“The deal also shortens the school year for teachers to 188 days from 191, and cuts it for students to 182 days from 185”

Leslie Brody:

Newark district and union officials said that under the tentative four-year agreement, teachers must still be deemed effective to climb up the salary ladder and those deemed highly effective would still get a bonus of $5,000.

Five years ago, those provisions marked a departure from the usual system of automatic annual raises for experience and pay increases for advanced degrees. At the time both Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, hailed the contract as an example of how they could work with political adversaries.

The bonuses were initially paid for by the foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. For the first time, district Superintendent Chris Cerf said, the bonuses would come from district funds, showing this model is sustainable.

“We think this is a good deal for the district, teachers and especially for the students,” Mr. Cerf said.

Newark Teachers Union officials said about 200 teachers a year got a bonus. According to district data, in recent years 15% to 18% got ratings less than effective.

Unions often argue that pay-for-performance can undermine the collaboration that teachers depend on, but supporters say it adds incentives and helps recruit quality staff.

John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union, backed the deal but said he would rather have the district spend more on school resources and professional development, rather than bonuses.

“Those members who receive it are fine, of course they don’t complain about receiving it,” he said. “We still believe all people across the board should be given the same resources, and the same circumstances under which to teach, so they can all be highly effective.”

My neighbors told the New York Times that going to our local school is ‘malpractice.’ We picked it anyway

Smia Simring:

Meanwhile, I had been raised by striving parents and sent to the infamously elite Horace Mann School, where I was decidedly not in with the in-crowd — and I loved it. I loved that if I could dream it, I could write up a proposal and get a budget for it. I loved that I found my home in the out crowd, the goths and punks and nerds and theater kids. But I don’t think Horace Mann ensured my or my classmates’ success later in life.

So when we realized late last year that my daughter, born in the last week of 2012, could be entering kindergarten in 2017, I tried to keep an open mind, unclouded by the terrible things my mother had always said about public school. The fact was, my husband and I shared the primary goal of finding an educational setting that would first and foremost support our daughter’s social and emotional development. We realized this might have been different from our (and especially my) parents’ goals. We decided to first look at public schools, since we figured we would have the option of starting her a year later if she went to private school.

Hutchinson journalism instructor, president spar over First Amendment

Bryan Horwath:

A journalism instructor at Hutchinson Community College said he and his students had been locked out of their journalism computer lab by the school, which later decided to allow a final edition of the school paper to be published.

Alan Montgomery, a 17-year instructor and academic adviser at the college, said he was informed on Friday that he had been suspended from his job. He said the action was taken after several stories were published in the school’s newspaper – The Collegian – that were critical of its administration.

To prepare for the future, we need to shift from thinking about jobs and careers to thinking about challenges and problems

Alina Dizik:

When Jean-Philippe Michel, an Ottawa-based career coach, works with secondary school students, he doesn’t use the word profession. Neither does he focus on helping his young clients figure out what they want to be when they grow up—at least not directly.

For him, there’s really no such thing as deciding on a profession to grow up into.
Rather than encouraging each person to choose a profession, say, architect or engineer, he works backwards from the skills that each student wants to acquire. So instead of saying, “I want to be a doctor”, he’ll aim to get students to talk about a goal, in this case “using empathy in a medical setting”.

Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

Anna Aizer and Janet Currie:

Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, we estimate the impact of lead on behavior: school suspensions and juvenile detention. We develop two instrumental variables approaches to deal with potential confounding from omitted variables and measurement error in lead. The first leverages the fact that we have multiple noisy measures for each child. The second exploits very local, within neighborhood, variation in lead exposure that derives from road proximity and the de-leading of gasoline. Both methods indicate that OLS considerably understates the negative effects of lead, suggesting that measurement error is more important than bias from omitted variables. A one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.

Wisconsin charges $12,500 (!) for statewide public voter data

Josh Vorhees:

Civis says it mostly limited itself to publicly available information so that its analysis was repeatable; Hersh counters that repeating a flawed analysis will just lead to the same flawed results. As the New York Times’ Nate Cohn pointed out on Twitter, and as Hersh echoed in his conversation with me, the absence of a detailed voter file-based analysis of the impact of voter ID laws—by Civis or anyone else for that matter—is in itself telling at this point. “I would in no way argue that these [voter ID] laws have no effect, but what we’ve found is that it’s a relatively small one,” Hersh said. Making things more complicated, he added, is that the effect of a voter ID law can be difficult to separate from that of other non-ID-based measures that disenfranchise the same types of people. “It’s just very unlikely that these voter ID laws by themselves would translate into the effect of 200,000 voters,” Hersh said.

Related: openvote.me.

Life below the surface of the earth (and on Mars) — a Five Books interview

Five Books:

What life exists below the surface of the earth?

Previously biologists believed the only subsurface life was at the soil zone, that you go a metre down and it is inconsequential, except for in caves. But even then the people looking in caves didn’t realise the caves were being formed by sub-surface life. There were actually bacteria eating the rocks that make the caverns. They were looking at these minerals and gypsum deposits and saying “how did these things get here, how did they form?” — not realising that these enormous rooms that exist in caves are produced by a thin layer of bacteria dissolving the rock in order to get minerals. That’s an underlying theme of all subsurface life. It’s bacteria eating rocks and living off energy in the rocks and in the process dissolving the rocks and making more room.

William Faulkner Draws Maps of Yoknapatawpha County, the Fictional Home of His Great Novels

open culture:

If you’ve ever had difficulty pronouncing the word Yoknapatawpha—the fictional Mississippi county where William Faulkner set his best-known fiction—you can take instruction from the author himself. During his time as writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia, Faulkner gave students a brief lesson on his pronunciation of the Chickasaw-derived word, which, as he says, sounds like it’s spelled.

If you’ve ever had difficulty getting around in Yoknapatawpha—getting the lay of the land, as it were—Faulkner has stepped in again to help his readers. He drew several maps of varying levels of detail that show Yoknapatawpha, its county seat of Jefferson in the center, and various key characters’ plantations, crossroads, camps, stores, houses, etc. from the fifteen novels and story cycles set in the author’s native Mississippi.

William Baumol, whose famous economic theory explains the modern world, has died

Timothy Lee:

Decade after decade, health care and education have gotten more expensive while the price of clothing, cars, furniture, toys, and other manufactured goods has gone down relative to the overall inflation rate — exactly the pattern Baumol predicted a half-century ago.

Baumol’s cost disease is a powerful tool for understanding the modern economic world. It suggests, for example, that the continually rising costs of education and health care isn’t necessarily a sign that anything has gone wrong with those sectors of the economy. At least until we invent robotic professors, teachers, doctors, and nurses, we should expect these low-productivity sectors of the economy to get more expensive.

While some argue that prices keep rising because the government subsidizes health care through programs like Medicare and college educations through student loans and grants, you see the same basic pattern with services like summer camps, veterinary services, and Broadway shows that aren’t hamstrung by government regulations and subsidies.

Of course, as the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson pointed out a few years ago, the cost of many of these services is actually rising faster than wages are growing, suggesting that Baumol’s disease isn’t the whole story. Universities, for example, have been hiring a growing army of administrators and building ever more lavish amenities to attract the best students. The growing incomes of the richest Americans are a major underlying factor here — rich people are buying services like Broadway shows, summer camp spots, and Harvard educations more quickly than anyone can expand the supply.

How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality

Matthew Desmond:

Almost a decade removed from the foreclosure crisis that began in 2008, the nation is facing one of the worst affordable-housing shortages in generations. The standard of “affordable” housing is that which costs roughly 30 percent or less of a family’s income. Because of rising housing costs and stagnant wages, slightly more than half of all poor renting families in the country spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, and at least one in four spends more than 70 percent. Yet America’s national housing policy gives affluent homeowners large benefits; middle-class homeowners, smaller benefits; and most renters, who are disproportionately poor, nothing. It is difficult to think of another social policy that more successfully multiplies America’s inequality in such a sweeping fashion.

Consider Asare and Diaz. As a homeowner, Asare benefits from tax breaks that Diaz does not, the biggest being the mortgage-interest deduction — or MID, in wonk-speak. All homeowners in America may deduct mortgage interest on their first and second homes. In 2015, Asare and Jean-Charles claimed $21,686 in home interest and other real estate deductions, which saved them $470 a month. That’s roughly 15 percent of Diaz’s monthly income. That same year, the federal government dedicated nearly $134 billion to homeowner subsidies. The MID accounted for the biggest chunk of the total, $71 billion, with real estate tax deductions, capital gains exclusions and other expenditures accounting for the rest. That number, $134 billion, was larger than the entire budgets of the Departments of Education, Justice and Energy combined for that year. It is a figure that exceeds half the entire gross domestic product of countries like Chile, New Zealand and Portugal.

OSHEA SAYS: ‘‘Right now, we can’t even come up with $1,490 for our monthly rent. Every time our tax returns come through, we have to pay off the car, catch up on rent, buy food — by the time we’re done, there isn’t anything left to set aside. We talk about wanting to get our credit score recovered. Patricio was out of work for seven or eight months, and that ruined our credit. Outside of God providing a way, there really isn’t a way to get out of this situation. I don’t see it.’’

Recently, Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser to President Trump, heralded his boss’s first tax plan as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something really big.” And indeed, Trump’s plan represents a radical transformation in how we will fund the government, with its biggest winners being corporations and wealthy families. But no one in his administration, and only a small (albeit growing) group of people in either party, is pushing to reform what may very well be the most regressive piece of social policy in America. Perhaps that’s because the mortgage-interest deduction overwhelmingly benefits the sorts of upper-middle-class voters who make up the donor base of both parties and who generally fail to acknowledge themselves to be beneficiaries of federal largess. “Today, as in the past,” writes the historian Molly Michelmore in her book “Tax and Spend,” “most of the recipients of federal aid are not the suspect ‘welfare queens’ of the popular imagination but rather middle-class homeowners, salaried professionals and retirees.” A 15-story public housing tower and a mortgaged suburban home are both government-subsidized, but only one looks (and feels) that way. It is only by recognizing this fact that we can begin to understand why there is so much poverty in the United States today.

When we think of entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare immediately come to mind. But by any fair standard, the holy trinity of United States social policy should also include the mortgage-interest deduction — an enormous benefit that has also become politically untouchable.

The MID came into being in 1913, not to spur homeownership but simply as part of a general policy allowing businesses to deduct interest payments from loans. At that time, most Americans didn’t own their homes and only the rich paid income tax, so the effects of the mortgage deduction on the nation’s tax proceeds were fairly trivial. That began to change in the second half of the 20th century, though, because of two huge transformations in American life. First, income tax was converted from an elite tax to a mass tax: In 1932, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (precursor to the I.R.S.) processed fewer than two million individual tax returns, but 11 years later, it processed over 40 million. At the same time, the federal government began subsidizing homeownership through large-scale initiatives like the G.I. Bill and mortgage insurance. Homeownership grew rapidly in the postwar period, and so did the MID.

Black Hawk School financial review finds former principal Kenya Walker, staff didn’t follow rules

Karen Rivedal:

A Madison School District review of financial practices at Black Hawk Middle School found widespread disregard for proper accounting and money handling practices under then-principal Kenya Walker, who admitted using district credit cards for personal needs and oversaw school office operations so lax they resulted in the theft of at least $1,000 from a school fundraiser and more than $10,500 in credit card charges for which the district has no receipt, among other deficiencies noted in the review.

Walker, 45, who was paid $106,466 annually, effectively resigned on April 28 after spending months on a medical leave that began in late January and caused increasing concern among parents at the school. Also in January, the district hired external reviewer Shana Lewis to begin reviewing Black Hawk’s financial practices after concerns were noted by Central Office staff about spending there.

Many of the problems noted in the review revolved around the use of some 15 district-issued credit and procurement cards that are to be used by school staff members for the purchase of low-cost goods, usually under $500. They are designed to eliminate the use of petty cash and personal funds that have to be reimbursed to staff later, setting up a more secure, cost-effective method to purchase small-dollar items for district programs and activities.

Much larger spending questions arose several years ago after a large maintenance referendum.

Jürgen Schmidhuber on the robot future​: ‘They will pay as much attention to us as we do to ants’

Philip Olterman:

Then a tall, athletic man with a light-grey three-piece suit and a greying goatee who has spent most of the morning playing with his smartphone strides to the podium, and suddenly baby steps become interstellar leaps. “Very soon, the smartest and most important decision makers might not be human,” he says, with the pitying smile of a parent explaining growing pains to a teenager. “We are on the verge not of another industrial revolution, but a new form of life, more like the big bang.”

Jürgen Schmidhuber has been described as the man the first self-aware robots will recognise as their papa. The 54-year-old German scientist may have developed the algorithms that allow us to speak to our computers or get our smartphones to translate Mandarin into English, but he isn’t very keen on the idea that robots of the future will exist primarily to serve humanity.

Instead, he believes machine intelligence will soon not just match that of humans, but outstrip it, designing and building heat-resistant robots that can get much closer to the sun’s energy sources than thin-skinned Homo sapiens, and eventually colonise asteroid belts across the Milky Way with self-replicating robot factories. And Schmidhuber is the person who is trying to build their brains.

Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill

Bettina Elias Siegel:

On the first day of seventh grade last fall, Caitlin Dolan lined up for lunch at her school in Canonsburg, Pa. But when the cashier discovered she had an unpaid food bill from last year, the tray of pizza, cucumber slices, an apple and chocolate milk was thrown in the trash.

“I was so embarrassed,” said Caitlin, who said other students had stared. “It’s really weird being denied food in front of everyone. They all talk about you.”

Caitlin’s mother, Merinda Durila, said that her daughter qualified for free lunch, but that a paperwork mix-up had created an outstanding balance. Ms. Durila said her child had come home in tears after being humiliated in front of her friends.

Holding children publicly accountable for unpaid school lunch bills — by throwing away their food, providing a less desirable alternative lunch or branding them with markers — is often referred to as “lunch shaming.”

On school Choice


Moreover, if you increase access but restrict supply you well get frustration. And this is exactly what has happened in New York City. The city’s enrollment system persists, but its efforts to increase supply have faltered.

When NYC leaders have focused on increasing supply – both through the small schools movement and growing the charter sector – rigorous research found that school quality increased. The results of these efforts are detailed below.

In sum:

School choice is all about equity in access.

School supply is about creating better options.

We should not confuse the two, and we should not expect school choice to increase school performance in and of itself. It must be coupled with a deep focus on school supply.

Why NYC High Schools Struggle With US News & World Report Rankings

Alina Adams:

The same thing happens at the AP level. While Chancellor Fariña is happy to collect accolades for her schools’ rankings, she neglects to admit that, at the same time, her department is failing to provide adequate teachers for her highest-performing students. It’s almost like they’re succeeding in spite of the DOE, not because of it.

It’s an established fact that the city is failing its low-performers, with over 50% of high-school graduates not exiting college-ready. But there’s a problem at the top, too. The US News and World Report rankings are not a perfect tool but, nonetheless, they should serve as a wake up call about thousands of qualified kids losing their opportunity to take AP classes.

Parent LIFO Lawsuit: The battle over teacher seniority in N.J. has just begun

New Jersey Star Ledger Editorial:

The Newark parents who sued, arguing that forcing school districts to prioritize seniority over teacher talent hurts their kids, just lost their case in court. That’s a real blow to students, who don’t have a special interest union.

But make no mistake: this fight is far from over. Their families can appeal, of course, and while it may be a long shot to argue that the state constitution should decide this, the issue is in no way settled – because changing the policy itself is essential.

The Legislature should have fixed this long ago; these parents never should have had to go to court. Absolute seniority rights are about Democratic fealty to the teacher’s union, not what’s best for children.

Much more on the New Jersey Last in, First Out (LIFO) teacher governance lawsuit, here.

Related: An emphasis on adult employment.

Potemkin universities

Victor Davis Hanson:

College campuses still appear superficially to be quiet, well-landscaped refuges from the bustle of real life.

But increasingly, their spires, quads and ivy-covered walls are facades. They are now no more about free inquiry and unfettered learning than were the proverbial Potemkin fake buildings put up to convince the traveling Russian czarina Catherine II that her impoverished provinces were prosperous.

The university faces crises almost everywhere of student debt, university finances, free expression, and the very quality and value of a university education.

Take free speech. Without freedom of expression, there can be no university.

But if the recent examples at Berkeley, Claremont, Middlebury and Yale are any indication, there is nothing much left to the idea of a free and civilized exchange of different ideas.

What does it really mean to ‘never, never give up on students?’

Alan Borsuk:

“Never, never give up on students.”

Two weeks ago in this column, I quoted Marc Tucker, who leads the National Center on Education and the Economy, a Washington-based nonprofit, saying that in a talk in Madison. On its face, it’s not controversial. Who’s in favor of giving up on kids?

But what does it mean to give up or not give up? That’s a provocative matter, particularly in a city where the needle has moved so little in improving deeply distressing overall outcomes for students. (Let one fact represent the problem: Fewer than 20% of students in both Milwaukee Public Schools and the private school voucher program were rated as proficient or advanced in reading and math in tests given a year ago.)

Some teachers took Tucker’s remarks as criticism of their own efforts.

What ‘personal space’ looks like around the world

Amanda Erickson:

If you’ve traveled even a little bit, you’ve surely had the experience of sharing a public space with someone (or many someones) who wants to stand closer to you than you’d allow your partner most of the time. (I often had this experience at the ATMs in Baku, Azerbaijan, where crowding has replaced queuing.)

It’s because personal space — how close we stand to our colleagues, our friends, strangers — varies widely between countries. Sociologists have studied the whys and hows, and they’ve come up with some theories about why these social norms exist. Temperature tends to affect how people define personal space. So do gender and age.

More Android phones than ever are covertly listening for inaudible sounds in ads

Dan Goodin:

Almost a year after app developer SilverPush vowed to kill its privacy-threatening software that used inaudible sound embedded into TV commercials to covertly track phone users, the technology is more popular than ever, with more than 200 Android apps that have been downloaded millions of times from the official Google Play market, according to a recently published research paper.

As that use inaudible sound to link your phone, TV, tablet, and PC
As of January, there were 234 Android apps that were created using SilverPush’s publicly available software developer kit, according to the paper, which was published by researchers from Technische Universitat Braunschweig in Germany. That represents a dramatic increase in the number of Android apps known to use the creepy audio tracking scheme. In April 2015, there were only five such apps.

Born to Lead? The Effect of Birth Order on Non-Cognitive Abilities

Sandra E. Black, Erik Grönqvist, Björn Öckert

We study the effect of birth order on personality traits among men using population data on enlistment records and occupations for Sweden. We find that earlier born men are more emotionally stable, persistent, socially outgoing, willing to assume responsibility, and able to take initiative than later-borns. In addition, we find that birth order affects occupational sorting; first-born children are more likely to be managers, while later-born children are more likely to be self-employed. We also find that earlier born children are more likely to be in occupations that require leadership ability, social ability and the Big Five personality traits. Finally, we find a significant role of sex composition within the family. Later-born boys suffer an additional penalty the larger the share of boys among the older siblings. When we investigate possible mechanisms, we find that the negative effects of birth order are driven by post-natal environmental factors. We also find evidence of lower parental human capital investments in later-born children.

What is Genetic Access Control?


Using the 23andme API it is now possible to utilize genetic profile information and likely phenotypes in custom applications. This means you can restrict access to your site based on traits including sex, ancestry, disease susceptability, and arbitrary characteristics associated with single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a person’s genotype.

How does it work?

GAC uses the standard third-party authentication mechanism OAuth2 to request minimal permissions from 23andme on behalf of the user. The user is presented with a dialog asking them to approve the sharing of certain genetic data with your application.
If the request is approved a temporary access token is passed to your application which can be used to make API requests to retrieve information, such as ancestry composition and SNP nucleotide sequences. This data can then be used to grant or restrict authorization.

Thousands of Veterans Want to Learn to Code — But Can’t

Andrew Zaleski:

avid Molina was stationed at Dover Air Force Base, 100 miles outside Baltimore, when he started trying to become a coder. After 12 years of service, his time in the army was almost up, and he needed a new career. “My dream has always been to create something in my head,” says the 38-year-old Molina. So in his spare time, he tried to build iPhone apps and learn some basic programming. He even took Mattan Griffel’s One Month Rails course on Skillshare.

He wasn’t very successful. “It just didn’t click. I couldn’t deploy anything.” Molina started hunting for help in Baltimore, where he quickly fell into B’more on Rails, a longstanding Ruby on Rails Meetup in the city. “People taught me about open source. There was pizza, there was beer,” he recalls. “They made me feel like I was at home.”

Forging voice

Bruce Schneier:

LyreBird is a system that can accurately reproduce the voice of someone, given a large amount of sample inputs. It’s pretty good — listen to the demo here — and will only get better over time.

The applications for recorded-voice forgeries are obvious, but I think the larger security risk will be real-time forgery. Imagine the social engineering implications of an attacker on the telephone being able to impersonate someone the victim knows.

Voucher critics are seizing on D.C. test scores. They’re missing the point.

Washington Post:

CRITICS OF school choice could not contain their glee over a new study on the District’s school voucher program showing that students attending private schools did not perform as well on standardized tests as their public school counterparts. It is pretty rich that those who have railed against using test scores to hold schools accountable now invoke them to try to shut down the federally funded voucher program. And it is pretty easy for people who already have educational options for their children to discount the importance of school choice to parents who do not.

UC Santa Cruz agrees to demands of students who occupied Kerr Hall

Ryan Masters:

UC Santa Cruz has agreed to the demands of the Afrikan Black Student Alliance after a three-day occupation of Kerr Hall, the primary administration building on campus.

To loud cheers of victory, UCSC director of News and Media Relations Scott Hernandez-Jason stood before hundreds of students at Kerr Hall about 5:30 p.m. Thursday and announced that the university was committed to better serving its African, black and Caribbean-identified students.

To illustrate this, UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal agreed to the Alliance’s demands and made the following commitments:

• UCSC committed to extending up to a four-year housing guarantee to all students from underrepresented communities who applied to and live in the Rosa Parks African American Theme House.

On Campuses Far From China, Still Under Beijing’s Watchful Eye

Stephanie Saul:

In the competition for marquee commencement speakers, the University of California, San Diego thought it had scored a coup this year — a Nobel Peace Prize winner, best-selling author and spiritual North Star to millions of people.

“We are honored to host His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,” gushed Pradeep Khosla, the university’s chancellor, “and thankful that he will share messages of global compassion.”

Within hours of Mr. Khosla’s announcement, though, the university was blindsided by nasty remarks on Facebook and other social media sites: “Imagine how Americans would feel if someone invited Bin Laden,” said one.

Old English Has a Serious Image Problem

Mary Dockray-Miller:

“Old English,” also termed “Anglo-Saxon,” was and is simply the form of the English language that predates the Norman Conquest of 1066. The first line of the earliest poem in Old English, a prayer called “Cædmon’s Hymn,” largely unfamiliar to modern English speakers, offers a taste of this forgotten language: Nu sculon herigean heofonrices weard (“Now we must praise the guardian of the heaven-kingdom”).

Scattered American antiquarians and scholars, including Thomas Jefferson, investigated Anglo-Saxon in the early years of the American republic. The study of the language became more widespread in the decades following the Civil War, when many of the growing numbers of American universities and colleges added it to their curricula. As with any endeavor in nineteenth-century higher education, many more men than women took part.

Who Teaches Students That Words Are Violence?

Malhar Mali:

Last week, Ulrich Baer, a vice-provost and a professor of English at New York University, made an astonishing case against free speech in the New York Times. Baer framed the debate as one of speakers operating to “invalidate the humanity” of others — thus justifying shutting down the speech of speakers students might not be appreciative towards. But in doing so, he revealed far more about his mindset and that of many scholars who operate in the humanities. After all, who do you think teaches students that speech is dangerous, the ideas that cause the “snowflake” reactions we have become accustomed to viewing, or that anyone who is not a straight white male is experiencing oppression at unprecedented levels?

Baer’s article has already been skewered by Conor Friedsdorf in The Atlantic and Ted Gup in The Chronicle. I’m more interested in exploring how Baer argues as it lends us an insight into what’s causing students to behave in the ludicrous ways we have witnessed.

The most comically disturbing statement made by Baer, when referencing the at times odious views of controversial speakers, is:

Privacy Threats through Ultrasonic Side Channels on Mobile Devices

Daniel Arp, Erwin Quiring, Christian Wressnegger and Konrad Rieck

Device tracking is a serious threat to the privacy of users, as it enables spying on their habits and activities. A recent practice embeds ultrasonic beacons in audio and tracks them using the microphone of mobile devices. This side channel allows an adversary to identify a user’s current location, spy on her TV viewing habits or link together her different mobile devices. In this paper, we explore the capabilities, the current prevalence and technical limitations of this new tracking tech- nique based on three commercial tracking solutions. To this end, we develop detection approaches for ultrasonic beacons and Android applications capable of processing these. Our findings confirm our privacy concerns: We spot ultrasonic beacons in various web media content and detect signals in 4 of 35 stores in two European cities that are used for location tracking. While we do not find ultrasonic beacons in TV streams from 7 countries, we spot 234 Android applications that are constantly listening for ultrasonic beacons in the background without the user’s knowledge.

A Principal Is Accused of Being a Communist, Rattling a Brooklyn School

Nikole Hannah-Jones:

But after the initial shock, she said she realized she had been waiting for something like this to happen for a long time.

Over the years, Ms. Bloomberg has become one of the most outspoken and visible critics of New York City’s public schools, regularly castigating the Education Department’s leadership at forums and in the news media. Most of her criticism is aimed at actions that she says perpetuate a segregated and unequal educational system and that penalize black and Latino students. Through the years, she has helped organize protests and assemblies to push for integration and equal resources and treatment for her almost entirely black and Latino student body.

Last Friday, Ms. Bloomberg filed a lawsuit against the school system saying it violated her rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects an individual’s civil rights and the right to free speech under the First Amendment. Ms. Bloomberg was seeking an injunction to stop the investigation until her lawsuit is resolved.

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack
and Michael Fish:

Major Findings

  • CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students
  • Change in performance was observed immediately after switch
  • Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly

    Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis

  • CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as the traditional-AP students

    Both sample sizes were low

2012: “An increasing number of freshmen in the UW System need remedial math when they start college, according to UW officials.”

2014: “

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

Core Plus

and: Foundations of Reading Results (Wisconsin Education Schools), or MTEL arrives.

UK student drops from ceiling to steal statistics exam. Guess who showed up?

Linda Blackford:

The odds were long, but a couple of University of Kentucky students decided it was worth the risk to climb through the ceiling ducts to a teacher’s office to steal a statistics exam.

Unfortunately for them, the teacher is a night owl.

According to UK Police, UK statistics instructor John Cain had been working late in his third floor office in the Multidisciplinary Science Building on Rose Street on Tuesday night. About midnight, he left to get something to eat. When he returned about 1:30 a.m., he tried to unlock the door, but it was blocked by something.

“He yelled out that he was calling the police and then the door swung open and two young men ran down the hallway,” recounted UK spokesman Jay Blanton.

How to read more books

Elle Kaplan:

I’ve said it many times: Reading books is a major key to success. The mega-rich and successful like Bill Gates and Elon Musk devote extraordinary amounts of their time to reading. Musk even attributes his knowledge of how to build rockets to his reading repertoire, and studies have proven that reading can reduce stress, increase focus, and improve long- and short-term memory.

The benefits of flexing your reading muscles are clear. But reading is time-consuming—and as a busy professional, it’s almost impossible to both find the time to read and actually stay focused enough to reap the benefits when deadlines start piling up.

University Of California ‘Recalled Retirees’ Receiving $300,000+ In Annual Pensions


The non-profit California Policy Center obtained documents from the Office of the UC President this week through a California Public Records Act request, and shared those documents with CBS San Francisco.

The revelation that such large pensions are being received by UC retirees — both teaching faculty members and non-teaching staff — comes at a time when the Office of the President faces severe scrutiny after a slush fund of up to $175 million was discovered during an audit.

UC President Janet Napolitano has apologized for how she handled the audit but maintains that the amount of money not in the public view was much less.

Want to Learn Faster? Study Less and Slack More, Says This Master Teacher

Jessica Stillman:

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” Mark Twain supposedly quipped.

It’s a catchy witticism, but while many of us remember the quote, far too many people still fail to make the distinction between “schooling” and “learning,” engineering professor, master teacher, and author Barbara Oakley believes. And that is holding us back from becoming successful lifelong learners.
Learning doesn’t always look like what you did in school

This insight comes from a fascinating and lengthy post on blog Farnam Street, which digs into how our unexamined beliefs about learning prevent us from gaining as much knowledge as we could. Too many of us, writer Shane Parrish insists, drag emotional baggage from our school days into our adult efforts at self-improvement, slowing us down significantly.

What sort of emotional baggage? The kind that associates “learning” exclusively with the focused reading, note taking, and reviewing we did as students. Any other approach to nourishing our brains tends to make many of us feel a little guilty. If we’re not staring at a book or a page of notes, we’re slacking off, we tell ourselves.

“Mr. Hayes’s solution is to improve education”

Joseph Tago:

Mr. Hayes’s solution is to improve education, specifically with a national apprenticeship program that would guide local public-private partnerships to train and prepare the workforce better. He knows the problem firsthand: “I’ve got thousands of job openings.”

Do you really?

“Thousands,” he replies. “A lot of this is because we’ve got growth in business on the aerospace side, but we’ll be adding thousands of jobs in the next three years, and right now I cannot hire mechanics who know how to put together jet engines. But it’s not just jet engines. We also make fan blades, other products, very sophisticated things. These are the high-value manufacturing jobs that America can actually support.”

A Pratt machinist earns $34 to $38 an hour, which with overtime works out to more than $100,000 a year—“pretty good money,” Mr. Hayes says. The positions can be filled by high-school graduates with “basic competencies in math and English” sufficient to, say, read a blueprint.

Mr. Hayes’s apprenticeship idea is about teaching such candidates the technical skills they need for the manufacturing jobs of the future—the kind that aren’t becoming obsolete due to automation and artificial intelligence. Labor arbitrage, like moving to Mexico, can only work so long, as rising wages in China show. But humans can’t compete with robots, which, as he says one of his Chinese managers put it, “never get sick, never ask for a raise, and they work 24/7.”

Labor mobility is another concern. People are less willing to move to where jobs are. UTC recently built a factory in Lansing, Mich., to make engine housings for a new type of titanium-aluminum fan blade and needs to bring on about 1,000 new people. The work pays $23 an hour on average, yet some workers in Huntington, who earned $15 on average, “won’t move two hours north to Lansing.”

Related: Madison’s long-term, disastrous reading results, and FOUNDATIONS OF READING RESULTS (WISCONSIN EDUCATION SCHOOLS), OR MTEL ARRIVES:

Wisconsin’s DPI provided the results to-date of the Wisconsin Foundations of Reading exam to School Information System, which posted an analysis. Be aware that the passing score from January, 2014 through August, 2014, was lower than the passing score in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Since September of 2014, the Wisconsin passing score has been the same as those states. SIS reports that the overall Wisconsin pass rate under the lower passing score was 92%, while the pass rate since August of 2014 has been 78%. This ranges from around 55% at one campus to 93% at another. The pass rate of 85% that SIS lists in its main document appears to include all the candidates who passed under the lower cut score.

Alief ISD student accepted into 7 of 8 Ivy League schools

Shelby Webb:

Amina Mabizari couldn’t control her tears after she read the text message from her father.

The 18-year-old’s ability to articulate herself earned the Alief ISD senior one of 100 spots in the prestigious United States Senate Youth Program in Washington, D.C., yet in that moment in March, she was unable to compose herself. Her father had opened a letter from Yale University, advising that Amina was likely assured a spot in the incoming freshman class.

And the acceptance letters kept coming. When she checked online in April, she saw a college acceptance letter from Princeton. Then came one from Columbia. Others arrived from Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania.

California Public Pension Shortfall One of Nation’s Largest (Kentucky, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado The Worst)

Anthony Sanders:

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently came out with their study, “The State Pension Funding Gap: 2015”. PSRS_The_State_Pension_Funding_Gap_2015 And an ugly picture it paints of state pension funds.

Here is a nice editorial from The Sacramento Bee:

Throughout California, local government and school district officials are writing new budgets and confronting rapidly rising costs of pensions.

Many have seen their costs double in the last few years, largely consuming revenue increases that the state’s expanding economy have produced. For instance, a projected $1 billion increase in school districts’ teacher pension costs in 2017-18 will more than equal projected revenue gains.

However, as the old rock song says, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Lackluster earnings by pension trust funds, revised actuarial projections and impacts of benefit increases are compelling the systems to sharply increase mandatory “contributions” from public employers.

The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get Most of the Rewards

James Clear:

Sometime in the late 1800s—nobody is quite sure exactly when—a man named Vilfredo Pareto was fussing about in his garden when he made a small but interesting discovery.

Pareto noticed that a tiny number of pea pods in his garden produced the majority of the peas.

Now, Pareto was a very mathematical fellow. He worked as an economist and one of his lasting legacies was turning economics into a science rooted in hard numbers and facts. Unlike many economists of the time, Pareto’s papers and books were filled with equations. And the peas in his garden had set his mathematical brain in motion.

What if this unequal distribution was present in other areas of life as well?

Indiana teen is graduating college — before she gets her high school diploma

Matthew Diebel:

“My mother always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do in life,” she told the paper.

While at Purdue Northwest, which is in nearby Hammond, Osborne stood out to faculty and staff, BTN reported.

“She not only is academically gifted, but has demonstrated amazing intellectual maturity in her pursuit of a baccalaureate degree at Purdue Northwest,” Purdue Northwest spokesman Wes Lukoshus told the Northwest Indiana Times.

Meanwhile, Purdue associate professor of sociology Ralph Cherry, who had Osborne last spring in a class on research methods, said he did not realize that she was a high school student.

“Research methods is the most demanding class that I teach,” he told the Times.

If all that wasn’t enough, Osborne, who will turn 19 in August, was also striving to earn money.

Startup Taps Into Children’s Passion for Math

Barbara Haislip:

What happens when your children find STEM more appealing than the Magic Kingdom?

Start a business.

Every year, Dori Roberts and her students at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, Va., would compete in technology and engineering tournaments, and in 2008 they did well enough to reach the finals at a national competition in Orlando, Fla.

Ms. Roberts decided to bring her 6-year-old son, Matthew, and her 8-year-old daughter, Kaley, along for the trip, and promised to take them to Disney World. She thought it was going to be torture with her children asking, “When are we going to Disney World?” Instead, Matthew and Kaley were mesmerized by the engineering projects created by their mother’s team, expressing a desire to participate and hang out with the students.

My So-Called (Instagram) Life

Clara Dollar:

“You’re like a cartoon character,” he said. “Always wearing the same thing every day.”

He meant it as an intimate observation, the kind you can make only after spending a lot of time getting to know each other. You flip your hair to the right. You only eat ice cream out of mugs. You always wear a black leather jacket. I know you.

Regulating the internet giants: The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data

The Economist

A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

60 Years of Urban Change: Midwest

Shane Hampton:

60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed.
 We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century.

‘Bell Curve’ author Charles Murray on speech protests: ‘I’m not like Ann Coulter’

Karen Herzog:

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on his way to a speaking engagement in Madison, libertarian political scientist and co-author of “The Bell Curve” Charles Murray commented on the climate of college protests against speakers with a conservative viewpoint, efforts to pass new speech laws and his own take on the rise of President Donald Trump.

“I don’t lose any sleep over the protests,” said Murray, whose talk at Middlebury College on March 4 drew violent protest. “I don’t lose any sleep over people calling me names. Neither do I relish the protests. I’m not like Ann Coulter. I don’t get a big kick out of this kind of thing and I don’t enjoy going on TV or on radio, or otherwise talking at length about my exciting adventures,” Murray said.

Efforts by Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and other states to pass laws protecting free speech on college campuses are superfluous because the First Amendment already does that, Murray said.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Puerto Rico, with $73 billion in debt, forced toward bankruptcy (20k / Resident)

Thomas Heath and Tory Newmyer:

One building contractor who was owed more than $1 million received two payments from the Government Development Bank for a total of $164,030 — only to see them bounce.

The rescue plan involving the oversight board was fraught with politics as it wound its way through Congress last year. Some politicians used politically charged language to describe the plan.

One group, the Center for Individual Freedom, spent millions on ads calling the Puerto Rico bill a “bailout,” targeting congressional districts. As Jeff Mazzella, the group’s president, sees it, the oversight board’s action “will allow Puerto Rico to rob millions of American retirees and savers who invested in Puerto Rico bonds.”

Young, talented and fed-up: scientists tell their stories

Kendall Powell:

Martin Tingley was coming undone. It was late autumn 2014, just over a year into his assistant-professor job at Pennsylvania State University in State College, and he was on an eight-hour drive home after visiting his wife in Boston. He was stressed, exhausted and close to tears. As the traffic zipped past in the dark hours of the early morning, the headlights gave him the surreal feeling that he was inside a video game.

Usually, Tingley thought of himself as a “pretty stoic guy” — and on paper, his career was going well. He’d completed a master’s degree in statistics and a PhD in Earth science, both at Harvard University. With these, and four years of postdoctoral experience, he had landed a rare tenure-track faculty position. He thought he would soon be successfully combining statistics and climate science to produce the type of interdisciplinary research that funding agencies say they want.


Jon Schwarz:

An ingenious new Roosevelt Institute study on the influence of money on politics begins with an incredible story about how the world actually works:

In the spring of 1987, Paul Volcker’s second term as chair of the Federal Reserve was running out. Volcker had first been appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979, and was willing to stay for another four years if President Reagan asked. While Volcker had used high interest rates to engineer a crushing recession at the start of Reagan’s first term, he then allowed the economy to expand rapidly just in time to carry Reagan to a landslide reelection in 1984.

Yet Reagan wanted to replace him. Why?

The study’s authors, Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, report that they learned the answer from a participant in the key White House meeting on Volcker’s fate.

Ethical Use of Predictive Analytics in Higher Education

New America:

Colleges are under increasing pressure to retain their students. The public and policymakers are demanding that those who enter college—especially students from underrepresented groups—earn a degree.

Because of these pressures, institutions have begun analyzing data to predict whether a student will enroll, require extra support, and stay on track to graduate. Analyzing past student data to predict what students might do has helped institutions meet their enrollment and revenue goals with more targeted recruiting and strategic use of institutional aid. Predictive analytics has also allowed colleges to better tailor their advising services and personalize learning in order to improve student outcomes.

But while these are worthwhile efforts, it is crucial for institutions to use predictive analytics ethically. Without strong ethical practices, student data could be used to curtail academic success rather than help ensure it.

New America has published two papers on the ethical use of predictive analytics in higher education: The Promise and Peril of Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: A Landscape Analysis and Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: Five Guiding Practices for Ethical Use.

Snowden and the future by Eben Moglen is worth reading.

LA school District Administrative Overhead

Mike Szymanski:

The 29-story school headquarters at 333 S. Beaudry Ave. has 3,718 employees with salaries totaling $477.7 million – about 3.5 percent of the total budget, said Earl Perkins, associate superintendent, Division of District Operation.

The central office now has 434 vacant positions, and 139 of those jobs will not be renewed. The other 295 positions represent about $35 million in salaries.

The remaining positions can’t remain vacant for various reasons, according to the report, because they are funded by grants or bond funds for a specific program or are critical to support programs even after the superintendent’s 30 percent reduction.

The report suggested that 1,350 staffers could be relocated to district locations.

One of the options on the table is selling or renting out parts of the downtown Beaudry building, but Facilities Executive Director Mark Hovatter said the district is restricted by how much of the building can be rented out until 2022.

“With automation of most tasks, even creative white-collar jobs, the unemployment situation will make education irrelevant. Train for what?

Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson

A noteworthy share of these respondents focused on the enormous systemic and structural realities that confront those trying to plan for the future of work and workers. Many of the least hopeful in this expert canvassing look into the future and see a world where most of the work is done by robots and automated processes, as humans are replaced by algorithm-driven work solutions. Some of these people dismiss the idea that any kind of training ecosystem is likely to matter in a world where they believe fewer and fewer people will work.

Theme 2: Learners must cultivate 21st‑century skills, capabilities and attributes

Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson:

Will training for the skills likely to be most important in the jobs of the future work be effective in large-scale settings by 2026? Respondents in this canvassing overwhelmingly said yes, anticipating improvements in such education will continue. However, when respondents answered the question, “Which of these skills can be taught effectively via online systems?” most generally listed a number of “hard skills” such as fact-based knowledge or step-by-step processes such as programming or calculation – the types of skills that analysts say machines are taking over at an alarming pace right now. And then, when asked, “What are the most important skills needed to succeed in the workplace of the future?” while some respondents mentioned lessons that might be taught in a large-scale setting (such as understanding how to partner with AI systems or how use fast-evolving digital tools) most concentrated on the need for “soft skills” best developed organically, mentioning attributes such as adaptability, empathy, persistence, problem-solving, conflict resolution, collaboration and people skills, and critical thinking.

Teacher Content Knowledge Requirements

Robert Pondiscio:

Slowly, slowly, a small but persuasive body of work is emerging which raises curriculum to an object of pressing concern for educators, and expresses long overdue appreciation for the idea that the instructional materials we put in front of children actually matter to student outcomes. A welcome addition to this emerging corpus is a new Aspen Institute paper by Ross Wiener and Susan Pimentel, which makes a compelling case—equally overdue—that professional development and teacher training ought to be connected to curriculum. A primary role of school systems, states, districts, and charter-management organizations, the pair write, “is to create the conditions in schools through which teachers can become experts at teaching the curriculum they are using and adapting instruction to the needs of their particular students.”

Note the italics, which are Weiner’s and Pimental’s, not mine. It underscores that regardless of how unremarkable this may sound to lay readers (“Wait. Teachers should be expert at teaching their curriculum? Aren’t they already!?”), what the duo are suggesting is something new, even revolutionary. Sadly, it is.

Practice What You Teach begins with a discussion of research demonstrating the frustrating state of teacher “PD,” which, like the sitcom Seinfeld, is a show about nothing. Next, they discuss curriculum materials, which “have a profound effect on what happens in classrooms and on how much students learn.” When average teachers use excellent materials, Weiner and Pimental note, “student learning results improve significantly.” The general disregard for curriculum as a means to improve teacher effectiveness and student outcomes is reflected in the observation that “many teachers do not have access to strong, standards-aligned curriculum; in fact, most teachers spend hours every week searching for materials that haven’t been vetted and aren’t connected to ongoing, professional learning activities in their schools.”

This is a state of affairs that would be a national scandal if an analogous situation existed in healthcare or any other critical public service (Help Wanted: Firemen. Bring your own hose). Many school districts have nothing that would meet a reasonable definition for a curriculum. Local “scope and sequence” documents are suggestions; the subjects they list may or may not be taught. When USC professor Morgan Polikoff wanted school-level data on what textbooks were in use in several states, he had to file hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests to find out. The issue wasn’t secrecy. States and districts seem to think it’s just not worth keeping track of.

Wisconsin has adopted only one such requirement (Massachussetts far more, via MTEL).

Foundations of reading results

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he said. “That sucks.”

Ashlee Vance

In 2011 a young computer scientist named Jeff Hammerbacher said something profound while explaining why he’d decided to leave Facebook—and the promise of a small fortune—to start a company. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he said. “That sucks.”
 Hammerbacher was getting at the idea that so many of the world’s best and brightest people flocking to Silicon Valley for jobs at companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. might be an unhealthy use of human capital. Sure, these companies offered plenty of interesting work, but much of it revolved around the core business of advertising. Very smart people were pouring their energy into an unromantic goal: keeping the rest of us on their websites so we might click on an ad for an irritable bowel syndrome cure.
 Hammerbacher’s flippant remark has lived on because it captures a crucial sentiment, one that’s even more important today than in 2011. Google and Facebook are unlike any other two companies in history. They’re technology-and-advertising hybrids—strange amalgams with incredible power. They’re building the tools we use to communicate, to do business, to form and maintain relationships, to learn, to travel to and fro, and to relax. And they’re doing all of this while being wholly dependent on ad dollars for their survival. Never have advertising companies had such an all-encompassing influence on our life. And next year it will be even greater.

Wisconsin Lawmaker: Lack of rigorous goals contributed to state’s achievement gap (decades go by)

Molly Beck:

The huge gap in average academic achievement among racial groups in Wisconsin is likely a result of state education officials not setting rigorous goals to address the problem years ago, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Wednesday.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said Wednesday that state lawmakers and education officials did not take seriously the charge of the 2001 federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

That law, which was replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act, required schools to show that students improved their learning year after year, including among racial, gender and ability groups. Those that didn’t meet federal standards for improvement after four or more years were subject to be placed into “corrective action,” which could have resulted in replacing teachers, converting a school into a charter school or closing it altogether.

Olsen said because the law required all students to be proficient in English and math by 2014, the state Department of Public Instruction set goals that were below what Wisconsin students were achieving already, instead of goals that would require students to show dramatic improvement.

Olsen made the comments during a legislative briefing by DPI officials on the state’s plan to implement a new federal education accountability law. He praised DPI’s new plan because it sets goals to cut the gap in average achievement between black and white students in half in six years — which would require black students to improve in proficiency in English and math by around 4 percent annually.

“These are goals that are completely different than NCLB, because those, in my estimation, were just a scam,” said Olsen.

The WKCE was an unfortunate waste of time and money. Wisconsin continues to lag many states and nations.

A different tune: Unschooling families pursue their own educational path

Amber Walker:

Marie thought the “one-size-fits-all” model of public schools would not work for their kids.

“I wanted them to be able to explore their individuality and find out what they really love to do,” she said. “Schools tend to tell you what you are not good at and then make you work harder at that. I wanted to find out what they were good at first. Then, once you have that confidence, you can try to do the things that you need to work on.”

Michael Apple is a professor of educational policy and curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and wrote the book “Educating the Right Way,” which, in part, discusses religious home schooling. From his research, Apple estimates about 50 to 80 percent of students who receive a home-based education learn under a conservative, religious course of study.

“Home schooling is one of the fastest growing movements in education in the United States. There are many, many more children being home-schooled than being unschooled,” Apple said.

Although unschooling falls under the umbrella of home-based private education, its history and foundation differ from traditional home schooling.

“Unschooling, by and large, has its roots in progressive schooling, with student interests guiding what the learning should be,” Apple said. “A good deal of home schooling, for the majority, is much more cautious about that. It is a much more conservative sense about parental authority and the authority of churchly wisdom.

“Both of these groups are widely varied, but certainly, the home-schooling movement tends to be much more conservative in its pedagogy.”

Johnny and Marie Justice are entrepreneurs and own a film company, Justice Media. Their most recent documentary, “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” profiled Dane County residents as they navigated issues like rejoining society after incarceration and living with a spouse who is undocumented. Marie said that a part of the reason they decided to unschool their children was to show them an alternative path to success.

“We are modeling our lives as entrepreneurs,” she said. “We wanted our kids to be able to see that and know that there is more than one track. You can make your own way in this world.”


Apple said given the current state of public education — including the challenges of recruiting teachers, lack of funding, demands on teachers to focus on standardized tests and increasing class sizes — it is difficult for schools to meet the needs of parents who want a different experience for their children.

“Many teachers are under immense pressure to teach to the test,” Apple said. “But one of the things unschooling parents are saying is, ‘The tests don’t measure what my kid is interested in. We want to teach values, skills and knowledge that kids can learn by doing a lot of things that are not measurable.’”

“lack of funding?”. Madison spends more than most, now around $18k per student, annually.

Plenty of resources“, despite this, we continue to tolerate long term, disastrous resding results.

Medill Drops Efforts at Accreditation in Blow to Watchdog Groups

Douglas Belkin:

In another blow to the credibility of the nation’s network of higher education watchdogs, one of the country’s most prestigious journalism programs has dropped efforts to earn accreditation.

“We find little value in the current version of accreditation,” Medill School of Journalism Dean Bradley Hamm said in a statement on Tuesday. “As we near the 2020s, we expect far better than a 1990s-era accreditation organization that resists change—especially as education and careers in our field evolve rapidly.”

Accreditors are deputized by the federal government to monitor the quality of higher education institutions and programs. Colleges and universities must earn accreditation to be eligible to participate in the federal student loan program. The federal government lends roughly $150 billion to college students every year.

But because the Medill accreditation is specific to its journalism and communications program, and because it will remain under the regional accreditation umbrella of Northwestern University, students won’t lose access to federal student aid. However, students won’t be eligible to take part in a prestigious college journalism contest that accepts entrants only from accredited schools.

Colleges Rush to Ramp Up Online Classes

Melissa Korn & Douglas Belkin:

Purdue University’s plan to buy for-profit Kaplan University to expand its reach is the latest twist on an old idea: boost enrollment by attracting students online.

For-profit colleges like University of Phoenix and American Public University expanded rapidly in the early 2000s by offering convenient, web-based classes to working adults who couldn’t take time off to go back to school. Enrollments then plummeted amid tighter regulations, along with bad publicity from low graduation rates and high student debt loads at some institutions.

Despite some lingering concerns that an online degree lacks some of the benefits of face-to-face instruction, nonprofit and public institutions are racing to fill the void.

The potential to appeal to a broader base of students, without the overhead of dorms and classrooms, has set off a mad dash among big public universities like Arizona State University and the University of Massachusetts, as well as private, nonprofit institutions with more modest roots, like Liberty University and Southern New Hampshire University.

More than six million postsecondary students took at least one class online in 2015, up 11% from 2012, according to federal data.

Commentary On Personalized Pathways

Neil Heinen:

We were sold on the Madison School District’s Personalized Pathways program when Superintendent Jen Cheatham first proposed it.

But if any additional persuasion was needed we direct your attention to the news that both UW-Madison and Edgewood College have joined Madison College as partners in the program to get high school students thinking about college and career possibilities earlier and more strategically.

Cheatham’s Strategic Framework, of which Personalized Pathways is a piece, has community collaboration as a fundamental component.

As Edgewood College President Scott Flanagan points out, partnership and community are core values of Edgewood’s, and similar shared values exist at Madison College and UW.

Much more on Personalized Pathways: SIS and DDG.

Madison’s disastrous reading results continue to be job 1.

Meet the People Who Train the Robots (to Do Their Own Jobs)


What if part of your job became teaching a computer everything you know about doing someone’s job — perhaps your own?

Before the machines become smart enough to replace humans, as some people fear, the machines need teachers. Now, some companies are taking the first steps, deploying artificial intelligence in the workplace and asking their employees to train the A.I. to be more human.

We spoke with five people — a travel agent, a robotics expert, an engineer, a customer-service representative and a scriptwriter, of sorts — who have been put in this remarkable position. More than most, they understand the strengths (and weaknesses) of artificial intelligence and how the technology is changing the nature of work.

I’m an ex-Facebook exec: don’t believe what they tell you about ads

Antonio Garcia-Martinez:

I was at Facebook in 2012, during the previous presidential race. The fact that Facebook could easily throw the election by selectively showing a Get Out the Vote reminder in certain counties of a swing state, for example, was a running joke.

Converting Facebook data into money is harder than it sounds, mostly because the vast bulk of your user data is worthless. Turns out your blotto-drunk party pics and flirty co-worker messages have no commercial value whatsoever.

Sign up to the new-look Media Briefing: bigger, better, brighter
Read more
But occasionally, if used very cleverly, with lots of machine-learning iteration and systematic trial-and-error, the canny marketer can find just the right admixture of age, geography, time of day, and music or film tastes that demarcate a demographic winner of an audience. The “clickthrough rate”, to use the advertiser’s parlance, doesn’t lie.

Without seeing the leaked documents, which were reportedly based around a pitch Facebook made to a bank, it is impossible to know precisely what the platform was offering advertisers. There’s nothing in the trade I know of that targets ads at emotions. But Facebook has and does offer “psychometric”-type targeting, where the goal is to define a subset of the marketing audience that an advertiser thinks is particularly susceptible to their message.

And knowing the Facebook sales playbook, I cannot imagine the company would have concocted such a pitch about teenage emotions without the final hook: “and this is how you execute this on the Facebook ads platform”. Why else would they be making the pitch?

The question is not whether this can be done. It is whether Facebook should apply a moral filter to these decisions. Let’s assume Facebook does target ads at depressed teens. My reaction? So what. Sometimes data behaves unethically.

Louisiana DA’s Office Used Fake Subpoenas For Decades To Trick People Into Talking To Prosecutors

Tim Cushing:

According to the DA’s office, it’s done nothing wrong. Assistant District Attorney Chris Bowman says these documents used to trick people into talking to prosecutors are nothing more than “notices” or “notifications.” He compares the use of fake subpoenas to methods used by other, more honest prosecutors’ offices, which use legal letterhead to make the same request, in a much more congenial tone wholly separated from false threats of arrest.

Bowman also says legal letterhead just doesn’t get as much cooperation as his office’s fake subpoenas, which he refuses to refer to as fake subpoenas. Instead, Bowman says these fake legal documents are just a more “formal” version of legitimate methods used elsewhere.

Of course, it’s easy to see how locals might be confused by this “more formal” request, which looks exactly like this [PDF]:

Sausage making: Federal Regulations And Teacher Education Requirements.

Jim Geraghty:

“The accountability rule constitutes an unfunded mandate and is an unprecedented move by the federal government to take state power,” McCarthy wrote. “Though the original law allows for states to decide how to assess schools, this rule dictates a Washington standard that undermines state and local control over education and further strains state and local budgets.”

The fight over the rule represented one of the rare times the GOP and teachers’ unions were on the same side of an education issue. The National Education Association objected to the use of student-test data to measure whether a teacher-preparation program is working well enough, and complained that the rule didn’t account for differences in school resources, technology, and other factors.

All the President’s Friends: Political Access and Firm Value (Obama Era)

Jeffrey R. Brown, Jiekun Huang:

Using novel data on White House visitors from 2009 through 2015, we find that corporate executives’ meetings with key policymakers are associated with positive abnormal stock returns. We also find evidence suggesting that following meetings with federal government officials, firms receive more government contracts and are more likely to receive regulatory relief (as measured by the tone of regulatory news). The investment of these firms also becomes less affected by political uncertainty after the meetings. Using the 2016 presidential election as a shock to political access, we find that firms with access to the Obama administration experience significantly lower stock returns following the release of the election result than otherwise similar firms. Overall, our results provide evidence suggesting that political access is of significant value to corporations.

Madison School Board OKs big change in employee health insurance options

Karen Rivedal:

Employees of the Madison School District will have one fewer health insurance provider to choose from, requiring just over 1,000 employees to find a new primary care doctor.

But the estimated $3 million the district will save from dropping Unity, its highest-cost provider, will help bankroll increased compensation for the district’s roughly 4,000 employees, while covering any additional premium costs the new state budget may require them to pay.

The changes, which Superintendent Jen Cheatham recommended last month in her budget proposal for next school year, were approved in a special board meeting Monday and will take effect July 1. Members will vote on the full budget June 26.

Officials said early action on the insurance portion of the budget plan and some of its compensation provisions was important to ease teacher recruitment and to ensure a smooth transition for employees forced to switch coverage to GHC or Dean, the remaining providers.

“We need to educate (employees), allow time to complete enrollment paperwork, transition care and allow sufficient time for the insurance carrier to process the applications and send out insurance cards,” Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff, executive director of human resources, said in briefing documents for board members. “This all would need to happen prior to the ‘go-live’ date (of July 1).”

Healthcare costs have long been a significant budget and governance issue for our $18,000/student K-12 institution.

Amber Walker:

The board eliminated the third provider to bring health care costs down across the board, and starting July 1, employees will pay 12 percent of their health care premiums.

The vote was 4-1 to eliminate Unity. Nicki Vander Meulen voted against the measure citing the need for more time to make the decision. Board members Anna Moffitt and TJ Mertz recused themselves since their spouses are district employees and covered by the plan.

The HMO restructuring will save MMSD $3 million each year in HMO costs and the increased employee contributions frees up $4.5 million.

Although district employees will pay more out of pocket for their health insurance, MMSD said it will protect take-home pay by reinvesting the money it saves into across-the-board salary increases.

Assistant superintendent of business Mike Barry said most employees will see a pay bump and no employee should lose money as a result of the changes.

MMSD’s budget also calls for a $15 hourly minimum wage for employees who currently make less than that, increasing summer school pay from $16 to $25/hour for MMSD employees, and increasing beginning teacher pay to $41,096. The Madison School Board also approved those budget items at Monday’s meeting.

Related: Most of Aetna’s revenue now comes from government programs; by Bob Herman:

Here’s a nugget that encapsulates the health insurance industry, despite all the noise surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act: In the first quarter of this year, Aetna collected more premium revenue from government programs (namely Medicare and Medicaid) than it did from commercial insurance for the first time ever.

Why this matters: Most people get their health coverage from their employer, and that historically has been the bread and butter of the insurance industry. But the aging population and expansion of Medicaid managed care means insurers are investing more time and money in the lower-margin (but still lucrative) government programs. Aetna, in particular, has invested heavily in Medicare Advantage.

Students for Free Speech

Scott Jaschik:

The news is full of recent incidents in which students have blocked or attempted to block campus speakers. Students have shouted down or shut down appearances of controversial speakers at Middlebury College, Claremont McKenna College and the University of California, Los Angeles, among other campuses. While the students involved there are on the left, invitations have been rescinded for views favoring abortion rights (an invitation withdrawn at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana), and invitations have been protested for speaker views seen as anti-Israel (as in a case at the City University of New York, in which officials are refusing to block an appearance).

In much of the public discussion of these incidents, students are portrayed as intolerant of views with which they disagree.

Over the weekend, 25 students from about 20 colleges around the country gathered at the University of Chicago to try to start a movement in which students would become leading defenders of free speech on campus — including speech that they find offensive. The students issued a statement Sunday that they plan to urge other students to sign and to abide by.

“The Free Speech Movement began as an entirely student-led initiative,” says the statement, referring to the University of California, Berkeley, movement of the 1960s. “However, free speech has been increasingly undermined by attempts of students and administrators alike to silence those with whom they disagree. We seek to reclaim that original tradition.”

America’s Most Anti-Reform Institution? The Media

Holman Jenkins, Jr.:

As team Trump digs into taxing, spending and health-care reform, it’s learning a vital lesson of Washington. Once a government benefit is given, it can never be taken away. If young people have been overcharged by ObamaCare so middle-aged people can be undercharged, then the solution is to undercharge young people too. The taxpayer—usually visualized as a hedge fund manager—can always pay more.

Ditto the budget as a whole. The Washington Post moans that the White House’s new spending plan would “eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies,” including providing funding for “Meals on Wheels, a national nonprofit group that delivers food to homebound seniors.”

Never mind that Meals on Wheels is not a federal program. Funding comes from private donations and state and local governments, sometimes using small parts of federal block grants.

The Post further moans that the Trump budget “guts federal funding for affordable housing and kicks the financial responsibility of those programs to states and local governments.”

Never mind that the federal government doesn’t have access to resources the states and localities don’t. Its tax base is their tax base. If housing subsidies are a local priority, let local leaders raise and spend the money locally. They are likely to do a better job addressing a local problem than Washington is.

The U.S. Makes It Easy for Parents to Get College Loans—Repaying Them Is Another Story

Josh Mitchell:

Millions of U.S. parents have taken out loans from the government to help their children pay for college. Now a crushing bill is coming due.

Hundreds of thousands have tumbled into delinquency and default. In the process, many have delayed retirement, put off health expenses and lost portions of Social Security checks and tax refunds to their lender, the federal government.

Student loans made through parents come from an Education Department program called Parent Plus, which has loans outstanding to more than three million Americans. The problem is the government asks almost nothing about its borrowers’ incomes, existing debts, savings, credit scores or ability to repay. Then it extends loans that are nearly impossible to extinguish in bankruptcy if borrowers fall on hard times.

As of September 2015, more than 330,000 people, or 11% of borrowers, had gone at least a year without making a payment on a Parent Plus loan, according to the Government Accountability Office. That exceeds the default rate on U.S. mortgages at the peak of the housing crisis. More recent Education Department data show another 180,000 of the loans were at least a month delinquent as of May 2016.

UW-Madison, Edgewood College on board for Madison School District’s ‘Pathways’ project

Karen Rivedahl:

All of Madison’s major higher education institutions are now signed on to take part in the Madison School District’s “Personalized Pathways” initiative set to begin this fall.

UW-Madison and Edgewood College officials announced their participation Monday, joining Madison Area Technical College as anchor partners in the program, which is aimed at helping high school students explore college and career options sooner and in a more deliberate way. Students in the initiative will supplement their learning through themed curriculum developed for the chosen pathway, along with projects and other activities mixed with their regular coursework.

The idea behind Pathways is to tie students’ coursework to their personal interests and the larger world through a program of “rigorous interconnected courses and experiences,” district officials said, while still meeting all state standards for graduation.

The first cohort of 518 Madison eighth-graders — including 479 accepted into the available spaces and 39 on a waiting list — will begin the program’s first designated pathway, in health services, during their freshman year at at East, La Follette, Memorial and West high schools.

“The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance”

Maciej Ceglowski:

We built the commercial internet by mastering techniques of persuasion and surveillance that we’ve extended to billions of people, including essentially the entire population of the Western democracies. But admitting that this tool of social control might be conducive to authoritarianism is not something we’re ready to face. After all, we’re good people. We like freedom. How could we have built tools that subvert it?

As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

I contend that there are structural reasons to worry about the role of the tech industry in American political life, and that we have only a brief window of time in which to fix this.

Surveillance Capitalism

The economic basis of the Internet is surveillance. Every interaction with a computing device leaves a data trail, and whole industries exist to consume this data. Unlike dystopian visions from the past, this surveillance is not just being conducted by governments or faceless corporations. Instead, it’s the work of a small number of sympathetic tech companies with likable founders, whose real dream is to build robots and Mars rockets and do cool things that make the world better. Surveillance just pays the bills.

It is a striking fact that mass surveillance has been driven almost entirely by private industry. While the Snowden revelations in 2012 made people anxious about government monitoring, that anxiety never seemed to carry over to the much more intrusive surveillance being conducted by the commercial Internet. Anyone who owns a smartphone carries a tracking device that knows (with great accuracy) where you’ve been, who you last spoke to and when, contains potentially decades-long archives of your private communications, a list of your closest contacts, your personal photos, and other very intimate information.

Internet providers collect (and can sell) your aggregated browsing data to anyone they want. A wave of connected devices for the home is competing to bring internet surveillance into the most private spaces. Enormous ingenuity goes into tracking people across multiple devices, and circumventing any attempts to hide from the tracking.

Germany sees benefits in educating international students for free

David Matthews:

In 2016, German universities enjoyed another big rise in the international student population, according to the latest data. Germany recorded close to a 7 percent increase in international students coming to the country. This follows a jump of nearly 8 percent the previous year. Numbers have risen about 30 percent since 2012.

In most English-speaking countries, this kind of news would have university finance chiefs grinning from ear to ear: more international students means lots of extra cash from hefty tuition fees.

But in Germany, students — on the whole — famously pay no tuition fees, regardless of where they come from. Seen from the U.S. or Britain, this policy may appear either supremely principled or incredibly naïve. With international students making up nearly one in 10 students (and even more if you count noncitizens who attended German schools), why does the country choose to pass up tuition-fee income and educate other countries’ young people for free?

A new record: Major publisher retracting more than 100 studies

Retraction Watch

Springer is retracting 107 papers from one journal after discovering they had been accepted with fake peer reviews. Yes, 107.

To submit a fake review, someone (often the author of a paper) either makes up an outside expert to review the paper, or suggests a real researcher — and in both cases, provides a fake email address that comes back to someone who will invariably give the paper a glowing review. In this case, Springer, the publisher of Tumor Biology through 2016, told us that an investigation produced “clear evidence” the reviews were submitted under the names of real researchers with faked emails. Some of the authors may have used a third-party editing service, which may have supplied the reviews. The journal is now published by SAGE.

The retractions follow another sweep by the publisher last year, when Tumor Biology retracted 25 papers for compromised review and other issues, mostly authored by researchers based in Iran. With the latest bunch of retractions, the journal has now retracted the most papers of any other journal indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters. In 2015, its impact factor — 2.9 — ranked it 104th out of 213 oncology journals.

Inside the New Suburban Crisis

Richard Florida:

Indeed, with their enormous physical footprints, shoddy construction, and hastily installed infrastructure, many suburbs are visibly crumbling. Across the nation, hundreds of suburban shopping malls are dead or dying; countless suburban factories, like their urban counterparts a couple of generations ago, have fallen silent.

Incongruous as it might seem, the suburban dimension of the New Urban Crisis may well turn out to be bigger than the urban one, if for no other reason than the fact that more Americans live in suburbs than cities. Members of the privileged elite may be returning to the urban cores, but large majorities of almost everyone else continue to locate in the suburbs. Today’s suburbs no longer look much like the lily-white places portrayed on sitcoms like Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or Father Knows Best. More than half of immigrants now bypass cities altogether and settle directly in outskirts of larger metros. Whites accounted for just 9 percent of suburban population growth in America’s 100 largest metros between 2000 and 2010; in one-third of those metros, white suburban populations declined.

US housing wealth is growing for the oldest and wealthiest Americans, at the expense of everybody else

Dan Kopf

Since the 1970s, coastal US cities have implemented laws that make it impossible for housing supply to equal demand. Proponents of these laws argue they are important for historic preservation, environment protection, and the livability of cities. Conveniently, such laws also happen to inflate the housing prices of many of their supporters—mainly the old and wealthy, who are the clear winners of these kinds of market-constraining regulations.
 A new working paper (pdf) from the economists Edward Glaeser of Harvard University and Joseph Gyourko of the University of Pennsylvania shows exactly how much the winners have gained. The researchers analyzed household survey data from 1983 to 2013 (the last year data was collected), and found that housing wealth increased “almost exclusively among the wealthiest, older Americans.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US housing wealth is growing for the oldest and wealthiest Americans, at the expense of everybody else

Dan Kopf

Since the 1970s, coastal US cities have implemented laws that make it impossible for housing supply to equal demand. Proponents of these laws argue they are important for historic preservation, environment protection, and the livability of cities. Conveniently, such laws also happen to inflate the housing prices of many of their supporters—mainly the old and wealthy, who are the clear winners of these kinds of market-constraining regulations.
A new working paper (pdf) from the economists Edward Glaeser of Harvard University and Joseph Gyourko of the University of Pennsylvania shows exactly how much the winners have gained. The researchers analyzed household survey data from 1983 to 2013 (the last year data was collected), and found that housing wealth increased “almost exclusively among the wealthiest, older Americans.”

Translation platforms cannot replace humans, but they are useful

The Economist:

ARAB newspapers have a reputation, partly deserved, for tamely taking the official line. On any given day, for example, you might read that “a source close to the Iranian Foreign Ministry told Al-Hayat that ‘Tehran will continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement as long as the other side does the same.’” But the exceptional thing about this unexceptional story is that, thanks to Google, English-speaking readers can now read this in the Arab papers themselves.

In the past few months free online translators have suddenly got much better. This may come as a surprise to those who have tried to make use of them in the past. But in November Google unveiled a new version of Translate. The old version, called “phrase-based” machine translation, worked on hunks of a sentence separately, with an output that was usually choppy and often inaccurate.

‘JD Vance depicts a culture of instability, irresponsibility, anger and pessimism’

Gillian Tett:

Notwithstanding this, I strongly applaud Vance for having the courage to write the book. His account reveals a very important point — and one that should not make the elite feel comfortable at all. For Vance believes that one of the biggest problems besetting white working-class communities in the US today is not just a sense of economic decline, but a disintegration of family structures, partly as a result of that economic stress. Most notably, in poor working-class communities, marital bonds are collapsing, with “maternal figures cycling through numerous partners”, Vance says. He argues that this has created a culture of instability, irresponsibility, anger, frustration and profound pessimism, made worse by opioid addiction and violence. “In my culture I learnt some very negative lessons about family life — these cultures leave demons that follow the kids around their entire life,” he told the NY Historical Society. “The issue is not primarily material deprivation, but that people are living in unstable families and communities where social capital is unhelpful or self-destructive.”


Vance is not the first person to chronicle this problem: the controversial social scientist and libertarian writer Charles Murray described it powerfully a few years ago. But Vance’s account is particularly potent, since it is woven from his own life story. And if his argument is correct (as I think it is), it has an important policy implication: “solving” voter pain and rage in America will require far more than economic reform (or, say, tax cuts). What is also needed are active, aggressive measures to inject more stability and functional skills into the lives of white working-class children, to deal with a scarred generation

Leaked document reveals Facebook conducted research to target emotionally vulnerable and insecure youth

Nick Whigham:

FACEBOOK has come under fire over revelations it is targeting potentially vulnerable youths who “need a confidence boost” to facilitate predatory advertising practices.

The allegation was revealed this morning by The Australian which obtained internal documents from the social media giant which reportedly show how Facebook can exploit the moods and insecurities of teenagers using the platform for the potential benefit of advertisers.

The confidential document dated this year detailed how by monitoring posts, comments and interactions on the site, Facebook can figure out when people as young as 14 feel “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “stressed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless”, and a “failure”.

Such information gathered through a system dubbed sentiment analysis could be used by advertisers to target young Facebook users when they are potentially more vulnerable.

How to Read Mathematics

Shai Simonson and Fernando Gouvea:

Mathematics is “a language that can neither be read nor understood without initiation.” 1

A reading protocol is a set of strategies that a reader must use in order to benefit fully from reading the text. Poetry calls for a different set of strategies than fiction, and fiction a different set than non-fiction. It would be ridiculous to read fiction and ask oneself what is the author’s source for the assertion that the hero is blond and tanned; it would be wrong to read non-fiction and not ask such a question. This reading protocol extends to a viewing or listening protocol in art and music. Indeed, much of the introductory course material in literature, music and art is spent teaching these protocols.

Mathematics has a reading protocol all its own, and just as we learn to read literature, we should learn to read mathematics. Students need to learn how to read mathematics, in the same way they learn how to read a novel or a poem, listen to music, or view a painting. Ed Rothstein’s book, Emblems of Mind, a fascinating book emphasizing the relationship between mathematics and music, touches implicitly on the reading protocols for mathematics.
When we read a novel we become absorbed in the plot and characters. We try to follow the various plot lines and how each affects the development of the characters. We make sure that the characters become real people to us, both those we admire and those we despise. We do not stop at every word, but imagine the words as brushstrokes in a painting. Even if we are not familiar with a particular word, we can still see the whole picture. We rarely stop to think about individual phrases and sentences. Instead, we let the novel sweep us along with its flow and carry us swiftly to the end. The experience is rewarding, relaxing and thought provoking.

Novelists frequently describe characters by involving them in well-chosen anecdotes, rather than by describing them by well-chosen adjectives. They portray one aspect, then another, then the first again in a new light and so on, as the whole picture grows and comes more and more into focus. This is the way to communicate complex thoughts that defy precise definition.

Mathematical ideas are by nature precise and well defined, so that a precise description is possible in a very short space. Both a mathematics article and a novel are telling a story and developing complex ideas, but a math article does the job with a tiny fraction of the words and symbols of those used in a novel. The beauty in a novel is in the aesthetic way it uses language to evoke emotions and present themes which defy precise definition. The beauty in a mathematics article is in the elegant efficient way it concisely describes precise ideas of great complexity.

How I got an FBI record at age 11 from dabbling in cryptography then got into more trouble

Les Earnest:

Growing up in San Diego, my first encounter with advanced technology was the gift of a one-speed fat tired bicycle in 1937. The second one, acquired a short time later, was my own radio with mysteriously glowing vacuum tubes, which enabled me to listen to a series of 15 minute kids’ radio programs every afternoon, such as “Magic Island” and “Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy.”

At some point the Jack Armstrong program invited listeners to mail in a Wheaties box top to get a decoder ring that could be used to decipher secret messages that would be given near the end of certain broadcasts. I sent for it as did Bobby Bond, my best friend through most of grammar school. Bobby was particularly intrigued with cryptography and in 1942 he bought a new book called Secret and Urgent. Note that this was early in World War II. We both read it and learned how to use letter frequencies to break ciphers, then went on to more advance topics.
Fletcher Pratt, Secret and Urgent, Blue Ribbon Books; Garden City, NY; 1942

Bobby and I decided that we needed to have a secure way to communicate with each other, so we put together a rather elaborate jargon code based on the principles described in the book. I don’t remember exactly why we thought we needed it. We spent nearly every afternoon together so there was ample time to talk privately. Still, you never could tell when you might need to send a secret message!

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation in Sports

Sarah Pavan:

What motivates you? What drives you to be your best, and gives you that extra push to get there? Why do you do what you do? Is it money? Admiration? Personal satisfaction or enjoyment? All of us are motivated in different ways, and by different things, but there are two general categories of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation refers to an internal form of motivation. We strive toward a goal for a sense of personal satisfaction or accomplishment. For example, and internally motivated person may want to play really well in order to win and reach a personal goal they have been aiming for. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is an external form of motivation. It could be a person, or some other outside obligation or reward that requires the achievement of a certain goal. For example, an externally motivated person may want to play really well in order to make more money or have fans’ admiration, both of which are outside factors.

I think that there needs to be a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in our daily lives. It would be amazing if everyone performed tasks simply because they enjoyed them, but that is a little unrealistic. We need deadlines and due dates and standards, all of which are extrinsic motivators, to ensure that even the mundane and unenjoyable things get done. In sports, though, I feel that things are a little different.

My Daughter Has Autism But Our Special-Ed System Isn’t What She Needs

Katherine Osnos Sanford:

Mae has a red backpack that I ordered shortly before she started school. Her two brothers have similar backpacks, also in bright colors, each embroidered with their initials. I love the sight of my children’s backpacks hanging together on the hooks by our back door. It makes me feel that things are in order.

What you can’t see when you look at their backpacks is how differently they experience school. My sons, who are in elementary and middle school, are on a largely regular trajectory. Mae, however, is autistic; she is almost completely nonverbal and, at the age of nine, still in diapers. Five years after Mae entered a classroom for the first time, school is a vital but incomplete experience.

Anti-vaccine groups step up outreach to Minnesota Somali families over measles outbreak

Glenn Howatt and Faiza Mahamud:

As Minnesota confronts its second measles outbreak in seven years, public health officials are battling to contain the disease while also trying to educate parents in the face of an organized opposition.

As happened in 2011, anti-vaccine activists are reaching out to Minnesota’s Somali community, where both outbreaks have been centered, with messages that reinforce the discredited belief that vaccines cause autism.

On Sunday afternoon, a coalition of anti-vaccine organizations plans a meeting at the Brian Coyle Community Center on Minneapolis’ West Bank in an effort to bring their message to Somali families, saying “The epidemic is autism, not measles.”

Commentary On Mandatory Student Fees And Campus Politics

Nina Bertelsen:

UW-Madison College Republicans called on state legislators “make every effort to end” the Associated Students of Madison—the student shared governance body—in the wake of controversial divestment legislation.

In a statement released Thursday night, the organization asked state legislators to reintroduce the opt-out proposal and to stand with them in opposition to the student government, which is funded by and controls student segregated fees.

“We want to see the end of council, because the only purpose they’ve served on our campus is alienating groups on campus and pushing a political agenda,” Jake Lubenow, president of College Republicans, told The Daily Cardinal. “We strongly believe in the opt-out, which would effectively end most of the rest of ASM’s purpose.”

The state of education “investigative” reporting

Kristen Hare:

Andy had been an investigative journalist at the Wisconsin State Journal, where he and Dee both worked back in 2006. But he, nearing 50 at the time, he was reassigned to cover education.

“It was a time at which I took a deep breath and considered what really mattered to me,” he said.

He wanted to be an investigative reporter again. He wanted to teach new generations of investigative reporters. And he and Dee wanted to stay in Madison.

Fascinating, given Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most, around $18k per student annually.

Ironically, The Madison School District’s 2005 maintenance referendum expenditures were the subject of a potential audit… Stillborn, apparently.

Andy Hall notes and leaks.

Free Speech, but not for All?

Ted Cup:

ust over a century ago, the president of a distinguished college barred the suffragette and human-rights activist Jane Addams from speaking on campus, and suspended a student named Inez Milholland for organizing others in support of women’s rights. Milholland would go on to become influential in the women’s movement, and the college president, James Monroe Taylor, would become yet another example of an overly protective and historically myopic educator. He believed that women should be “not leaders, but good wives and mothers” — the prevailing view of the day.

The college was Vassar.

I thought of that this week as I read an essay in The New York Times by Ulrich Baer, New York University’s vice provost and a professor of German and comparative literature, who defended the right — indeed, the moral imperative — of universities to deny certain speakers a forum. It was not, he argued, that students were delicate “snowflakes” needing protection, but rather that the disenfranchised and marginalized in society were somehow disadvantaged or jeopardized by those voices that disparaged them. Baer’s is among a number of recent defenses of curtailed speech. Aaron R. Hanlon, an assistant professor of English at Colby College, offers a similar apologia in The New Republic, as have the philosophers Kate Manne and Jason Stanley in The Chronicle Review.

National Park Maps


This site currently has 1,588 free high-resolution national park maps to view, save, and download.

Grand Canyon map inset for National Park MapsThe National Park Service publishes tons of great free maps; I’ve collected them all for you. Here on NPMaps you’ll find hundreds of PDF and image files of any U.S. national park map; you can view all parks alphabetically and sort by state. Or use the menu above to navigate to the park of your choice.

national-park-map-thumbIf you’re looking for a single national parks map that shows all U.S. national parks, click the image to the left (2.7 mb) or download the PDF (21.2 mb). The PDF map will take a while to load; please be patient! Or, order a large poster of this national parks map from the NPMaps Store (links open in new window).

How? Bad formulas on an Excel spreadsheet.

Bethany Barnes:

Portland Public Schools teaches children math as complex as calculus, but made a simple arithmetic mistake potentially worth millions and tried to keep the error secret.

Portland Public Schools flubbed basic addition and awarded the bid to plan the $146 million redesign of Madison High School to the wrong firm, giving the important design contract to the bidder that the official district vetting team rated second-best.

How? Bad formulas on an Excel spreadsheet.

Losing the project was a devastating to partners Opsis Architecture and Dao Architecture. In their bid proposal, Opsis, a larger, more established firm, joined with Dao, a minority-woman owned firm, as a way to increase equity in the architecture profession. The team had done the master plan for the high school and felt invested in the Madison community.

When the State gets it wrong, innocent people die — I was almost one of them

Damien Echols:

arlier this month, Governor Asa Hutchinson issued execution dates for eight men on death row, all to be carried out over the course of ten days. He didn’t care that there’s a chance at least two of them may be innocent, or that several others suffer mental disabilities that cross the line into the realm of handicaps. None of that meant anything to those trying with all their might to push these executions through. While several judges have stayed the executions for now, the mindset behind these rapid fire executions should scare all Americans. But perhaps one of the scariest parts, for me, is knowing I could have been the ninth man on the state’s death list.