K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Auditors: Milwaukee County pension payment system riddled with errors

Don Behm::

While corrections of the majority of individual accounts highlighted in the audit’s findings will be less than $2 a month, the auditors found up to $400,000 in total overpayments to several others receiving disability benefits.

Auditors confirmed a separate $132,000 overpayment to a surviving family member of a deceased retiree that had been reported earlier by the Retirement Plan Services office.

Apart from reviewing 534 individuals in previously identified problem areas, auditors also checked a small random sample of 50 retirees. They found that 54% of those benefit calculations were “likely incorrect.” Overpayments to those individuals amounted to $2,800.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Pension Board said it will review the report and work with retirement services employees to correct the mistakes and determine why the errors were made.

The Pension Board said it is committed to working with the administration and the County Board to decide which overpayments should be pursued for collection.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele requested the audit and called for comprehensive reform of the pension system following disclosure of a 2014 report to the IRS of hundreds of pension errors that will cost the county nearly $2.2 million to correct. The report was not made public until it was released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in response to a records request.

Self-driving cars prove to be labour-intensive for humans

Tim Bradshaw

Self-driving cars seem like a magical idea. The concept of vehicles that can operate themselves, without steering wheels or pedals, leaps straight from the pages of science fiction.
 Yet like so many fantastical stories, there are “wizards” hidden behind the curtain — lots of them. Constructing the road to fully automated driving, it turns out, requires a lot of manual labour.
 Most companies working on this technology employ hundreds or even thousands of people, often in offshore outsourcing centres in India or China, whose job it is to teach the robo-cars to recognise pedestrians, cyclists and other obstacles. The workers do this by manually marking up or “labelling” thousands of hours of video footage, often frame by frame, taken from prototype vehicles driving around testbeds such as Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Civics: Who Has Your Back? Government Data Requests 2017

Electronic Frontier Foundation::

In this era of unprecedented digital surveillance and widespread political upheaval, the data stored on our cell phones, laptops, and especially our online services are a magnet for government actors seeking to track citizens, journalists, and activists.

In 2016, the United States government sent at least 49,868 requests to Facebook for user data. In the same time period, it sent 27,850 requests to Google and 9,076 to Apple.1 These companies are not alone: where users see new ways to communicate and store data, law enforcement agents see new avenues for surveillance.

There are three safeguards to ensure that data we send to tech companies don’t end up in a government database: technology, law, and corporate policies. Technology—including the many ways data is deleted, obscured, or encrypted to render it unavailable to the government—is beyond the scope of this report.2 Instead, we’ll focus on law and corporate policies. We’ll turn a spotlight on how the policies of technology companies either advance or hinder the privacy rights of users when the U.S. government comes knocking,3 and we’ll highlight those companies advocating to shore up legal protections for user privacy.

Since the Electronic Frontier Foundation started publishing Who Has Your Back seven years ago, we’ve seen major technology companies bring more transparency to how and when they divulge our data to the government. This shift has been fueled in large part by public attention. The Snowden revelations of 2013 and the resulting public conversation about digital privacy served as a major catalyst for widespread changes among the privacy policies of big companies. While only two companies earned credit in all of our criteria in 2013 (at a time when the criteria were somewhat less stringent than today4), in our 2014 report, there were nine companies earning credit in every category.

Up to 14% of community college students are homeless, new study says

Ramsey Touchberry::

A new study by Wisconsin HOPE Lab founder Sara Goldrick-Rab and two co-authors found that thousands of community college students nationwide are homeless or on the verge of homelessness. The Wisconsin HOPE Lab says it’s “the nation’s first laboratory for translational research aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education.”

The study surveyed more than 30,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states. It found that 13-14% of students were homeless and about half were housing insecure, meaning they’ve missed rent payments or couch-surf from place to place. The survey also found that two-thirds of community college students are food insecure, meaning they lack the resources to properly feed themselves.

Another recent survey found 20% of Los Angeles community college students are homeless and nearly two-thirds are food insecure. Past studies have found similarly high numbers when it comes to college homelessness across the country.

The student loan debt explosion indicates that the incentives are mis aligned.

Related: Ivy League Summary: Tax Break Subsidies And Government Payments

The Rise and Fall of Working From Home

Rebecca Greenfield:

Last year, Richard Laermer decided to let his employees work from home on a regular basis. “We hire adults, they shouldn’t be tied to the office five days a week,” said Laermer, who owns a New York-based public relations firm. “I always assumed that you can get your work done anywhere, as long as you actually get it done.”
 Turns out, he was wrong.
 Employees took advantage of the perk, Laermer said. One was unavailable for hours at a time. Another wouldn’t communicate with co-workers all day, which Laermer found suspicious. The last straw, he said, was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons. “That was the most unbelievably nervy thing I’d heard in years,” he said.

On expanding Madison’s Least Diverse schools

It’s interesting to consider recent Madison School Board/Administration decisions in light of David Brooks’ 7/11/2017 column:

Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.

How they’ve managed to do the first task — giving their own children a leg up — is pretty obvious. It’s the pediacracy, stupid. Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids.

Upper-middle-class moms have the means and the maternity leaves to breast-feed their babies at much higher rates than high school-educated moms, and for much longer periods.

Upper-middle-class parents have the means to spend two to three times more time with their preschool children than less affluent parents. Since 1996, education expenditures among the affluent have increased by almost 300 percent, while education spending among every other group is basically flat.

As life has gotten worse for the rest in the middle class, upper-middle-class parents have become fanatical about making sure their children never sink back to those levels, and of course there’s nothing wrong in devoting yourself to your own progeny.

Let’s begin with the rejection of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school (which would have operated independently of the current model) and continue to a recent referendum that expanded Madison’s least diverse schools.

Madison has continued to substantially increase tax and spending practices, now approaching $20,000 per student, annually. This is far more than most school districts and continues despite disastrous reading results.

See also Van Hise’s special sauce.


1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

2. The Ivy League was the recipient of $25.73 billion worth of federal payments during this period: contracts ($1.37 billion), grants ($23.9 billion) and direct payments – student assistance ($460 million).

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Over 38 million American households can’t afford their housing, an increase of 146 percent in the past 16 years

Ben Popken:

Over 38 million American households can’t afford their housing, an increase of 146 percent in the past 16 years, according to a recent Harvard housing report.

Under federal guidelines, households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs are considered “cost burdened” and will have difficulty affording basic necessities like food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

But the number of Americans struggling with their housing costs has risen from almost 16 million in 2001 to 38 million in 2015, according to the Census data crunched in the report. That’s more than double.

Interestingly, Madison continues to grow its tax and spending practices with per student expenditures now approaching $20,000 annually – far more than most K-12 organizations. .

College Trustees Are Largely to Blame for Today’s Campus Madness

Walter Williams::

Is there no limit to the level of disgusting behavior on college campuses that parents, taxpayers, donors, and legislators will accept?

Colleges have become islands of intolerance, and as with fish, the rot begins at the head.

Let’s examine some recent episodes representative of a general trend and ask ourselves why we should tolerate it, plus pay for it.

Students at Evergreen State College harassed biology professor Bret Weinstein because he refused to leave campus, challenging the school’s decision to ask white people to leave campus for a day of diversity programming.

The profanity-laced threats against the faculty and president can be seen on a YouTube video titled “Student takeover of Evergreen State College.”

What about administrators permitting students to conduct racially segregated graduation ceremonies, which many colleges have done, including Ivy League ones such as Columbia and Harvard universities?

Permitting racially segregated graduation ceremonies makes a mockery of the idols of diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusion, which so many college administrators worship. Or is tribalism part and parcel of diversity?

Lawmakers slipped language into state budget allowing UW leaders to come from outside academia

Karen Herzog::

Language quietly slipped into the proposed state budget would allow someone from outside academia to become the University of Wisconsin System’s next president or a campus chancellor, potentially moving politics and business interests squarely into future searches for top university leaders.

While public university leaders traditionally have come from academia, a few politically appointed governing boards for universities elsewhere around the country have tapped businessmen or politicians.

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels became president of Purdue University, the Iowa Board of Regents two years ago chose a businessman with little experience in academia as president of the University of Iowa and University of Colorado President Bruce Benson made millions in oil, but his formal education ended with a bachelor’s degree.

The most common road to the presidency continues to be the traditional route of academic affairs (43%), according to a study released last week by the American Council on Education. Only 15% of college and university presidents came directly from outside of higher education in the ACE study, down from 20% in 2011.

At age 69, UW System President Ray Cross said he has no immediate plans to retire. There also are no indications UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank is looking to move.

Rural Cameroonian pre-schoolers just aced Mischel’s iconic Marshmallow Test

Christian Jarrett:

Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Test of self-control is one of psychology’s iconic experimental set-ups. First conducted in the 1960s, Mischel told the kids he tested that if they managed to resist eating the marshmallow in front of them until he returned (usually about 15 minutes later), they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.

The children varied greatly in their powers of restraint and those who performed better displayed some cute distraction strategies, such as singing to themselves and covering their eyes. Perhaps most important, those kids who performed well at the test tended to do well in later life too, in terms of their health, education and career success. Given the huge impact this research has had, it’s amazing that it’s never been exported to a non-Western setting. Until now.

Freedom Of Speech: Mother Mushroom: how Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger

Bennett Murray:

“Each person only has a life, but if I had the chance to choose again I would still choose my way.”

They are the words of one of Vietnam’s most influential bloggers — known by her online pseudonym, Mother Mushroom — minutes before she was handed the shock sentence of a decade in prison. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh directed her defiant comments at her 61-year-old mother, who was watching a live feed in a room next door as she was not allow into the courtroom.

The 37-year-old was accused of defaming Vietnam’s communist regime in her blogs and interviews with foreign media.

Ken Burns returns to take on Vietnam – ‘a war we have consciously ignored’
Read more
“I clapped my hands in the room, where 20 security officials looked at me with very angry eyes, but I was not afraid; I was OK, very proud of her,” said Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan.

Arrested in October while attempting to visit another dissident in prison, Quynh, 37, has already spent nine months behind bars, in what her lawyer said were desperate conditions.


She subsisted only on a diet of anchovies and spinach soup for the first seven months, and was denied both sanitary pads and underwear, Vo An Don said.

After Quynh was arrested on 10 October, her mother heard nothing about her whereabouts or wellbeing until a brief reunion in prison hours before her 29 June trial for crimes against the state.

The months had taken their toll on her daughter, Lan told the Guardian in a phone interview from her home in the southern coastal city of Nha Trang. Quynh appeared sickly during their meeting, she said.

The Rise of the Thought Leader How the superrich have funded a new class of intellectual.

David Sessions:

Writing in one of Mussolini’s prisons in the 1930s, the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci jotted down the fragments that would become his theory of intellectuals. New classes, like the European bourgeoisie after the Industrial Revolution, he proposed, brought with them their own set of thinkers, which he called “organic intellectuals”—theorists, technicians, and administrators, who became their “functionaries” in a new society. Unlike “traditional intellectuals” who held positions in the old class structure, organic intellectuals helped the bourgeoisie establish its ideas as the invisible, unquestioned conventional wisdom circulating in social institutions.

Today, Gramsci’s theory has been largely overlooked in the ongoing debate over the supposed decline of the “public intellectual” in America. Great minds, we are told, no longer captivate the public as they once did, because the university is too insular and academic thinking is too narrow. Such laments frequently cite Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals (1987), which complained about the post-1960s professionalization of academia and waxed nostalgic for the bohemian, “independent” intellectuals of the earlier twentieth century. Writers like the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof attribute this sorry state of affairs to the culture of Ph.D. programs, which, Kristof claims, have glorified “arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” If academics cannot bring their ideas to a wider readership, these familiar critiques imply, it is because of the academic mindset itself.

In his book The Ideas Industry, the political scientist and foreign policy blogger Daniel W. Drezner broadens the focus to include the conditions in which ideas are formed, funded, and expressed. Describing the public sphere in the language of markets, he argues that three major factors have altered the fortunes of today’s intellectuals: the evaporation of public trust in institutions, the polarization of American society, and growing economic inequality. He correctly identifies the last of these as the most important: the extraordinary rise of the American superrich, a class interested in supporting a particular genre of “ideas.”

The rich have, Drezner writes, empowered a new kind of thinker—the “thought leader”—at the expense of the much-fretted-over “public intellectual.” Whereas public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or Martha Nussbaum are skeptical and analytical, thought leaders like Thomas Friedman and Sheryl Sandberg “develop their own singular lens to explain the world, and then proselytize that worldview to anyone within earshot.” While public intellectuals traffic in complexity and criticism, thought leaders burst with the evangelist’s desire to “change the world.” Many readers, Drezner observes, prefer the “big ideas” of the latter to the complexity of the former. In a marketplace of ideas awash in plutocrat cash, it has become “increasingly profitable for thought leaders to hawk their wares to both billionaires and a broader public,” to become “superstars with their own brands, sharing a space previously reserved for moguls, celebrities, and athletes.”

Everybody lies: how Google search reveals our darkest secrets

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Everybody lies. People lie about how many drinks they had on the way home. They lie about how often they go to the gym, how much those new shoes cost, whether they read that book. They call in sick when they’re not. They say they’ll be in touch when they won’t. They say it’s not about you when it is. They say they love you when they don’t. They say they’re happy while in the dumps. They say they like women when they really like men. People lie to friends. They lie to bosses. They lie to kids. They lie to parents. They lie to doctors. They lie to husbands. They lie to wives. They lie to themselves. And they damn sure lie to surveys. Here’s my brief survey for you:

Many people underreport embarrassing behaviours and thoughts on surveys. They want to look good, even though most surveys are anonymous. This is called social desirability bias. An important paper in 1950 provided powerful evidence of how surveys can fall victim to such bias. Researchers collected data, from official sources, on the residents of Denver: what percentage of them voted, gave to charity, and owned a library card. They then surveyed the residents to see if the percentages would match. The results were, at the time, shocking. What the residents reported to the surveys was very different from the data the researchers had gathered. Even though nobody gave their names, people, in large numbers, exaggerated their voter registration status, voting behaviour, and charitable giving.

Career of the Future: Robot Psychologist

Christopher Sims::

Artificial-intelligence engineers have a problem: They often don’t know what their creations are thinking.
 As artificial intelligence grows in complexity and prevalence, it also grows more powerful. AI already has factored into decisions about who goes to jail and who receives a loan. There are suggestions AI should determine who gets the best chance to live when a self-driving car faces an unavoidable crash.
 Defining AI is slippery and growing more so, as startups slather the buzzword over whatever they are doing. It is generally accepted as any attempt to ape human intelligence and abilities.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis interview (note the History Emphasis)

Teddy Fischer (Mercer Island High School):

TEDDY: How can the US defeat an ideology?

Ideologies can be countered by showing people a better education and hope for the future.

MATTIS: I think the most important thing on that is probably education. An economic opportunity has to be there as well. On the education, I sometimes wonder how much better the world would be if we funded for nations where they have ideology problems, where the ideologies are hateful, full of hatred. I wonder what would happen if we turned around and we helped pay for high school students, a boy and girl at each high school in that country to come to America for one year and don’t do it just once, but do it ten years in a row. Every high school whether it be in Afghanistan or Syria or wherever, would send one boy and one girl for one year to Mercer island or to Topeka, Kansas or wherever.

It wouldn’t cost that much if you had sponsoring families that would take them in. Most American families are very generous, unless they’ve lived in places where they’ve adopted kind of a selfish style. But, that’s only a few pockets of the country that really have that bad. Although they’re big pockets in terms of population, most of the country is not like that. I bet we could do that. I think ideologies can be countered by showing people a better education and hope for the future by learning how to get along with one another. And for all of our problems in our country, we’re probably still the best example of that in the world.

Civics: The Conservative ‘Resistance’ Is Futile

David Gelernter::

Democrats, in their role as opponents of President Trump, have taken to calling themselves “the resistance.” But I was startled a few days ago when a thoughtful, much-admired conservative commentator used the same term on TV—casually, as if “the resistance” was just the obvious term. Everyone is saying it. It’s no accident that the left runs American culture. The right is too obsessed with mere mechanics—poll numbers and vote counts—to look up.

A New Approach to Measuring Performance Over Time

Peter Gascoyne::

How Are You Doing? is a “book” that describes in detail why and how seasonally adjusting your data will lead to a much better understanding of performance over time, for almost any given metric. I describe it as a “book” — in quotes — as it comes in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.
 Executive Summary
 59 pages
 42-minute audio
 For managers and executives, this overview describes the hazards of typical reporting that relies on comparison with Plan or year-over-year to inform you how you’re doing. It also quickly describes how seasonally-adjusting your data works, and how it can give you much greater understanding about how you’ve done in the past, where you’re at today, and where you’re heading in future.

Peter’s work is well worth reading. I am thankful for all that he has done over the years. Contact Peter at Peter@MakingApples.com

La Follette student once facing expulsion graduates with honors

Molly Beck:

Two years ago Preston Bratz made the mistake of trying to buy a joint for 10 bucks.

Bratz, who was a 15-year-old sophomore at La Follette High School at the time, got caught arranging the purchase at school and was immediately put on track to be kicked out of school.

But after an aggressive campaign to reverse that decision, spearheaded by Bratz’s grandmother, Bratz’s recommended expulsion was thrown out and his case helped push the Madison School Board to rethink its zero-tolerance discipline policies.

Why the Future of Stuff Is Having More and Owning Less

Vanessa Bates Ramirez::

If you’re one of the many people who’s embraced the sharing economy, you’ve probably stayed in someone else’s apartment or ridden in someone else’s car. Maybe you’ve also done away with your clutter of DVDs, books, or CDs, since you can watch movies on Netflix, read books on Kindle, and hear music on Pandora.
 The concept of having more while owning less sounds paradoxical, but that’s exactly the scenario we’re finding ourselves in. Technology is enabling us to move away from ownership and towards an economy based on sharing and subscriptions. Platforms like Airbnb and Lyft or Uber connect renters and riders to landlords and drivers, and digitization means all kinds of media can be stored, streamed, or downloaded in seconds.
 But where does it end? Are there things we’ll always want to own, and if so, what are they?
 In a new video from Big Think, author and WIRED founding executive editor Kevin Kelly explores the limits of what he calls the subscription economy and asks, “Is this the end of owning stuff?”

Three months later, the state finally has records it sought about 9-year-old’s handcuffing at school

Marta Jewson:

After three months, five requests and a formal warning, Friends of King Schools has finally provided state officials with most policies and documentation related to a March incident in which a security guard handcuffed a nine-year-old student at one of its schools.

The charter group posted a seclusion and restraint policy to its website on June 22, weeks past the state’s May 26 deadline. The policy appears to have been posted 30 minutes after The Lens inquired about the status of the documents, which the state Department of Education had sought since March.

The state provided the documents to The Lens last month and informed us midday that the documents fulfill its request.*

The morning of March 16, a private security guard handcuffed a fourth-grade boy at Joseph A. Craig Charter School after he threatened to hurt himself, according to an incident report provided by the school to the state.

The boy became upset while waiting for his mother to drop off a permission slip, according to the report. It was written in first-person, but it doesn’t say who wrote it.

“He was pushing the officer, hitting him, and swinging himself into anyone who was near him,” it states. The officer handcuffed the boy until his mother arrived. She calmed him down and took him with her.

The Gene Editors Are Only Getting Started

Kyle Peterson:

Rewriting the code of life has never been so easy. In 2012 scientists demonstrated a new DNA-editing technique called Crispr. Five years later it is being used to cure mice with HIV and hemophilia. Geneticists are engineering pigs to make them suitable as human organ donors. Bill Gates is spending $75 million to endow a few Anopheles mosquitoes, which spread malaria, with a sort of genetic time bomb that could wipe out the species. A team at Harvard plans to edit 1.5 million letters of elephant DNA to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

“I frankly have been flabbergasted at the pace of the field,” says Jennifer Doudna, a Crispr pioneer who runs a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re barely five years out, and it’s already in early clinical trials for cancer. It’s unbelievable.”

The thing to understand about Crispr isn’t its acronym—for the record, it stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats—but that it makes editing DNA easy, cheap and precise. Scientists have fiddled with genes for decades, but in clumsy ways. They zapped plants with radiation to flip letters of DNA at random, then looked for useful mutations. They hijacked the infection mechanisms of viruses and bacteria to deliver beneficial payloads. They shot cells with “gene guns,” which are pretty much what they sound like. The first one, invented in the 1980s, was an air pistol modified to fire particles coated with genetic material.

“because increases in appropriations haven’t outpaced the spending habits of some education agencies and institutions”

Don Gaetz::

Just when the moaning choir of critics and political organ grinders strike up their dirges about Florida’s bad old government, the overland stage brings us news from the world north of Florida.
 On July 1, Illinois started closing schools and shuttering state offices. They taxed themselves silly until businesses that create jobs, which create revenues, started leaving. The state comptroller, a Democrat, says the state that boasts Barrack Obama and Rahm Emanuel as models of leadership will be the first to have its bonds rated, literally, as junk. Oh, yeah, and more people were shot in Chicago last year than America lost on 9/11. New state motto: Come to Illinois and Take Your Chances.
 On July 1, New Jersey went on life support. The governor, a Republican, wants to drain state reserves to fund drug treatment. The problem is that reserves are a non-recurring source of money and drug treatment is a recurring cost. Put simply, you can’t pay your rent from your savings account or pretty soon you’ll be both evicted and broke.

Madison plans to spend nearly $20k per student during the 2017-2018 school year.

‘Emergency’ effort to address teacher shortages reflect larger education issues

Alan Borsuk:

t’s an emergency. It says so right there on the legal papers: “Order of the State Superintendent for Public Instruction Adopting Emergency Rules.”

But it’s a curious kind of emergency. Elsewhere in the paperwork, it uses the term “difficulties.” Maybe that’s a better way to put it.

Underlying the legal language lie questions that are causing big concern in perhaps every school district and independent school in Wisconsin this summer:

Who’s going to fill the remaining open teaching jobs we have? How are we going to put together a staff when some specific positions are proving hard to fill? Are we really getting the best people we feasibly could to work in our classrooms?

And one question that was prominent in my thoughts as I sat through a public hearing in Madison on Thursday on these “emergency” changes to some of the rules governing teacher licensing in Wisconsin:

Would you call these new rules “good” or call them “necessary because of the shape things are in”?

If you’re hanging around with school administrators, you hear a lot of talk about teacher shortages. The “pipeline” leading into classroom jobs is not nearly as full as it used to be. Certain jobs — science, math, special education, bilingual, to name four — are a challenge to fill. Some areas, especially the most rural and the most urban, are finding it particularly difficult to attract top candidates for jobs.

Overall, how much of a shortage is there? The situation “has proven to be very difficult to quantify,” Tony Evers, the state superintendent, told me after Thursday’s hearing. Nonetheless, Evers said, he hears about shortages from school officials all the time.

Jon Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, sat quietly in the audience of about 30 at the public hearing. But he told me that the emergency rules were regarded as very important by the administrators he represents.

Will there be classrooms without regularly assigned teachers come the start of the school year? Yes, Bales said. Not a large number, but some. There is a real need to get more people into the pool of candidates applying for teaching jobs.

The “emergency rules” that have now been put in place make it easier to get a Wisconsin teaching license in a variety of circumstances — to name several, if you’re close to meeting the existing requirements for a specific license, if you’re moving to Wisconsin from another state, if you haven’t quite met the existing requirement to demonstrate knowledge of the content you’ll be teaching, and so on. There are several things going on here.

Much more on the attempts to weaken Wisconsin’s thin teacher content knowledge requirements, here.

Is There Anything Common Core Gets Right?

Sandra Stotsky, via Will Fitzhugh:

Most books on public education in any country do not favor workforce preparation for all students in place of optional high school curricula or student-selected post-secondary goals. Nor have parents in the USA lauded Common Core’s effects on their children’s learning or the K-8 curriculum. Indeed, few observers see anything academically worthwhile in the standards funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and promoted by the organizations it has subsidized to promote them (e.g., the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence).

Joy Pullmann’s The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids (Encounter Books, 2017) is a recent addition to the critics’ side of the Common Core controversy. Her purpose is to explain what Common Core is and how it got to be implemented in almost every public classroom in almost every state in a remarkably short period of time (less than five years). She does so chiefly from the perspective of the many parents and teachers she quotes.

Organized in seven chapters, her book describes how the Gates Foundation promoted and continues to promote one extremely wealthy couple’s uninformed, unsupported, and unsupportable ideas on education for other people’s children while their own children are enrolled in a non-Common Cored private school. It explains how (but not exactly why) the Gates Foundation helped to centralize control of public education in the U.S. Department of Education. It also explains why parents, teachers, local school boards, and state legislators were the last to learn how the public schools their local and state taxes supported had been nationalized without Congressional knowledge or permission; and why they were expected to believe that their local public schools were now accountable for what and how they teach…not to the local and state taxpayers who fund them or to locally-elected school boards that by law are still supposed to set education policies not already determined by their state legislature…but to a distant bureaucracy in exchange for money to their state department of education to close “achievement gaps” between unspecified groups.

Overnight, teachers discovered they were accountable to anonymous bureaucrats for students’ scores on tests these teachers had not developed or reviewed, before or after their administration. Amazingly, state boards and governors believed all teachers were accountable to the federal education department despite the fact that the federal government pays for only about 8 to 10 percent of the costs of public education on average across states, and not for teachers’ or superintendents’ salaries.

The complex story of how sets of English language arts and mathematics standards (and, later, compatible science standards) created by non-experts selected chiefly (so far as we know) by Gates got adopted legally by mathematically- and scientifically-ignorant state boards of education is carefully told in a relatively short book. What we miss are analyses of four crucial topics: the academic quality of Common Core’s standards, why they were adopted by mathematically-illiterate state boards of education, why “school choice” doesn’t address the problems in Common Core’s standards, and how the peer review process for approving a “State Plan” under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ensures continuing federal control of a state’s public schools.

There’s No Achievement Gap Here

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

In 2009, 328 black students started 9th grade in Madison’s public high schools. By June 2013, only 177 (54%) of these students graduated with a diploma. Only 14 of these graduates were considered “ready” to succeed in college level reading upon completion of the ACT college entrance exam. That’s just 4% of the freshman class from four years earlier.

We will never diversify business and industry, or reduce poverty and underemployment if this is all the success we produce among our children. These are the reasons our preschool exists: to ensure children are reading-ready by kindergarten, and have the foundation necessary to succeed in grade school and beyond.

Look around your office when you are at work. Imagine one of our Baby Badgers sitting next to you, working with you or leading your team or organization. One day, they will be. Our children WILL graduate, with your help.

Want to “insure” their success? Click below and help us hire great teachers. Your support is appreciated, and the return on investment will be huge.

Just ask Myssac, your future Governor. Onward!

Please Enjoy this Highlight Videoof our First Graduation.

Madison now spends nearly $20,000 per K-12 student annually.

Close all USED-funded research centers: Evaluation of existing regulations: My two bits

Richard P. Phelps:

My comments below in response to the USED request for comments on existing USED regulations. To submit your own, follow the instructions at: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED-2017-OS-0074-0001

To: Hilary Malawer, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Education
From: Richard P. Phelps
Date: July 8, 2017
Re: Evaluation of Existing Regulations[1]


I encourage the US Education Department to eliminate from any current and future funding education research centers. Ostensibly, federally funded education research centers fill a “need” for more research to guide public policy on important topics. But, the research centers are almost entirely unregulated, so they can do whatever they please. And, what they please is too often the promotion of their own careers, the suppression or denigration of competing ideas and evidence, and the use of their control of abundant federal tax dollars to promote the careers and evidence they prefer and dismiss or suppress the careers and evidence they do not prefer.

In short, federal funding of education research centers concentrates far too much power in too few hands. And, that power is nearly unassailable. One USED funded research center, the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) blatantly and repeatedly misrepresented research I had conducted while at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in favor of their own small studies on the same topic. I was even denied attendance at public meetings where my research was misrepresented. Promises to correct the record were made, but not kept.

When I appealed to the USED project manager, he replied that he had nothing to say about “editorial” matters. In other words, a federally funded education research center can write and say anything that pleases, or benefits, the individuals inside.

Capturing a federally funded research center contract tends to boost the professional provenance of the winners stratospherically. In the case of CRESST, the principals assumed control of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment, where they behaved typically—citing themselves and those who agree with them, and ignoring, or demonizing, the majority of the research that contradicted their work and policy recommendations.

Further, CRESST principals now seem to have undue influence on the assessment research of the international agency, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which, as if on cue, has published studies that promote the minority of the research sympathetic to CRESST doctrine while simply ignoring even the existence of the majority of the research that is not. The rot—the deliberate suppression of the majority of the relevant research–has spread worldwide, and the USED funded it.

Three signs supporting public schools is in vogue for politicians

Alan Borsuk::

And it definitely is the July Fourth weekend. In honor of that, I was tempted to skip writing a normal column and offer a selection of the questions on the civics test that is given to people who want to become citizens of the United States. I thought it might be a good time for everybody to make sure they’re up to speed on fundamentals of American governance and history.

Besides, we just came through the first high school graduation season in which every student in Wisconsin was required to take the civics test and get at least 60 of the 100 questions right in order to get a diploma. By the way, there’s a proposal floating around the Legislature to increase the passing score from 60 to 80 out of 100.

Doing that isn’t very hard and there are many ways to succeed at this task. I suspect no one was denied a high school diploma only because of the civics test. For one thing, the test is easily available online, with the answers.

Wanna see if you’re as smart as a Wisconsin high school graduate? Take the test. One way to get it is to Google “U.S. citizenship civics test questions.” Might be a patriotic thing to do for the holiday.

But on to my main theme: School is in, in terms of it having turned popular in Wisconsin to support kindergarten through 12th-grade schools.

‘Brown Is Completely Off the Table’

Scott Jaschik:

The parents were distraught. Their daughter, a top student, had her heart set on a college that was, in their view, dangerously liberal, an institution to be avoided. They wanted options besides her daughter’s choice at the time … Yale University.

This was the situation a private college counselor shared here at the annual meeting of the Higher Education Consultants Association, one of the two national associations for private counselors. Others in the audience nodded their heads in agreement. Parents were vetoing children’s choices based on the parents’ (not the would-be applicants’) perceptions of the campus political climate. The situation has gotten worse, many said, since last year’s election.

Counselors discussed the issue only on condition their names not be used, saying they did not want to violate the privacy of the families that hire them or risk losing future business.

Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.

Neil Gabler::

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

I know what it is like to have to juggle creditors to make it through a week. I know what it is like to have to swallow my pride and constantly dun people to pay me so that I can pay others. I know what it is like to have liens slapped on me and to have my bank account levied by creditors. I know what it is like to be down to my last $5—literally—while I wait for a paycheck to arrive, and I know what it is like to subsist for days on a diet of eggs. I know what it is like to dread going to the mailbox, because there will always be new bills to pay but seldom a check with which to pay them. I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding; it all depended on whether something good happened. And I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.

You wouldn’t know any of that to look at me. I like to think I appear reasonably prosperous. Nor would you know it to look at my résumé. I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. And you certainly wouldn’t know it to talk to me, because the last thing I would ever do—until now—is admit to financial insecurity or, as I think of it, “financial impotence,” because it has many of the characteristics of sexual impotence, not least of which is the desperate need to mask it and pretend everything is going swimmingly. In truth, it may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence. “You are more likely to hear from your buddy that he is on Viagra than that he has credit-card problems,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who teaches at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and ministers to individuals with financial issues. “Much more likely.” America is a country, as Donald Trump has reminded us, of winners and losers, alphas and weaklings. To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.

Madison continues to grow K-12 spending (and taxes).

At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me By Ehime Ohue July 6 At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me By Ehime Ohue July 6

Ehime Ohue:

I noticed deficiencies in many ways. My kindergarten teacher complained that she could not “do this anymore” and quit.
 Other teachers lacked training and asked to be moved to non-teaching positions. It’s hard to blame them when most teachers in the corridor are paid $3,000 to $12,000 less than those in nearby districts.
 High school was where I really noticed the disparities.
 We didn’t have enough math teachers and barely enough working calculators. When the school added the International Baccalaureate program, the first class of students completed the program, but none were awarded the diploma. I enrolled the second year the program was offered, and our math teacher was still undergoing training. When he announced he would not be returning, training had to start again for another teacher.
 Two AP classes were announced my senior year, but were scheduled at the same time. We were considered a technology center, but our computers were always down. Many of my peers ended up dropping out or flunking out of college.
 And my school is considered one of the best in the region.
 As a freshman at Duke University, I feel the effects of the “Corridor of Shame” every day.
 Sometimes, it is hard for me to understand material my peers clearly find familiar. Often, I feel inferior. I never agree with other students who say, “Everything we are going over now we basically learned in high school.”

The wellness epidemic

Amy LaRocca::

Four decades later, wellness is not only a word you hear every day; it’s a global industry worth billions — one that includes wellness tourism, alternative medicine, and anti-aging treatments. The competition for a hunk of that market is intense: In Manhattan, two for-profit meditation studios are vying to become the SoulCycle of meditation, and Saks Fifth Avenue has temporarily converted its second floor into a “Wellery,” where you can experience aroma and light therapy in a glass booth filled with salt, or get plugged into a meditation app during a manicure. Every giant corporation has a wellness program: yoga at Goldman Sachs, communal sleep logs at JPMorgan Chase. A new magazine has debuted out on Long Island this summer, Hamptons Purist. (“Look around the city,” says its editor, Cristina Greeven, who came up with the idea on a surfboard in Costa Rica: “It used to be a butcher, a baker, and a hardware store. Now it’s SoulCycle, Juice Press, and a meditation place.”) It will have to compete with the Goop magazine, to be edited by Paltrow and published by Condé Nast, which this spring also announced the launch of Condé Nast Pharma, a division that offers “brand-safe” wellness-based content to pharmaceutical advertisers. The advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi has its own wellness division, capitalizing on “women’s unmet wellness needs” in the marketplace.
 Wellness is used to sell hotel rooms (“Stay well at Westin Hotels & Resorts, a place where together, we can rise”) and condos (Leonardo DiCaprio just sold his “wellness” condo, but Deepak Chopra still has one at the same address), and it has become a political movement, too. “Radical Self Care” seeks to heal wounds both recent (Trump) and systemic (trauma as a result of one’s race or gender), using the words of the poet Audre Lorde as a rallying cry: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
 It can be easy to be cynical about wellness, about the $66 jade eggs that Gwyneth Paltrow suggests inserting in your “yoni.” There’s something grotesque about this industry’s emerging at the moment when the most basic health care is still being denied to so many in America and is at risk of being snatched away from millions more. But what’s perhaps most striking about wellness’s ascendancy is that it’s happening because, in our increasingly bifurcated world, even those who do have access to pretty good (and sometimes quite excellent, if quite expensive) traditional health care are left feeling, nonetheless, incredibly unwell.

Charter schools do more than teach to the test: evidence from Boston


A growing body of evidence indicates that many urban charter schools boost the standardized test scores of disadvantaged students markedly. Attendance at oversubscribed charter schools in Boston for example—those with more applicants than seats—increases the test scores of low-income students by a third of a standard deviation a year, enough to eliminate the black-white test score gap in a few years of attendance.
 The achievement gains generated by Boston charters are in line with those generated by urban charters elsewhere in Massachusetts, as we have shown in studies of a Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) school in Lynn, Massachusetts and in an analysis of charter lottery results from around the state. Similar effects have been found in New York City and in a nationwide study of oversubscribed urban charter schools.
 A defining feature of most of Massachusetts’ urban charter schools is No Excuses pedagogy, an approach to urban education described in a book of the same name. No Excuses schools emphasize discipline and student conduct, traditional reading and math skills, extended instruction time, and selective teacher hiring. Massachusetts’ No Excuses charters also make heavy use of Teach for America corps members and alumni, and they provide extensive and ongoing feedback to teachers.

This Is How Big Oil Will Die

Seth Miller::

Let’s bring this back to today: Big Oil is perhaps the most feared and respected industry in history. Oil is warming the planet — cars and trucks contribute about 15% of global fossil fuels emissions — yet this fact barely dents its use. Oil fuels the most politically volatile regions in the world, yet we’ve decided to send military aid to unstable and untrustworthy dictators, because their oil is critical to our own security. For the last century, oil has dominated our economics and our politics. Oil is power.
 Yet I argue here that technology is about to undo a century of political and economic dominance by oil. Big Oil will be cut down in the next decade by a combination of smartphone apps, long-life batteries, and simpler gearing. And as is always the case with new technology, the undoing will occur far faster than anyone thought possible.
 To understand why Big Oil is in far weaker a position than anyone realizes, let’s take a closer look at the lynchpin of oil’s grip on our lives: the internal combustion engine, and the modern vehicle drivetrain.

Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers considers run for governor

Molly Beck:

Since he was first elected state superintendent in 2009, Evers has asked Walker and the Legislature four times to significantly increase funding for schools, by raising state-imposed revenue limits and changing the equalized aid formula to account for districts with high poverty, declining enrollment and rural issues. His proposal to revamp the state’s funding formula has repeatedly been ignored until this year, when Walker included some of his proposals.

Have their been acheivement improvements over the past decade?

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most.

Civics And Media Accuracy

Erik Wemple:

As a matter of timing, it was odd: Last week, the New York Times attached a lumpy correction to a story about the political dynamics of President Trump’s various proclamations on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The story highlighted the president’s various “asterisks, wisecracks, caveats or obfuscation” about Russian cyberattacks, and made a reference to the consensus among “17 intelligence agencies” about Russian interference.

Here’s the text:

Correction: June 29, 2017

A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.

News organizations had been repeating that “17 intelligence agencies” line for months and months, with no corrections in sight. Why was the New York Times issuing a correction all of a sudden? And why did the Associated Press add a clarification one day later? Who asked for it? The New York Times declined to comment beyond the correction. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also declined to comment on the record.

How the AI Revolution Creates New Work Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the global economy:

John Robb:

AI neural networks, using open and scalable techniques, are quickly learning (unreasonably so) to solve problems and accomplish tasks far better, faster, and more efficiently than the hundreds of millions of human beings who are currently being paid to do so. Furthermore, this AI learning solves problems in a way that eliminates most of the engineering and programming talent required to build solutions to similar problems in the past.

All of the major technology companies, from Google to Facebook to Uber to Tesla to Amazon are already AI companies. Some provide open tools and services for building AIs. All are building AI service platforms with better than human skill in image/facial recognition, voice recognition/speech, translation, reading comprehension, conversation, driving, flying, and much more.

The Miseducation of Henry Adams

Michael Lindgren:

The Education of Henry Adams is an extraordinary book, maddening, alternately fascinating and tedious, just as often mordantly and unexpectedly funny, one that seems both ragingly pertinent to and impossibly distant from our own time. Written in a stream of perfectly balanced and musical prose, it is at times opaque; coming from a perspective of unimaginable privilege and prestige, it is dominated by themes of failure, exclusion, otherness, superannuation. Most of all, it provokes turbulent half-formed thoughts on history, politics, identity, privilege, and the meaning of the act of reading.

Adams’s book works against its readers’ expectations in a curious way. The book is saturated, from its title down, with a sense of ironic detachment and self-deprecation. The running joke of the book, of sorts, is that Adams continually fails at everything he turns his hand to: he speaks repeatedly of not being able to understand, of being left out of the conversation, of being excluded, of failing, of not being equal to the task at hand. The title is deeply ironic: the book could just as easily be called (pace Lauryn Hill) The Miseducation of Henry Adams, as his attempts to be prepared for the world at large are constantly failing him and leaving him bereft of purpose and capability. There is something amusingly hangdog about his affect—he’s like a 19th-century Kylo Ren, living with petulant ineffectuality in the long shadows of his forbears.

Florence Nightingale Saved Far More People With Her Grasp Of Numbers Than Of Nursing

Alan Finkel:

This formed the basis of an 850 page report that I published in 1858, saving countless thousands of lives by prompting major reforms in hospital practice.

I helped to establish the International Statistical Congress and served as a data consultant to the US Army in the American Civil War.

I also invented the polar area diagram and pioneered the infographic.

I was elected to the Royal Statistical Society [and here’s a big clue…] becoming the first female member at the age of 38.

I died a legend amongst statisticians in 1910.


Yes, Florence Nightingale — the Lady with the Lamp. It ought to be the Lady with the Logarithm. She saved far more lives by her grasp of numbers than by her gift for nursing. And she put data at the heart of healthcare as we know it today.

So throw out your textbooks, I’m correcting the record. Florence Nightingale is henceforth the patron saint of mathematics. And I’m paying my personal tribute by drawing out four lessons from her story for maths educators today.

Who is the GovRAT Author and Mirai Botmaster ‘Bestbuy’?

Brian Krebs:

In February 2017, authorities in the United Kingdom arrested a 29-year-old U.K. man on suspicion of knocking more than 900,000 Germans offline in an attack tied to Mirai, a malware strain that enslaves Internet of Things (IoT) devices like security cameras and Internet routers for use in large-scale cyberattacks. Investigators haven’t yet released the man’s name, but news reports suggest he may be better known by the hacker handle “Bestbuy.” This post will follow a trail of clues back to one likely real-life identity of Bestbuy.

At the end of November 2016, a modified version of Mirai began spreading across the networks of German ISP Deutsche Telekom. This version of the Mirai worm spread so quickly that the very act of scanning for new infectable hosts overwhelmed the devices doing the scanning, causing outages for more than 900,000 customers. The same botnet had previously been tied to attacks on U.K. broadband providers Post Office and Talk Talk.

NEA Policy Statement on Charter Schools – Final Version

National Education Association:


Charter schools were initially promoted by educators who sought to innovate within the local public school system to better meet the needs of their students. Over the last quarter of a century, charter schools have grown dramatically to include large numbers of charters that are privately managed, largely unaccountable, and not transparent as to their operations or performance. The explosive growth of charters has been driven, in part, by deliberate and wellfunded efforts to ensure that charters are exempt from the basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools, which mirror efforts to privatize other public institutions for profit.

A Math Genius Blooms Late and Conquers His Field

Kevin Hartnett:

ON A WARM morning in early spring, June Huh walked across the campus of Princeton University. His destination was McDonnell Hall, where he was scheduled to teach, and he wasn’t quite sure how to get there. Huh is a member of the rarefied Institute for Advanced Study, which lies adjacent to Princeton’s campus. As a member of IAS, Huh has no obligation to teach, but he’d volunteered to give an advanced undergraduate math course on a topic called commutative algebra. When I asked him why, he replied, “When you teach, you do something useful. When you do research, most days you don’t.”

Monopolies and the Middle Class

Noah Smith:

But Pareene’s focus on conservative political appeal is much too narrow. The white middle-class that tended to support leaders like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush, lost huge percentages of their life’s savings because of excessive fees paid to actively managed mutual funds, financial advisers, stockbrokers, pension fund managers and the like. They also paid 6 percent real estate commissions even as people in most countries paid much less. They rejected the Clintons’ health-care plan in 1993, and ended up paying double what people in other countries pay for comparable treatment. They forked over more and more money in college tuition. They paid higher prices to companies that went on to monopolize markets after spending millions convincing the government to allow their megamergers. The spectacular rise of U.S. wealth inequality shows that trillions of dollars in middle-class assets were shifted up the socio-economic ladder into the hands of a relatively small and fantastically rich upper tier.
 Each of these little free-market failures was another slice off of the ham that was the wealth of the American middle class. The people who thought they were going to be the guests of honor at the feast ended up being the main course.
 But this is only part of the answer. Much of middle-class Americans’ prosperity wasn’t stolen — it was never there to begin with. Hidden fees and overpriced services took away real wealth, but unrealistic expectations created fantasies of future wealth whose evaporation is probably an even bigger source of disappointment.
 Why did U.S. households save less and less during the neoliberal era?

US Fertility Rate Falls To All Time Low

Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D., Joyce A. Martin, M.P.H., Michelle J.K. Osterman, M.H.S., Anne K. Driscoll, Ph.D., and Lauren M. Rossen, Ph.D.:

Objectives—This report presents provisional 2016 data on U.S. births. Births are shown by age and race and Hispanic origin of mother. Data on marital status, cesarean delivery, preterm births, and low birthweight are also presented. This report is the first in a new annual series replacing the preliminary report series.

Methods—Data are based on 99.96% of 2016 births. Records for the states with less than 100% of records received are weighted to independent control counts of all births received in state vital statistics offices in
2016. Comparisons are made with final 2015 data and earlier years.

Results—The provisional number of births for the United States in 2016 was 3,941,109, down 1% from 2015. The general fertility rate was 62.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15–44, down 1% from 2015 to a record low for the United States. Birth rates declined to record lows for women in all age groups under 30 years in 2016. The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 declined 9% in 2016 to 20.3 births per 1,000 women; rates declined for both younger (aged 15–17) and older (aged 18–19) teenagers. The birth rate declined for women in their early 20s to 73.7 births per 1,000 women aged 20–24 in 2016, and for women in their late 20s to 101.9 births per 1,000 women aged 25–29. The rates for women
in their 30s and 40s rose in 2016.
The nonmarital birth rate declined.

University of Wisconsin student fees and housing cost increases

Todd Richmond::

Documents attached to the budget offer a myriad of reasons for the fee increases, including covering costs for student unions, athletic scholarships and programs, child care, band costs and fluctuating enrollment. UW-Milwaukee, which wants the largest fee increase, cited projected enrollment decreases, lower than expected revenue from athletics and the school’s recreation center.
 The system’s two-year schools would see an average fee increase of 3 percent. UW-Fox Valley and UW-Manitowoc students would see the steepest increases; both schools are slated to raise their fees by 9 percent, bringing fees at Fox Valley to $309 and fees at Manitowoc to $405.
 Room-and-board, meanwhile, would increase an average of 2.6 percent across the four-year institutions. UW-Eau Claire would see the largest jump with a 7.5 percent increase from $6,985 to $7,506, due largely to cover the costs of constructing a new dorm and renovating another. The work also is expected to force more students to live off-campus, resulting in less housing and meal plan revenue, according to documents attached to the budget.

Mobile Fact Sheet

Pew Internet::

In contrast to the largely stationary internet of the early 2000s, Americans today are increasingly connected to the world of digital information while “on the go” via smartphones and other mobile devices. Explore the patterns and trends that have shaped the mobile revolution below.

The Tiny Satellites Ushering in the New Space Revolution

Ashlee Vance::

This satellite constellation is one of many signs that the relationship between humans and space is changing in ways unseen since Russia and the U.S. began sending rockets into orbit six decades ago. Thanks to modern software, artificial intelligence, advances in electronics and materials, and a generation of aggressive, unconventional entrepreneurs, we are awash in space startups. These companies envision an era in which rockets take off daily, filling the skies with satellites that sense Earth’s every action—in effect building a computational shell around our planet. The people constructing this bustling new economic highway promise it will improve life down below, but the future they describe is packed with wonder and controversy in equal measure—and although few have noticed, it’s coming to pass right now.
 The New Space revolution’s satellite boom began near another marshland, two oceans away from Sriharikota, where the San Francisco Bay meets the border of Mountain View, Calif. There you’ll find the NASA Ames Research Center, marked by odd-shaped buildings and some hangars that once housed Depression-era airships and enormous old wind tunnels.
 Since 2006, under the stewardship of Pete Worden, Ames has garnered a reputation for far-flung experimentation. Worden, an astrophysicist and former U.S. Air Force brigadier general, spent decades running Black Ops missions and oversaw the development of Ronald Reagan’s never-built Star Wars missile defense shield, among other jobs geared toward weaponizing space. At Ames he delighted in hiring adventurous young engineers for unusual research projects and forged strong ties with Silicon Valley, inviting startups to set up on NASA property and creating commercial links between the organization and Google Inc. He was also eccentric, occasionally donning a robe and taking to the surrounding fields with a staff to herd goats.

Do 20 pages of a book give you 90% of its words?

Roman Kierzkowski

We would like to know two things:

1. How do new words appear in the book?
2. What percent of the book is written with the words that appear page by page?

On the following plots, the horizontal axis denotes the page number. The green line on the plots below answers the first question. It shows what percentage of unique words appeared to this page. The blue line answers the second. It shows how much of the book is written with the words that appeared on this page or earlier.


The Secret Adversary is an average length book. It is 250 pages with exactly 75208 words. Each word in average appears 14 times, what gives us 5248 unique words in the book.

You will know 90% of words after 40 pages which are 16.00% of the book.

America, Meet America: Getting Past Our Toxic Partisanship Bringing back U.S. exchange programs could help remind citizens what we all have in common

Amanda Ripley:

Seventy years ago, almost to the day, a group of American ambulance drivers, disgusted by the waste and carnage they’d seen in the World Wars in Europe, started up a cultural exchange program between Europe and the U.S. The idea was simple: If people knew each other—really knew each other—they would be more tolerant of one other. It’s harder to demonize someone once you’ve stayed in their homes and shared meals and stories together.

Civics: With a single wiretap order, US authorities listened in on 3.3 million phone calls

Zack Whittaker:

US authorities intercepted and recorded millions of phone calls last year under a single wiretap order, authorized as part of a narcotics investigation.

The wiretap order authorized an unknown government agency to carry out real-time intercepts of 3.29 million cell phone conversations over a two-month period at some point during 2016, after the order was applied for in late 2015.

The order was signed to help authorities track 26 individuals suspected of involvement with illegal drug and narcotic-related activities in Pennsylvania.

The wiretap cost the authorities $335,000 to conduct and led to a dozen arrests.

But the authorities noted that the surveillance effort led to no incriminating intercepts, and none of the handful of those arrested have been brought to trial or convicted.

How can education systems be better? A round-up of the 2017 RISE conference

David Evans:

RISE – Research on Improving Systems of Education – seeks to answer the question, “How can education systems be reformed to deliver better learning for all?” As Justin Sandefur said in his opening remarks, “we need more than just piecemeal research and piecemeal reform.” How? “Invest over the long-term in real, cutting-edge, new empirical research from the all-star teams you’re going to hear from over the next couple of days.” The whole two-day conference is available for online streaming (Day 1 and Day 2); the full program has links to many of the papers.

Here are some of the greatest hits among the research papers presented, including a bonus track that wasn’t on the program (at the end of the pedagogy section). If you saw a paper you enjoyed and it isn’t below, please add it in the comments!

Politics of Reform
Recent dramatic improvements in learning outcomes in Ecuador hinged on 5 key reforms: “Higher standards for new recruitment, higher standards for entry into teacher training, regular evaluation of individual teacher performance, promotions based on tested competency rather than years of service, and dismissal from the civil service after multiple poor performance evaluations.” Schneider, Estarellas, & Bruns identify 5 political advantages that let the government get those reforms through: “strong public support grounded in a pervasive sense of education in crisis…, sustained presidential support, the commodity boom of the 2000s, continuity in the government reform team, and communications strategies that built popular sympathy for the government position against union efforts to block reforms.” [paper; video of talk @7m]
Alternative Modalities of Provision
Providing report cards on student test scores to both parents and schools that showed performance within the school and across schools led to big increases in test scores for private school students. Giving report cards just to schools didn’t make a difference. The result seems to be from parents moving kids to better quality private schools (rather than improvements in quality of the current schools) (Afridi, Barooah, & Somanathan) [paper]
In Sindh, Pakistan, the government provided public resources to private schools, resulting in big increases in enrollment and test scores for both girls and boys. Barrera-Osorio et al. then estimate how private school entrepreneurs choose what private school characteristics to offer [paper; video of talk @7m]
In Punjam, Pakistan, teacher value added is high, but teacher characteristics (including the first years of experience and content knowledge) explain little of it. In the public sector, cutting teacher wages by 35 percent did not affect teacher value added (Bau & Das) [paper; video of talk @28m]
What’s the best way to improve children’s school readiness? The Gambia invited researchers to test two alternative methods, community-based centers in some communities and kindergartens with upgraded quality in others. Neither improved readiness on average, but the upgraded kindergartens were better for the least advantaged children (Blimpo et al.). [paper; video of talk @50m]

Fish becoming transgender from contraceptive pill chemicals being flushed down household drains

Sophie Jamieson:

fifth of male fish are now transgender because of chemicals from the contraceptive pill being flushed down household drains, a study by has suggested.

Male river fish are displaying feminised traits and even producing eggs, the study found. Some have reduced sperm quality and display less aggressive and competitive behaviour, which makes them less likely to breed successfully.

The chemicals causing these effects include ingredients in the contraceptive pill, by-products of cleaning agents, plastics and cosmetics, according to the findings.

NEA President: There Will Be No Photo Ops With DeVos

Stephen Sawchuck:

The speech highlighted the different approaches the two national teachers’ unions have taken to this administration. AFT President Randi Weingarten, for example, went and visited a school with DeVos in April. While not exactly a photo op, it at least showed the two national education leaders could be civil to one another. (Weingarten has since said plenty of critical things about DeVos in other forums.)

The NEA, on the other hand, has resisted those steps. Eskelsen García said she’s still waiting on the answers to questions she posed in a letter to DeVos way back in February and won’t even consider meeting with her until they’re answered.

While the speech did a great job of riling up the delegates, it did not give much of an indication about how the union plans to resist DeVos’ education plans over the long haul.

That’s understandable on one front, since the administration’s education plans still seem kind of murky. Its proposed budget, which would cut numerous programs, including a $2 billion professional-development program, is unlikely to survive intact. But what happens when the union needs to engage on workaday matters—for example, the implementation of the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act?

Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax

Alex Williams:

How we went from depressive flannel and fog to anxiously monitoring our heart rates, twirling fidget spinners and streaming into meditation studios.

This past winter, Sarah Fader, a 37-year-old social media consultant in Brooklyn who has generalized anxiety disorder, texted a friend in Oregon about an impending visit, and when a quick response failed to materialize, she posted on Twitter to her 16,000-plus followers. “I don’t hear from my friend for a day — my thought, they don’t want to be my friend anymore,” she wrote, appending the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike.

Thousands of people were soon offering up their own examples under the hashtag; some were retweeted more than 1,000 times. You might say Ms. Fader struck a nerve. “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious,” she said on the telephone, “there’s something wrong with you.”

Even moderate drinking causes atrophy in brain area related to memory, learning

Linda Searing:

Popular belief, backed up by various studies, holds that a moderate amount of alcohol can be good for your heart. Might it have a similar effect on your brain?

This study
The study tracked 550 adults for 30 years, starting when they were, on average, 43 years old, periodically assessing their alcohol consumption and cognitive performance. None of the participants had an alcohol dependency. Standardized testing showed that people who drank the most during the three decades had a faster and greater decline in cognitive functioning than those who consumed less alcohol. Brain MRIs at the end of the study revealed greater hippocampal atrophy, a loss of cells in the region of the brain that is key to memory and learning, among heavier drinkers compared with lighter drinkers. But even moderate drinkers were three times as likely to have brain atrophy as non-drinkers. The researchers found no brain-related benefits for alcohol consumption at any level, including very light drinking, compared with abstinence.

A Path Less Taken to the Peak of the Math World

Kevin Hartnett:

On a warm morning in early spring, June Huh walked across the campus of Princeton University. His destination was McDonnell Hall, where he was scheduled to teach, and he wasn’t quite sure how to get there. Huh is a member of the rarefied Institute for Advanced Study, which lies adjacent to Princeton’s campus. As a member of IAS, Huh has no obligation to teach, but he’d volunteered to give an advanced undergraduate math course on a topic called commutative algebra. When I asked him why, he replied, “When you teach, you do something useful. When you do research, most days you don’t.”

We arrived at Huh’s classroom a few minutes before class was scheduled to begin. Inside, nine students sat in loose rows. One slept with his head down on the table. Huh took a position in a front corner of the room and removed several pages of crumpled notes from his backpack. Then, with no fanfare, he picked up where he’d left off the previous week. Over the next 80 minutes he walked students through a proof of a theorem by the German mathematician David Hilbert that stands as one of the most important breakthroughs in 20th-century mathematics.

If You Think Campus Free Speech Is No Big Deal, Watch This Shocking Vice News Report From Evergreen State College

Matt Welch:

Are you one of those people who suspects that all the brouhaha over campus free speech outrages, no matter how individually insane the stories, might be exaggerated in the aggregate when it comes to prevalence and effect? It’s OK—I am one of those people, despite writing about the subject on occasion and reading all the fine work done at Reason by Robby Soave and other colleagues.

Or I should say, I was one of those people, before watching Thursday’s Vice News segment from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where (as Ben Haller has written here previously) things have gone pear-shaped ever since a lone white professor refused to stay home during an activist “Day of Absence” for those with pallid skin pigment. Vice News correspondent (and former Reasoner/current Fifth Columnist) Michael Moynihan visited the embattled campus to query the antagonists in the controversy, and the results are stunning, infuriating, bananas. I have often wondered what it would be like to capture people in the midst of an ideological re-education exercise; now I wonder no more:

How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms

Natasha Singer:

At a White House gathering of tech titans last week, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, delivered a blunt message to President Trump on how public schools could better serve the nation’s needs. To help solve a “huge deficit in the skills that we need today,” Mr. Cook said, the government should do its part to make sure students learn computer programming.

“Coding,” Mr. Cook told the president, “should be a requirement in every public school.”

The Apple chief’s education mandate was just the latest tech company push for coding courses in schools. But even without Mr. Trump’s support, Silicon Valley is already advancing that agenda — thanks largely to the marketing prowess of Code.org, an industry-backed nonprofit group.

From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps We now have the whole world in our hands, but how did we get here?

Clive Thompson:

Last spring, a 23-year-old woman was driving her car through the Ontario town of Tobermory. It was unfamiliar territory for her, so she was dutifully following her GPS. Indeed, she was so intent on following the device that she didn’t notice that her car was headed straight for Georgian Bay—so she drove down a boat launch and straight into the frigid water. She thankfully managed to climb out and swim to shore, as her bright red Yaris sank beneath the waves.

Accidents like this have become weirdly common. In Manhattan, one man followed his GPS into a park, where his car got stuck on a staircase. And in Europe, a 67-year-old Belgian woman was led remarkably astray by her GPS, turning what was supposed to be a 90-mile drive to Brussels into a daylong voyage into Germany and beyond. Amazingly, she just patiently followed the computer’s instructions, instead of relying on her own common sense, until she noticed the street signs were in Croatian.

How Far Should Parents Control Their Children?

Hacker News:

In order to raise a responsible and a “good” human being, how far should parents control vs give freedom to their children? And how does that change with age?
Here are some examples:

– study : if you see that your child is not keeping up with his homeworks, etc. would you step in and force him to study, which might save his future, or let him do as he likes and then assume the consequences of his actions?

– religion : would you teach him your religion because that’s what you beleive to be true, or let him search and choose for himself, knowing that if hou had taught him he has more chances to grow up having your beliefs, and if not he might end up in hell according to what you believe.

Delete Hate Speech or Pay Up, Germany Tells Social Media Companies

Melissa Edfy and Mark Scott:

The law reinforces Germany’s position as one of the most aggressive countries in the Western world at forcing companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to crack down on hate speech and other extremist messaging on their digital platforms.

But the new rules have also raised questions about freedom of expression. Digital and human rights groups, as well as the companies themselves, opposed the law on the grounds that it placed limits on individuals’ right to free expression. Critics also said the legislation shifted the burden of responsibility to the providers from the courts, leading to last-minute changes in its wording.

Technology companies and free speech advocates argue that there is a fine line between policy makers’ views on hate speech and what is considered legitimate freedom of expression, and social networks say they do not want to be forced to censor those who use their services. Silicon Valley companies also deny that they are failing to meet countries’ demands to remove suspected hate speech online.

The United States first amendment:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Character counts — and these 6 schools prove it

Alan Borsuk:

Sometimes, the kids playing kickball on the playground of Rawson Elementary School in South Milwaukee get into arguments over whether someone was safe or out. Or whether someone did or did not touch a base. They don’t always handle their differences in the nicest way.

Behavior at the school? “It’s not perfect,” one fourth-grader told me when I visited just as the school year was coming to an end.

But I am not here to criticize. In fact, my purpose is to praise Rawson and the other five schools in the 3,200-student South Milwaukee district for the bigger picture of how people treat each other (adults and students both).

South Milwaukee schools have been working for seven years on a broad effort focused on building the character traits of everyone involved in the schools and making school life as conducive as it can be to success both in academics and, in broader terms, daily life.

No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language

John McWhorter:

EEnglish speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

Deep Learning-Based Food Calorie Estimation Method in Dietary Assessment

Yanchao Liang, Jianhua Li:

Obesity treatment requires obese patients to record all food intakes per day. Computer vision has been introduced to estimate calories from food images. In order to increase accuracy of detection and reduce the error of volume estimation in food calorie estimation, we present our calorie estimation method in this paper. To estimate calorie of food, a top view and side view is needed. Faster R-CNN is used to detect the food and calibration object. GrabCut algorithm is used to get each food’s contour. Then the volume is estimated with the food and corresponding object. Finally we estimate each food’s calorie. And the experiment results show our estimation method is effective.

Trump And Devos Deliver One-Two Punch On Law School Loans

American Lawyer:

Since 2007, the public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) program for federal student loans has been an escape hatch for law graduates and others saddled with overwhelming educational debt. The idea was that a graduate would take a public service job at low pay and reduced monthly loan requirements. After a decade of service, any remaining loan debt was forgiven.

The well-known backstory is that student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. They can follow a person to the grave.

There were and still are problems with PSLF, such as the resulting tax on the imputed income from the forgiven loan. And 10 years is a long time to toil in low wage positions. But the country and many recent graduates have been the better for it. …

For young lawyers hoping that public service loan forgiveness could be an answer to a lifetime of student debt burdens, President Trump has some bad news. Rather than remedy the problems with a program that can provide enormous help to many recent grads and the organizations for which they work, he wants to eliminate it altogether. It’s analogous to his approach to the Affordable Care Act. Fixing something is more difficult than eliminating it altogether. So Trump proposes to eliminate it.

Help wanted: Americans don’t need more degrees, they need training

Sylvain Kalache:

America has more than 6 million vacant jobs, yet the country is “facing a serious skills gap,” Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta recently said. And last week his boss, President Donald Trump, said he wants to close this gap by directing $100 million of federal money into apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships in the U.S. are generally known for training workers for blue collar jobs like plumbers or electricians, but with a little tweak, they could be the path to lucrative, white collar tech jobs across the country. Not just in coastal cities, but also in the Midwest, South, and across the Great Plains.

But to get there we need to erase the notion that highly paid jobs require a college degree. It’s not always true. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, among others, has called for a shift in focus: “skills, not degrees. It’s not skills at the exclusion of degrees. It’s just expanding our perspective to go beyond degrees.”