Summer Camp for the Ultra-Wealthy Teaches Kids How to Stay Rich

Susanne Woolley:

Here, not far from Wall Street, Swiss banking giant UBS Group AG has convened its annual Young Successors Program (YSP), a three-day workshop for people who were born loaded. Part tutorial and part self-actualization exercise, the event is designed to stamp the UBS brand on the minds of the next generation of the ultra-wealthy—in essence, to hook them while they’re young.

With an average age of 27, attendees at the June YSP and other Next Gen functions hosted by the likes of UBS, Citi Private Bank, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse will one day rank among the world’s most sought-after clients. Or, at least, that’s the hope. In an era of extreme affluence, elite money managers are vying for the hyper-rich as never before. The world is poised for a generational shift in wealth that will ripple through global business and financial markets, and the banks can’t afford to take any accounts—current or future—for granted.

How LeBron James’ new public school really is the first of its kind

Christian D’Andrea:

Several reform-minded schools have carved similar paths for I Promise to follow. The Knowledge is Power Program, better known as KIPP, has created the nation’s largest network of charter schools by catering to marginalized students with longer class hours, increasing access to teachers, and a tough but accommodating schedule for students. Rocketship Public Schools, another non-profit charter program with schools in California, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Washington D.C., operates with a similarly non-traditional classroom. Rocketship emphasizes a STEM-based curriculum while bringing a student’s home life into the classroom and continuing learning outside regular class hours. Both take aim at reducing the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers.

It’s still early, but reports from I Promise suggest the school will address Akron’s achievement gap by running similar reforms as other successful national programs. It does not go as far as KIPP or Rocketship in those charges, but it’s clear I Promise is designed to operate at a level beyond the typical public school by creating a more comprehensive experience for students, not just one that begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.

I Promise is a regular public school, not a charter or a voucher-receiving private school
This kind of wide reform is rare to see at a traditional neighborhood school. KIPP and Rocketship schools have been successful in larger cities across the nation, but typically operate outside the purview of their local school boards as charter schools. Several private schools, like Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Lutheran Schools or Philadelphia’s Gesu School, have instituted reforms like these while enrolling students using publicly-funded vouchers or tax-credit scholarships.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

We have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

WeChat’s exclusive emojis express emotions Western apps cannot

Sara Zhang:

It is very difficult to talk to Chinese people without using emojis. Whenever a Chinese friend Facebook messages me, I feel compelled to reply with WeChat because there are messages and nuances that can only be expressed with emojis that only exist on WeChat.

The difference between emojis on Chinese and Western apps can shed light on some interesting cultural disparities. I have noticed that Chinese messaging apps tend to have a lot more emojis for expressing deference and embarrassment (with elements like blushing)—traditional Chinese culture prizes humility and indirectness. You can never ask someone a favor without profusely expressing how bad you feel; you can never ask for someone’s time without showing that you think you are hardly worthy of their time.

Below are some emojis that I use most frequently while communicating on WeChat, but do not really have equivalents on Western messengers like Facebook Messenger and iMessage.

Madison’s ACT College Readiness Gap

Anna Welch:

According to district data, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) saw significant jumps in four-year graduation rates in spring 2017. Madison’s overall graduation rate rose five points, and the rate for African American students jumped an eyebrow-raising 15 points in one year. Those rates, however, were not accompanied by corresponding increases in student achievement as measured by ACT college readiness benchmarks in core subjects like math and reading.

“Completion rates are obviously important, but they are the tip of the iceberg,” says longtime education activist Laurie Frost. “And they can be manipulated, whether consciously or unconsciously, in ways that performance on objective measures — measures that are used across the country — cannot be. Standardized test results cannot be fudged.”

Close examinations by Simpson Street Free Press reporters identify large gaps in ACT college readiness between and among MMSD students.

College Readiness

More African American students are graduating from local schools, but actual achievement gaps in Madison have widened or shown no improvement, according to key benchmarks reported by Wisconsin Department of Public of Instruction.

During the 2014-15 school year, the state began to mandate and pay for all high school students to take the ACT college entrance exam. The Madison School District, however, mandated and paid for the test beginning in 2013-14, a year earlier than required.

Rachel Strauch-Nelson, media relations director for MMSD, said the district mandated the test a year early because they thought it was “one important piece” of measuring student success, along with GPA rates, advanced coursework and other measures.

“Increasing participation is the right thing to do because then we get the data so that we can have this conversation about college readiness,” Strauch-Nelson said.

According to a 2017 district report, participation rates for African American students increased from 52 percent in 2012-13 to 73 percent in 2017—a 21 percent change. In contrast, 93 percent of white students took the ACT in 2017, while 85 percent of students took the test overall.

College readiness benchmark scores represent the minimum level of academic preparedness necessary for students to have “a 75% chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses,” according to the ACT.

From the 2012-13 school year to the 2016-17 school year, ACT benchmark scores for African American students in Madison across core subject areas (English, math, reading and science) decreased slightly or showed no improvements, according to district data. In contrast, for white students, scores increased slightly in all core subject areas except for math, which decreased by 1 percentage point.

Are Rising Madison School District Grad Rates Something to Celebrate?

Anna Welch:

The Madison District has seen graduation rates improve. But, it remains unclear if those students are prepared for college and career. Students who are not adequately prepared before they graduate often pay the price in college.

In 2016, Act 28 took effect requiring the UW Board of Regents to submit an annual report to the Legislature. The reports identify Wisconsin high schools that graduate six or more students who require remedial courses in English or math upon admission to a UW system school.

Students enrolled in remedial coursework at UW schools pay full tuition prices but do not earn college credit for those classes. This extends their college graduation dates and increases their college costs. Tuition prices at UW system schools range from $5,186.00 per year to $10,534.00 per year for Wisconsin residents.

In 2015, 33 percent or one-third of Madison La Follette students attending UW colleges required remedial coursework in math. About 11 percent of East High students needed remedial coursework.

The following year, 26 percent of La Follette students required remedial coursework in math at their UW schools. At East High and West High nearly 14 percent of graduated students required remedial math coursework in college.

Retention of college students of color is a much talked-about issue at UW-Madison and other colleges across the country.

Lowering the Bar

Longtime Education Activist Laurie Frost and other local education watchers worry about the long-term ramifications of lowering academic standards, especially for students of color.

“Again, I’ll say, maybe not consciously, but lowering bars doesn’t do anyone any favors—especially the students, and especially students of color,” Frost said.

Education experts evaluating the significance of rising graduation rates cite a need to examine credit recovery programs. According to NPR, about nine out of 10 U.S. school districts provide some form of “credit recovery” to give students a second chance to earn credit for previously failed or uncompleted courses.

“We should all be very concerned that pressures to pass students, credit recovery programs, a lack of academic challenges and other things may be in play,” Mertz said. “African American students may be disproportionately impacted by a simplistic emphasis on graduation rates at the expense of learning and preparation.”

In a phone interview, an online program specialist for MMSD said Madison students who fail courses can take credit recovery courses on the recommendation of their school counselor. These courses are typically offered online through a program called Apex Learning. But students enrolled in online credit recovery courses are also paired with a teacher to build relationships and help them manage their work. There is no limit to how many times students can take the same credit recovery course until they pass.

“Some of these credit recovery programs frankly aren’t terribly rigorous and aren’t preparing students well for what’s next,” Daria Hall of The Education Trust, an education research and advocacy non-profit, told NPR reporters.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Madison School District vows to do better for African-American students

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The Madison School District’s new long-term plan looks vaguely similar to its predecessor, a strategic framework produced in 2013. Two of three overarching goals share similar language.

The third goal, however, stands out from its 2013 counterpart by explicitly vowing to do better for African-American students.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said she attended nearly 100 meetings over the past year, receiving input from more than 2,000 students, staff, parents and community members.

“Meeting after meeting, it was crystal clear to me that this is what our community wants,” she said. “We believe at this state we need to hold ourselves accountable to more ambitious goals” for African-American youth.

The district released a 20-page report Tuesday, outlining three goals officials hope to meet by adopting a variety of strategies and meeting a host of benchmarks in the coming years.

Locally, the Simpson Street Free Press has covered the office of civil rights investigation into the Madison school District.

I’ve not seen substantive mention of this in the traditional media.

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

2006: they’re all rich white kids and they will do just fine, not!

Small Learning communities.

English 10

Talented and gifted lawsuit

The Ada Lace Books Will Get Girls Interested in STEM

Emily Calandrelli:

Emily Calandrelli, host of Xploration Outer Space and correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World, thinks there aren’t enough female science geeks in fiction. She wants to help change that with her Ada Lace series of children’s books.

“What I wanted to do was create a character that was female who had these types of adventures and did these types of science experiments,” Calandrelli says in Episode 318 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “So that kids could have a female character to look up to.”

About half of Google’s workers are contractors who don’t receive the same benefits as direct employees

Mark Bergen and Josh Eidelson:

Every day, tens of thousands of people stream into Google offices wearing red name badges. They eat in Google’s cafeterias, ride its commuter shuttles and work alongside its celebrated geeks. But they can’t access all of the company’s celebrated perks. They aren’t entitled to stock and can’t enter certain offices. Many don’t have health insurance.

Before each weekly Google all-hands meeting, trays of hors d’oeuvres and, sometimes, kegs of beer are carted into an auditorium and satellite offices around the globe for employees, who wear white badges. Those without white badges are asked to return to their desks.

Google’s Alphabet Inc. employs hordes of these red-badged contract workers in addition to its full-fledged staff. They serve meals and clean offices. They write code, handle sales calls, recruit staff, screen YouTube videos, test self-driving cars and even manage entire teams – a sea of skilled laborers that fuel the $795 billion company but reap few of the benefits and opportunities available to direct employees. Earlier this year, those contractors outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company’s twenty-year history, according to a person who viewed the numbers on an internal company database. It’s unclear if that is still the case. Alphabet reported 89,058 direct employees at the end of the second quarter. The company declined to comment on the number of contract workers.

There Is No Such Thing as Unconscious Thought

Nick Chater:

The great French mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré (1854–1912) took a particular interest in the origins of his own astonishing creativity. His achievements were impressive: His work profoundly reshaped mathematics and physics—including laying crucial foundations for Einstein’s theory of relativity and the modern mathematical analysis of chaos. But he also had some influential speculations about where many of his brilliant ideas came from: unconscious thought.

Poincaré found that he would often struggle unsuccessfully with some mathematical problem, perhaps over days or weeks (to be fair, the problems he got stuck on were difficult, to say the least). Then, while not actually working on the problem at all, a possible solution would pop into his mind. And when he later checked carefully, the solution would almost always turn out to be correct.

How was this possible? Poincaré’s own suspicion was that his unconscious mind was churning through possible approaches to the problem “in the background”—and when an approach seemed aesthetically “right,” it might burst through into consciousness. Poincaré believed that this “unconscious thought” process was carried out by what might almost be a second self, prepared and energized by periods of conscious work, yet able to work away on the problem in hand entirely below the level of conscious awareness.

A top Chinese brain scientist wonders how he ended up on the U.S. visa blacklist

Dennis Normile:

Frustrated with a string of unexplained U.S. visa denials, a top Chinese brain scientist has decided to go public, copying numerous journalists on a 17 July email to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing pleading his case.

“Most embassies try to make more friends for their countries; the U.S. embassy is not afraid of offending people and making enemies,” says Rao Yi, a high-profile neuroscientist at Peking University in Beijing who studied and worked in the United States for 22 years. His difficulty obtaining a visa is particularly ironic, given that he has been invited to attend a workshop by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), a government agency based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Rao, 56, earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1991 from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and did a postdoc at Harvard University. He was on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for 10 years and later joined Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, where he rose to be a full professor. Along the way, he acquired U.S. citizenship. He returned to China in 2007 to become dean of Peking University’s School of Life Sciences. He later gave up his U.S. citizenship.

Commentary on Piblic sector teacher unions, Politics and Janus

Joanne Jacobs:

“We’re becoming more political, not less political,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten declared at the union’s annual convention, which featured speeches by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and an award for Hillary Clinton.

The NEA, at its convention, gave awards to former First Lady Michelle Obama and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, note Hess and Addison.

Related: Act 10.

The Evolution of Writing

Denise Schmandt-Bessarat:

Writing – a system of graphic marks representing the units of a specific language – has been invented independently in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica. The cuneiform script, created in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, ca. 3200 BC, was first. It is also the only writing system which can be traced to its earliest prehistoric origin. This antecedent of the cuneiform script was a system of counting and recording goods with clay tokens. The evolution of writing from tokens to pictography, syllabary and alphabet illustrates the development of information processing to deal with larger amounts of data in ever greater abstraction.

Study Finds Weight, Vision, Sleep Problems Among China’s Schoolchildren

Zhou Simin, Ma Danmeng, and Teng Jing Xuan :

China’s young schoolchildren are overweight, have poor eyesight, and don’t get enough sleep. Oh, and they need to focus more on their creativity and analytical skills.

At least that’s the take-away from the country’s first comprehensive study on the quality of its mandatory education.

Among the findings, China’s schools should focus more on teaching children to be creative and analytical, while improving the “relatively weak” physical education they receive.

Full Report.

China brings 10,000 teachers out of retirement to take up jobs in impoverished rural areas

Laurie Chen:

When the new school year starts in autumn, some 10,000 teachers will come out of retirement in China and return to the classroom, but in a new and mostly unfamiliar setting – underfunded rural schools.

Beijing is sending “outstanding” retired or retiring educators aged 65 or under to the remote areas under its “Silver Age Lecture Plan”, a new programme that is part of the government’s campaign to alleviate poverty in the countryside, according to the Ministry of Education.

The ministry said that those selected would spend at least one year working in schools in regions targeted by the poverty alleviation push, until the programme ends in 2020.