Many Wisconsin school districts fail test on open records

Tom Kamenick and Libby Sobic :

The ugly: Of the 20 largest school districts, eight (Eau Claire, Elmbrook, Janesville, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Wausau and Wauwatosa) would not fulfill our requests without payment. The fees ranged from $15 to, in Madison’s case, more than $1,000.

According to the Madison School District’s attorney, the district does not have a system for tracking open records requests, hence its extremely high fee in this case. While records custodians are allowed to charge for locating records, school districts that need so much time to locate records are apparently not doing a good job of tracking requests. It should not be so hard to find out how well any government entity complies with the law.

The takeaway: Walker’s executive order led to measurable improvements in the response time of state agencies. School districts and other local governments can use the same processes, including better training and tracking systems, to achieve similar improvements.

Appleton’s budget is $201,399,239 for 15,169 students, about $13,277 per student.

Green Bay plans to spend roughly $272,000,000 during the 2017-2018 school year for 21,000 students, about $12,952 per student.

Madison spends far more, nearly $20,000 per student.

Mapping the Future: Cartography Stages a Comeback


Cartography is the new code. Increasingly, everything from your takeout delivery to your UberPool route is orchestrated not just by engineers but by cartographers. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of grads earning master’s degrees in cartography increased annually by more than 40 percent on average. And as advanced satellites, digital mapping tools, and open-source geographical software progress, the demand for cartographers is projected to grow nearly 30 percent by 2024.

Modern cartographers are as much data analysts as they are map producers. Flagship GIS systems by software companies like Esri have been democratized by an explosion of open-source alternatives like Carto and MapBox. “We are absolutely inundated with volumes of geospatial data,” says Mike Tischler, director of the US Geological Survey’s National Geospatial Program, “but with no means to effectively use it all.”

Which is why, as tasks from house-hunting to solving public-health crises depend on sophisticated map integration, cartography grads are being snapped up by Silicon Valley. “Ten years ago someone with geospatial expertise may have been siloed from the engineering team,” says Grubhub CTO Maria Belousova. “Today a huge portion of our team works on spatial search and route optimization.” Data-savvy mappers are charting that digital frontier.

Remarks on the Decline of American Empire

Stephen Hsu:

1. US foreign policy over the last decades has been disastrous — trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended on Middle Eastern wars, culminating in utter defeat. This defeat is still not acknowledged among most of the media or what passes for intelligentsia in academia and policy circles, but defeat it is. Iran now exerts significant control over Iraq and a swath of land running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. None of the goals of our costly intervention have been achieved. We are exhausted morally, financially, and militarily, and still have not fully extricated ourselves from a useless morass. George W. Bush should go down in history as the worst US President of the modern era.

2. We are fortunate that the fracking revolution may lead to US independence from Middle Eastern energy. But policy elites have to fully recognize this possibility and pivot our strategy to reflect the decreased importance of the region. The fracking revolution is a consequence of basic research from decades ago (including investment from the Department of Energy) and the work of private sector innovators and risk-takers.

3. US budget deficits are a ticking time bomb, which cripple investment in basic infrastructure and also in research that creates strategically important new technologies like AI. US research spending has been roughly flat in inflation adjusted dollars over the last 20 years, declining as a fraction of GDP.

4. Divisive identity politics and demographic trends in the US will continue to undermine political cohesion and overall effectiveness of our institutions. (“Civilizational decline,” as one leading theoretical physicist observed to me recently, remarking on our current inability to take on big science projects.)

The Trump Administration Is Keeping a U.S. Citizen Secretly Locked Up Without Charges

Jonathan Hafetz :

For nearly two months, the U.S. military has been detaining an American citizen at a secret jail in Iraq, denying him access to a lawyer and even refusing to release his name. The Trump administration is calling the citizen an “enemy combatant,” claiming he was fighting for ISIS in Syria, but it has not presented any evidence to back up its allegations.

We went to court asking a judge to protect the citizen’s constitutional rights, including the right not to be imprisoned without charge and the right to challenge his detention in court. The Trump administration has told the court that it doesn’t have to respect these essential due process rights.

The Pentagon and Justice Department ignored our initial request for access to the U.S. citizen so we could advise him of his rights and offer him the opportunity of legal representation. We then filed a habeas corpus petition on the citizen’s behalf in federal court in Washington, demanding that the government justify its detention of the unnamed American. All U.S. citizens have the right to habeas corpus no matter where the government holds them or what it accuses them of. And, as we know from the government’s practices in places like Guantánamo, when it tries to undercut this right it opens the door to abuses, including the arbitrary detention of innocent people.

What Really Happened At Ballou, The D.C. High School Where Every Senior Got Into College

Kate McGee:

Brian Butcher, a history teacher at Ballou High School, sat in the bleachers of the school’s brand new football field last June watching 164 seniors receive diplomas. It was a clear, warm night, and he was surrounded by screaming family and friends snapping photos and cheering.

It was a triumphant moment for the students. For the first time, every Ballou graduate applied and was accepted to college. The school is located in one of D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods; it has struggled academically for years and has had a chronically low graduation rate. In 2016, the school graduated only 57 percent of its seniors according to data from D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), slightly up from 51 percent the year before. For months after June’s commencement, the school received national media attention, including from NPR, celebrating its achievement.

But all the excitement and accomplishment couldn’t shake one question from Butcher’s mind:

How did all these students graduate from high school?

“You saw kids walking across the stage, who, they’re nice young people, but they don’t deserve to be walking across the stage,” Butcher said.

Butcher’s concerns were not unwarranted.

FEPA Gives Bureaucrats, Private Parties, Hackers A Data Gold Mine

Jane Robbins:

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA – S 2046), passed by the House as HR 4174, encourages all federal agencies to share the data they maintain on American citizens and to make that data available for “research” by outside interests. All this would be done according to rules set by each agency and without the knowledge or consent of the citizens whose data would be disclosed and scrutinized.

In most cases, citizens give data to a particular federal agency for a particular purpose. They don’t expect that data to be “re-purposed” without their knowledge – even to achieve a goal the government thinks is worthwhile. In a free society, the government is subordinate to the citizen. If it wants to use his data for something he didn’t agree to, it should first obtain his consent. FEPA operates according to the contrary principle – that government is entitled to do whatever it wants with a citizen’s data and shouldn’t be hindered by his objection.

It’s critical to understand exactly what kinds of data reside in various agencies and ponder the possible consequences of sharing that data as contemplated by FEPA. Consider the data housed in the U.S. Department of Education (USED) by virtue of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Take a deep breath:

History Teachers Wanted

Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email:

Albert Shanker was a very good friend to The Concord Review almost from the very beginning in 1987. He wrote a number of letters, to the MacArthur Foundation and others, and he spent two of his New York Times columns on comments about the journal. In addition, at a national AFT convention, he scheduled a breakfast meeting for the AFT’s vice presidents, at which I was the only guest, invited to talk about The Concord Review. On that occasion, he told this story: When Jaime Escalante left Los Angeles for a new school in Sacramento, of course the local media took an interest in this nationally famous teacher. They interviewed students, and one ninth grade girl said he was a terrible teacher. “Tell us more!” said the media. And the girl said, “Well, I had a problem with algebra, and I went to Mr. Escalante. He kept me after school several days, and even kept me in on a Saturday morning.” “And what happened?” said the media. And she said: “Well, I finally got it, but he didn’t teach me anything. All he did was make me work!” This was a favorite story of Shanker’s and I heard him tell it again.

I am offering a new kind of professional development for secondary History and Social Studies teachers—one in which they will not be talked to or “taught” in the customary “professional development” way—but instead one in which they will work on serious History papers of their own. This is a new approach, but one which could increase the number of secondary students who will learn to do more of the academic expository writing which, by all reports, they now almost universally cannot do.

Will Fitzhugh
Founder, The Concord Review, Inc. [1987]
Varsity Academics® is our registered trademark.


September 2017—A TCR Academy for Professional Development is offered to secondary History and Social Studies teachers to do the academic expository writing of History research papers themselves. This is new.

We seek $5,000 in Professional Development funds for each of 12 high school History and Social Studies teachers to attend the Pilot residential two-week TCR Academy where they will actually do a serious academic History research paper of their own from July 15 to July 27 in Boston in the Summer of 2018.

Dana Goldstein in The New York Times of August 2, 2017, reported that:
“Three-quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress…The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves.”

Jay Mathews, Washington Post Columnist, reported on August 14, 2016, that: “Writing instruction in our schools is terrible. We need to fix it. A new study has found that U.S. schools emphasize the mechanics of writing instead of teaching students to engage with—and enjoy—such assignments…The results are distressing and show that the instruction students are getting—particularly in writing—is deeply inadequate.”

“Interestingly, the United States is home to a program that is, to my knowledge, the world leader in encouraging and assessing the kind of non-fiction writing that is now in greatest demand in the world: The Concord Review, run by Will Fitzhugh.”….Marc Tucker, National Council on Education and the Economy.

Many History teachers completed their college degrees and teacher preparation without ever having written a serious History research paper of their own. Part of the reason so few History term papers are assigned in American high schools is that teachers do not have either the experience or the confidence to provide students with the preparation in nonfiction reading and academic expository writing they need to write such papers.

Over the past four years, The Concord Review Summer Programs have provided academic expository writing instruction in preparing serious academic History research papers of their own for 79 students, from China, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, and from nine American states.

We propose to offer this same experience in writing to a dozen high school History and Social Studies teachers who will work on their own 6,000-word History research paper, with endnotes and bibliography, on a topic of their choice for two weeks in the Summer of 2018. Teachers will be asked to choose a topic, prepare an outline, and find ten sources before the course. During the program they will receive instruction on academic writing and have plenty of opportunity to read for and write on their paper, with the guidance and personal attention of our staff. They can then finish their paper after the course. This is a change from programs which talk about History and writing.

The goal is to give them (in some cases to remind them of) the real pride and satisfaction that comes from their own serious study on and careful writing about an interesting Historical topic that they choose. This should both inspire and prepare them for assigning serious term papers to their own students when they return to their schools.

The Concord Review has been, since 1987, the only academic journal in the world for the History research papers of secondary students, and has now published 1,252 essays in 114 issues, by students from 44 states and 40 other countries.


“We have switched to courses that emphasize reading, research, and writing—you are an inspiration to all of us, keep up the good work.”

Paul Horton, History Teacher, University of Chicago Laboratory High School

“I very much like and support what you’re doing with The Concord Review. It’s original, important, and greatly needed, now more than ever, with the problem of historic illiteracy growing steadily worse among the high school generation nearly everywhere in the country.”

David McCullough, Historian

“Your visit to Singapore has stimulated a great deal of conversation about what our courses will look like next year as well as ways to better prepare our students for university/college. As a direct result of your visit, we are offering a semester course to high school students next year titled: “Writing a Research Paper.” Students will be expected to produce a major research paper at the end (c. 5,000 words).”

Richard Bisset, History Teacher, Singapore American School

“It’s hard for me to say adequately how much I admire and value what The Concord Review has accomplished. It has not only encouraged students to take the writing of history seriously, and significantly raised the level of quality of their historical analysis, but it has encouraged students to take their writing as seriously as their history. The Review is a jewel in the crown of American education.“

Stanley N. Katz, Director, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies,
Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

“As a physicist, I am accustomed to the many initiatives, such as math competitions and physics olympiads, instituted to recognize and promote interest and talent in the sciences among high school students. However, I have always felt that there was no equivalent mechanism to encourage and nurture students in the humanities, and to recognize their accomplishments. The Concord Review strikes me as a simple yet brilliant idea to help fill that gap, and as a very effective way to promote high standards and excellence in the humanities.”

Chiara R. Nappi, Theoretical Physicist, Princeton Institute for Advanced Study

“We wish instead to draw your attention to one of those little starbursts of intelligence sparkling over our dreary educational landscape: The Concord Review. The first and only academic journal dedicated to the work of high school students, The Concord Review has published essays on everything from the sinking of the Lusitania to the Pullman Strike of 1894 and the Harlem Renaissance. Appropriately enough, it is published out of the same town where, more than two centuries back, embattled farmers fired the shot heard ’round the world.”

Bill McGurn, Chief Editorial Writer, The Wall Street Journal

“The leading U.S. proponent of more research work for the nation’s teens is Will Fitzhugh, who has been publishing high school student [history] papers in his Concord Review journal since 1987…“

Jay Mathews, The Washington Post

“The Concord Review offers young people a unique incentive to think and write carefully and well…The Concord Review inspires and honors historical literacy. It should be in every high school in the land.”

the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Historian

“Interestingly, the United States is home to a program that is, to my knowledge, the world leader in encouraging and assessing the kind of non-fiction writing that is now in greatest demand in the world: The Concord Review, run by Will Fitzhugh. The Concord Review is a quarterly journal of history research done by high school students from all over the world [41 countries so far]. The quality of the thinking and writing in the papers that appear in The Concord Review is nothing short of remarkable.”

Marc Tucker, President, National Council on Education and the Economy

“We have been glad to have reprints of essays published in The Concord Review, submitted by our applicants over the years, to add to the information we consider in making admissions decisions…All of us here in the Admissions Office are big fans of The Concord Review.”

William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College

“I applaud you for your dedication to improving education, lifting genuine standards of accomplishment, and maintaining your high ideals for our youth. Almost alone, you have fought to improve the teaching of history, while encouraging young people to write thoughtfully and clearly about the meaning of the past. Your devotion to history, to good writing, to serious reading, and to the potential of young people should be an inspiration to us all. I wish you the best as you continue to promote sound ideas about education. The Concord Review provides a splendid forum for the best student work in history…It deserves the support of everyone in the country who cares about improving the study of history in the schools.”

Diane Ravitch, Research Professor, New York University, Author of Left Back,
The Language Police, Reign of Error, etc.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your splendid journal, The Concord Review. That you are performing a valuable service to American education goes without saying. What I find most remarkable is that the journal is intrinsically worth reading as interesting historical writing and not merely as a celebration of young talent. The articles would delight any professor of history if submitted to an advanced undergraduate class, and the best are of graduate student quality. With each issue I feel better about the future of American education and of our profession.”

Eugene Genovese, late Founding President, The Historical Society

“I wanted to tell you how much I admire the energy, commitment, and vision that have led to The Concord Review. Many people talk about the need for new ways to encourage and engage students. You have actually created a new way to raise students’ standards and their expectations of themselves. Your project deserves study by teachers and students across the country. The Concord Review has done a great service not simply to the students whose essays it publishes but to the cause of American education as a whole. I hope it has a long and prosperous life.”

James Fallows, The Atlantic

“It remains the case that most high school students are never required to write a serious research paper. But now there are 30 years’ worth of Concord Reviews that open a window into an alternative universe. You want to see what high school kids can do? Spend some time with The Concord Review, and prepare to be inspired.”

Jeff Jacoby, Columnist, The Boston Globe

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Yellen: National debt ‘should keep people awake at night’

Stlvan Lane:

The fact that U.S. debt is about to soar past $20 trillion “is the type of thing that should keep people awake at night,” outgoing Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday in testimony to Congress.

“This should be a very significant concern,” Yellen told the Joint Economic Committee.

She said expenditures on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will grow more rapidly than tax revenues as the U.S. population ages.

Madison’s K-12 spending grows annually and now approaches $20,000 per student.

‘White nuclear family’ perpetuates racism, CUNY prof argues

Toni Airakisinen:

A sociology professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) recently argued in an extensive series of tweets that “the white-nuclear family” perpetuates racism.

Jessie Daniels, a self-described “expert on race,” began her tweetstorm this weekend by declaring that “what I’ve learned is that the white-nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy.”

Chinese History: A New Manual


We are truly honored to announce the release of our first ever paid e-book that’s not a dictionary, “Chinese History: A New Manual” 5th Edition by Endymion Wilkinson. It’s available right now to purchase for US$29.99 via the in-app “Add-ons” screen on our iOS and Android apps – you can also download a free demo version with the first chapter from there – and can also be bought directly from our online store.

Product Description

“The most valuable English-language reference book on China anywhere” (Professor Richard Smith, Rice University).

This massive work (at 1.6 million words the length of 12 monographs), won the Prix Stanislas Julien in 2014 and in 2016, Peking University Press published it in a three-volume Chinese language edition.

The manual provides the answers to all sorts of questions and problems in Chinese civilization and history from prehistory to recent times. Along the way it curates some 12,000 primary and secondary sources and also introduces the ancillary disciplines that Chinese historians require from archeology to translation strategies, from astronomy and astrology to numismatics, from historical linguistics to the latest techniques of learning the characters. The text is often witty and enlivened with more than 300 sidebars and tables covering topics from “The size of steppe armies” and “The speed of Chinese armies” to “Tomes in tombs” and “For whom the bell tolls.”

This start-up can identify you by your voice in a matter of seconds

Celia Chen:

“Your money or your life!” may not be the smartest thing for balaclava-clad bank robbers to say any more

A start-up in China has figured out how to identify the unique characteristics of each person’s voice and cross-match it with existing “voice databases” to identify someone purely by what they say. SpeakIn, based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, is currently working with police departments on the mainland. Its database of “voices” comes from places including phone banking to IT help desk queries.

“A voiceprint is personal and is another example of biological ID,” Yi Pengyu, chief operating officer of SpeakIn, told the South China Morning Post. “The technology can be primarily applied to security systems as it can recognise and track criminals by seeking a match from a database of their voices. A bank robber can certainly hide his face by wearing balaclavas but he always has to speak when he asks for money.”

Wisconsin Education Superintendent Tony Evers ‘fires’ DOJ lawyer, Brad Schimel says he won’t step aside

Jesse Opoien:

State Superintendent Tony Evers said Tuesday he is declining legal representation from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in a lawsuit brought by a conservative law firm. Attorney General Brad Schimel said he will not step aside.

Evers, a Democrat, is one of several candidates seeking to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in 2018. Both Walker and Schimel are Republicans.

The impasse could require the state Supreme Court to determine who represents Evers. The court has not yet agreed to hear the case in question in the first place.

Much more on Tony Evers, here.

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)


PIRL, v., n. Also pirrl, pur(r)(e)l. [pɪrl, pʌrl]

I. v. 1. tr. (1) To twist, twine. twirl, coil, curl (Cld., Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; ne.Sc., Ags., Lth., Ayr., s.Sc. 1965), freq. of horse-hair or the like being twisted to make fishing-lines, or of the making of rug ends (Slk. 1965). Hence pirler, one who makes rug ends (Id.). Slk. 1832 Hogg Queer Book 183:

The bowselly hair upon his head Was pirled with his dark eebree. Ayr. 1833 Galt Poems 43:

Nae mutch had she, but a snood of beads Was purl’d in her hair. Edb. 1839 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch xxvi.:
A bit daigh, half an ounce weight, pirled round wi’ the knuckles into a case. Slk. 1874 Border Treasury (31 Oct.) 169:
D’ye pirl yer ain lines an’ buss yer ain heuks?

Oregon pays $750k to foster kids who were isolated in Spanish-speaking foster home

Aimee Green:

The state of Oregon has paid $750,000 to three English-speaking foster kids who were placed in the Gresham home of Spanish-speaking foster parents and forced to wear filthy clothes smelling of urine and sleep in a windowless basement.

Two of the three brothers also were sexually abused by another, older male foster child — and they were unable to tell that to their foster parents because their foster parents didn’t speak English, said Portland attorney David Paul, who represented the brothers.

Paul said the brothers’ isolation was made even worse because child-protection workers with the Oregon Department of Human Services failed to regularly check on the boys. Department rules require workers to have at least one face-to-face interaction with each foster child every 30 days. But Paul said one of the boys didn’t have any in-person visits with a DHS caseworker in the entire eight months he lived in the home in 2012 and 2013.

Beijing Hinders Free Speech in America

Wang Dan:

I spent nearly seven years in a Chinese prison for being a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. I was freed in 1998, and the Chinese government let me leave the country. I chose to go to the United States, where I could freely speak my mind without fear of being thrown in prison.

I earned a doctorate in history in 2009 and took a teaching position in Taiwan. I taught contemporary Chinese history and led a weekly seminar — a “China salon” — of open discussions about Chinese society and politics. Many of the seminar topics, like the 1989 protest movement and political reform, were taboo in the mainland but safe for public discussion in Taiwan.

On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality

Phil Christman:

fter my Texas-born wife and I moved to Michigan—an eleven-hour drive in the snow, during which time itself seemed to widen and flatten with the terrain—I found myself pressed into service as an expert on the region where I was born and where I have spent most of my life. “What is the Midwest like?” she asked. “Midwestern history, Midwestern customs, Midwestern cuisine?” I struggled to answer with anything more than clichés: bad weather, hard work, humble people. I knew these were inadequate. Connecticut winters and Arizona summers are also “bad”; the vast majority of humans have worked hard, or been worked hard, for all of recorded history; and humility is one of those words, like authenticity or (lately) resistance, that serves mainly to advertise the absence of the thing named.

I soon learned that I was hardly the only Midwesterner left tongue-tied by the Midwest. Articulate neighbors, friends, colleagues, and students, asked to describe their hometowns, replied with truisms that, put together, were also paradoxes: “Oh, it’s in the middle of nowhere.” “It’s just like anywhere, you know.” “We do the same things people do everywhere.” No-places are as old as Thomas More’s Utopia, but a no-place that is also everyplace and anyplace doesn’t really add up. Nor, at least in my experience, does one hear such language from people in other regions—from Southerners, Californians, Arubans, Yorkshiremen. Canadians live in a country that has been jokingly described as America’s Midwest writ larger—Canada and our Midwest share, among other things, manners, weather, topography, and a tendency among their inhabitants to downplay their own racism—yet they are hyperspecific in their language, assuming a knowledge of local landmarks that it never occurs to them non-Canadians may not possess. They assume that whatever their setting is, it is a setting, not, as Midwesterner-turned-expatriate Glenway Wescott once wrote of Wisconsin, “an abstract nowhere.”1

Civics: Supreme court cellphone case puts free speech – not just privacy – at risk

Jameel Jaffer and Alexander Abdo:

The case, Carpenter v United States, arises out of the government’s prosecution of Timothy Carpenter for a series of armed robberies carried out in south-eastern Michigan and north-western Ohio several years ago. In the course of its investigation of the crimes, the government ordered Carpenter’s cellphone provider to turn over data it had collected relating to Carpenter’s movements. In response, the provider produced 186 pages listing every call that Carpenter had made over a 127-day period, as well as coordinates indicating where Carpenter had been at the beginning and end of each of those calls.

Importantly, it turned over these records even though the government had not obtained a warrant based on probable cause. Carpenter asked the court to suppress the government’s evidence under the fourth amendment, which protects the right to privacy.

Many cellphone users have only a vague understanding of the extent to which providers monitor their movements, but these companies now track us much more closely than even the most committed human spies ever could. Cellphones function by connecting to antennas – “cell sites” or “cell towers” – that provide cellular service. Those cell sites, which are owned and operated by the cellular companies, are programmed to record which phones connect to them, and when. They also record the direction from which the connecting phone’s signal is received and, often, the distance of the phone from the cell site.

So-called “cell site location information” is becoming ever more precise, because the cellular network is becoming ever more dense. The analytical tools that can be brought to bear on this information are also becoming more sophisticated, meaning that investigators can draw reliable conclusions from smaller and smaller amounts of data. It’s precisely because the information is so rich, of course, that the government is interested in accessing it.

I used to track cell phone location information for prosecutors. My experience illustrates the overwhelming need for better technical resources for defense attorneys.

Laura Moy:

Tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Carpenter v. United States, a case that asks whether the Constitution protects the cell phone location data that wireless providers collect from their customers. When a law enforcement agency wants access to 127 days’ worth of this data, does it have to show a judge that it has “probable cause” to believe the records will reveal evidence of a crime? Or does it only have to meet a somewhat lower standard — that it reasonably believes the records are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation”?

For black students, a college degree means long-term debt

D eirdre Fernandes:

Jasmine Reyes’s college degree landed her a stable post-graduation job and opened up a wealth of learning opportunities, from an internship in Los Angeles to study abroad in the Netherlands.

But for Reyes, 23, that Emerson College degree came at a sapping financial and emotional cost: a near-constant worry each semester about being able to afford the tuition, guilt over her grandmother’s decision to apply early for Social Security to help pay for her education, and ultimately, the burden of $40,000 in student loans.

“There are a lot of people who think that because I’m African-American I got to go to college for free,” said Reyes, who graduated in 2016. “But I am in so much debt. I would still do it again. But it was extremely stressful.”

Despite Startling Achievement Gaps, San Francisco Board Rejects Bid to Bring KIPP School to Poor Neighborhood

David Kantor:

The push to expand the KIPP network in San Francisco was at least momentarily halted last week after the city’s Board of Education turned down its proposal for a new elementary school in Bayview–Hunters Point, traditionally one of the city’s poorest and most heavily African-American areas.

In finding that KIPP was “demonstrably unlikely” to succeed, the board faulted provisions related to teacher training, safety, and discipline. It noted that KIPP’s other San Francisco schools have higher suspension rates than the district average.

The board did vote in favor of renewing the charter for KIPP San Francisco College Preparatory, one of the city’s highest-scoring high schools.

KIPP officials said they will file an appeal with the State Board of Education and still hope the proposed new school will open in the fall of 2018.

“I absolutely do not believe the findings were sufficient to deny our charter under California charter law,” said Beth Sutkus Thompson, chief executive of the KIPP Bay Area network, which includes 12 schools dotting the East Bay and San Francisco. She said the “financial situation of the district,” its efforts to slow attrition out of city schools, and the system’s “constantly shifting dynamics” make opening new charters difficult.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Microsoft’s Newest iPhone App Uses AI to Help You Learn Chinese

Paul Thurrott:

Microsoft quietly launched an interesting new app for the iOS recently. The company’s latest iOS app helps users learn and improve their Chinese speaking skills. It doesn’t have any fancy names, and it’s simply called Microsoft Learn Chinese.

Microsoft’s Learn Chinese app uses artificial intelligence and speech recognition in order to track the user’s performance. You start off by taking the beginner lessons, where the app will teach you basic things like how to say hello in Chinese, and then you will be quizzed on those lessons. Once that’s done, you will be able to test your progress by speaking to the AI-powered chatbot.

A tour through the most studied genes in biology reveals some surprises.

Ellie Dolgin:

Peter Kerpedjiev needed a crash course in genetics. A software engineer with some training in bioinformatics, he was pursuing a PhD and thought it would really help to know some fundamentals of biology. “If I wanted to have an intelligent conversation with someone, what genes do I need to know about?” he wondered.

Kerpedjiev went straight to the data. For years, the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been systematically tagging almost every paper in its popular PubMed database that contains some information about what a gene does. Kerpedjiev extracted all the papers marked as describing the structure, function or location of a gene or the protein it encodes.

Sorting through the records, he compiled a list of the most studied genes of all time — a sort of ‘top hits’ of the human genome, and several other genomes besides.

Every Parent Wants to Protect Their Child. I Never Got the Chance.

Jen Gann:

Having to put this kind of pain into words is, to me, the hardest part of wrongful birth. To have to specify what would make me terminate a pregnancy, to imagine my life today without a toddler. There’s no escape from knowing that the opportunity for mercy quietly slipped by and that something as idiotic as a clerical error is responsible. But the most consuming, language-defying pain is just the other side of the most overwhelming joy. There are no words for the feeling of walking down the street with the person I love most, no words to describe why I wanted to have a child in the first place. After all this pain and humiliation and anger boiled down to records and money and who did what, the love I have for my son feels like the one thing that can’t be taken from me. It’s what I know more than anything in this world.

El Paso Schools Chief Fires Back After ‘Dirty Tricks’ Email, Demands New AFT Leadership

Beth Hawkins:

Cabrera first raised his doubts about the ability of the district and the AFT local to work together in response to an investigation published Nov. 16 by The 74, which obtained an email written by federation president Ross Moore. In it, Moore complained of the superintendent’s willingness to create in-district charter schools and decried two local philanthropies that are making grants both to open charter schools and for El Paso district teachers to obtain master’s degrees and other credentials.

The email detailed a number of proposals to wreak havoc within the district, including driving a wedge between Cabrera and school board members and sabotaging teacher-training programs under development at at least two universities, including for dual language instruction.

Some 26 percent of El Paso’s students are English language learners, and 12,000 students have opted into the district’s dual-language programs. The programs are seen as essential, regardless of students’ home languages, if El Paso is to preserve its status as the largest bilingual workforce in the hemisphere.

The teacher training is a centerpiece of the strategic plan adopted by the district, which finally seemed to have moved away from a cheating scandal that landed Cabrera’s predecessor in prison. Cabrera was hired in 2013 by state overseers to turn around the district, which struggles to overcome entrenched poverty.
Neither Moore nor Texas AFT officials copied on his email replied to requests for comment for this story. AFT President Randi Weingarten last week defended Moore for “standing up for kids and teachers and the great neighborhood public schools they need” when the initial story first broke.

The big stores that track your every online move

Violet Blue:

A study by Princeton researchers came to light earlier this month, revealing that more than 400 of the world’s most popular websites use the equivalent of hacking tools to spy on you without your knowledge or consent.

So before you get all hopped up on eggnog and go hogwild doing your Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping, you might want to find out which sites are seriously spying on you.

Using “session replay scripts” from third-party companies, websites are recording your every act, from mouse moves to clicks, to keylogging what you type and extracting your personal info off the page. If you accidentally paste something into a text field from your clipboard, like an address or password you didn’t want to type out, the scripts can record, transmit and store that, too.

What these sites are doing with this information, and how much they anonymize or secure it, is a crapshoot.

Among top retail offenders recording your every move and mistake are Costco,, Crate and Barrel, Old Navy, Toys R Us, Fandango, Adidas, Boots, Neiman Marcus, Nintendo, Nest, the Disney Store, and Petco.

Ypsilanti teachers ‘shocked’ by contract proposal shared with public

Lauren Slagter:

Under the proposed three-year contract that would start in the 2017-18 school year, Bauman said teachers would advance a step on the salary schedule each year for the first two years – for the first time in the school district’s five-year history.

The proposed contract calls for re-opening salary negotiations in the 2019-20 school year.

The district also would increase its contribution to teachers’ health insurance. Currently, YCS pays $5,000 for an individual employee’s health insurance, $11,000 for a two-person plan and $13,000 for family coverage.

That leaves teachers with family coverage paying between $7,000 and $11,600 out of pocket each year for their health insurance, Bauman said, depending on which plan they select.

The proposed new contract would gradually increase the maximum amount the school district pays toward employee health insurance, saving those teachers with family coverage about $4,800 a year, Bauman said.

Teachers who do not receive health insurance through YCS would receive a $400 stipend.

In the 2017-18 school year, teachers would receive a $750 bonus and returning teachers would receive an additional one-time stipend of $600 due to the increase in the district’s student enrollment this fall.

Nearly 9 percent of Madison students with disabilities restrained or secluded in incidents last year

Amber Walker:

A report released this fall by the Madison Metropolitan School District said nearly nine percent of students with disabilities were restrained or secluded by staff during the last school year.

The report showed that 334 of the 3,804 students with disabilities, or 8.8 percent, experienced restraint and/or seclusion during the 2016-2017 school year. That number is up from 5.6 percent in the 2015-2016 school year.

The number was disproportionately high at Landmark Elementary Alternative Program (LEAP) West, a program at Olson Elementary School for students with emotional-behavioral disabilities. LEAP West reported 737 incidents of restraint and/or seclusion among 10 students last school year.

China: Police ‘Big Data’ Systems Violate Privacy, Target Dissent

Han Rights Watch:

The Chinese government should stop building big data policing platforms that aggregate and analyze massive amounts of citizens’ personal information, Human Rights Watch said today. This abusive “Police Cloud” system is designed to track and predict the activities of activists, dissidents, and ethnic minorities, including those authorities say have “extreme thoughts,” among other functions.

China has no enforceable protections for privacy rights against state surveillance.

“It is frightening that Chinese authorities are collecting and centralizing ever more information about hundreds of millions of ordinary people, identifying persons who deviate from what they determine to be ‘normal thought,’ and then surveilling them,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Until China has meaningful privacy rights and an accountable police force, the government should immediately cease these efforts.”

Paying for your college, 30 years ago vs. today

Jillian Berman and Jay Zehngebot :

A combination of work, family support, and minimal debt once made a college degree obtainable. Now, this affordable college education is increasingly out of reach.

Taking into account tuition, room, board, and fees across 2,312 public and private colleges and universities in the U.S., the average price of an undergraduate degree1 increased $63,973, or roughly 261%, since 1987. (These numbers and the rest that follow have been adjusted for inflation)

Madison’s K-12 spending has grown significantly as well, now nearly $20,000 per student – despite long term, disastrous reading results.

Facing Title IX discrimination suit, Penn settles with student accused of rape

Bobby Allyn:

The University of Pennsylvania has quietly agreed to pay a student accused of rape an undisclosed amount after he sued the school claiming Penn’s investigation into the incident violated his civil rights.

Although the specific terms of the agreement are not public, court records acknowledging the deal follow a rash of lawsuits nationwide filed by men on college campuses maintaining that punishment triggered by internal investigations into sexual misconduct have been biased against them.

According to the lawsuit filed last fall, the Penn student — identified only as John Doe — and a female student — also a Penn undergraduate and known as Jane Doe in the suit — met at a bar in June 2016 after they had completed their junior year. At the bar, flirting led to the young man walking the woman to his apartment about six blocks away.

The man asked if she wanted to come in for “some fun,” to which she responded that she was tired but agreed to join him “for just a few minutes,” according to court records.

It seems increasingly likely that our society will one day view our infatuation with Twitter, Facebook, and the like as a passing, often destructive fad.

Nick Bilton:

Many people imagine 19th-century antebellum America as a frontier fantasia: men with handlebar mustaches sitting in dusty saloons, kicking back moonshine whiskey, as a piano player picks out tunes in the background. In reality, though, life was a little more sordid: Americans spent their time after work in fully legal heroin dens; in 1885, opium and cocaine were even given to children to help with teething. “Cocaine Toothache Drops,” which were marketed as presenting an “instantaneous cure” were sold for 15 cents a box. Today, in the midst of our opioid crisis, we hear about this past and wonder unequivocally, what the hell were they thinking?

I often wonder the same thing when I think about social media and its current domination of our society. Will a future generation look back in 10, 20, or maybe 100 years from now and wonder, mystifyingly, why a generation of humans believed in these platforms despite mounting evidence that they were tearing society apart—being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections—despite the obvious benefits and facilitations they provide? Indeed, some of the people who gave us these platforms are already beginning to wonder if this is the case. Last month, I wrote a piece detailing how some early Facebook employees now feel about the monster they have created. As one early Facebook employee told me, “I lay awake at night thinking about all the things we built in the early days and what we could have done to avoid the product being used this way.”

After the piece published, I expected to receive angry e-mails and text messages from current or former Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram employees. Instead, my inbox was flooded with former (and even current!) employees of these social networks, who confided that they felt the same way. Some even mentioned they had abandoned the platforms themselves. The people who reached out ranged in pay grade from engineers to C-suite executives. Some venture capitalists who once funded the companies, or their competitors, have told me that they no longer use them—or do so sparingly. After witnessing Trump’s use of social networks, Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures wrote last month that he had deleted Facebook and Twitter from his phone. “This has really had a massive improvement on every day of my life in ways I can’t describe unless you try it yourself,” he wrote. This squares with the countless journalists who have told me they have deleted their accounts, removed the apps from their phone, or simply walked away from the world of social media.

State ratings for New Orleans schools are on a three-year slide

Marta Jewson:

State rankings for most New Orleans schools are on a three-year slide, with 65 percent dropping from 2014 to 2017.

The drop in School Performance Scores from 2016 to 2017 caused hand-wringing among the city’s education leaders. The Lens’ analysis of state data shows it’s part of a worrisome trend.

“We have to acknowledge and confront the brutal facts of where we are,” said Orleans Parish school board member Ben Kleban. However, he said he has faith in the district’s commitment to improve.

Scores at some schools tumbled. Mahalia Jackson Elementary School dropped almost 30 points to a score of 50 on the state’s 150-point scale. That’s a D.

Sylvanie Williams College Prep fell about 22 points to 32.4, an F. It was the second-lowest elementary school score; the one with the lowest score, McDonogh 42, has been turned over to another charter operator.

More, here.

Will Chicago Close Another 50 Schools?

Sarah Karp and Becky Vevea :

Chicago Public Schools has lost 32,000 students over the last five years, nearly the same enrollment drop as in the 10-year period leading up to the closures of 50 elementary schools in 2013. Those missing students could fill 53 average-sized Chicago schools.

This massive enrollment decline comes as a self-imposed five-year moratorium on school closings lifts in 2018. Despite that, political observers and CPS insiders said they are not betting on Mayor Rahm Emanuel closing 50 more schools — at least not all at once.

They say if Emanuel opts to close more schools, they hope he does it more slowly and over time. In fact, that’s already underway, despite the moratorium. Since 2013, CPS has quietly shuttered more than a dozen schools, many of them charter schools.

The school system must announce by Dec. 1 any proposed closures for its more than 600 schools. Officials have already indicated they will recommend closing only a handful of schools for next year, the first without the moratorium.

Madison’s non diverse K-12 governance model has not addressed boundary or school diversity in decades.

State’s smallest and most isolated school district overcomes its challenges and limitations

Barry Adams:

There are no plastic trays, pans of lasagna, a salad bar or even crates filled with cartons of chocolate milk.

Most days, students in the Washington Island School District are on their own for lunch. If they want something hot, they bring a Thermos or use one of the eight microwave ovens in the school’s multipurpose room to heat up leftovers or other concoctions from home.

The closest the school comes to a lunch program is once every other Wednesday. That’s when the student council, as a fundraiser, makes a $4 meal that can include homemade spaghetti, pizza or hot dogs.

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party

Jennifer C. Berkshire :

In a Facebook post this summer, hedge fund billionaire Daniel Loeb took aim at the highest ranking Black woman in the New York legislator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “[H]ypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses,” wrote Loeb, “do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.” The rant, which had the exquisite misfortune of appearing just days before the actual KKK took to the streets of Charlottesville to menace nonwhite people and their allies, struck a familiar Loeb theme. In a previous post he implored his peer to take up the fight against the teachers union: “the biggest single force standing in the way of quality education and an organization that has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination against people of color than the KKK.”

It would be easy to dismiss all this frothing as just Loeb being Loeb. This is, after all, the same crusader for justice who once lambasted a CEO for his imperial lifestyle, not an easy charge to level from a ten-thousand-square-foot penthouse. But the NYC financier is not just any hedge fund billionaire. As the chair of the board of Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, he is a leading force within the nexus of big money and self-proclaimed school “reformers” within the Democratic party. While Loeb doesn’t limit his donations to Dems (as his profile on the married-but-looking dating site, Ashley Madison, indicated, he is not one to be tied down), he exerts the kind of outsized influence that $3.2 billion in net worth reliably commands these days.

Poor boys are falling behind poor girls, and it’s deeply troubling

Jeff Guo:

It’s become a fact of American life that girls are better than boys at school. They get better grades. They’re suspended less. For every generation since the boomers, women have been more likely than men to earn high school and college diplomas.

In fact, girls are pretty much the only reason the high school graduation rate went up in past 40 years, according to calculations by Harvard economist Richard Murnane. The male high school graduation rate has been stuck at 81 percent since the 1970s, while the female graduation rose from 81 percent to 87 percent.

Women have been so persistently superior it is perhaps time for a new stereotype about the sexes — girls as bookish mavens like Lisa Simpson; boys as goof-offs like Bart.

UW Police Chief Kristen Roman: Students’ lack of trust ‘disheartening’

Pat Schneider:

The discouraging findings came from UW-Madison’s first survey of students on campus climate, the results of which were released Nov. 16.

The results “further illuminate the trust challenges facing not only our department but the department across the street and those across the nation,” Roman wrote in a blog posted Nov. 20.

Roman asserted her department’s commitment to serving all members of the campus community.

“I am deeply concerned about any reported community reluctance to reach out to police for assistance. I understand that there are many social and political obstacles in place that inhibit/prevent certain individuals or groups from officially reporting problems to police and that many of these are beyond the ability of the police alone to eliminate,” she said. Roman pledged to work to identify and eliminate barriers between police and the community to the extent possible.

How Social Media Is Leveling the Playing Field Between Governments, Militants, and Ordinary People

Murtaza Hussain:

Decades before smartphones, the internet, and social media, the philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who worked on media theory, predicted a future world war fought using information. While World War I and World War II were waged using armies and mobilized economies, “World War III [will be] a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,” McLuhan said, a prophecy included in his 1970 book of reflections, “Culture Is Our Business.”

McLuhan’s prediction may have felt outlandish in his own era, but it seems very close to our present-day reality. Decades ago, the barriers to entry for broadcasting and publishing were so high that only established institutions could meaningfully engage in news dissemination. But over the past 10 to 15 years, ordinary individuals have been radically empowered with the ability to record, publish, and broadcast information to millions around the world, at minimal cost.

China High Court Accepts Appeal Against Family Planning Fine

Wang Lianzhang:

Earlier this month, a high court in eastern China accepted a couple’s appeal against a fine they received for having a second child, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Tuesday. The case will test whether the two-child policy can apply retroactively for those who have unpaid family planning fines.

The couple had their first child, a girl, in 2008, and then a son in June 2012, when the one-child policy still applied. But no one mentioned a fine until May 2016 — five months after the two-child policy came into effect nationwide. Then, the local health and family planning commission in their hometown of Suining County, Jiangsu province, told them they owed 104,584 yuan ($15,800) for having a second child, who was by then 4 years old.

“Since the two-child policy is now being promoted across the country, why do we still have to pay the fine?” Tong Gang, the 34-year-old father, told Sixth Tone on Wednesday.

Nearly All of Wikipedia Is Written By Just 1 Percent of Its Editors

Daniel Oberhaus:

At the time of writing, there are roughly 132,000 registered editors who have been active on Wikipedia in the last month (there are also an unknown number of unregistered Wikipedians who contribute to the site). So statistically speaking, only about 1,300 people are creating over three-quarters of the 600 new articles posted to Wikipedia every day.

Of course, these “1 percenters” have changed over the last decade and a half. According to Matei, roughly 40 percent of the top 1 percent of editors bow out about every five weeks. In the early days, when there were only a few hundred thousand people collaborating on Wikipedia, Matei said the content production was significantly more equitable. But as the encyclopedia grew, and the number of collaborators grew with it, a cadre of die-hard editors emerged that have accounted for the bulk of Wikipedia’s growth ever since.

“1816, The Year without a Summer”

Gillen D’Arcy Wood :

In a similar vein, it is important to remember that the misery of the Tambora period in Europe—years of famine, disease, and homelessness—was borne overwhelmingly by the poor, who left scant record of their sufferings. For most of those belonging to the middle and upper classes—including the Shelleys and their circle—the social and economic upheaval of those years presented only minor inconveniences. By contrast with the illiterate underclass, these affluent Europeans left voluminous accounts of their lives. To look at only their documentary record, therefore, can leave one with the misleading impression that the Tambora years were not exceptional in the history of the early nineteenth century. It is necessary to scrutinize what they wrote carefully for clues to the experience of the silent millions who suffered displacement, hunger, disease, and death at that time. From the bubble of privilege within which educated people such as the Shelleys and their friends composed their brilliant verse and letters, it is possible to catch gleams of this benighted other world through which they mostly passed oblivious.

In her account of the stormy night in Geneva when she first conceived her famous novel, Shelley imagines Frankenstein waking from a nightmare to find his hideous creation at his bedside, “looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes” (196). The description is reminiscent of numerous impressions of European beggars in this period. One English tourist, travelling from Rome to Naples in 1817, remarked on “the livid aspect of the miserable inhabitants of this region.” When asked how they lived, these “animated spectres” replied simply: “We die” (Matthews 192-3). From the beginning, then, Shelley’s imaginative conjuring of her famous Creature bears the mark of the famished and diseased European population by which she was surrounded in 1816-18. Like the hordes of hungry refugees spreading typhus across the continent during Shelley’s writing of the novel, the Creature in Frankenstein is a wanderer and a perceived menace to civilized society. In the novel, this murderous capability is attributed to the monster’s preternatural strength. But the terrifying atmosphere of his rampage, and his ability to strike at will across thousands of miles, seems more like the spread of a famine or contagion. In short, once the supernatural element of the monster’s creation is set aside, the experience of Mary Shelley’s creature most closely embodies the degradation and suffering of the homeless European poor in the Tambora period, while the violent disgust of Frankenstein and everyone else toward him mirrors the utter want of sympathy shown by most affluent Europeans toward the millions of Tambora’s climate victims suffering hunger, disease, and the loss of their homes and livelihoods. As the Creature himself puts it, he suffered first “from the inclemency of the season,” but “still more from the barbarity of man” (84).

Kids’ smartwatches banned in Germany over spying concerns

Graham Cluley:

German parents are being told to destroy smartwatches they have bought for their children after the country’s telecoms regulator put a blanket ban in place to prevent sale of the devices, amid growing privacy concerns.
Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency, told BBC News that the so-called smartwatches, typically aimed at children between the ages of five and 12 years old, are classified as spying devices:

Dayton School of Law Offers 3+2 JD

Angela Morris:

Plenty of law schools have rolled out programs designed to shave a year off the traditional path to a J.D. But on Friday, the University of Dayton School of Law became just the second school to offer a way to slice two years off the typical seven year undergrad-J.D. combo. Dayton, like other schools offering shorter tracks, is eager to attract stronger candidates as the overall applicant pool remains shallow. While many schools have 3+3 programs or accelerated two-year J.D. programs, so far only Dayton and Vermont Law School offer a way to become a lawyer in five years total.

“This is definitely for the best students,” said Paul Schlottman, Dayton’s director of strategic initiatives, who helped launch the 3+2 program. “These are for people who are very academically and otherwise gifted.”

The way it works is that students complete three years of courses in a partner undergraduate institution, and then transfer to Dayton, where their first year of law school counts towards their fourth year of undergraduate studies. In law school, students take courses—the same ones as traditional law students—in the summer, fall and spring semesters, which allows them to graduate in two years instead of three. However, if a law student at some point decides life is too hectic, she can always slow down and do the normal three-year J.D. program.

The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, by Daniel Koretz [book review]

Richard P. Phelps, via a kind email:

The mainstream research that informs our country’s education policies is often more caricature than genuine research. Policy discussions tend to be dominated by the research that the ruling class inside education wishes to be true, rather than by that which is true.

Among the several falsehoods book author Daniel Koretz and his colleagues have peddled over the years is the claim that the evidence for the benefits of testing is “thin” (and the evidence for costs abundant). Largely in response to their claims, I several years ago published a meta-analysis of 100 years’ worth of research on the effects of testing on student achievement. I reviewed over 800 quantitative, experimental, survey, and qualitative studies. The weight of the latter two types of studies was overwhelmingly positive (e.g., 93% of qualitative studies found a positive result to a testing intervention and the average effect size for survey studies exceeded 1.0, a very high effect. The effect sizes for the quantitative and experimental studies—hundreds of mostly random assignment experiments dating back to the 1920s—ranged between moderately and highly positive.

Because I read and heard the same messages as everyone else from those prominent education researchers who receive press attention, I had expected to find clearly negative effects. Some of the most widely covered studies allegedly demonstrating that testing was, on balance, harmful were included in my meta-analysis. But also included in my meta-analysis were hundreds of studies that had received virtually no public attention. Testing experts, education practitioners, and psychologists performed most of those studies.

(True to form, not a single education journalist has ever asked me about the meta-analysis. Meanwhile, DC-based education journalists talk to anti-testing spokespersons thousands of times a year and often promote the single research studies conducted by celebrity researchers as hugely consequential to policy.)

Therein lies the chief secret of the success of the anti-testing forces in education research: they count (i.e., cite or reference) the research that reaches anti-testing conclusions and they ignore the abundance of research that contradicts. (For the few pro-testing studies that receive so much public attention they cannot simply ignore them, other information suppression methods may be used, such as dismissive reviews, tone policing, misrepresentation, or character assassination).

The New Campus Censors

David Bromwich:

Three or four years ago, in the early days of campus protests against unwelcome speakers, the censors sometimes said in their own defense: “This isn’t about free speech.” The disclaimer served to lighten the burden of apology for crowd behavior that most Americans distrust. As the protesters saw it, the speakers who got shouted down or who canceled engagements under a threat of violence were opportunists of free speech. But this was apt to sound evasive. What honest intellectual forum ever subjected speakers to a test of motives?

In any case, the argument that “it isn’t really about free speech” has largely been dropped by the censors. They are now likelier to say that there never was freedom of speech, anywhere, and that we shouldn’t expect to find it in colleges. The primary duty of institutions of higher education is rather to create a space for qualified speech; and we should be aware that a wrongly chosen or unqualified speaker may stir up controversy and “stifle productive debate.” That phrase comes from a campus letter circulated by a group of Wellesley College professors after a speech by Laura Kipnis. By this logic, productive debate is to be understood as quite a different thing from open debate. But who, then, is qualified to speak on campus?

The Generalized Specialist: How Shakespeare, Da Vinci, and Kepler Excelled

Farnam Street:

Then something happens. Maybe your specialty is no longer needed or gets replaced by technology. Or perhaps you get promoted. As you go up the ranks of the organization, your specialty becomes less and less important, and yet the tendency is to hold on to it longer and longer. If it’s the only subject or skill you know better than anything else, you tend to see it everywhere. Even where it doesn’t exist.

Every problem is a nail and you just happen to have a hammer.

Only this approach doesn’t work. Because you have no idea of the big ideas, you start making decisions that don’t take into account how the world really works. These decisions ripple outward, and you have to spend time correcting your mistakes. If you’re not careful about self-reflection, you won’t learn, and you’ll make one version of the same mistakes over and over.

Should we become specialists or polymaths? Is there a balance we should pursue?

Why Ancient Mapmakers Were Terrified of Blank Spaces

Greg Miller:

The Indian Ocean is teeming with sea monsters in Caspar Vopel’s 1558 map of the world. A giant swordfish-like creature looks to be on a collision course with a ship, while a walrus with frighteningly large tusks emerges from the water, and a king carrying a flag rides the waves on a hog-faced beast.

Vopel, a German cartographer, left behind no explanation of why he added these things to his map, but he may have been motivated by what art historians call horror vacui, the artist’s fear of leaving unadorned spaces on their work. Chet Van Duzer, a historian of cartography, has found dozens of maps on which cartographers appear to have filled the empty spaces on their maps with non-existent mountains, monsters, cities, and other gratuitous illustrations.

Van Duzer, who presented some of his findings at a recent cartography conference at Stanford University, says that some scholars have been skeptical that this aversion to blank spaces has been an important influence on map design.

‘Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees’ A Trump supporter explains rising conservative anger at American universities.

Kevin Sullivan, Mary Jordan:

Frank Antenori shot the head off a rattlesnake at his back door last summer — a deadeye pistol blast from 20 feet. No college professor taught him that. The U.S. Army trained him, as a marksman and a medic, on the “two-way rifle range” of Afghanistan and Iraq.


PART 1: On a Texas prairie, distance grows between neighbors over an American birthright.

PART 2: The painful truth about teeth.

PART 3: “I’m going to work until I die”: The new reality of old age in America

Useful skills. Smart return on taxpayers’ investment. Not like the waste he sees at too many colleges and universities, where he says liberal professors teach “ridiculous” classes and indoctrinate students “who hang out and protest all day long and cry on our dime.”

“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” said Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”

Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.

A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm

Caitlin Dewey:

Liz Whitehurst dabbled in several careers before she ended up here, crating fistfuls of fresh-cut arugula in the early-November chill.

The hours were better at her nonprofit jobs. So were the benefits. But two years ago, the 32-year-old Whitehurst — who graduated from a liberal arts college and grew up in the Chicago suburbs — abandoned Washington for this three-acre farm in Upper Marlboro, Md.

She joined a growing movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers who are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and who, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.

The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective

Puzhong Yao :

It was the summer of 2000. I was 15, and I had just finished my high school entrance exam in China. I had made considerable improvements from where I started in first grade, when I had the second- worst grades in the class and had to sit at a desk perpendicular to the blackboard so that the teacher could keep a close eye on me. I had managed to become an average student in an average school. My parents by then had reached the conclusion that I was not going anywhere promising in China and were ready to send me abroad for high school. Contrary to all expectations, however, I got the best mark in my class and my school. The exam scores were so good that I ranked within the top ten among more than 100,000 students in the whole city. My teacher and I both assumed the score was wrong when we first heard it.

As a consequence, I got into the best class in the best school in my city, and thus began the most painful year of my life. My newfound confidence was quickly crushed when I saw how talented my new classmates were. In the first class, our math teacher announced that she would start from chapter four of the textbook, as she assumed, correctly, that most of us were familiar with the first three chapters and would find it boring to go through them again. Most of the class had been participating in various competitions in middle school and had become familiar with a large part of the high school syllabus already. Furthermore, they had also grown to know each other from those years of competitions together. And here I was, someone who didn’t know anything or anyone, surrounded by people who knew more to begin with, who were much smarter, and who worked just as hard as I did. What chance did I have?

6 takeaways from the Wisconsin’s latest school report cards

Alan Borsuk:

What are our expectations? I fear that, overall, we set them too low for many kids’ education. Nonetheless, we’re doing a good job of meeting or exceeding expectations, as they’re defined for these reports.

More than 95% of the 420-plus school districts in Wisconsin got at least a three-star rating, also called “meets expectations.” The same was true for 82% of individual schools. You still want more three-star schools to move up to four- or five-star levels, where they “exceed expectations,” but, in general, the results offered some cheer.

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

What’s the point of sexual harassment training? Often, to protect employers.

Lauren Edelman:

Now that we’ve had something of an awakening about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the American workplace, the conversation is shifting to what to do about it. In many workplaces, the answer seems to be that we need mandatory training and clearer policies.

That seems to be the dominant thinking on Capitol Hill. After more than 1,500 former congressional aides signed a letter calling for action, the House and Senate adopted mandatory anti-harassment training for all lawmakers and staffers. This “sends a clear message: harassment of any kind is not and will not be tolerated in Congress,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, said in a statement.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that training reduces sexual harassment. Rather, training programs, along with anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures, do more to shield employers from liability than to protect employees from harassment. And the clearest message they send is to the courts: Nothing to see here, folks.

There have been only a handful of empirical studies of sexual harassment training, and the research has not established that such training is effective. Some studies suggest that training may in fact backfire, reinforcing gendered stereotypes that place women at a disadvantage.

A 2001 study of a sexual harassment program for faculty and staff at a university found, based on responses to a questionnaire, that training increased knowledge about laws pertaining to sexual harassment but had no significant positive effects on behavior. Men who participated in the training were less likely to view coercion of a subordinate as sexual harassment, less willing to report harassment and more inclined to blame the victim than were women or men who had not gone through the training.

Civics: We’ll Be Paying For Mark Halperin’s Sins For Years To Come

Eve Fairbanks:

Gossip: The word comes from the old English for “baptismal sponsor” — a godparent — and Halperin positioned himself as the priest who stood between the layman and the sacred mysteries of Washington, only letting a person through in exchange for the corrupting coin of accepting your own personal idiocy. It required acknowledging, like a cult initiate, that you had to learn the Master’s arcane knowledge before claiming to know anything at all.

The Note was a cult. Between bits of knowledge in each mailer, Halperin inserted birthday wishes to his gang, cementing the impression of Washington as a place where people are much more interested in buttering each other up than they are in the lives of the kind of Americans whose names Mark Halperin did not know.

As I said: Washington was my city. But it is a city for all Americans, as the seat of our democracy. For his efforts to make the city seem, instead, like a nonstop exclusive party to which almost nobody is invited, I dare say Halperin is the single journalist most responsible for Donald Trump. Think that’s too bold? Name me another.

After all, what did Trump respond to? Most of all, two things: the sense among Americans that the language of politics has become an incomprehensible jargon of the elite, and the sense that a disaster or a dramatic change that will upend everything looms at every moment — hidden from sight, but still imminent.

We have an apocalyptic politics in part because Halperin helped promote an apocalyptic approach to political coverage. It made him and his little scoops seem hugely important: that conversation he overheard between McConnell and Schumer meant everything. The title of his career-making book, 2008’s Game Change — which sold over 350,000 copies and netted him and his coauthor John Heilemann a $5 million advance for a follow-up — says everything. Politics is a game and its rules are constantly being transformed. Its intentionally hyperbolic, breathless text presented details like the fact that Obama “woke up late … and went for a haircut with his pal Marty Nesbitt” the way an ancient monarch’s courtiers used to examine his every sigh for divine omens.

Texas Education Agency back in the headlines over special education firing

Aliyya Swaby:

Both allegations are devastating for special education advocates and parents who had hoped for a turnaround after a Houston Chronicle investigation last year found that agency officials were denying special education services to thousands of Texas students.

“A lot of parents are feeling just very distraught and once again very betrayed by TEA,” said Cheryl Fries, co-founder of the advocacy group Texans for Special Education Reform, which was first to raise concerns about the contract this fall.

Fired after just three months on the job, Kash came to Texas from the Rainier School District in Oregon, where she was special education director. Two instructional assistants brought a civil lawsuit against her on Nov. 14, claiming she encouraged them to hide allegations of sexual abuse of a six-year-old and threatened them when they refused.

When the TEA terminated Kash, officials said she did not disclose that information during the hiring process.

“The existence of allegations of this nature, given her roles and responsibilities, prevent her from carrying out her duties effectively in Texas, and the agency has terminated Dr. Kash’s employment. Dr. Kash has no business being in charge of special education policy and programming in Texas,” TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said in a statement.

Kash denies the lawsuit’s allegations. She said TEA fired her because she had been vocally critical of a contract TEA awarded in May to the Georgia-based company SPEDx to analyze private data about how students are receiving special education services in Texas public schools. In the Nov. 21 federal complaint, Kash argued SPEDx did not qualify for a no-bid contract since other private and public entities could have provided the service. She said the TEA did not publicize its justification for awarding a no-bid contract to the company in the spring, as state law requires.

Many college students going hungry, need donated food groceries and food stamps

Nanette Asimov:

A nitro cold brew sells for $5, and a large mocha for $4.50 at a popular coffee and muffin bar in UC Berkeley’s student union. Downstairs, business is just as brisk at another food emporium.

The provisions there are free.

“I’m low on funds,” shrugged Christopher, a junior, as he stuffed apple juice, a half gallon of milk, a box of peanut butter Puffin cereal and two cans of organic pinto beans and sweet corn — the UC Berkeley Food Pantry’s five-item limit — into his backpack.

Christopher, who asked that his last name not be used, said he depends on the pantry’s donated groceries to make ends meet, especially during emergencies. Someone slashed his tire last week, he said, and now he’s out $110 for a new one. Without the help, he’d have to make a choice: wheels or food.

Faced with such choices, students often skip the nutrition.

Islamic schools in Pakistan plagued by sex abuse of children

Kathy Gannon:

Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked pants of her 9-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again.

The boy had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him.

“I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says.

The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants.

“I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother.

Professors Are Losing Their Freedom of Expression

Howard Gillman & Erwin Chemerinsky :

With so much attention focused on whether controversial speakers such as Milo Yiannapoulos or Richard Spencer should be allowed to appear on campus, an even more basic issue has been obscured: universities punishing faculty who, outside of professional settings, express views that are considered controversial or even offensive.

There are many recent examples of this. A year ago, a University of Oregon law professor was suspended for wearing blackface at a Halloween party held at her house. Twenty-three law school faculty members wrote a letter urging the professor to resign. A campus investigation found that by wearing this costume at a party in her home she had engaged in “discriminatory harassment.” [More here]. …

Tech billionaires spent $170 million on a new kind of school — now classrooms are shrinking and some parents say their kids are ‘guinea pigs’

Melia Robinson:

Max Ventilla, a Google executive who left the search giant to launch AltSchool in 2013, wooed parents with his vision to bring traditional models of elementary education into the digital age.

AltSchool has raised $175 million from Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and others, and the startup is closing a Series C round of funding. But now some parents are bailing out of the school because they say AltSchool put its ambitions as a tech company above its responsibility to teach their children.

The startup, which launched in 2013, develops educational software and runs a network of small schools with four locations, in California and New York; two others closed their doors in the past year, and three more will close in the spring of 2018. These schools serve as testing grounds for an in-house team of technologists to work on tools for the modern classroom.

Since August, 12 parents spoke with Business Insider on the condition of anonymity, some because they worried that speaking out against AltSchool could hurt their children’s chances of being enrolled elsewhere. Six parents have withdrawn their children from AltSchool in the past year, and two others said they planned to do so as soon as they found a transfer spot at a different school. AltSchool enrolls between 30 and 100 students at each campus.

The CPS boss apologizes for an invoice change he previously said he didn’t recall—after being shown proof of the change.

Ben Jarofsky:

As Thanksgiving bombshells go, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool’s letter of apology regarding his role in “invoicegate” isn’t anywhere near as explosive as the release of the Laquan McDonald video.

If you recall, it was on the eve of Thanksgiving in 2015 that Mayor Emanuel released the video that blew away what had until then been the official version of what happened when police gunned down 17-year-old McDonald.

A judge had ordered the video’s release, but no doubt the mayor was hoping that most of the public would be too distracted by the holidays to pay attention. Clearly that didn’t work, as protesters spent the next several weeks essentially accusing the mayor of concealing evidence of murd

Closing Of The Canadian Academic Mind

Rod Dreher:

If you have ten minutes, it would be well spent listening to this secretly recorded meeting between Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, and unnamed faculty and administration officials there. She was being disciplined for airing in a class a video by the controversial Canadian academic Jordan Peterson, who insists on the traditional pronoun usage “him” and “her,” and has become a pariah in Canadian academia because of it. Before the audio clip, here’s background on the story:

Apology from Laurier President and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy :

I’m writing to make an apology on behalf of the university.

Through the media, we have now had the opportunity to hear the full recording of the meeting that took place at Wilfrid Laurier University.

After listening to this recording, an apology is in order. The conversation I heard does not reflect the values and practices to which Laurier aspires. I am sorry it occurred in the way that it did and I regret the impact it had on Lindsay Shepherd. I will convey my apology to her directly. Professor Rambukkana has also chosen to apologize to Lindsay Shepherd about the way the meeting was conducted.

Nature and origins of the lexicon in 6-mo-olds

Elika Bergelsona,b,1 and Richard N. Aslinb:

Infants start understanding words at 6 mo, when they also excel at subtle speech–sound distinctions and simple multimodal associations, but don’t yet talk, walk, or point. However, true word learning requires integrating the speech stream with the world and learning how words interrelate. Using eye tracking, we show that neophyte word learners already represent the semantic relations between words. We further show that these same infants’ word learning has ties to their environment: The more they hear labels for what they’re looking at and attending to, the stronger their overall comprehension. These results provide an integrative approach for investigating home environment effects on early language and suggest that language delays could be detected in early infancy for possible remediation.

Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs

Tatyana Shumsky:

Adobe Inc.’s . finance chief Mark Garrett says his team struggles keeping track of which jobs have been filled at the software company.

The process can take days and requires finance staff to pull data from disparate systems that house financial and human-resources information into Microsoft Corp.’s Excel spreadsheets. From there they can see which groups are hiring and how salary spending affects the budget.

“I don’t want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us,” Mr. Garrett said. He is working on cutting Excel out of this process, he said

Singapore Math


At Avenues, we have adopted Math in Focus, a Singapore approach, as our math curriculum in the Lower School*. So what is Singapore Math? The math we are teaching is not different math. Two plus two is still four; ten times ten is still one hundred. What is unique about the Singapore approach is the style of teaching and the student goals.

The classroom lessons begin with concrete experience. A kindergartener may use four blue blocks and three red blocks to add 4 + 3. A third grader may use groups of tens and ones counters to make four groups of fifteen in order to multiply 4 x 15. This concrete step engages students and builds deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. From the concrete stage, lessons move toward a pictorial focus. In this stage students use pictures, symbols, diagrams and other two-dimensional representations. Students learn to visualize math concepts and create representations based on the pictures in their minds.

Much more on Singapore Math, here.

Our society is being hijacked by technology.

Time Well Spent:

The whole system is vulnerable to manipulation.
Phones, apps, and the web are so indispensable to our daily lives—a testament to the benefits they give us—that we’ve become a captive audience. With two billion people plugged into these devices, technology companies have inadvertently enabled a direct channel to manipulate entire societies with unprecedented precision.

Technology platforms make it easier than ever for bad actors to cause havoc:

Pushing lies directly to specific zip codes, races, or religions.

Finding people who are already prone to conspiracies or racism, and automatically reaching similar users with “Lookalike” targeting.

Delivering messages timed to prey on us when we are most emotionally vulnerable (e.g., Facebook found depressed teens buy more makeup).

Creating millions of fake accounts and bots –” impersonating real people with real-sounding names and photos, fooling millions with the false impression of consensus.

How Serving in World War II Spurred My Academic Ambition

Kurt Lang:

I graduated from high school six weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My parents—with whom my older brother and I had emigrated from Berlin five and a half years earlier—wanted me to enroll in Queens College, one of New York City’s tuition-free schools. But high school had been too much of a bore for me. Although I earned good grades, easily making the honor roll every term, I had no taste for more of the same. Being certain that sooner or later I would be subject to the military draft, I found work in a mechanical laboratory as a toolmaker’s apprentice.

Then, in April 1943, the army sent me its greetings—even before I became an American citizen and even though I was, technically, still an enemy alien. The army expedited my naturalization two months after I was inducted.

My first 18 months of military service were uninspiring. Donning the uniform did not fill me with pride, nor did the experience alter my perspective on life. What basic training had taught me was that the best way to get by was to stay out of sight. The army, more than the other branches of the military, was undergoing a massive expansion in a short time. Too many of its newly minted officers were apt to assert their military status by yelling commands and threatening any laggards instead of leading by example. This was particularly true of the infantry, in which I, along with thousands of others, landed when the army abruptly canceled the “specialized training” I was undergoing.

Stanford trained AI to diagnose pneumonia better than a radiologist in just two months~

Dave Gershgorn:

There’s a clear trend that having more data makes it easier to train artificial intelligence. Bigger datasets, like ImageNet, originally showed that AI could be useful for tasks like image recognition, leading to a race among everyone from large technology companies to academics to compile new datasets to stretch the limits of AI.

Now, a new paper from Stanford University shows just how fast a new dataset could be used to train artificial intelligence algorithms to the point of near-human accuracy. Using 100,000 x-ray images released by the National Institutes of Health on Sept. 27, the research published Nov. 14 (without peer review) on the website ArXiv claims its AI can detect pneumonia from x-rays with similar accuracy to four trained radiologists.

Secrets of the U.S. Puzzle Championship

Matt Matros:

Wordstar, Nurikabe, Double Minesweeper, and the rest of the puzzles in this year’s U.S. Puzzle Championship (USPC) were kept under tight security until the last possible instant. At precisely 1 p.m. EST on May 17, a password was released to open the protected file, and this year’s contestants had a frantic 150 minutes in front of them—printing out puzzles, penciling in solutions, and hoping to submit results to the server before time expired. The test, which determined who would compete for the American team at the World Puzzle Championships (WPC) in London, was challenging even for experts, but it was also eagerly anticipated by amateur enthusiasts. 2,180 hopefuls registered for the USPC and downloaded the puzzles, but only 273 submitted answers. Some people were surely in it for the competitive glory, but it seems most were in it for fun—a familiar dichotomy that’s hardly unique to puzzling.

I’ve always loved puzzles. They combine the joy of revelation with the satisfaction of effort rewarded. Nothing tops the epiphany of realizing that the 9 in the corner of the Sudoku means the middle square can’t be a 4. It feels like magic. And when that final square is filled in, the untold minutes spent in intense focus, locked out from the rest of the world, become justified. I once got an email from the director of a Sudoku tournament wishing me many “nice moments” with the puzzles. Nice moments—to me that’s what solving is about.

There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It

Josh Marshall:

Yesterday I appeared on a panel about digital publishers who are ‘pivoting to video’. I’ve written about this before. But in case you’re new to it, there have been numerous cases over the last six months to a year in which digital publishers have announced either major job cuts or in some cases literally fired their entire editorial teams in order to ‘pivot to video.’ The phrase has almost become a punchline since, as I’ve argued, there is basically no publisher in existence involved in any sort of news or political news coverage who says to themselves, my readers are demanding more of their news on video as opposed to text. Not a single one. The move to video is driven entirely by advertiser demand.

What crystallized for me from this and other discussions I had yesterday is that we’re actually in the midst of a digital news media crash, only no one is willing to say it. I’ve noted before that digital news media in the midst of a monetization crisis. But it’s more than that. It’s a full blown crash.

It’s Basic Math: Spending – Revenue = Deficit

Concord Coalition:

The federal budget is an expression of our country’s values. What we choose to spend money on and how much we spend, who we tax and how we collect, and the borrowing we engage in to make up the difference between the two, all reflect the basic math of national priorities.

The Complete Moral Bankruptcy of Manipulating Human Psychology To Turn Users Into Addicts

Dan Kaplan:

Given that some (all?) of your income comes from teaching software makers how to leverage BJ Fogg’s discoveries on behavioral psychology for fun and profit, you must surely be one of the least qualified people to define the moral guidelines around the subject of digital psychological manipulation.

Your essay on The Morality of Manipulation is so profoundly detached from even a basic understanding of human nature and the reality of self-interest that I’m still not sure whether or not you are trolling us.

New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes

Kevin Hartnett:

In 1847, Gabriel Lamé proved Fermat’s Last Theorem. Or so he thought. Lamé was a French mathematician who had made many important discoveries. In March of that year he sensed he’d made perhaps his biggest: an elegant proof of a problem that had rebuffed the most brilliant minds for more than 200 years.

His method had been hiding in plain sight. Fermat’s Last Theorem, which states that there are no positive integer solutions to equations of the form an + bn = cn if n is greater than 2, had proved to be intractable. Lamé realized that he could prove the theorem if he just expanded his number system to include a few exotic values.

No, you’re not being paranoid. Sites really are watching your every move

Dan Goodin:

If you have the uncomfortable sense someone is looking over your shoulder as you surf the Web, you’re not being paranoid. A new study finds hundreds of sites—including,, and—employ scripts that record visitors’ keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behavior in real time, even before the input is submitted or is later deleted.

Session replay scripts are provided by third-party analytics services that are designed to help site operators better understand how visitors interact with their Web properties and identify specific pages that are confusing or broken. As their name implies, the scripts allow the operators to re-enact individual browsing sessions. Each click, input, and scroll can be recorded and later played back.

A study published last week reported that 482 of the 50,000 most trafficked websites employ such scripts, usually with no clear disclosure. It’s not always easy to detect sites that employ such scripts. The actual number is almost certainly much higher, particularly among sites outside the top 50,000 that were studied.

“Collection of page content by third-party replay scripts may cause sensitive information, such as medical conditions, credit card details, and other personal information displayed on a page, to leak to the third-party as part of the recording,” Steven Englehardt, a PhD candidate at Princeton University, wrote. “This may expose users to identity theft, online scams, and other unwanted behavior. The same is true for the collection of user inputs during checkout and registration processes.”

Beijing blamed for blocking Japanese students’ speech

Asahi Shimbun:

High school students acting as peace ambassadors attend a disarmament conference held at the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva on Aug. 22. They were not allowed to give their speech against nuclear weapons. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

China blocked Japanese high school students acting as peace ambassadors from giving their annual anti-nuclear weapons speech at a U.N. disarmament event, according to Japanese government sources.

Beijing requested that Tokyo stop the students from delivering the speech at the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva, the sources said.

It is the first time the anti-nuclear speech has not been delivered since it started in August 2014.

Twenty-two senior high school students attended the event after being chosen by the Japanese Foreign Ministry as special youth diplomats.

Attica: It’s Worse Than We Thought

Heather Ann Thompson :

Last year I published a book, “Blood in the Water,” that offered the first comprehensive account of the uprising at New York’s Attica Correctional Facility in 1971 and its legacy. Though this protest against systematic abuse and abysmal living conditions — in which nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the facility, and law enforcement ultimately shot 128 men, killing 39 — was a cultural and political touchstone of the 1970s, much of the story was covered up. Attica is a public institution, but its records are not easily accessible. With no statute of limitations on murder, state officials had much to protect.

So I had to dig, for 13 years, to uncover what had really happened. But even more than a decade of research didn’t turn up everything.

What does it take to conquer life’s adversities? Lessons from successful adults who overcame difficult childhoods

Meg Jay:

Does early hardship in life keep children from becoming successful adults? It’s an urgent question for parents and educators, who worry that children growing up in difficult circumstances will fail to reach their full potential, or worse, sink into despair and dysfunction.

Social scientists have shown that these risks are real, but they also have found a surprising pattern among those whose early lives included tough times: Many draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success. A wide range of studies over the past few decades has shed light on how such people overcome life’s adversities—and how we might all cultivate resilience as well.

In 1962, the psychologist Victor Goertzel and his wife, Mildred, published a book called “Cradles of Eminence: A Provocative Study of the Childhoods of Over 400 Famous Twentieth-Century Men and Women.” They selected individuals who had had at least two biographies written about them and who had made a positive contribution to society. Their subjects ranged from Louis Armstrong, Frida Kahlo and Marie Curie to Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller.

Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

Brendan O’Neill:

I want to praise Jeremy Piven. That’s a risky thing to do, I know. Piven is one of Those Men. One of those big entertainment figures who has fingers pointed at him. He has joined Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and many others in facing accusations that he abused his power to sexually abuse women.

Yet Piven has also issued a principled statement that should give pause to all those taking pleasure in the #MeToo movement’s instant-destruction of men’s careers.

After describing the accusations against him as “absolutely false,” Piven laments the fact that “allegations are being printed as facts” and “lives are being put in jeopardy without a hearing, due process or evidence.” He wonders what happened to “the benefit of the doubt.” To “tear each other down and destroy careers based on mere allegations is not productive at all,” he says.

He’s right. In defending himself, Piven is also defending one of the core principles of an advanced society: the presumption of innocence.

Gov. Scott Walker, AG Brad Schimel block Tony Evers from getting his own attorney

Patrick Marley:

Superintendent Evers should welcome greater accountability at (his Department of Public Instruction), not dodge it,” Evenson said in his email. “It’s not politics, it’s the law.”

The lawsuit centers on the powers of Evers. It was brought Monday by two teachers and members of the New London and Marshfield school boards, represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

The group filed its case directly with the state Supreme Court, which last year ruled Evers had more power and independence than the heads of other state agencies.

The group argues the Department of Public Instruction is ignoring a new law that its backers say is meant to keep rules written by state agencies in check. The law, which took effect in September, says state agencies must run the scope of state rules past Walker’s Department of Administration before putting them into place.

Such rules are written to carry out state laws and include more details than the laws themselves.

Evers’ department issued rules this fall without first going to the Department of Administration. That’s because a divided state Supreme Court ruled last year that Evers did not have to abide by a similar law governing administrative rules because he is an independently elected official under the state constitution.

The latest lawsuit essentially asks the state’s high court to revisit that earlier ruling.

Much more on Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Disappearing Right to Earn a Living

Conor Friedersdorf :

In most states, a person who desires to install home-entertainment systems for a living, or as a part-time gig for extra cash, faces relatively few barriers to entry. This is work teenagers routinely do for grandparents after they make a technology purchase. But in Connecticut, a home-entertainment installer is required to obtain a license from the state before serving customers. It costs applicants $185. To qualify, they must have a 12th-grade education, complete a test, and accumulate one year of apprenticeship experience in the field. A typical aspirant can expect the licensing process to delay them 575 days.

These figures are drawn from License to Work, a report released this week by the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm that has sued state governments on behalf of numerous small-business owners and members of the working class who’ve faced unduly onerous obstacles while trying to earn a living.

Occupational-licensing obstacles are much more common than they once were. “In the 1950s, about one in 20 American workers needed an occupational license before they could work in the occupation of their choice,” the report states. “Today, that figure stands at about one in four.” These requirements are at their most reasonable when regulating occupations such as anesthesiologist or airline pilot, as in those instances, they can mostly affect a privileged class.

More Than 100 Universities And Colleges Included In Offshore Leaks Database

Sasha Chavkin, Emilia Díaz-Struck and Cecile S. Gallego:

Hidden in the 25,000 offshore entities we added to the Offshore Leaks Database today are some of the world’s most prestigious universities and colleges.

ICIJ and its partners found more than 100 educational institutions in offshore law firm Appleby’s client database, which was part of the Paradise Papers leaks.

Some of these elite institutions hold tens of billions of dollars in their endowments, and in the eyes of the law, they are treated as charities: altruistic, mission-driven and tax-exempt.

The only time university endowments pay taxes is when they invest in debt-financed financial firms such as private equity funds and hedge funds. These investments are considered a business activity unrelated to their tax-exempt missions.

Why America Loses Every War It Starts

Harlan Ullman:

Most Americans believe that their military is the finest in the world, a belief well-founded by several measures. Yet if the U.S. military were a sports team, based on its record in war and when called upon to defend the nation since World War II, it would be ranked in the lowest divisions.

Consider history. The United States won the “big one”: the Cold War. But every time Americans were sent to wars that it started or into combat for reasons that lacked just cause, we lost or failed. Korea was at best a draw, ended not by a peace treaty but a “temporary” truce. Our record in subsequent conflicts was too often no better, and too often worse. Vietnam was an outright and ignominious defeat in which over 58,000 Americans died. George H.W. Bush’s administration deserves great credit in the first Iraq War and in handling the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the Afghanistan intervention begun in 2001 is still going with no end in sight. The Second Iraq War, launched in 2003, was rightly termed a fiasco. Even far smaller interventions — Beirut and Grenada in 1983, Libya in 2011 — failed.

Americans need to know why. Notably, failure was not the fault of the Pentagon. My new book, Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts, analyzes and explains why this record of failure has occurred and why these setbacks, if uncorrected, will continue. Interestingly, the reasons for failure span generations of leaders and apply equally to both political parties, suggesting that somehow this predilection for failure has become part of the national DNA.

NJEA Spent $5.7M of Dues on Recent Election


According to recent filings with the Election Law Enforcement Commission, the New Jersey Education Association spent about $5.7 million in union dues on the recent general election. It did so through Garden State Forward, a Super PAC (political action committee) that the teachers union founded four years ago.

That was almost seven times more than the NJEA spent from voluntary donations to its regular PAC. NJEA communications director Steve Baker confirmed that all the roughly $5.7 million came from membership dues.

CS + X adds new music and crop science degrees for fall semester

Andrea Flores:

Two new CS + X majors, CS+ Music and CS + Crop Sciences, will be made available to students through the University’s School of Music and the College of ACES Department of Crop Sciences.

Students can start enrolling in fall 2018.

“CS + X opens up new possibilities in education, research, science, technology, industry and entrepreneurship; the potential discovery of new connections between CS and other disciplines; and the benefits of data management and analysis applied in new ways to new fields,” said Colin Robertson, assistant director of communications for the Department of Computer Science, in an email.

These two new majors are not the first of their kind. Four CS + X degrees exist in the college of LAS, including CS + Anthropology, CS + Astronomy, CS + Chemistry and CS + Linguistics.

Robertson said computer science is critically important to a growing number of disciplines.

How Many Hours Americans Need to Work to Afford a Home

Jeff Desjardins :

When it comes to the cost of living in cities, a general rule of thumb is that housing prices are much higher in the country’s economic and population hubs, especially in the cities along the coasts.

Particularly in recent years, prices have been pushed sky-high in places like New York City or San Francisco through a combination of limited supply of new homes, increasing demand, shifting demographics, and government regulations.

Locally, Madison tax and spending grows annually, with schools spending nearly $20,000 per student during the 2017-2018 year.

Google will ‘de-rank’ RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says the company will “engineer” specific algorithms for RT and Sputnik to make their articles less prominent on the search engine’s news delivery services.

“We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites – it’s basically RT and Sputnik,” Schmidt said during a Q & A session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on Saturday, when asked about whether Google facilitates “Russian propaganda.”

Related: Eric Schmidt, the 2016 Clinton Campaign and wikileaks.

Rating Madison area taxpayer funded school districts

Karen Rivedal:

Mirroring results from a year ago, all 16 Dane County school districts earned three or more stars on the state’s 2016-17 report cards, meaning they met or exceeded expectations for educating children.

The top county score went to Waunakee, which was the only one of the 16 to earn all five stars, placing it in the category of “significantly exceeding expectations.” Only 43 other districts in the state out of 424 did the same.

This is the second year the report cards used a five-star rating system. The stars correspond to one of five categories: “fails to meet expectations,” “meets few expectations,” “meets expectations,” “exceeds expectations” and “significantly exceeds expectations.”

Beijing vies for greater control of foreign universities in China

Emily Fang:

The Chinese Communist party has ordered foreign-funded universities to install party units and grant decision-making powers to a party official, reversing an earlier promise to guarantee academic freedom as President Xi Jinping strengthens political control over all levels of education…

Foreign-invested universities and institutes will need to show co-operation over the next few months, the two people said.

Discussions over the new directive began in August among party and education officials. The formal decision to implement it was made after the party’s recently concluded 19th congress, at which Mr Xi said: “Government, military, society and schools — north, south, east and west — the party is leader of all.

Why Clocks Run Clockwise (And Some Watches And Clocks That Don’t)

Jack Forster:

Most timepieces have hands that turn clockwise, and the reason is much older than clocks themselves.

The first thing most of us notice about clocks and watches when we learn to tell time, is that the hands turn clockwise – the habit of perceiving clockwise motion as a representation of the forward movement of time is deeply ingrained; so much so that once having learned it, most of us cease to notice it at all. Imagine you are standing on the center of a watch: in any direction you face, the hands will appear to pass from left to right. Theoretically, we could just as easily tell time if they went from right to left, so why do clock and watch hands overwhelmingly have rightward, or clockwise, motion? Why is there no period in history where anticlockwise and clockwise rotation competed for supremecy.

Schools and families struggle for balance with students and smartphones

Alan Borsuk:

Furthermore, railing against the impact of smartphones is sort of like railing against the impact of cars. They’re so deeply embedded in our lives that few think of them as choices.

In 2015, a study by the Pew Research Center found that nationwide 73% of teens had access to a smartphone and another 15% had “only” a basic cellphone. Furthermore, 24% of teens said they are online “almost constantly.” Facebook was used by 71% of teens, Instagram by 52% and Snapchat by 41%.

Civics: European Court Ruling Could Recognize Mass Surveillance Violates Human Rights

Ailidh Callander & Scarlet Kim :

The European Court of Human Rights last week held a hearing in a challenge to the United Kingdom’s mass surveillance practices, brought by the ACLU, Privacy International, Liberty, and seven other human rights organizations from around the world.

The case challenges practices, revealed by Edward Snowden, that breach the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, which are guaranteed not only under U.S. domestic law, but also under international human rights law.

The European Court of Human Rights is a critical component of the international human rights system. The court enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty ratified by 47 nations, including the United Kingdom. Its judgments are legally binding, and its jurisprudence helps shape the interpretation of human rights laws around the world — including those that bind the United States.

A Litigious Climate Threatens Scientific Norms

Roger Pielke Jr.:

I’ve worked alongside climate researchers for decades. Almost all of them are ethical, dedicated to science and not particularly political. But some leading figures and organizations in this community are weakening the norms that make science robust. A lawsuit filed in September and recently made public is a case in point.

Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, is suing fellow renewable-energy researcher Christopher Clack, CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy LLC, for critiquing his work. Also named as a defendant is the National Academy of Sciences, which published Mr. Clack’s paper in its flagship journal. Mr. Jacobson alleges that Mr. Clack’s paper contains reputation-damaging “fabrication and falsification.”

Mr. Jacobson argues that the world can obtain all its energy from 100% renewable technologies, a claim endorsed by celebrities, advocacy groups and politicians. Mr. Clack’s paper, with 20 accomplished co-authors, takes issue with Mr. Jacobson’s claims. Based on my experience reading and reviewing thousands of scientific papers over more than 25 years, Mr. Clack’s critique is utterly typical scientific discourse, regardless of whose arguments ultimately prevail. Even if Mr. Jacobson turns out to be right on the merits, he is wrong to seek to resolve the matter in court.

Oxford college introduces compulsory classes on ‘cultural appropriation’ for students

Camilla Turner:

An Oxford college has become the first to introduce compulsory classes on “cultural appropriation” for students.

Magdalen College will run the mandatory workshops for freshers starting from next year, where they will be taught about racism, institutional racism, cultural appropriation and implicit bias.

The move follows a series of rows about racism and cultural appropriation at the university. Magdalen College was criticised by students over its 1920s-themed ball, held last year.

It was claimed that the ball may cause offence to female and ethnic minority students on the basis that “people of colour and women were entirely absent from college spaces” during the time period.

Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled

Keith Collins:

Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?
 Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.
 Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

The Story Behind Project Follow Through

Bonnie Grossen:

Project Follow Through (FT) remains today the world’s largest educational experiment. It began in 1967 as part of President Johnson’s ambitious War on Poverty and continued until the summer of 1995, having cost about a billion dollars. Over the first 10 years more than 22 sponsors worked with over 180 sites at a cost of over $500 million in a massive effort to find ways to break the cycle of poverty through improved education.

The noble intent of the fledgling Department of Education (DOE) and the Office of Economic Opportunity was to break the cycle of poverty through better education. Poor academic performance was known to correlate directly with poverty. Poor education then led to less economic opportunity for those children when they became adults, thus ensuring poverty for the next generation. FT planned to evaluatewhether the poorest schools in America, both economically and academically impoverished, could be brought up to a level comparable with mainstream America. The actual achievement of the children would be used to determine success.

The architects of various theories and approaches who believed their methods could alleviate the detrimental educational effects of poverty were invited to submit applications to become sponsors of their models. Once the slate of models was selected, parent groups of the targeted schools serving children of poverty could select from among these sponsors one that their school would commit to work with over a period of several years.

The DOE-approved models were developed by academics in education with the exception of one, the Direct Instruction model, which had been developed by an expert Illinois preschool teacher with no formal training in educational methods.The models developed by the academics were similar in many ways. These similarities were particularly apparent when juxtaposed with the model developed by the expert preschool teacher from Illinois. The models developed by the academics consisted largely of general statements of democratic ideals and the philosophiesof famous figures, such as John Dewey and Jean Piaget. The expert preschool teacher’s model was a set of lesson plans that he had designed in orderto share his expertise with other teachers.

The preschool teacher, Zig Engelmann, had begun developing his model in 1963 as he taught his non-identical twinboys at home, while he was still working for an advertising agency. From the time the boys had learned to count at age 3 until a year later, Zig had taught them multi-digit multiplication, addition of fractions with like and unlike denominators, and basic algebraic concepts using only 20 minutes a day.

Many parents may have dismissed such an accomplishment as the result of having brilliant children. Zig thought differently; he thought he might be able to accomplish the same results with any child, especially children of poverty. He thought that children of poverty did not learn any differently than his very young boys, whose cognitive growth he had accelerated by providing them with carefully engineered instruction, rather than waiting for them to learn through random experience.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Popular Science Writing: A Challenge to Academic Cultures

Lna Erickson:

In Feynman’s popular science works, the aesthetic meets the empirical, as scien- tific knowledge is transmitted through a medium of story. Accepting tenets of both literary works and academic science writing, popular science writing, through its very existence, challenges the dichotomy of scientific versus literary cultures. Popular science writers like Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Natalie Angier, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson―scientists who have authored books of creative scientific nonfiction for a lay audience―must face conflicting episte- mologies in science and the humanities, paying careful attention to the translation from scientific material to expressive forms. Popular science writers represent a precedent of literary-scientific work that challenges the two cultures’ dichotomy in Western thought.

Startups worship the young. But research shows people are most innovative when they’re older

Neha Thirani Bagri :

While Silicon Valley had peddled the image of the 20-something, sweatshirt-wearing, college-dropout genius as the model for creativity in the 21st century, research shows that it is, in fact, older people who are more creative and productive.

For example, a 2016 study (pdf) by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation that looked at the demographics of over 900 individuals who have made high-value meaningful, marketable contributions to technology-heavy industries in the US.

The study found that the overall median age of innovators was 47 years old. Only 5.8% of the sample—which ranged in age from 18 to 80—was 30 years or younger, and innovation peaked between the ages of 46 and 50. The rate of innovation continues to be very high until the age of 55 and declined sharply after 65, the median expected retirement age in the US.

Particularly in the life sciences, material sciences, and information-technology fields, individuals who filed patents tended to be in the latter half of their careers.

Boardroom battles

The Economist:

Chalkbeat, an education news organisation, reported that political committees on both sides of the dispute channelled at least $1.65m into the school-board races that took place on November 7th in Denver, nearby Aurora and Douglas County. Other areas have seen even more expensive contests. In Los Angeles, where three board seats came up for election earlier this year, outside groups poured nearly $15m into canvassing and advertisements on behalf of the candidates. Much of the money came from California Charter Schools Association, which supports charter schools and received nearly $7m from Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, in the run-up to the election, and United Teachers Los Angeles, a union which opposes charters. According to Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, an advocacy organisation, outside money has also fuelled school-board fights in Louisiana, Minneapolis, and Perth Amboy, a town of just 52,500 in New Jersey.

It is not just the volume of cash being poured into school-board elections that is striking. So is where it comes from. As with political contributions in general, the origins of donations in school-board races are being obscured. The elections in Colorado illustrate how. Political action committees (PACs), which pool contributions from members and put them towards campaigning for or against candidates, are required to disclose their donor rolls. But social-welfare organisations, also referred to as 501(c)4s after the section of the tax code that describes them, are not. Those who wish to fund local races anonymously can direct their money to amenable 501(c)4s, which in turn donate to the PACs. In Colorado, for instance, a PAC called Raising Colorado, which supports the campaigns of charter-school champions, has received donations from only one source: Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA), the 501(c)4 arm of a non-profit organisation with its headquarters in New York City and Washington, DC. Who has donated to ERNA is a mystery.

Battered St. Paul teacher meets with Trump officials over school discipline

Josh Verges:

In an email to the Pioneer Press, York said her goal is to get school management to implement and enforce safety policies “so teachers can teach and kids can learn in a healthy, risk/trauma-free environment.”

Last year, York’s testimony helped strengthen a Minnesota law that warns teachers about students with a history of classroom violence. She wants similar protections to be enacted nationwide.

The meeting comes almost four years after a letter from President Obama’s education department discouraged schools from suspending kids for nonviolent misbehavior and warned against punishing students of color more harshly.

In a January 2014 speech, then-education secretary Arne Duncan said adults, not children, are responsible for high rates of suspensions in certain schools and states.

“That huge disparity is not caused by differences in children; it’s caused by differences in training, professional development and discipline policies. It is adult behavior that needs to change,” he said.

Critics of the letter say real differences in student behavior are driving the disparities and that the focus on suspensions data has made schools more dangerous.