brain function in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and exploring the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to help them.

High School Shames Student for Writing Politically Incorrect Essay It Knew Was Satire

Robby Soave:

A Maryland high school student who obeyed the parameters of the assignment he was given is now facing widespread outrage because it wasn’t politically correct—even though the point of the assignment was to write something inflammatory.

Here’s a modest proposal: in order to protect students’ rights and encourage their imaginations, let’s murder all teachers and administrators. Of course, no one actually advocates such a policy (not even me—keep it civil, commenters). It’s an idea inspired by satirist Jonathan Swift’s famous 18th century essay, “A Modest Proposal,” in which he jokingly suggested that poor Irish folk should sell their children to be eaten.

A growth engine for Africa: Training 1 million young people in digital skills


Chebet Mutai from Nairobi, Kenya had little digital knowledge when she attended a “Women, Technology & Entrepreneurship” event run by Google in 2012. But the stories she heard and skills she learned there inspired her to quit her job at a bank and pursue her dream of opening a fashion business. She used her savings to buy two sewing machines and rent workshop space, and she set up a business making leather bags and accessories. Today, her company Wazawazi (a combination of two Swahili words meaning “open mindedness”) employs 12 people at a fair wage, exports to countries around the world, and continues to grow.

Teacher Tenure Is Challenged Again in a Minnesota Lawsuit

Motoko Rich:

Opening a new front in the assault on teacher tenure, a group of parents backed by wealthy philanthropists served notice to defendants on Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s job protections for teachers, as well as the state’s rules governing which teachers are laid off as a result of budget cuts.

Similar to cases in California and New York, the plaintiffs, who are filing the lawsuit in district court in Ramsey County in St. Paul, argue that the state’s tenure and layoff laws disproportionately harm poor, minority children because, they say, the most ineffective teachers are more likely to be assigned to public schools with high concentrations of those children.

In the lawsuit, parents of children in public schools across Minnesota argue that the state’s tenure laws, which grant teachers job protections after three years on the job, deprive students of “their fundamental right to a thorough and efficient education” under the state’s Constitution. The suit also argues that state laws that protect the most veteran teachers in the event of layoffs can result in better teachers losing their jobs simply because they have fewer years in the classroom.

What do grad students in math do all day?

Yasha Berchenko-Kogan:

A lot of math grad school is reading books and papers and trying to understand what’s going on. The difficulty is that reading math is not like reading a mystery thriller, and it’s not even like reading a history book or a New York Times article.

The main issue is that, by the time you get to the frontiers of math, the words to describe the concepts don’t really exist yet. Communicating these ideas is a bit like trying to explain a vacuum cleaner to someone who has never seen one, except you’re only allowed to use words that are four letters long or shorter.

Do you live in a bubble? A quiz

PBS Newshour:

Do you live in a bubble?

There exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average white American and American culture at large, argues Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author.

Take this 25-question quiz, based on a similar one published in Murray’s 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010,” to find out just how thick your bubble is.

five issues in higher ed that are begging for organizational sociology

Our new volume of RSO on “The University under Pressure” is now out in hard copy (electronic version here). Which prompted this post about the five areas where I think organizational sociology can really help us understand the current transformation of higher education.

Historically, the sociology of education, including higher education, has focused on stratification and social mobility. There’s lots of quantitative work on how social background (mostly class and race) affect whether students get to college, what happens once they’re there, and whether they finish. This is counterbalanced with qualitative work, often focused on cultural capital, that looks at how college mostly reproduces existing advantages.

In the last ten years, though, a growing body of work has emerged that looks at U.S. higher education through an organizational lens. There have always been specific examples of such research—e.g. Brint and Karabel’s The Diverted Dream (1990), on community colleges. But we can now point to scholarship from Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, Mike Bastedo, Amy Binder and Kate Wood, Joe Hermanowicz, Ozan Jaquette, Matt Kraatz, Lauren Rivera, Sheila Slaughter and her collaborators, Mike Sauder and Wendy Espeland, Mitchell Stevens, Gaye Tuchman, Melissa Wooten, not to mention myself or orgtheory’s own Fabio Rojas, that draw on organizational sociology to understand higher education—and this is hardly an exhaustive list.

And much more is in the pipeline. At Berkeley, Charlie Eaton and others are studying the financialization of higher education. Tressie McMillan Cottom’s widely awaited book on the for-profit sector will be out in a few months.

Dismantling neoliberal education: a lesson from the Zapatistas

Levi Gahman:

The story of the Zapatistas is one of dignity, outrage, and grit. It is an enduring saga of over 500 years of resistance to the attempted conquest of the land and lives of indigenous peasants. It is nothing less than a revolutionary and poetic account of hope, insurgency and liberation—a movement characterized as much by adversity and anguish, as it is by laughter and dancing.

More precisely, the ongoing chronicles of the Zapatista insurrection provide a dramatic account of how indigenous people have defied the imposition of state violence, oppressive gender roles and capitalist plunder. And for people of the Ch’ol, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Tojolabal, Mam and Zoque communities in Chiapas, Mexico who make the decision to become Zapatista, it is a story reborn, revitalized and re-learned each new day, with each new step.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Despite collecting record revenues ($1.46T), government still runs $461 billion deficit

Ali Meyer

Inflation-adjusted federal tax revenues hit a record $1.48 trillion for the first half of fiscal year 2016, but the federal government still ran a $461 billion deficit during that time, according to the latest monthly Treasury Department statement.

Treasury receipts include tax revenue from individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, social insurance and retirement taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, customs duties, and other miscellaneous items.

In the first half of fiscal 2016, which included the months of October, November, December, January, February, and March, the amount of taxes collected by the federal government outpaced the first half of all previous fiscal years, even after adjusting for inflation. The 2016 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2015, and runs through Sept. 30, 2016.

The federal government collected $1,476,218,000,000 in the first half of fiscal year 2016. Most of the $1.48 trillion came from individual income taxes, which comprised almost half of that total, totaling $675 billion.

Related: US Debt Clock.

The Rare District That Recognizes Gifted Latino Students

Claudio Sanchez:

back in school, bored to death, with limited academic options. Because you’re learning English, everybody assumes you’re not ready for more challenging work. What they don’t realize is that you’re gifted.

Researchers say this happens to lots of gifted children who arrive at school speaking little or no English. These students go unnoticed, until someone taps into their remarkable talent and potential. Vanessa Minero Leon was lucky. She was one of those students who got noticed.


Private tutor app by Vietnamese developer goes viral in US

Talk Vietnam:

“Users can raise detailed questions in English on GotIt! via their smartphones,” Dr. Tran Viet Hung, the brain behind the application, explained. “Once the question has been loaded onto the network, the system will automatically connect the user with an available study expert in the field related to the question in just under ten seconds using our algorithm. The most suitable expert will ‘claim’ the user and spend around ten minutes talking with them to guide them through the problem.”

Are Charter Schools a Cause of — or a Solution to — Segregation?

Matt Barnum:

promise of Brooklyn Prospect Charter, which is using the model of school choice to break down neighborhood barriers and foster a more diverse student body.

But such an approach faces skeptics on both sides. On the one hand critics of charter schools say that far from advancing integration, they are a source of segregation. On the other hand, some advocates of school choice say that the model should stay focused on empowering parents and advancing student achievement — not integrating schools. Research on the issue is mixed, but past studies suggest that charter schools may exacerbate previously existing segregation within a district.

The new question in Brooklyn and beyond is whether integrated charter schools can successfully combine the benefits of parent choice with effective, high quality programs that would appeal to families of all backgrounds? If so, then they might manage something that has eluded much of the charter and traditional public school sector for decades — integration.

Deliberately diverse

Why Obama (taxpayers) is forgiving the student loans of nearly 400,000 people

Jillian Berman:

If every borrower identified by the Department decides to have his or her debt forgiven, the government will end up discharging more than $7.7 billion in debt, according to the Department.

“Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief,” Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary of education, said in a statement. “And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.”

About 179,000 of the borrowers identified by the Department are in default on their student loans, and of that group more than 100,000 are at risk of having their tax refunds or Social Security checks garnished to pay off the debt. Often borrowers losing out on these benefits aren’t even aware that they’re eligible for a disability discharge, said Persis Yu, the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center.

Related: US debt clock.

Under Salovey, Yale Corporation gains influence

David Shimer

For more than seven months, the 17 members of the Yale Corporation, including Salovey, who chairs each of the body’s meetings, have been deliberating whether to rename Calhoun and eliminate the title of master. They have not yet announced a decision. The Corporation has also been debating what to name the two new residential colleges. This decision has not been reached either.

In November, student activists demanded that Salovey address these issues within days. But for such unusual and significant items, who makes the actual decision: the president or the Corporation as a whole?

To the surprise of former University leaders dating back 60 years, the answer now seems to be the Corporation.

Interviews with Corporation members, former University President Richard Levin and various current and former administrators reveal that past presidents did not see the Corporation as a body that could or should make these types of decisions. Rather, they viewed the Corporation as a feedback mechanism that always accepted presidential recommendations — including on nonroutine issues like these three.

The Management Model Driving UW System Governance

Michael Meranze & Christopher Newfield:

Regent Behling should be saying, “quality, quality, quality,” to keep himself and other Wisconsin leaders from steadily slashing the infrastructure that would allow the state to regain its lost leadership status. Instead, he and the board majority went with the capacity to override tenure. Some large portion of Wisconsin leadership has spent years obsessing about UW tenure as a main roadblock to economic greatness. No evidence has ever been presented for this–no calculation of how expensive sociology professors are impeding the growth of contract manufacturing. It’s a political goal and a cultural belief–in much of U.S. business culture, the power to fire people makes everything fixable. “Flexibility” started out in the 1970s as a desperation move as US industry lost its postwar lead over Germany, Japan, and other rebuilt industrial powers. In the 1980s, management theorists like Tom Peters and Rosabeth Moss Kanter showed that mass layoffs destroyed company value rather than created it, but short-term executive rewards ran against them, and mass layoffs became a routine practice and sure-fire way of doping the stock price. “Flexibility” has nothing to do with improving education. It’s imposition has already damaged education, and its practice will continue to.

Management Bloat at UC – How Big is it? Where is it? Why is it?

Charles Schwartz:

Previous studies are extended to show a 24-year history of runaway growth in Management personnel throughout the University of California. The newest data also let us detail the location of those supervisory positions on each campus and within each budget category.

In Section I, “The Data”, we first look at the summary data that shows a 308% growth in Management personnel while total employment grew by only 62%. Then, more detailed data show that broad classification of Management positions broken down into major sub-categories – Executives, Senior Professionals, and “Middle Management” – as well as separated into the Health Sciences and the General Campus sectors of the University. Finally, we can look at individual campuses and locate the employment statistics according to the Functional categories – Instruction, Research, Student Services, Institutional Support, etc. – that provide the budget for those positions. This lets us see where responsibility for the apparent excess of Management may be laid: 19% at the Faculty in the academic Departments, 14% at the Deans of the Schools and Colleges, and 67% at the upper Administrators on the campuses.

In Section II, “Past Questions and Answers”, we note previous attempts to get the systemwide administrators of the University to pay attention to this data and to explain why this apparent bloat is not a huge waste of resources – estimated as costing around $1 Billion per year. Their latest ploy is to redefine the issue in question as growth of “administration” rather than growth of “management”; and then they can gather data to show that there is no bloat at all.

In Section III, “New Opportunities for Investigation”, we suggest how this new data may be used constructively.

School Closures: A Blunt Instrument

Rachel Cohen:

In 2013, citing a $1.4 billion deficit, Philadelphia’s state-run school commission voted to close 23 schools—nearly 10 percent of the city’s stock. The decision came after a three-hour meeting at district headquarters, where 500 community members protested outside and 19 were arrested for trying to block district officials from casting their votes. Amid the fiscal pressure from state budget cuts, declining student enrollment, charter-school growth, and federal incentives to shut down low-performing schools, the district assured the public that closures would help put the city back on track toward financial stability.

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

Education, Income And Longevity

Angus Deaton:

The finding that income predicts mortality has a long history. Nineteenth-century studies include Villermé1 on Paris, France, in 1817, Engels2 on Manchester, England, in 1850, and Virchow3 on Upper Silesia in 1847 through 1848. Modern analyses include the Whitehall study of British civil servants, whose status was measured by income,4 as well as similar findings for other European countries.5 Indeed, the mortality gradient by income is found wherever and whenever it is sought. Virchow’s statement3,6 that “medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing but medicine at a larger scale” has lost none of its resonance. By contrast, the medical mainstream, looking back to Koch rather than Virchow, emphasizes biology, genetic factors, specific diseases, individual behavior, health care, and health insurance.

St. Augustine school lines up big name partners to promote key fields

Annysa Johnson:

amirez, whose family foundation has committed up to $70 million to develop St. Augustine Preparatory Academy over the next decade, unveiled the final plans for the school at a reception Tuesday at Discovery World.

Marquette, MSOE and Wheaton Franciscan, Ramirez said, would help develop health-care and engineering programs designed to give St. Augustine students a leg up in those industries.

Paul’s Online Math Notes


gotten the notes/tutorials for my Algebra (Math 1314), Calculus I (Math 2413), Calculus II (Math 2414), Calculus III (Math 3435) and Differential Equations (Math 3301) class online. I’ve also got a couple of Review/Extras available as well. Among the reviews/extras that I’ve got are an Algebra/Trig review for my Calculus Students, a Complex Number primer, a set of Common Math Errors, and some tips on How to Study Math.

I’ve made most of the pages on this site available for download as well. These downloadable versions are in pdf format. Each subject on this site is available as a complete download and in the case of very large documents I’ve also split them up into smaller portions that mostly correspond to each of the individual topics. Near the top of each page you will see one or two download buttons depending on whether the subject is available as only as a complete document or is also available in pieces. You can see a complete listing of all the available downloads by selecting the Downloads option in the menu.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Raising Taxes Reduces Revenue

Dale Kurschner

Two actions and one inaction by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 led to the “last straw” for many wealthier Minnesotans.

That year, Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL House and Senate majorities enacted a tax bill increasing by 25% the taxes to be paid by the state’s highest wage earners—and lowered the threshold of “highest” to individuals making $154,950 or more annually or households making $258,260 or more annually.

The new top rate of 9.85% ranks as the third-highest such tax in the nation. It also hit many of the state’s 22,000 Subchapter S corporations, as their profits are passed through to their owners’ tax returns. In comparison, Florida has no income tax (nor do South Dakota, Texas, Nevada and three other states). Florida also has no tax on pension or Social Security benefits.

The second action was the enactment of a gift tax, one of only two such state gift taxes in the country. The tax was on the transfer of property by one individual to another while receiving nothing or less than full value in return. It was 10% on such gifts in excess of a lifetime total of $1 million made by Minnesota residents—and non-residents who owned property in Minnesota. There was such an uproar the Legislature repealed the gift tax a year later.

The inaction in 2013 pertains to the estate tax. That year, Congress approved an exemption amount of $5 million, indexed to inflation (so in 2016 it is $5.45 million per individual or $10.9 million for a married couple) on federal estate taxes. If the estate is below this level when the individual dies, heirs pay zero estate tax. If it’s over this amount, the estate can be taxed up to 40%.

Minnesota is one of 14 states that still have an estate tax (which dates from a time when the federal estate tax allowed a dollar-for-dollar credit for state estate taxes; this ended in 2001, and the majority of states repealed their estate taxes). Unlike the federal estate tax, Minnesota’s kicks in at more than $1 million in estate value (this will rise to $2 million by 2018) and is taxable at between 9% and 16%—on top of what’s paid in federal estate taxes.

These actions and inaction followed years of intensified auditing by the Department of Revenue of those who claim their domicile is in another state but still have a home here and visit often.

Wisconsin DPI Electronic Licensing – Start Early

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

The Department of Public Instruction receives 36,000 teacher license applications each year (initial and renewal applications). To help make this process more efficient, DPI created the Educator Licensing Online (ELO) System in December, 2013. DPI no longer accepts paper applications for license renewal; one must complete and submit the renewal application through this online system.
Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for a license renewal. If your license is set to expire on June 30 of this year, start collecting the required documentation early. You will need to provide information about the certifications currently held (they can all be renewed), and where and when you completed your certification (you can provide multiple IHEs). If you were licensed in 2004 or after, you must have your PDP reviewed and approved. Once that is accomplished, the District will provide that information directly to DPI.
If you are renewing your license through the completion of 6 university credits, have electronic (scanned) verification available, so it can be uploaded during the application process. All applicants will need to complete a Conduct and Competency Questionnaire and will need to scan and upload an Employment Verification form (#1613) signed by MMSD Human Resources. Using the new system the first time can be confusing and frustrating. Having all the information and/or materials you need, will help to make the application process go more smoothly.
A one-time, one-year license extension is possible. Failure to renew one’s license can be considered a severance of one’s teaching contract, and will be considered a resignation by the District.
Contact MTI for assistance or questions about your license renewal. For more information visit DPI’s ELO website:

Things They Don’t Teach You In School

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi:

There is a discrepancy between what the industry requires or expects from academia, and what schools and universities provide. There are some things that universities are not prepared or willing to teach students simply because it does not fall within their mission, and whether or not that is Right and Good is a topic for another day. The industry, on the other hand, makes the mistake of expecting universities to churn out “programmers”, ready to join the big machine and crank out code. But programming is but one aspect of all the many things that relate to “Computer Science”.

The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 1

Eric Fischl:

The current status quo of the art world is dysfunctional and unsustainable. Aspiring artists are indoctrinated into the belief that path for advancement lies through the minefield of dogma higher education has been reduced to.

The reality of the situation is that the assumptions and biases of the elitist academic approach probably did more to create and sustain the crisis of relevance the arts are undergoing than any other factor.

The Pillaging of America’s State Universities

Jonathan Cole:

According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ recently completed Lincoln Project report, between 2008 and 2013 states reduced financial support to top public research universities by close to 30 percent. At the same time, these states increased support of prisons by more than 130 percent. New York City’s budget office reported in 2013 that incarcerating a person in a state prison cost the city roughly $168,000 a year. California apparently does it on the cheap: It costs roughly $64,000 annually for each prisoner—a bit more than the cost of a year at an Ivy League university (average tuition is $50,000) and far more than at the University of California, Berkeley, ($13,000) or at CUNY ($8,000).

How A Car Engine Works

Jacob O’Neal:

Did you know that your car will take in 20,000 cubic feet of air to burn 20 gallons of fuel? That’s the equivalent of a 2,500 sq. ft. house! If your only experience with a car engine’s inner workings is “How much is that going to cost to fix?” this graphic is for you. Car engines are astoundingly awesome mechanical wonders. It’s time you learned more about the magic under the hood!

Bruce Arians says football is ‘being attacked’ by moms

Adam Stites:

“We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked, and we got to stop it at the grass roots,” Arians said at the “Arizona Cardinals High School Football Coaches Clinic” on Friday, according to Ed Cole of NBC Sports 1060 in Phoenix. “It’s the best game that’s ever been f——€” invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message; because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”

The message isn’t much different than one he delivered at league meetings in March when Arians told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that parents are “fools” if they won’t let their kids play football. But on Friday, he narrowed the scope from “parents” to “moms.”

Many of the NFL’s most prominent names, including Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Adrian Peterson, Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, have all said that they wouldn’t let their sons play football. LeBron James echoed the sentiment and even President Barack Obama told The New Yorker that if he had a son, he wouldn’t let him play pro football.

Reviving a Hollowed-Out High School

Kate Grossman:

High School on Chicago’s struggling West Side is a proud school with a bad reputation and too few students. It likely has just one more shot at survival.

Austin has hollowed out in recent years, as have dozens of similar schools across Chicago’s poor and mostly Latino and black neighborhoods. With 391 students, including just 57 freshmen across three academies in a building meant for nearly 1,700, Austin is one of 35 Chicago public high schools that are well under half full. Ten schools aren’t even a quarter full.

These schools face a set of woes that make a turnaround all but impossible. A citywide school-choice system leaves these mostly open-enrollment schools with some of Chicago’s most challenging and low-achieving students. Deeply strained budgets fueled by declining enrollment hurt staffing levels, teacher retention, and programming. Mix in a stubborn reputation for violence at many schools—unwarranted in the case of Austin and some others—and these schools are in a death spiral.

Real Estate Activity Around Madison Middle Schools

“I want to live in the Hamilton/Van Hise attendance area.” I’ve heard that statement many times over the years. I wondered how that desire might be reflected in real estate activity.

Tap for a larger view. xlsx version.

Happily, it’s easy to keep up with the market using the Bunbury, First Weber, Restaino or Shorewest apps. For the middle schools, I’ll use the First Weber app iOS Android. Next week, I plan to take a look at elementary schools using the Restaino app. I also hope to dive into property tax variation.

Tap the search link on your iPhone, iPad or Android with the First Weber app installed. You can then interact with the data and properties.

Black Hawk Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Cherokee Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Hamilton Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Jefferson Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

O’Keeffe Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Sennett Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Sherman Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Toki Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Whitehorse Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Madison’s median household income is $53,933 ($31,659 per capita).

Finally, Madison, via a 2015 referendum, is expanding Hamilton, its least diverse middle school.

** As always, much of the property information beneath these statistics is entered by humans. There may be an occasional mistake… 🙂

Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement


table below to compare New Orleans African-American students and economically disadvantages students against the same subgroups in other places across all subjects in grades 3-8, with the hope that looking across grades and varied proficiency differentials might illuminate trends.

It should be noted that New Orleans students used paper and pencil versions, so in later grades especially this might result in inflated NOLA results. But as the chart details, New Orleans did well in 3rd and 4th grade as well (where other states saw less scoring differentials based on test type).

Green cells indicate where New Orleans students outperformed their peers; red cells indicate where they underperformed their peers.The numbers in the cell are +/- differential rates for how other geographies scored compared to NOLA proficiency.

Meanwhile, Madison largely continues with more if the same.

Homeschooled with MIT courses at 5, accepted to MIT at 15

Laurie Everett:

Ahaan Rungta and his family moved from Calcutta, India, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2001, the same year MIT announced OpenCourseWare (OCW), a bold plan to publish all of MIT’s course materials online and to share them with the world for free. Little did his parents realize at the time that their two-year-old son — already an avid reader — would eventually acquire his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, and would be admitted to the MIT class of 2019 at the age of 15.

“When I was five years old my mom told me ‘there’s this thing called OCW,’” says Rungta, who was homeschooled. “I just couldn’t believe how much material was available. From that moment on I spent the next few years taking OCW courses.”
When most kids are entering kindergarten, Rungta was studying physics and chemistry through OpenCourseWare. For Rungta’s mother, the biggest challenge to homeschooling her son was staying ahead of him, finding courses and materials to feed his insatiable mind.

Why Talented Black and Hispanic Students Can Go Undiscovered

Susan Dynarski, via a kind reader:

Public schools are increasingly filled with black and Hispanic students, but the children identified as “gifted” in those schools are overwhelmingly white and Asian.

The numbers are startling. Black third graders are half as likely as whites to be included in programs for the gifted, and the deficit is nearly as large for Hispanics, according to work by two Vanderbilt researchers, Jason Grissom and Christopher Redding.

New evidence indicates that schools have contributed to these disparities by underestimating the potential of black and Hispanic children. But that can change: When one large school district in Florida altered how it screened children, the number of black and Hispanic children identified as gifted doubled.

The Upside of Academic Tracking

Jill Barshay, via a kind reader:

Tracking, the practice of putting a small group of higher achieving students into separate advanced or honors classes, isn’t popular with progressive educators. Previous research has pointed out that it exacerbates inequality in our schools because higher income and white or Asian kids are more likely to get tracked into the elite classrooms. Students who aren’t chosen can become demoralized, or the curriculum in the average class can get too watered down. Great teachers and extra resources get steered to these honors programs, leaving the kids who need the most help with less. Researchers have sometimes found that lower-achieving kids are worse off in schools that track.

Charter High School Grads Persist in College, Earn Higher Salaries

Jamaal Abdul-Alim:

Specifically, the study found that charter high school attendance is associated with an increase of about $2,300 in maximum annual earnings for students between ages 23 and 25—or roughly 12 percent higher earnings than comparable students who attended a charter middle school but then switched to a regular public school for high school.

It also found that charter higher school students are six percentage points more likely to persist in college for two years, even after controlling for postsecondary enrollment. That’s significant, the study states, because most students who drop out of college do so during their freshman year, which means making it to the second year makes it more likely that students will earn a college degree and reap the economic benefits that go along with being a college graduate.

The study, which was published this week in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, is titled “Charter High Schools’ Effects on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings.”

Finding Teachers And Credentialism

Alan Borsuk:

She wrote in the book that she was convinced “that a large part of the answer to poor schooling in this country is to understand what strong preparation for teachers looks like and can do, and to undertake policy changes needed to ensure that all teachers can have access to such preparation.”

She told me that maybe a quarter of education schools in the U.S. had programs of that quality. Many are OK, but not at that level. And some should not be in the business. She said there should be minimum requirements for the quality of teacher education programs.

But, she added, “If there’s been a lot of teacher bashing, there’s been even more teacher education bashing.” Don’t count her in on that. Do count her in on standing up for teachers, for good teacher training and for supporting teachers so they have the most positive impact.

Related: National Council on Teacher Quality and a focus on adult employment.

Janet Mertz

The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.

Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher. As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don’t believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject. Our middle school foreign language teachers didn’t simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college. Why aren’t we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers? Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math? What happens when students ask questions that aren’t answered in the teachers’ manual? What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?

Kids Must Take the Bus or Be Driven Home No Matter How Close They Live

Free Range Kids:

principal of an elementary school in Magnolia, TX, has forbidden parents from picking up their kids to walk them home. No matter how close the children live to the school, they are required to take the bus or be picked up by car, Fox 26 in Houston is reporting.

If not, the local authorities are ready to enforce the rule with arrests for trespassing.

The ostensible reason for this step at Bear Branch Elementary is “safety.” It always is, right? What I couldn’t glean from the story is whether kids are allowed to leave the school, by foot, without a parent at all, which would eliminate the trespassing issue. In any event, that doesn’t seem to be the standard M.O. A video of the line of cars at pick-up time looked like a funeral cortege, solemnly inching forward.

Moving forward: Elie Bracy III’s first year as Portsmouth Public Schools Superintendent

Cherise M. Newsome:

Elie Bracy III wrapped up two business calls before strolling into Wilson High School recently. Someone’s always calling the school division superintendent: an administrator, a School Board member, a city official.

He slid the smartphone into his suit pants pocket as he approached the door, even though it kept buzzing. He had a lunchtime appointment with the school’s culinary classes.

Bracy hovered over a group of students searing chicken and creating a creamy mushroom sauce, and another mixing dough for cookies. Teacher Kathy Pitt nudged him to try his hand at baking.

Politicians, union leaders, and teachers blast school turnaround plans

Martha Woodall:

didn’t know the school was slated for essentially a destabilizing turnaround, you would never have known that by walking through the school,” Weingarten said after an hour-long tour of E.W. Rhodes Elementary School. “In fact, you would have said: ‘Wait a minute. This is a place where parents want to send their kids, where educators want to work, where the kids are engaged.’ ”

Rhodes, at 2900 W. Clearfield St., is one of four elementary schools Superintendent William R. Hite has targeted for district-run academic makeovers. Under the approach he outlined last month, staff will be required to reapply for their jobs; no more than half could remain.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and others have criticized the approach, saying drastic staff turnover is disruptive for students and the school community.

Student Loans With Future Work Collateral

Scott Cowley:

Purdue, in West Lafayette, Ind., has 30,000 undergraduate students. Indiana residents pay annual tuition fees of $10,000, while students from other states pay nearly $30,000. Its average graduate emerges owing $28,000.
The income-sharing program will offer terms based on students’ majors and the projected salaries in those fields. A comparison tool on Purdue’s website lets students estimate how their own offers might look.

A senior studying mechanical engineering, one of Purdue’s most popular majors, could get $15,000 in return for a commitment to pay 4.23 percent of his or her income for a bit less than eight years. Purdue estimates that the engineer would have a starting salary of about $56,000, and will be making monthly payments of $200. In that hypothetical situation, the student would eventually repay a total of $20,647.

But an English major can anticipate a starting salary of $34,000, by Purdue’s calculation. For that student, the school would offer a different package, which might require a higher percentage of income over a longer period.

Advocates of income-sharing agreements, sometimes called human capital contracts, see them as a way to spread risk and prevent students from being locked into dangerously high debt payments. “Affordability is built in,” said Robert M. Whelan Jr., the chief executive of 13th Avenue Funding, a nonprofit company that ran a small pilot test of the income-sharing model with 11 students in California in 2012 and 2013. “Student debt is a crisis, and this is an opportunity to approach it in a different way.”

School Is To Submit

Robin Hanson:

In his upcoming book, The Case Against Education, my colleague Bryan Caplan argues that school today, especially at the upper levels, functions mostly to help students signal intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity to modern workplace practices. He says we’d be better off if kids did this via early jobs, but sees us as having fallen into an unfortunate equilibrium wherein individuals who try that seem non-conformist. I agree with Bryan that, compared with the theory that older students mostly go to school to learn useful skills, signaling better explains the low usefulness of school subjects, low transfer to other tasks, low retention of what is taught, low interest in learning relative to credentials, big last-year-of-school gains, and student preferences for cancelled classes.

My main problem with Caplan’s story so far (he still has time to change his book) is the fact that centuries ago most young people did signal their abilities via jobs, and the school signaling system has slowly displaced that job signaling system. Pressures to conform to existing practices can’t explain this displacement of a previous practice by a new practice. So why did signaling via school did win out over signaling via early jobs?

Time to rethink traditional grading system

Colin Mulligan:

The main problem with a pass/fail system is its inability to distinguish one student from another. How would a graduate school differentiate the thousands of applicants if they all had the same grades? Well, perhaps these institutions should adapt more progressive acceptance policies as well. One education initiative created by the Harvard School of Education recommends that universities focus less on grades and more on students’ “concern for others and the common good.” Graduate institutions could still demarcate students by entrance exam scores, extracurricular activities, and social involvement without such heavy reliance on course grades.

6 ways good parents contribute to their child’s anxiety

Karen Banes:

Your child’s anxiety is not your fault, but it’s possible that some of the parenting practices you’re most proud of are actually making things worse.

Caring too much. When your child comes home from school with tales of mean girls, aggressive boys and insensitive teachers, you feel for her, and often you let it show, but maybe you shouldn’t. Our kids feed off our emotions and get more distressed when we’re distressed. When my daughter communicates her worries to me, only to have me start worrying too, it definitely makes things worse. She needs me to be strong, but instead I inadvertently send the message that anxiety is the ‘right’ reaction to her problems. Difficult though it is, we need to keep our own anxiety in check while sympathizing with theirs. We have to be the emotional rock: the person who understands, supports and (if asked) advises, without ever showing that their problems make us feel anxious too.

Our dangerous obsession with Harvard, Stanford and other elite universities

Jeffrey J. Selingo

It’s that time of year again, when high-school seniors receive their college acceptances and sift through financial-aid offers to pick the place where they are going to spend the next four years in college. It’s also the time when seemingly everyone involved in the college search process — from the media to school counselors — are obsessed with the admissions decisions Harvard and dozens of other selective colleges and universities have made.

Last week, Ben Casselman writing at and Frank Bruni in the New York Times, exposed the absurdity of our obsession with Harvard, Stanford, and the other colleges that reject most of their applicants. As Casselman rightly pointed out, just 4 percent of undergraduates in the U.S. attend institutions that accept 25 percent or less of their applicants, “and hardly any — well under 1 percent — attend schools like Harvard and Yale that accept less than 10 percent.”

Swiss anger at Muslim handshake exemption in Therwil school


A Swiss secondary school has caused uproar by allowing two Muslim boys not to shake hands with women teachers – a common greeting in Swiss schools.

The boys had told the school in the small, northern town of Therwil it was against their faith to touch a woman outside their family.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said shaking hands was part of Swiss culture and daily life.

A local teachers’ union said the exemption discriminated against women.

The case has propelled Therwil, a town of 10,000 people in the Basel-Country canton, to the centre of a national debate about Swiss identity. A similar case has been reported elsewhere in the region.

Christian Amsler, head of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education, suggested that the school may have tried to get an “unpleasant problem out of the way” but had simply made a mistake.

Low-income kids get straight A’s after joining basketball team in Minneapolis

Amy Hockert:

At the heart of our communities are people who go above and beyond to lift others up. Like on the courts at Phelps Parks Recreation Center in south Minneapolis, where a group of third grade boys are learning valuable lessons about basketball and life.

The ‘Phelps Falcons’

Shawn Williams first noticed the group of kids a few months ago as a teaching assistant at Best Academy in Minneapolis. He took time to see their potential, and then took them under his wing.

Responding to Ed Hughes

Dave Baskerville (7 April 2016)

Mr. Ed Hughes, Member, MMSD Board 4/7/16

Ed, I finally got around to reading your “Eight Lessons Learned” article in the 3/9/16 edition of CT. Interesting/thanks. As you know from our previous discussions, we have similar thinking on some of the MMSD challenges, not on others. For the sake of further dialogue and to continue your tutorial style (‘learned’, ‘not learned’) without my trying to be either facetious or presumptious., let me comment as follows:

LESSON ONE. “It’s Complicated”. Certainly agree, but not an excuse for catching up with the rest of the First World. Did you learn that? Challenges which you rightly say are ’multiyear and multipronged’ become far more complicated when there is not a clearcut, long term direction for a company or system. It seems that every responsible board of private/public or NGO institutions has that responsibility to the CEO (read Superintendant).

You talk of improvement (kaizen), but “better” for the status quo alone is not enough when we have been falling behind for several generations. What you apparently did not learn is that with our global rankings and radical changes in technology and the future world of work, serious transformation of our system is needed?

LESSON TWO. “No Silver Bullet”. There can be 1~3 long term goals, but agree, 426 WI school districts need to figure out in their own ways how to get there. (And where things are measured, they are more often done. Dare you provide, as 300 HSs around the country and 14 in WI have done, the PISA tests for all of our MSN 15 years olds. $15,000 per HS, and indeed, does that ever prod Supt’s, and citizens to set their goals long term and higher! And execute!)

LESSON THREE. “Schools Are Systems”. Agree with Gawande that “a system-wide approach with new skills, data-based, and the ability to implement at scale” is needed. Look at Mayo Clinic where my wife and I spend too much of our time! As you say, a significant cultural shift is required. But what you did not learn is what he said later: “Transformation must be led at the top”. That means clearly articulating for the CEO, staff and public the long term destination point for rigorous achievement and the quantitative means to measure. You did not learn that it does not mean getting involved in the vast HOW of ‘defining the efforts of everyone’, innovation, implementation and details. A good CEO and her team will handle all of that.

LESSON FOUR. “Progress Requires Broad Buy-in”. True. Yet, are you not as a Board getting way into the nitty gritty issues, while at the same time not having a clear long term goal with a Scorecard that not only educators can comprehend but all of us citizens? You did not learn that much of strategy and most all of tactics is not a Board’s prerogative to dwell in/muck around in. But the responsibility to articulate a few goals and a scorecard to vigorously monitor for the broader public is a critical constituency responsibility for the MMSD and the broader buy-in.

LESSON FIVE. “Buy-in can’t be bought”. Agree, many business values are not relevant in education.. But to me , what was not learned from the Zukerberg:Newark disaster was rather that you cannot transform a poorly performing system by simply pouring many more resources and monies into it and enabling/enhancing the status quo. (Believe now in San Francisco, Zuckerberg has learned that as well.)

LESSON SIX. “No substitute for Leadership”. Certainly. That’s why I give you folks a rough time! But your reference to a balance of ‘the best system’ and’ teacher /staff commitment’ is valid. Very much mutually needed for global achievement. And you certainly should be discussing those with Jen, as she sees fit.. But it’s not primarily your Board responsibilities. Again to repeat, by mucking around too much in those Supt. Management, and tactical areas and completely missing the long term, measurable goals/ direction, you have not learned the most critical Board role as I outlined in Lesson One above. In addition where management meets political or union road blocks to substantial progress towards those goals, boards must often step in.

And I would add in most institutions, charisma does not transfer. Milt McPike was a great leader that I’m sure considerably improved the achievement levels at East HS. But is not the Purgolders back to mediocre? If the MMSD Board would have had a transformed system with very clear long term goals for East with a PISA Scorecard that involved the public, I’m betting Milt’s accomplishments would be being built on. If we lose Jen in the next few years, I fear likewise. (Or better, you really challenge her with some 20 year global targets, get out of the way, and maybe she’ll stay with us that long.)

LESSON SEVEN. “Improvement Takes Time”. Of course. But you have simply not learned a sense of urgency. Finland, South Korea, Japan, Shanghai-China, etc….are not going to just watch and wait for 20 years our MMSD kids to catch up. They are all forthrightly after further improvement. Those countries unlike you MMSD Board Members really believe/expect their kids can be trained with the best in the world. Very high expectations! You look at where investment in the world is made…where in the USA millions of jobs lack needed skilled people….why over 65% of the UW-MSN doctoral/ post doc students in almost all of the critical science, engineering and math courses are non-Americans. You have not learned, ED, that a long term direction AND urgency must go together!

LESSON EIGHT. “Incremental progress is good progress”. Agree, lurching about in goals/system approach is not good. A “sustainable school…and coherent approach guided by a system-wide vision…” is good. But as said above, you’ve not learned that your ‘incremental progress’ is not enough! The MMSD approach essentially does not recognize the global job market our kids will walk into. Does not recognize that 20 years hence 65% of the careers now do not exist. ( So only major achievement/competency in the basics {MATH, Science, Reading} will provide some assurance of good work/salaries/further trainability during their lifetime.) That with todays transformation of technology, STEM and blue collar jobs as well as universties will definitely require those kinds of skills for social mobility and self-sufficiency.

That’s it for now. See you at the Club, give me a call if you wish to discuss further,
And either way, best regards,

Dave Baskerville (608-259-1233)

Much more on Ed Hughes, here.

Unfortunately, Madison’s monolithic, $17K+ per student system has long resisted improvement. We, as a community have tolerated disastrous reading results for decades, rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and astonishingly, are paying to expand our least diverse schools (Hamilton middle and Van Hise elementary) via a 2015 referendum….

Further reading, from 2005! When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.


Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.
When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:

Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved
This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:

Finally, a few of these topics arose during a recent school board member/candidate (all three ran unopposed this spring) forum. MP3 audio.

Change is hard and our children are paying a price, as Mr. Baskerville notes.

Civics: Trial and Error: Report Says Prosecutors Rarely Pay Price for Mistakes and Misconduct

Joaquin Sapien:

The Innocence Project released a report Tuesday alleging that prosecutors across the country are almost never punished when they withhold evidence or commit other forms of misconduct that land innocent people in prison.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal group that represents people seeking exonerations, examined records in Arizona, California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania, and interviewed a wide assortment of defense lawyers, prosecutors and legal experts.

In each state, researchers examined court rulings from 2004 through 2008 in which judges found that prosecutors had committed violations such as mischaracterizing evidence or suborning perjury. All told, the researchers discovered 660 findings of prosecutorial error or misconduct. In the overwhelming majority of cases, 527, judges upheld the convictions, finding that the prosecutorial lapse did not impact the fairness of the defendant’s original trial. In 133 cases, convictions were thrown out.

Only one prosecutor was disciplined by any oversight authorities, the report asserts.

The report was issued on the anniversary of a controversial Supreme Court ruling for those trying to achieve justice in the wake of wrongful convictions. In a 5–4 decision in the case known as Connick v. Thompson, the court tossed out a $14-million dollar award by a Louisiana jury to John Thompson, a New Orleans man who served 18 years in prison for a murder and robbery he did not commit.

The majority ruled that while the trial prosecutors had withheld critical evidence of Thompson’s likely innocence – blood samples from the crime scene – the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office could not be found civilly liable for what the justices essentially determined was the mistake of a handful of employees. The decision hinged on a critical finding: that the District Attorney’s office, and the legal profession in general, provides sufficient training and oversight for all prosecutors.

Failing HBCUs: Should They Receive Life Support or the Axe?

Jesse Saffron:

Two years ago I attended a student debate at North Carolina Central University, one of the state’s five public historically black colleges and universities. It was fascinating, especially given the self-examination raised by its topic, “HBCUs: Can They Survive?”

The moderator asked several incisive questions: Would the closure of HBCUs materially impair black students’ access to higher education? Would closing some HBCUs make the remaining ones stronger? Would the civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s support an enduring HBCU presence today?

As I reported at the time, the students eloquently argued both “pro” and “con” positions and deeply engaged with the relevant facts and issues. If only more of today’s political and higher education leaders did the same.

Many of America’s 106 HBCUs—which are concentrated mostly in the South—are in crisis. Years of falling enrollment, declining academic standards and graduation rates, shrinking endowments, and poor management have called into question such institutions’ staying power.

Various reforms have been attempted, but those have often been Band-Aids for problems that demand long-term solutions and fresh thinking. The downward trajectory has continued as HBCU supporters and policymakers have treated the sector as a protected class in higher education—one in which outside criticism is labeled reactionary or, worse, a vestige of racism.

Objectively, however, HBCUs in many respects fail the students they purport to uplift: low-income students, first-generation college students, and students with substandard academic preparation.

The Day Free Speech Died at Harvard Law School

Avrahm Berkowitz

Perhaps, however, it is best to start at the beginning, as free speech has been nursing its wounds for some time now.

There is a perception that being liberal is synonymous with tolerance. As youth tends to spawn idealism, it would follow that the most liberal campuses are home to the most tolerant student body.

However, after nearly three years of study at Harvard Law School, I have found that a significant number of the most liberal students tend to be the least tolerant of opposing viewpoints.

In late 2014, during my second year at Harvard Law School, a student group called Students For Inclusion created a blog entitled Socratic Shortcomings. Its commitment, we are told, is to “[foster] productive and contextualized conversations on matters related to race, gender and class.” The site allows students—and anyone really—to post anonymously about events at Harvard Law School.

Roots of Engagement in Baton Rouge

Christine Campbell:

Reform efforts in cities like New York City, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans have led to improved school options and better outcomes for more students. But the pace and shape of the reforms were wrenching for all involved and each of these cities carries some legacy of bitterness and mistrust around how reforms played out. The turnover of familiar teachers, the shuttering of iconic school buildings and shuttling of children away from neighborhood schools, and the loss of middle-class jobs in central office most often impacted communities of color. In response, many black education leaders say education reform needs “an attitude adjustment.”

At a 2015 Center on Reinventing Public Education meeting at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, Pastor Raymond Jetson of the Star Hill Church in Baton Rouge explained to a group of education reform leaders: “There are legitimate emotions, loyalties and alliances that may at times seem to be at odds with your assumptions and efforts. The elementary school I went to is closed. The middle and high school I went to are in the Recovery School District. There were more students in my graduating class than were on the campus of my high school last year. When a revolving door of new leaders come out of nowhere and tell me what’s in the best interest of Capitol High School but have not done the work to know its past…It would be difficult to explain to you the level of resentment that I have felt.”

Class In America


The US has at least two different systems of what gets termed “socioeconomic class”. They are everywhere conflated, and this is bad.

Two of them I will term economic class and social class.

Economic class refers to money. It refers to the wealth or poverty of a person, and to the privileges they do or do not have because of their economic might or lack thereof.

Social class is what is being referred to by such terms as “middle class”, “working class”, “white collar”, “professional”, “blue collar”, and the pejoratives “white trash” and “townie”.

It is a common confusion – or intellectual dodge – to conflate social class with economic class. But what what differentiates, say, the middle class from the working class is not mere wealth or earning power; as we all know, a plumber (presumed working class) may make much more money than a professor (presumed professional).

To use myself as an illustration: I make very little money, so I am heir to the misfortunes that disproportionately impact the impecunious – the almost-certain forthcoming hike in T fares looms large in my anxieties right now – but I am a professional with an advanced degree and possession of the shibboleths of the professional class. I didn’t stop being in the social class I had been in when I dropped to a much lower economic class. The privileges I lost were only those attendant to economic might; I retained the privileges of social position.

So, for instance, if I don’t like the medical care I get from the doctors my state-subsidized health plan (thanks, Mitt!) gives me access to, I can’t just whip out my checkbook and buy myself care from a better reputed specialist. Being poor might yet shorten my lifespan, as it curtails my access to care. But on the other hand, if I present with a serious booboo to just about any doctor, I will have narcotic pain relief offered me with no questions asked, because someone of my social class is not suspected of being one of those naughty “med-seeking” addicts. The decision of whether or not to trust me with a prescription for percoset is not made on the basis of the MassHealth card in my pocket marking me one of the precariat, but my hair style, my sense of fashion, my (lack of) make-up, my accent, my vocabulary, my body language, my (apparent) girth, my profession (which, note, doctors often ask as part of intake), and all the other things which locate me in a social class to observers that know the code. Contrariwise, a patient of mine – who is a white woman of almost my age – who is covered with tattoos, speaks with an Eastie accent, is over 200lbs, and wears spandex and bling and heavy make-up, gets screamed at by an ER nurse for med-seeking when she hadn’t asked for medication at all, and just wanted an x-ray for an old bone-break she was frighted she had reinjured in a fall.

strike or to stay in the classroom? For many teachers, it’s not an easy call

Jay Bullock:

Last Friday, I was in Chicago, where the Chicago Teachers Union was staging a one-day strike. While the Milwaukee Public Schools, for which I teach, was on spring break last week, a number of my Milwaukee colleagues were marching alongside their Chicago brothers and sisters.

I wasn’t; I was having a long-planned and much-needed vacation. Part of me felt guilty for not walking the streets with my fellow educators. Most of me, though, was glad to have some time not thinking about what has been a grueling school year here in Milwaukee, not thinking about what has happened to public schools here in Wisconsin, not thinking about what consequences will follow the April 5 elections and the Nov. 5 elections and on and on.

Jay Bullock notes and links.

Taking High School Courses In College Costs Students And Families Nearly $1.5 Billion

Anya Kamenetz:

Andrea Diaz was applying to colleges, she got good news and bad news. The good news was that American University, a private four-year university in Washington, D.C., wanted her. The bad news was that it required her to come to campus early to take two summer developmental-level courses in math and English.

“I was traumatized by it,” Diaz says, “because I felt that they didn’t see in me the potential to do well in college.”

When is a college course not really a college course? When it’s classified as “developmental,” or, less euphemistically, “remedial.” These courses cover material considered high-school level, typically in math or English composition.

A Wealthy Chicago Couple Focuses On Education Reform and Policy Author

Ade Adeniji:

recent years, the Satter Foundation has held upwards of $70 million in assets and has given away some $6 million annually. A recent 990 filing listed close to 90 grantees. The active foundation is the philanthropic vehicle of former Goldman partner Muneer Satter and his wife Kristine Hertel. Satter spent years commuting from Chicago to New York racking up frequent flier miles, kind of like George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air. Satter reportedly donated millions of these miles to Room to Read, a nonprofit that delivers books to children in developing countries.

The Satters reside in Winnetka, Illinois, outside Chicago. Satter is only in his mid-50s, but has racked up a number of charitable interest areas, including education reform and charters, policy, global development, health and even the environment. Satter is a national council co-chair of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He’s also a top backer of a number of Republican candidates, but also Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat. Of the many Goldman Sachs pre-1999 IPO partners I’ve written about, Satter’s philanthropy is among the more robust.

Literature’s Emotional Lessons

Andrew Simmons:

I’d drawn a little tombstone on the board. I was in the middle of leading a class of 10th-grade English students through Piggy’s death scene in Lord of the Flies: the rock, the shattered conch, Piggy’s long fall, the red stuff flowing out, the twitching legs. The corners of her eyes bubbling, a 15-year-old girl dashed for the door.

When I spoke with her after class, the student explained that she identified with Piggy. Being studious, fearful of bullies, and a bit of an outsider, it upset her to casually discuss his violent death. Piggy’s demise was not the symbolic death of order or logic, but the murder of a kid like her.

In my experience teaching and observing other teachers, students spend a lot of time learning academic skills and rarely even talk about the emotional reactions they may have to what they read—even when stories, as they often do, address dark themes. The Common Core Standards push students to become clinical crafters of arguments and masters of academic language. While these are essential skills to possess, the fact that my other students appear perfectly comfortable not acknowledging and discussing emotional responses to literature may be as revelatory as this one student’s teary dash from class. Inundated with video games, movies, and memes, teenagers often seem hard to shake up. Characters are fictitious abstractions, and, without actors to bring them to life and makeup and digital tricks to make the drama feel real, students may strictly do the analytical work teachers expect without the interference of a significant emotional response. That’s a bad thing. An emotional response should be part of the curriculum.

The sugar conspiracy

Ian Leslie:

A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.

“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote Yudkin, “that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Assessment of Student Writing

Will Fitzhugh:

There is a great deal of concern about the quality of student academic writing at the secondary level, but those who seek to assess it usually think in terms of large numbers and quick scoring. A few years ago, a vice-president of The College Board was happy to announce that they could assess 16,000 essays in 20 seconds, and it seems likely that ACT depends on software and fast computers as well, in its academic writing assessments. A local print shop had this sign: “Good, Fast, Cheap…choose two.” The College Board chose fast and cheap.

In 1998, I started the National Writing Board [] with the idea of a more craft-like service for the assessment of student academic writing. We have now provided 4-5 page reports on hundreds of history research papers written by high school students from 31 states and Belgium, Canada, China, Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

We typically spend about three hours on each paper, with two Readers for each, but one Reader recently spent more than three hours on one recent 12,000-word paper from Asia. The Readers have the title of the paper and the length in words, but they know nothing else about the students, except that they are in high school. This helps to eliminate any bias which might come from knowing more about the authors. We chose good over fast and cheap…

In addition to advice about improvements to student organization and writing, our Readers often provide observations on the content of their papers, for example: “…Unit 731 of the Japanese Imperial Army was stationed in Manchuria near the town of Pingfan. It was placed under the command of then Major—later Lt. General—Ishii Shiro, and consisted of some 3,000 soldiers, scientists and Japanese Red Cross nurses. Ishii was a surgeon, and held a degree from Kyoto University. His installation was both huge and most secret, and its stockpiles of biological weapons were such that they could have killed every person on the planet. Doing research on procedures for Bacteriological Warfare, Ishii’s staff carried out ghastly medical experiments on Allied POWs. Prisoners were purposely infected with anthrax, plague and cholera. They were subjected to experiments with salmonella, tetanus, botulism, gas gangrene, smallpox, tick encephalitis and tuberculosis. Some of the victims—Americans, Australians, and British POWs and prisoners from the Soviet Union, Korea and China—were also surgically examined without benefit of anesthesia. Other prisoners were burned, electrocuted and subjected to pressure chamber experiments “that popped eyes out of their heads.” Some had their blood drained, and replaced with that of a horse. Women prisoners were purposely infected with syphilis, impregnated, and their live fetuses removed for dissection. Many prisoners were exposed to X-Rays until they perished. Some were frozen, and then immersed into hot water, and immediately subjected to the amputation of limbs. Some scholars, and a number of Japanese veterans, suggest some 12,000 people were killed in these experiments. Under the auspices of Unit 731, plague-carrying fleas were dropped on cities in northern China. Dysentery, cholera and typhoid cultures were dropped into local Chinese water supplies as early as 1942…”

Jonathan Reider, for many years Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Stanford, has written that: “The National Writing Board provides a unique independent assessment of serious student research papers, and submits three-page reports to colleges at the request of the author. Thirty-nine highly selective colleges, both research universities and liberal arts colleges, have stated their willingness to accept these evaluations. This is an excellent tool for colleges to add to their array of evaluative techniques. While some colleges ask for a graded paper of the student’s work, few have the time or the expertise to evaluate these systematically as part of an application for admission. It is more efficient if these can be evaluated by an independent and reliable source.”

Bill Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard, has written that: “Since 1998, when it started, we have been supporters of your National Writing Board, which is still unique in supplying independent assessments of the research papers of secondary students. The NWB reports also provide a useful addition to the college application materials of high school students who are seeking admission to selective colleges.”

We are able to do this level of assessment because we have more time than teachers, and because we don’t believe mass computer-scoring of writing does any good for students. A few years ago, I spent some time with high school teachers in Collier County, Florida. They read some of our student work and we talked about the value of term papers and assessment. On the last day I discovered that all the teachers but one had six classes of thirty students each (180), and the one had seven classes of thirty students (210). It was quite clear that their students would not be asked to do 12,000-word papers, or even the 7,400-word papers which are now the average for those published in The Concord Review.

Student academic expository writing is important, both in itself, and in the extensive study and reading necessary to do it well, but if we keep thinking in terms of the mass-assessment of huge numbers of short samples of formulaic (software-readable) student writing, we will be doing nothing to help improve writing. Such an approach constrains and trivializes student work, and fails to introduce students (and their teachers) to the necessary effort for nonfiction term papers students should be learning to make as they prepare for further education and for their careers.

The return of eugenics

Fraser Nelson:

It’s comforting now to think of eugenics as an evil that sprang from the blackness of Nazi hearts. We’re familiar with the argument: some men are born great, some as weaklings, and both pass the traits on to their children. So to improve society, the logic goes, we must encourage the best to breed and do what we can to stop the stupid, sick and malign from passing on their defective genes. This was taken to a genocidal extreme by Hitler, but the intellectual foundations were laid in England. And the idea is now making a startling comeback.

A hundred years ago the eugenic mission involved a handful of crude tools: bribing the ‘right’ people to have larger families, sterilising the weakest. Now stunning advances in science are creating options early eugenicists could only dream about. Today’s IVF technology already allows us to screen embryos for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis. But soon parents will be able to check for all manner of traits, from hair colour to character, and choose their ‘perfect’ child.

The era of designer babies, long portrayed by dystopian novelists and screenwriters, is fast arriving. According to Hank Greely, a Stanford professor in law and biosciences, the next couple of generations may be the last to accept pot luck with procreation. Doing so, he adds, may soon be seen as downright irresponsible. In his forthcoming book The End of Sex, he explains a brave new world in which mothers will be given a menu with various biological options. But even he shies away from the word that sums all this up. For Professor Greely, and almost all of those in the new bioscience, eugenics is never mentioned, as if to avoid admitting that history has swung full circle.

The word ‘eugenics’ was coined in 1883 by Francis Galton, a polymath who invented fingerprinting and many of the techniques of modern statistical research. He started with a hunch: that so many great men come from the same families because genius is hereditary. Fascinated by the evolutionary arguments of his cousin Charles Darwin, he wondered whether advances in health care and welfare had sullied the national gene pool because they allowed more of the sick and disabled not just to survive but to lead normal family lives. He went off to collect data, and came back with his theory of eugenics.

Multistate Bar Exam average score falls to 33-year low

Mark Hansen:

The mean scaled score on the February administration of the Multistate Bar Examination fell to 135, down 1.2 points from the previous year and the lowest average score on a February administration of the test since 1983.

The number of test-takers was up 4 percent from last year, from 22,396 in 2015 to 23,324 this year, according to Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which developed and scores the test.

February scores are typically lower than July scores, Moeser said, because July test-takers tend to be first-time test takers, who generally score higher on the exam than repeat takers.

She said the results, while “a bit disappointing,” are not a surprise.

Harvard, Princeton Release Statements on Endowments

Inside Higher Ed:

Harvard and Princeton Universities have released their responses to questions from members of Congress about the way they use their endowments. The questions come amid heightened scrutiny of the wealthiest universities. Both the Harvard and Princeton letters to Congress stress common themes, including the way their endowments are not general funds but collections of endowments donated for different purposes, and that the endowments directly support undergraduate student aid among many other purposes. A cover letter on Harvard’s response, from President Drew Faust, said that her university’s endowment should be viewed as 13,000 separate funds. Princeton’s letter indicated that its endowment is made up of 4,300 separate accounts.

Harvard’s endowment (at more than $36 billion) is the largest in the nation, and Princeton’s (at nearly $23 billion) is the fourth, according to the latest data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund.

Colleges Questioned on Tax-Exempt Endowments

Concord Coalition:

Amid widespread concern about rising tuition rates, top Republican tax-writers appear to be taking a hard look at the ways in which colleges and universities are using — or perhaps not using — their tax-exempt endowments.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, and Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam sent letters to dozens of institutions with endowments over $1 billion, accord to a recent report in The Hill.

The lawmakers say many schools are raising tuition rates faster than inflation despite their large and growing endowments. They requested a prompt response from the schools, a few of which have built up endowments in excess of $22 billion.

Unlike private foundations, The Hill reports, colleges are not required to spend a minimum percentage of their endowments each year. Critics say the schools are hoarding cash while students struggle with ever-higher tuition rates and graduate with excessive student loan debt.

Footing the bill for Higher Education

Ingrid Schroeder:

Over roughly the past decade, federal spending on higher education per full-time student grew by 32 percent in real terms, with the Pell grant seeing a substantial increase since the start of the recession. Over the same time frame, however, state government spending on higher education has shrunk by 37 percent, and public colleges and universities across the country have significantly increased tuition. At many schools, the increases in federal financial aid have not been enough to offset rising tuition.

Much of the decline in state support for higher education can be traced to state policy choices resulting from the recession: As job losses mounted and tax receipts fell, many states were faced with tough choices in order to balance their budgets — and opted to cut funding for public colleges and universities. As of the 2014-15 school year, per student funding in 47 states remained below pre-recession levels after adjusting for inflation.

Fairly Used: Why Schools Need To Teach Kids The Whole Truth About Copyright

Mary Beth Quirk:

So much of what we hear about copyright law is about how it limits the use of protected content — you can’t sell pirated movies; don’t share your mp3 library on Pirate Bay; no selling T-shirts with Hello Kitty on the front.

In fact, a California state law now declares that if a school wants to receive an educational tech grant, its curriculum must “include a component to educate pupils… on the appropriate and ethical use of information technology in the classroom, Internet safety, the manner in which to avoid committing plagiarism, the concept, purpose, and significance of a copyright so that pupils are equipped with the skills necessary to distinguish lawful from unlawful online downloading, and the implications of illegal peer-to-peer network file sharing.”

Fake US university exposes ‘pay-to-stay’ immigration fraud


Twenty-one people have been arrested after US authorities set up a fake university to expose immigration fraud.

Officials said the accused knew that the University of Northern New Jersey did not exist, but they were unaware it was a ruse run by immigration agents.

The defendants acted as brokers for more than 1,000 foreigners who sought to maintain student and work visas, prosecutors said.
Most foreign nationals involved in the scheme came from China and India.

Immigration authorities will deal with the nationals affected, but they will not be prosecuted, officials said.

“This was just another stop on the ‘pay-to-stay’ tour,” Paul Fishman, US attorney for New Jersey, told the Associated Press.

61% of grads aren’t ready for anything

Marni Bromberg and Christina Theokas:

Ed Trust’s new report, Meandering Toward Graduation: Transcript Outcomes of High School Graduates, shows that too many students leave high school with a diploma in hand but no clear path forward.

The report finds that 47 percent, or almost half, of American high school graduates complete neither a college- nor career-ready course of study — defined here as the standard 15-course sequence required for entry at many public colleges, along with three or more credits in a broad career field such as health science or business.

It also shows that only 8 percent of high school graduates in 2013 completed a full college- and career-prep curriculum. Less than one-third of graduates completed only a college-ready course of study, and just 13 percent finished a career-ready course sequence only.

This research comes as both educators and policymakers become increasingly aware of the need for a sharper focus on college and career readiness. But what does this phrase really mean, and how well are our schools doing in preparing all students for success after graduation? Meandering Toward Graduation delves into these questions by examining the high school transcripts of a nationally representative group of 2013 graduates.

The report encourages high school leaders to reflect on their school’s structure, culture, and instruction, and how those elements influence exposure to rigorous, engaging, and relevant coursework that prepares students for success after high school in various college and career paths.

Via Joanne Jacobs.

Blame the last economic crash for why American college students are so bad with money (!)

Amy Wang:

Per today’s (April 5) fourth annual “Money Matters on Campus” report, conducted by financial management firm Higher One and education company EverFi based a sample of nearly 90,000 US college attendees, students are increasingly uneducated when it comes to personal finance. Less than 10% of students feel they have the information necessary to pay off their loans.
Borrowing money can be confusing, so perhaps that’s understandable—but students are also getting demonstrably worse at far simpler tasks, like making spending budgets and paying credit card bills.

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

Douglas Belkin and Miriam Jordan

Chutian Shao moved from China to the Midwest college town of Champaign, Ill., a few years ago. Some days, he says, it feels as if he hasn’t traveled very far at all.

On a recent Monday, the 22-year-old woke up in the apartment he shares with three Chinese friends. He walked to an engineering class at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he sat with Chinese students. Then, he hit the gym with a Chinese pal before studying in the library until late into the night.

He recalls uttering two fragments in English all day. The longest was at Chipotle, where he ordered a burrito: “Double chicken, black beans, lettuce and hot sauce.”

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

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

Every day Shakespeare: phrases coined by the Bard still in use today


Every day, many of us English speakers quote William Shakespeare, even if we’ve never read a word of his plays. And we don’t even know we’re doing it. Such is the reach of Shakespeare’s mastery of language that phrases he coined and popularised have, over the centuries since he was writing, been woven into everyday English vocabulary. They range from the obviously poetic to the seemingly banal, but if it wasn’t for Shakespeare, we wouldn’t be using them at all. Here are some of the verbal tics we owe to the Bard.

“Salad days” – Antony and Cleopatra

This is a phrase where the earliest known usage seems to be Shakespeare – and it comes with a handy definition in the text, too. “My salad days, / When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,” says Cleopatra. If only she knew that, years later, her words would form some of the most well-known lyrics of Gold, by Spandau Ballet (“These are my salad days / Slowly being eaten away”). The 1980s owes Shakespeare a great debt, clearly.

The Next Great Chicago Strike

Sarah Chambers & Micah Utrecht:

The Chicago Teachers Union is going on strike tomorrow. But they aren’t going alone.

The union struck in 2012, claiming to fight not just for themselves but for a broad social justice agenda in defense of public schools and all public services. They emerged victorious over Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools, who wanted to further erode teachers’ power in the schools and institute more free market-friendly reforms. At a time when the labor movement was in dire straits, the win was an inspiration to unionists around the country.

But since then, the union has suffered defeat after defeat: forty-nine school closures, rounds of layoffs, devastating budget cuts. And Illinois’ new Republican governor, private equity mogul Bruce Rauner, has carried out a disastrous agenda of austerity, holding the state budget hostage unless legislators agree to major rollbacks of union rights.

The Real Victims of Political Bias on Campus

Megan McArdle:

Every time I write about bias against conservatives in academia, I can count on a few professors writing me to politely suggest that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Sometimes they aren’t so polite, either. How would I know what goes on in their hiring meetings, their faculty gatherings, their tenure reviews? They’re right there, and they can attest firsthand that there ain’t no bias, no sir!

But none of them can explain why, if that bias doesn’t exist, so many of their conservative and libertarian colleagues feel compelled to hide in the closet. Deep in the closet, behind that plastic zip bag of old winter coats in mothballs, and sealed, with many layers of packing tape, in a box marked “Betamax Tapes: Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon 1981-1987.”

“The modern academy pays lip service to diversity,” notes my colleague Virginia Postrel in a column about “Passing on the Right,” a new book about the conservatives in academia. “Yet as a ‘stigmatized minority,’ the authors note, right-of-center professors feel pressure to hide their identities, in many cases consciously emulating gays in similarly hostile environments.” If conservatives aren’t being discriminated against, then why are so many of them, sitting in those same meetings and tenure reviews, afraid to show their ideological colors?

The China Syllabi Project

Mandarin Society.

The China Syllabi Project aims to help China-focused professionals expand their knowledge of China beyond their current areas of expertise. We hope these syllabi will also help recent graduates and young professionals transition from academic China studies to a professional environment requiring more specialized knowledge. Finally, this project attempts to break down knowledge silos and get people thinking more holistically about China.

These self-study syllabi contain targeted readings in English and Chinese and have been prepared by experts in their fields. Each should be able to be completed in one month, with a hour or so of reading per day, five days a week. We have made efforts to ensure that most readings are available online; where the authors have suggested books, it means that they think these are worth buying and owning. Below each syllabus you will also find a vocabulary list to help with specialized terms from the readings with which you may not yet be familiar.

Fewer poor students are being enrolled in state universities. Here’s why

Robert Kelchen and Luke J. Stedrak:

States have traditionally provided funding for public colleges and universities based on a combination of the number of students enrolled and how much money they were allocated previously.

But, in the face of increasingly tight budgets and pressures to demonstrate their effectiveness to legislators, more and more states are tying at least some higher education funding to student outcomes.

As of 2015, 32 states have implemented a funding system that is based in part on students’ performance in at least some of their colleges. In such states, a portion of state funding is based on metrics such as the number of completed courses or the number of graduates.

Transforming Educational Outcomes: Lessons From Around The Globe

Teach for America:

lively discussion, curated by Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way, will explore in-depth how systemic change has been achieved in Ontario, Canada, and how this approach compares with others around the world that have driven dramatic improvements in student outcomes. Rather than offering a checklist of successful approaches, this session will introduce the people and stories behind the policies and inspire us to consider what meaningful application of these approaches could yield for children in the United States.

Defending Free Speech On College Campuses

Chicago Tribune:

Free expression is not faring well on American college campuses these days. In some places, the problem is students taking grave offense at opinions that merit only minor umbrage or none at all. In others, it’s official speech codes that chill discussion. In still others, it’s administrators so intent on preventing sexual harassment that they avoid open discussion of gender-related matters.

There is a lot to be said for making people aware of the ways in which their words and deeds can do harm. No one wants to go back to the days when casual expressions of racial prejudice were common, or when women were mocked for taking places that should have gone to men, or when some professors made passes at students.

Politics & Rhetoric on Student Debt: Compare the Writers….

It would be great if the “reporters” dove into these staged events. Who is selected? Why? Do they have scholarships, financial aid? Members of? Can any student attend? Can anyone ask questions? Are these events compatible with the free exchange of ideas? How much are we spending? Has that changed? How has the overhead of these institutions changed?

Emily Hamer, writing in the Badger Herald is better than the full time reporter. Her story:

While all students thought there should be additional aid for students, Courtney McCourt, a UW junior, said she did not think college should be free, as the third bill in Baldwin’s package aims to do. She said students work hard to go to college, and should have to contribute to their education, even if students who are more disadvantaged need more help.

Samuel Park, a UW sophomore, said he thinks part of the problem is that students from low-income backgrounds often don’t even consider college an option. He said financial literacy needs to improve, starting in middle school and high school, because most students don’t understand high interest rates associated with private loans, how to fill out a tax form or the FAFSFA and aren’t aware of all aid options.

Nico Savidge:

Baldwin said she might try to advance her proposal by adding it to the sprawling federal Higher Education Act, which Congress is working to reauthorize.

“Shame on us if we don’t use that as an opportunity to talk broadly about helping young people get the preparation they need for a bright start in life,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin told senators opposed to her bill to “listen to your constituents” on the cost of higher education.

One of the nine students who attended Tuesday’s meeting, sophomore Samuel Park, said he works 30 hours per week to put himself through school. For Park and other students who don’t come from wealthy backgrounds, he said, those hours take time away from their studies or extracurricular activities that could help them find jobs after they graduate.

“How am I supposed to take on volunteer work or unpaid internships or other activities that are supposed to help build resumés … when you’re supposed to be working?” Park said.

Question Free at a Russ Feingold and Elizabeth Warren UW-Madison event.

The Shrinking Ph.D. Job Market

Scott Jaschik:

American universities awarded 54,070 research doctorates in 2014, the highest total in the 58 years that the National Science Foundation has sponsored the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a new edition of which was released Friday.

But while more doctorates are being awarded, the figures also point to transitions and concerns in graduate education.

Increasingly, the pool of doctoral degrees coming out of American universities is dominated by science and engineering Ph.D.s. Their numbers were up 2 percent in 2014, compared to the prior year, while all other research doctorates were down by 2 percent. With those changes, science and engineering Ph.D.s make up 75 percent of all doctorates awarded in 2014. In 1974, they made up only 58 percent of the total. And science and engineering doctoral education remains dependent on non-American talent — which many view as a sign of success for American higher education but others worry leaves American universities vulnerable if students opt to enroll elsewhere.

The job market for new Ph.D.s is ever tighter. While this attracts the most attention and debate within academe about humanities graduates, there are signs of a tightening job market across disciplines.

Mellody Hobson on race and teaching children financial literacy


Mellody Hobson is immaculately dressed, beautiful – and tired. She is on a week-long Asia-Pacific trip that has been packed with meetings, interviews and conferences. She jokes that she saw “to and from” the airport in Sydney, and there won’t be any time for sightseeing in Hong Kong, either. The day’s engagements include an interview with Bloomberg and a keynote address at AsianInvestor’s forum on diversity.

Yet, when she starts to talk, after we meet in the Mandarin Oriental’s M Bar, she glows. Each answer is measured and meaningful. She is attentive and honest, in fact kind, and everything she says makes sense. After two minutes in her presence, I am an acolyte. And when she quotes from Star Wars, the universally loved creation of her husband, film director George Lucas, I regress from admiration to childish adoration.

Liberia: Don’t Outsource Primary Education System


It is completely unacceptable for Liberia to outsource its primary education system to a private company, said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh. “This is unprecedented at the scale currently being proposed and violates Liberia’s legal and moral obligations,” he stressed.

Liberia’s plan is to privatise all primary and pre-primary schools over the next five years. Public funding will support services subcontracted to a private company – the Bridge International Academies. “Public schools and their teachers, and the concept of education as a public good, are under attack,” the expert cautioned.

“Such arrangements are a blatant violation of Liberia’s international obligations under the right to education, and have no justification under Liberia’s constitution,” the Special Rapporteur stated. “This also contradicts political commitments made by Liberia and the international community to the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal which is on education and related targets.”

How college admissions has turned into something akin to ‘The Hunger Games’

Brennan Barnard:

In 20 years of counseling students, I have witnessed a seismic shift in the approach towards college admission.  As application numbers have increased, so has the collective angst around college admission.  With sinking admit rates, high-stakes testing, rising tuition costs, unmanageable debt and an unhealthy fixation on the handful of most selective schools, we are debilitating the next generation of learners.  The message we inadvertently send: a prestige acceptance is better than a joyful childhood.

In an ideal world, college preparatory education would encourage students who crave knowledge, seek community engagement, desire connection and live their values.  We say we want our children to feel secure, be inspired and take risks with their curiosity.  The reality of “Hunger Games” comes closer to the truth, where students battle to survive in application pools seeming to demand perfection.

The great mystery of mathematics is its lack of mystery

Scott Aaronson:

In one sense, there’s less mystery in mathematics than there is in any other human endeavour. In math, we can really understand things, in a deeper way than we ever understand anything else. (When I was younger, I used to reassure myself during suspense movies by silently reciting the proof of some theorem: here, at least, was a certainty that the movie couldn’t touch.) So how is it that many people, notably including mathematicians, feel that there’s something ‘mysterious’ about this least mysterious of subjects? What do they mean?

There are certainly mysteries that exist within math. For starters, there are the thousands of unsolved problems, assertions that no one can prove or disprove, sometimes despite decades or centuries of effort. Although many of these problems are deep and important, a small example will do for now: no one has proved that, as you go further out in the decimal digits of π=3.141592653589…, the digits 0 through 9 occur with equal frequency.