All posts by Jim Zellmer

The Gang Scene in Madison

Doug Erickson takes a useful look around Madison’s gang scene, including the recent events in Oregon. Erickson also mentions this Wednesday’s SIS supported event, lead by Rafael Gomez on Gangs and School Violence (9.21 @ 7:00p.m.):

“It sets a watershed mark for the number of individuals involved in one event,” said Stephen Blue, who has studied local gangs since 1986 and is delinquency services manager for the Dane County Department of Human Services.
Blue is among panelists scheduled to discuss gangs and school violence Wednesday at the Doyle Administration Building of the Madison School District. The event is sponsored by, a Web site devoted to school issues.
Rafael Gomez, a district parent who helped organize the forum and will be its moderator, said the topic was chosen before the Oregon shootings.
“One of the questions we will be asking the panel is how the whole issue of gangs in our schools has changed in the last 10 years,” he said. “I think that’s a good way to frame the situation in Oregon.”

Are E-Books the Future?

Joshua Fruhlinger:

I hate to break it to you, though, but it looks like e-books in their current form aren’t going to break out of their early adopter ghetto any time soon. Certainly books stored in electronic form have flourished in a number of niche markets — reference books, in particular, are becoming more and more prevalent as electronic form rather than paper (see Resources for more on this and other wacky links). But when it comes to the books that make up the bulk of our reading lives, the vast majority of us are still reading words printed with ink on paper bound with glue and string.

I think the future, (or is it present?) of online learning is something between blogs, heymath, edhelper and wikipedia with interesting tools like RSS thrown in.

Math Curriculum: Textbook Photos

A year’s worth of Connected Math textbooks and teacher guides are on the left while the equivalent Singapore Math texts are on the right.

Friedman’s latest ,where he demonstrates how other countries are “eating our kid’s lunch in math” is well worth reading, as are these math posts. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has much more to say on K-12 math curriculum.

A few observations from a layperson who couldn’t be farther from a math expert’s perspective on this (in other words, I’m not a math expert):

  • Children must be able to read effectively to use the voluminous Connected Math curriculum,
  • The Connected Math curriculum has very extensive teacher instructions, while the Singapore curriculum is rather thin in this area. Does it follow that teachers using Singapore Math have far more freedom with respect to their instruction methods, or is the intention to make sure that teachers teach Connected Math in a scripted way?
  • The Connected Math texts require more dead trees and I assume cost more than the Singapore texts directly and indirectly (transportation, packaging and the overhead of dealing with more pieces)
  • The voluminous Connected Math texts have far more opportunities for errors, simply based on the amount of text and illustrations included in the books.
  • Madison Country Day School uses Singapore Math.

There’s quite a bit of discussion on Connected Math and Singapore Math around the internet. Maybe it’s time to follow the people (from India, China and Great Britain) and virtualize this while eliminating the textbooks?

Post your comments below.

The Changing Value of Shakespeare

Tyler Cowen takes a quick look at William St. Clair’s new book: The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. This book, so interesting on many levels looks at:

During the four centuries when printed paper was the only means by which texts could be carried across time and distance, everyone engaged in politics, education, religion, and literature believed that reading helped to shape the minds, opinions, attitudes, and ultimately the actions, of readers. William St Clair investigates how the national culture can be understood through a quantitative study of the books that were actually read. Centred on the romantic period in the English-speaking world, but ranging across the whole print era, it reaches startling conclusions about the forces that determined how ideas were carried, through print, into wider society. St Clair provides an in-depth investigation of information, made available here for the first time, on prices, print runs, intellectual property, and readerships gathered from over fifty publishing and printing archives. He offers a picture of the past very different from those presented by traditional approaches. Indispensable to students, English literature, book history, and the history of ideas, the study’s conclusions and explanatory models are highly relevant to the issues we face in the age of the internet.

  • The first study of actual reading using quantification and economic analysis
  • Sheds new light on aspects of reading and its effect on the nation
  • An indispensable resource for scholars working on literature, reading, and the history of publishing and printing

IBM To Encourage Employees to be Teachers

Brian Bergstein:

International Business Machines Corp., worried the United States is losing its competitive edge, will financially back employees who want to leave the company to become math and science teachers.
The new program, being announced Friday in concert with city and state education officials, reflects tech industry fears that U.S. students are falling behind peers from Bangalore to Beijing in the sciences.
Up to 100 IBM employees will be eligible for the program in its trial phase. Eventually, Big Blue hopes many more of its tech savvy employees – and those in other companies – will follow suit.

The Governance Divide: Improving College Readiness and Success

The Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success authored by The Institute for Educational Leadership, The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, The Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research. Foreword, Executive Summary, Full Report (345K PDF):

The report also offers recommendations to help states transform ad hoc approaches into sustained action and institutionalized, long-term K-16 reforms. Every state needs to increase the percentage of students who complete high school and finish some form of postsecondary education; existing governance structures and policies cannot meet this overwhelming need. For most states, these structures and policies must be revised in significant ways.
Currently, K-12 and postsecondary education exist in separate worlds in the United States. Policies for each system of education are typically created in isolation from each other-even though, in contrast to the past, most students eventually move from one system to the other. Students in K-12 rarely know what to expect when they enter college, nor do they have a clear sense of how to prepare for that next step. Particularly now, in the 21st century, when more students must complete some postsecondary education to have an economically secure life, the need for improved transitions from high school to college is urgent. This need for some postsecondary education extends beyond individual aspirations. In this global economy, businesses and communities-and our nation as a whole-must have residents who have achieved educational success beyond high school.

Phoebe Randall has more, including comments from the Wisconsin DPI:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction acknowledges there is a problem and said the department is working to improve the situation with new programs.
“In Wisconsin, there is a tremendous amount of coordination to ensure that students are prepared for college,” DPI Communications Officer Joe Donovan said.
This coordination comes in the form of a program called PK16, which stands for pre-kindergarten through grade 16. One of the program’s goals is to focus on keeping students motivated and challenged during the transition from their senior year of high school to college.

Maryland’s Education Reform Guidelines

Daniel de Vise:

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele released his blueprint for education reform yesterday, a series of 30 recommendations that call for schools to be graded and teachers to be paid for performance.
Members of the 30-person Governor’s Commission on Quality Education in Maryland recommended efforts to promote charter schools but rejected school vouchers, a far more divisive topic

Full Report (PDF)

California Bans Junk Food in Schools


“California is facing an obesity epidemic,” Mr Schwarzenegger said. “Today we are taking some first steps in creating a healthy future for California.”
Under the new rules, pizza, burritos, pasta and sandwiches must contain no more than four grams of fat for every 100 calories, with a total of no more than 400 calories.
From 2007, students will only be allowed to buy water, milk and some fruit and sports drinks that contain a controlled amount of sweeteners.
It is thought that the move could cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollar in lost income, as they receive money from companies in return for allowing them to sell their products in schools.

Is the U.S. Losing out on Science and Math Education?

The OECD released their “Education at a Glance – 2005 Report” Daniel Drezner summarizes his take on the US Performance:

1) In science and math, the U.S. is ahead of only the really poor OECD countries — Turkey, Mexico, etc. So yes, there is reason to worry.
2) The poor performance is not because of a downward trend — in fact, if you look at chart A7.1 (“Differences in mean performance of eighth-grade students from 1995 to 2003”), you discover an interesting fact: the United States showed the greatest improvement in science and math scores of the sample — including Korea.
3) The poor performance isn’t because of a dearth of funds — table B1.1 shows that, Switzerland excepted, the United States spends the most amount of money per student in the OECD. You get a similar result if the metric is education spending as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, the OECD comments:

Lower expenditure cannot automatically be equated with a lower quality of educational services. Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and New-Zealand, which have moderate expenditure on education per student at the primary and lower secondary levels, are among the OECD countries with the highest levels of performance by 15-year-old students in mathematics.

Family Dinner Linked to Better Grades

ABC News:

The survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize.
It found teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.
“At a time when kids are under a lot of stress for a lot of different reasons, having that regular meal time that they can count on, that their parents are there for support — that can be very helpful,” said David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Is the Cluetrain Running Over Government?

Sophos writing at IT Toolbox:

Government is still in the old broadcast mode of press conferences and press releases and talking at you rather than with you. Government only seems to have time to converse with lobby groups, mass media reporters and interests that are going to make them or their friends money. Money from the government.
The conversations are growing – mass media is at a loss to understand how to deal with or contend with the number of blogs, cross-linking of blogs and the sheer volume of people getting involved in the conversation. It is no holds barred and far more interesting than the scripted Q&A being spouted from press conferences. Mass media is so flabbergasted, that they have resorted to reading blogs on their broadcasts! How crazy is that – broadcasting elements of the conversations from the blogosphere on TV. Media is stunned. The administration is stunned. It is only going to get worse for all of them.

McDonald’s Sponsors an Elementary Phy Ed Program in 31,000 Schools


“McDonald’s Passport to Play” will launch in 31,000 schools this fall, reaching an expected 7 million children in grades three through five, the company said.
The move is part of McDonald’s (Research) so-called “Balanced Lifestyles” initiative, an aggressive effort to promote physical activity and nutrition and deflect harmful claims that its food is unhealthy and fattening.

Teaching Math

Several AFT American Educator articles on Teaching Mathematics:

  • Ron Aharoni: Helping Children Learn Mathematics

    A professional mathematician shares his insights about effective instructional practice, how children learn, the importance of a coherent, systematic curriculum—and mathematics—after taking up the challenge of teaching in an Israeli elementary school.

  • Knowing Mathematics for Teaching:

    There is general agreement that teachers’ knowledge of the mathematical content to be taught is the cornerstone of effective mathematics instruction. But the actual extent and nature of the mathematical knowledge teachers need remains a matter of controversy. A new program of research into what it means to know mathematics for teaching—and how that knowledge relates to student achievement—may help provide some answers.

Superintendent’s Message

Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater is beginning to write a series of monthly articles which he will use as his Superintendent’s Report. Listen to this month’s report by watching this 5 minute video clip. I looked around the District’s site and did not immediately see a text version of this report. UPDATE: The message was circulated via email Tuesday morning, 9/13/2005. Click the link below to read a text version:

Continue reading Superintendent’s Message

UW Joins Regional Tuition Discount Program


Starting next fall, Wisconsin residents can apply for discount tuition at 130 colleges in six Midwestern states under a plan approved by University of Wisconsin System regents.
In exchange, residents from those states could pay reduced rates at several schools in the UW System – but not the flagship UW-Madison campus. The regents voted Friday to join the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, a coalition of regional colleges and universities.

Milwaukee Loses Big Under Open Enrollment

Tom Kertscher:

During the first six years of the program, the analysis found, 15 suburban districts each earned more than $1 million in extra state aid because they gained more students than they lost through open enrollment transfers.
MPS, meanwhile, lost more than $32 million.
Four other districts – Racine Unified, Waukesha, Oconomowoc and Kewaskum – each lost more than $1 million.

Durbin & Feingold: Ease NCLB Standards Due To Katrina


Washington, D.C. – In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), are calling on the administration to help schools across the nation that are taking in the thousands of students displaced by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina by increasing funding to those schools while relaxing the accountability standards mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

More money for less? More from Eduwonk.

More: It’s Not Too Early to Run for the Madison School Board

Kristian Knutsen nicely summarizes the upcoming spring 2006 Madison School Board election politics and mentions that the election will likely include a non-binding referendum to overturn the tavern smoking ban (Isthmus’ The Daily Page):

There is ongoing speculation as to whether either incumbent will run for another term. Whether or not they do, the “anti-status quo” group of school board activists that support Robarts, helped boost Kobza to victory in April, and were mostly in opposition to the defeated May referendum questions, is gearing up for the next round, an election that could advance them to a majority position.

More here.

PA Schools Mandate Body Mass Calculations

Martha Raffaele:

As they wait for their children’s first report card to come home this year, elementary-school parents across Pennsylvania also can expect to receive a separate report on a key indicator of their children’s health.
In an effort to combat childhood obesity, the state Health Department is requiring school nurses to compute students’ body-mass index – or height-to-weight ratio – during annual growth screenings, starting this year with children in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Parents will receive letters about the results that will encourage them to share the information with their family physician. The letters will explain whether the BMI is above, below, or within the normal range for the child’s age and gender.

Candy, Soda, Pizza, Other Junk Food Compete with Nutritious Meals in Most Schools

Libby Quaid:

Candy, soda, pizza and other snacks compete with nutritious meals in nine out of 10 schools, a government survey found.
Already plentiful in high schools, junk food has become more available in middle schools over the past five years, according to the Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
“Parents should know that our schools are now one of the largest sources of unhealthy food for their kids,” Sen. Tom Harkin, who asked for the study, said in an interview.

Lee Kuan Yew Interview on the Rise of China & India

Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaks with Der Spiegel on Asia’s rise to economic power, China’s ambitions and the West’s chances of staying competitive:

Mr. Lee: Right. In 50 years I see China, Korea and Japan at the high-tech end of the value chain. Look at the numbers and quality of the engineers and scientists they produce and you know that this is where the R&D will be done. The Chinese have a space programme, they’re going to put a man on the Moon and nobody sold them that technology. We have to face that. But you should not be afraid of that. You are leading in many fields which they cannot catch up with for many years, many decades. In pharmaceuticals, I don’t see them catching up with the Germans for a long time.

Tim Berners-Lee: The Net Will Produce More Creative Children


CNN: What will surprise us about the future evolution of the Internet?
BERNERS-LEE: The creativity of our children. In many ways, people growing up with the Web and now the Semantic Web take the power at their fingertips for granted. The people who designed the tools that make the Net run had their own ideas for the future. I look forward to seeing what the next generation does with these tools that we could not have foreseen. …


School has once again successfully lifted off, thanks to a great deal of hard work on the part of many people including teachers, staff and administrators. I thought it would be useful to pass along a few observations:

  • A Madison teacher spent quite a bit of personal time after school last year helping children who were behind in math catch up.
  • My aunt is a Minnesota teacher. During a recent visit to a prospective student’s home:”I got hit on my head with a folder, my camera got taken away, and my shirt got pulled up. The mom just calmly kept talking about school.

Please add your anecdotes in the comments below!

Back to School, Thinking Globally

New York Times Editorial:

The great achievement of No Child Left Behind is that it has forced the states to focus at last on educational inequality, the nation’s most corrosive social problem. But it has been less successful at getting educators and politicians to see the education problem in a global context, and to understand that this country is rapidly losing ground to the nations we compete with for high-skilled jobs that require a strong basis in math and science.
American taxpayers have heard a fair amount about the fact that their children lag behind the children of Britain, France, Germany and Japan. But American students are also bested by nations like Poland, Ireland and the Czech Republic. Worst of all, they fall further and further behind their peers abroad the longer they stay in school.

Indianapolis School Superintendent: A Change Maker?

Matthew Tully:

“We have to turn things around right away,” he said. “They didn’t bring me in to be safe. They brought me in to be a change maker.”
So he has tossed out troublemaking students and offered ambitious plans for historic schools Crispus Attucks and Shortridge. He’s demanded more from all, from teachers to students to janitors.
White has been the city’s top newsmaker since becoming superintendent of the state’s largest school system July 1. He seems to have commandeered space on the front page.

More on Eugene G. White, Indianapolis’s new Superintendent. Via Eduwonk.

Madison Schools Announcement on Students Displaced by Hurricane Katrina

Madison Metropolitan School District:

Madison school officials on Friday said the district will make every effort to assist families and students displaced by hurricane Katrina by simplifying the enrollment process and getting students immediately into classes.
By Friday, the district had received several calls from individuals in Madison, who have family in the areas affected by the hurricane, inquiring about school possibilities for their relatives. Calls were also received from individuals in relief shelters in the South.
“They are welcome in Madison and we will ensure that families temporarily relocating to Madison will be able to get their children into school immediately,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater.

PowerPoint: Killer App?

Ruth Marcus:

The most disturbing development in the world of PowerPoint is its migration to the schools — like sex and drugs, at earlier and earlier ages. Now we have second-graders being tutored in PowerPoint. No matter that students who compose at the keyboard already spend more energy perfecting their fonts than polishing their sentences — PowerPoint dispenses with the need to write any sentences at all. Perhaps the politicians who are so worked up about the ill effects of violent video games should turn their attention to PowerPoint instead.
In the meantime, Tufte, who’s now doing consulting work for NASA, has a modest proposal for its new administrator: Ban the use of PowerPoint. Sounds good to me. After all, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the perils of PowerPoint.

The Leopold Reality

Leopold Teacher Troy Dassler, via email:

As part of full disclosure, I must admit that one of the two classrooms that were carved out the lunchroom is where I teach our children. So, this story has special significance to me and my students.
Troy Dassler
NBC 15 News:
New School Year, Same Referendum Questions
Overcrowding on First Day
Updated: 6:29 PM Sep 1, 2005
Zac Schultz
Madison: The new third graders at Aldo Leopold Elementary probably did not pay much attention to the school referendum questions last spring.
They don’t know that the voters rejected a plan that would have given them a new school by the time they were in 5th grade. But some of them do understand overcrowding.
“I would say in terms of optimal learning environment Leopold is overcrowded now. We’re using every square inch of Leopold with kids,” says Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater.
“We try to organize to minimize the impact on children,” says Leopold Principal Mary Hyde.

Continue reading The Leopold Reality

Art Smarts: Two New Books on the Meaning of Arts

The Economist on two new books, The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa and What Good Are the Arts:

Mr Kimmelman, a gifted piano student as a boy, returned more seriously to the keyboard in 1999 when he entered, and went on to the final round, of an amateur piano competition in Fort Worth, Texas. Organised by the Van Cliburn Foundation, which since 1962 has presented the world’s leading piano competition for young professionals, the competition brought 90 people, who neither taught nor performed professionally, to Texas.
Mr Kimmelman’s article about his fellow pianists—a numismatist, two flight attendants, a hairstylist and a former crack addict who had been jailed for burglary and who found taking up music helped him recover—raised a sizeable correspondence from people who are not artists by profession, but for whom art adds an important other dimension to their lives. It was this idea, so emblematic of the author’s own life, that spawned the book.
Far better is the second half of the book in which Mr Carey seeks to persuade us that the greatest of all art forms is not painting or music but literature, and English literature specifically. Uninflected and without gendered nouns, English was uniquely placed to offer Shakespeare the linguistic pliancy and suppleness he needed to turn out the epidemic of metaphors and similes that so mark his work.

Continue reading Art Smarts: Two New Books on the Meaning of Arts

More on Suspended Sennett Middle School Teacher

Sandy Cullen:

Police spokesman Mike Hanson said the report of an incident April 1, 2004, at Sennett Middle School “slipped through the cracks,” and was not reviewed by a detective or a representative of the Dane County district attorney’s office to determine if charges should be filed.
“It’s an unfortunate event,” Hanson said. “We need to backtrack and go back and investigate.”
Hanson said it is not known exactly how the mistake occurred, but the report had been mislabled in a way that could have erroneously indicated that it had already been referred to the district attorney.

More from Steve Elbow.

Milwaukee Schools Health Care Coverage Changes

Alan J. Borsuk and Sarah Carr:

Milwaukee Public Schools teachers will begin shouldering a larger share of the costs of their health care under an arbitrator’s ruling issued Tuesday.
The decision ended 2 1/2 years of work on a two-year contract for more than 6,000 teachers with a victory for the School Board and the administration of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos.
After management and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association deadlocked – almost entirely over health insurance issues – the dispute went to the arbitrator, Marquette University Law School Professor Jay Grenig, who was required to pick between the final offers of each side without making any changes.
Under the MPS plan, teachers would begin paying portions of the cost of their health care, including deductibles and co-pays on many services. Administrators say the district pays more than 60 cents in fringe benefits for every dollar it pays in salaries.

Middleton Schools Referenda & New Website

The Middleton-Cross Plains School District has posted information on their upcoming vote on borrowing $53 Million to finance the construction and operation of a K-8 school, a new transportation center, and improvements to several elementary schools. Ann Marie Ames has more. The District also has a new website with the latest news posted on their home page. The site also includes the ability to pay for meals online.

Jefferson Middle School Spanish Teacher Suspended

Sandy Cullen:

A Madison middle school teacher has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an independent investigation of a sexual harassment complaint filed by 28 parents, district officials said Tuesday.
Jefferson Middle School Principal John Burmaster said that when school resumes Thursday there will be a new Spanish language teacher in place of Hector Vazquez, whom parents say created a hostile learning environment for their children last year.
“That’s good news,” said Roger Greenwald, one of the parents who filed the Title IX complaint against Vazquez on Friday because they were not satisfied with the district’s initial investigation of their concerns this past spring.
In their complaint, parents said Vazquez showed students an R-rated movie, made repeated references to his personal sexual exploits, stared at girls’ breasts in class and touched students in a way that made them and observers uncomfortable.

More from Steve Elbow.

Madison Schools SAT Scores

The Madison School District announced that the 24% of eligible Madison students taking the SAT scored the highest ever and remain significantly above state and national averages:

Madison students’ composite score is 1266, up 37 points from four years ago (1229) and up 16 points from last year’s results (1250). The 1266 Madison composite is well over the state average composite of 1191, and significantly over the national average of 1028. (See tables below for details.)
The 16 point improvement is attributable to higher scores on both the verbal and math portions of the exam. The average verbal score for Madison students is 624, up from 615 the previous year. The average math score is 642, up from 635 in 2003-04.

The College Board posted national results and aggregate scores here.

More on the Elimination of No-Cut Freshman Sports

Susan Lampert-Smith:

At Memorial, Athletic Director Tim Ritchie said he hopes kids who get cut will find a team in an expanded intramural basketball league through Madison School Community Recreation.
“You hope that you have a good intramural program that keeps kids working towards making the team next year,” he said.
I worry about the kids for whom basketball or volleyball would have been their only school activity. And I’m even more worried about the kids who won’t try out because they fear not making the grade.
Those are the missing kids that Joe Frontier worries about.
Sometimes, there’s no real way to know the true cost of saving money.

Lampert-Smith mischaracterizes this decision as a “cost of saving money.” The Madison School District’s budget grows annually (including the generation of grant funds, which is to be commended), this year to $320M+. Rather, the Madison School Board’s decision to eliminate no-cut freshman sports reflects choices made, or not made, such as:

  • Ongoing reductions in Fine Arts Curriculum
  • Controversial growth in health care spending (WPS costs far more than the Group Health Care alternative)
  • Growing administrative budgets ($1.5M more this year than last)
  • Shifting programs to MSCR, which is funded by Fund 80. Fund 80 is a growing, controversial source of local property tax revenue that is not constrained by state spending caps.

Loehrke’s recent speech to the Florence schools provides a roadmap for such decision making: putting students first.

What can you do? Send your thoughts on these matters to the Madison School Board: and ask 2006 Madison School Board Candidates about these issues. Two seats are up for election in April, 2006; those currently held by Bill Keys and Juan Jose Lopez.

Herbert: Left Behind, Way Behind

Bob Herbert:

First the bad news: Only about two-thirds of American teenagers (and just half of all black, Latino and Native American teens) graduate with a regular diploma four years after they enter high school.
Now the worse news: Of those who graduate, only about half read well enough to succeed in college.
Don’t even bother to ask how many are proficient enough in math and science to handle college-level work. It’s not pretty.
Of all the factors combining to shape the future of the U.S., this is one of the most important. Millions of American kids are not even making it through high school in an era in which a four-year college degree is becoming a prerequisite for achieving (or maintaining) a middle-class lifestyle.

The complete report can be found here (PDF). Campaign for America’s Future Website.

Korean Summer School

Norimitsu Onishi writes from Seoul:

JUST as she did during the school year, Jeong Hye Jin, 15, spent the long, sweltering summer commuting to her high school by day and to private classes in the evening.

Summer school was mandatory, not for students who had fallen behind, but for those who, as she put it, “have a chance of getting into good universities.” Not attending was never an option for Hye Jin, who is ranked 17th out of 430 students in the 10th grade at Young Hoon High School, in a working-class neighborhood here in the capital.

Michigan Takes a Step Toward Small High Schools (400 Students)

Nolan Finley writing from Detroit:

The hope is that this first, small school will turn into a statewide system of high schools linked to businesses and hell-bent on preparing Michigan kids for the best colleges, the best jobs, the best futures.
“We know from research that small high schools are making a big difference in the lives of young people across the country,” says Granholm, who approached Apple about coming to Detroit during a visit to Silicon Valley several months ago. “When a global corporation like Apple makes a commitment of this magnitude to education in Michigan, it underscores how critical it is that we prepare all of our children for the 21st-century economy.”
Michigan certainly isn’t doing that today. You’ve read these statistics before, but they are so bleak, so disturbing, that they bear repeating at every opportunity, lest parents forget how greatly their children are being cheated:

I think Madison should also explore smaller high schools (including smaller facilities).

School News Roundup

  • Fuel Costs Pinch School District Budgets
  • Nick Anderson on Prince George’s County School System overpaid employees by more than $1m last year:

    The overpayments, mentioned briefly by the school system’s outside auditor in a report made public in July, were documented in greater detail in an internal audit dated June 30. The Post obtained the internal audit through a public-records request.

    Some employees were allowed to rack up “negative leave balances,” meaning they were paid for time off beyond what they were owed.

    Some employees who had retired and then returned to active service under a special state program had salaries larger than allowed under law.

  • Local Legislator Takes on Bullying in Schools (Via WisPolitics)
  • NPR News:Kids have easy access to junk food.

Isthmus: Is the Madison School District’s Leadership too White?

Click on the image to view the article.
Jason Shephard starts Isthmus’s excellent biweekly Talking Out of School Column with a look at the Madison School District’s minority hiring policies.

“I don’t think we’re doing enough to put people of color into influential positions,” says [Board Member Juan Jose] Lopez, who halted a routine approval of new hires at a board meeting earlier this month to criticize the district’s minority hiring record.

School Board Member Ruth Robarts says [Superintendent] Rainwater’s minority administrator hiring rate of more than 40% this year is to be commended.

According to a note next to this article, Talking out of School will be available on Isthmus’s website. We’ll link to those, of course.

Reading First Under Fire


By January of 2003, Kentucky reading officials were frustrated. They had just been denied federal Reading First funds for the third time, and state leaders worried that they might lose the opportunity to bring in an unprecedented $90 million for reading instruction in grades K-3 over six years. Like most states strapped by budget cuts, they could not afford to lose that money.
Months before, consultants to the federal program strongly suggested to state officials that Kentucky’s choice of assessment was a major sticking point in their pursuit of the grant. According to the officials, consultants pushed them to drop the assessment they were using, Pearson’s Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), and choose the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), which was quickly becoming the most widely used test under Reading First. But there was a problem: One of the consultants on the four-member team had a second job — as a trainer for DIBELS.

Eduwonk has more.

Jefferson Middle School Teacher Accused of Sexual Harassment

Sandy Cullen:

Twenty-eight parents have filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Madison School District against a Jefferson Middle School teacher they claim created a hostile learning environment for their children last year.
Roger Greenwald, a member of the Committee of Concerned Parents of Jefferson Middle School, said the Title IX complaint was filed Friday because parents were unhappy with the district’s initial response to their concerns about Spanish teacher Hector Vasquez, who came to Jefferson last year from Sennett Middle School.

Texas School Launches Virtual Cafeteria

Jamie Stengle:

A suburban Dallas school district launched the “Virtual Cafeteria” site to show what’s being served each day at each school. It can tally nutritional information for items on a lunch tray, including calories, fat grams, carbs, protein, vitamin A and vitamin C.
For instance, a meal of a chef salad, a slice of pizza, a cookie and milk will cost $4.75 and runs about 746 calories.
“We are really making a valiant effort to put nutritional information in the hands of our customers, be it parents, a grandmother, a teacher or the student themselves,” said Rachelle Fowler, student nutrition director for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district.

TOTN: Tips for First Time Teachers

Talk of the Nation:

Thousands of rookie teachers across the country nervously contemplate study plans and wonder if they can live up to the expectations of students, parents, the principal and themselves. Classroom veterans offer advice to the new teachers. Guests:
Jennifer Westra, first-time teacher at Liliam Lujan Hickey Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nev.
Rafe Esquith, author of There Are No Shortcuts and longtime fifth-grade teacher in Los Angeles
David Espinosa, New York City teaching fellow


DPI Open Enrollment Hearing

Wisconsin DPI (PDF):

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will conduct a hearing Aug. 29 at the agency headquarters in Madison to take public testimony on a change in administrative rules affecting the open enrollment program. The hearing will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. in Room 041 of the GEF 3 Building, 125 South Webster Street, Madison.


Jane Brody: Preparing for the School Year

Jane Brody:

Dr. Ari Brown – pediatrician in Austin, Tex., spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of “Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year” – cautions that in haste to get children the clothes and supplies they need for school, health issues are sometimes overlooked.
She and other experts offer the following advice:
BACKPACKS Many children have no lockers in school and are forced to carry all their books back and forth to school and between classes. An overweight pack can cause muscle strains and overuse injuries and distort the child’s posture.
A loaded backpack should not weigh more than one-fifth of a child’s weight. The pack’s shoulder straps should be wide and padded on the back as well. The pack should always be carried using both straps. “Now and then, a parent should check what’s in the pack and determine if everything has to be carried daily,” Dr. Brown suggested.

Reader Questions

Several Madison School District parents emailed the following questions recently:

  • “I was just trying to find information on teachers in the Madison School System. Is there a site that you know of that gives information on the teachers (bio, cv, anything)?” This seems like a good idea. Perhaps each school’s website could include a teacher page?
  • “[There’s been some discussion] that multi-age classrooms are not the best learning environment for all kids. Does your group have any access to studies or data on multi-age classrooms? Apparently, MMSD has plans to make these the district-wide approach to elementary schools.”

Please post information you might have on these topics by clicking the comments link below. Thanks.

High School Sports: The Cruelest Cut

Eli Saslow:

He arrived 10 minutes before his fate, so Filip Olsson stood outside Severna Park High School and waited for coaches to post the cut list for the boys’ soccer team.
Olsson, a sophomore, wanted desperately to make the junior varsity, but he also wanted justification for a long list of sacrifices. His family had rearranged a trip to Sweden so he could participate in a preparatory soccer camp; he’d crawled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for two weeks of camp and tryouts and forced down Raisin Bran; he’d sweated off five pounds and pulled his hamstring.

Sort of related: Sunday’s Doonesbury on overstressing our children.

Continue reading High School Sports: The Cruelest Cut

More on Technology & Schools

Additional grist:

  • Amy Hetzner:

    Underheim argues that technology could save schools money if they used it more creatively. Instead of funding two classes of 10 students apiece with both an algebra and a geometry teacher, he asks, why not combine the classes, give every student a computer with software for the specific subject they are trying to learn and keep just one math teacher available to help with special problems?

  • Matt Richtel:

    Yet in less than five years, that entire market has come undone. By 2004, sales of educational software – a category that includes programs teaching math, reading and other subjects as well as reference works like encyclopedias – had plummeted to $152 million, according to the NPD Group, a market research concern.
    “Nobody would have thought those were the golden days,” Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, said of the late 1990’s. “Now we’re looking back and we’re saying, ‘Wow, what happened?'”

  • Troy Dassler, Larry Winkler, Tim Schell and Ed Kowieski posted a number of useful comments and links regarding Technology & Schools.

UPDATE: Hetzner posts the 3rd and last part of her series on Technology & Schools here:

University Lake School in Delafield has enough wireless laptop computers for every student and teacher in grades six through 12 — a 5-year-old venture that is part of an experiment known in education circles as one-to-one, or ubiquitous, computing.

Slashdot discussion.

Why Does College Cost so Much

Richard Vedder:

As college students begin a new academic year, many parents are reeling from tuition fees. This fall’s probable average 8% increase at public universities, added onto double-digit hikes in the two previous years, means tuition at a typical state university is up 36% over 2002 — at a time when consumer prices in general rose less than 9%. In inflation-adjusted terms, tuition today is roughly triple what it was when parents of today’s college students attended school in the ’70s. Tuition charges are rising faster than family incomes, an unsustainable trend in the long run. This holds true even when scholarships and financial aid are considered. One consequence of rising costs is that college enrollments are no longer increasing as much as before. Price-sensitive groups like low-income students and minorities are missing out. A smaller proportion of Hispanics between 18 and 24 attend college today than in 1976. The U.S. is beginning to fall below some other industrial nations in population-adjusted college attendance.

Technology and Schools

Amy Hetzner:

“We don’t have a lot of proof that this works,” said Neah Lohr, the former director of the informational media and technology team for the state Department of Public Instruction. “Certainly students like the technology. That’s not the question.”
Research results are mixed. But most studies conclude that for computers and other technology to have much effect on student performance, a number of conditions are necessary: Teachers have to be technologically adept; classroom assignments have to allow for exploration; and curricula have to abandon breadth for depth.
Although schools have made changes in some of those areas, particularly increasing teachers’ technical proficiency, the predominant uses of computers remain word processing, heavily filtered Internet searches and the occasional PowerPoint presentation. In addition, with pressure rising to improve test scores, more schools have embraced skill-drilling software that contributes little to long-term student learning, observers say.

My view is that technology is simply another tool that may be part of a successful learning process. Critical thinking, rigor and general inquisitiveness are far more important than learning Word 2003 (which will be obsolete by the time our students reach the workforce). Successful technologists are capable of learning and using any tool. I was reminded of our priorities yesterday while visiting Sun Prairie’s CornFest: a teen could not make change (1.50 change was given for a 2.50 purchase from a $5.00 bill). More posts on this subject.

More on the Evils of PowerPoint in Schools

Amy Hetzner:

Teachers say creating a PowerPoint presentation captivates students and gives them background using a technological tool common in business.
Critics say PowerPoint requires students to do little more than assemble outlines and is a poor replacement for age-old standards such as essays.
Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University, has been one of the most vocal opponents, such as in an opinion piece called “PowerPoint is Evil” carried in the September 2003 edition of Wired.
“Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials,” Tufte wrote.
With 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art for each PowerPoint slide, with only three to six slides per presentation, that amounts to only 80 words for a week’s work. “Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something,” he wrote.

More on Powerpoint and schools here.

Florence School District Presentation: Is it Possible to Have a Good School District with Less Money?

Steve Loehrke:

Word for word, these are my original goals:

  • 1. Keep our school in our community. Make the school a focal point in our community. Create opportunities for community involvement in our school. Maintain and increase school pride.
  • 2. Balance the budget. Keep looking for costs savings that do not negatively affect the education of our students. Continue plans to balance the budget after the referendum money ends.
  • 3. Provide the best education possible within the budget. Educate the most students possible for the dollars allocated by the revenue cap.
  • 4. Improve test scores. Results must improve in every area tested. Hold the administration and teachers accountable for the test scores. Find ways to obtain test scores that make our students, parents, teachers, administrators, and members of our community proud.
  • 5. Improve teachers. Reward the good teachers. Retrain, eliminate, or replace any ineffective teachers. Increase morale. Require accountability.
  • 6. Improve administration. Reward the good administrators. Retrain, eliminate, or replace any ineffective administrators. Review and recommend updates to school procedures. Require accountability.
  • 7. Improve the school board. Seek responsible board members. Hold the school board accountable for reaching the goals of the board.
  • 8. Work with the parents of home-schooled and parochial school students to see if our school can find ways to help the students achieve a well-rounded education.
  • 9. Listen & Learn. Listen to the concerned members of our community, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and staff. Implement the constructive suggestions of the Steering Committee and Action Teams for Long Range Planning that relate to board goals.
  • 10. Pay attention to details. Review and update board policies and school procedures. Update union contracts. Require a day’s work for a day’s pay. Monitor expenses. Protect the assets of the school district.

(Print Friendly PDF version – 280K).
More on the Florence School District. Loehrke is President of the Weyauwega Fremont School District. [Map]
Loehrke referenced some results, such as:

  • Raised the wages of our teachers, administrators, and every employee in the district.
  • As of June 30, 2004, our fund balance (sometimes called Reserve Account) was $3,042,726
  • Our mill rate was reduced from the highest in our area to the lowest.

Drop Out Rate Correlation to High School Enrollment


The Sun Prairie School District’s increasingly active weblog:

On August 9, 2005, a public hearing was held on the proposed high school facilities in Sun Prairie. At the hearing a question was asked regarding the high school drop-out rates for all Wisconsin public high schools. Drop out rates refer to the percent of students who do not complete a high school education We have compiled information for three years for all public school districts except the Milwaukee Public Schools. The data is the latest information available from DPI. A clear pattern is evident over the three years. It is apparent that as high schools grow above 1500 students, the percentage of drop-outs doubles and triples over that of high school with enrollments between 1000-1500.

Sun Prairie is planning to construct two new, smaller higher schools rather than one very large facility.

Madison Schools ACT Scores

Madison School District:

Madison students who took the 2005 ACT college entrance exam continued to outperform their state and national peers. MMSD students’ composite score was slightly higher overall on the ACT compared to a year ago, 24.3 vs. 24.2 (scale of 1 to 36), while the average ACT score this year for Wisconsin students was 22.2 and nationally, 20.9.
Almost 74 percent of the MMSD students in the Class of 2006 took the ACT, a record number. Generally, when more students take the test, scores drop. However, the average MMSD ACT participant scored higher than roughly 72% of all Wisconsin ACT participants and higher than 78% of all ACT participants across the country.

Many Going to College Are Not Ready – ACT

Tamar Lewin:

Only about half of this year’s high school graduates have the reading skills they need to succeed in college, and even fewer are prepared for college-level science and math courses, according to a yearly report from ACT, which produces one of the nation’s leading college admissions tests.
The report, based on scores of the 2005 high school graduates who took the exam, some 1.2 million students in all, also found that fewer than one in four met the college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects tested: reading comprehension, English, math and science.

Soda Marketers To Reduce School Sales

American Beverage Association:

Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide:

  • Elementary Schools with only water and 100 percent juice.
  • Middle Schools with only nutritious and/or lower calorie beverages, such as water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks, and low-calorie juice drinks. No full-calorie soft drinks or full-calorie juice drinks with five percent or less juice until after school; and
  • High Schools with a variety of beverage choices, such as bottled water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, and juice drinks. No more than 50 percent of the vending selections will be soft drinks.

The American Beverage Association is asking beverage producers and school districts to implement the new policy as soon as possible. Where school beverage contracts already exist, the policy would be implemented when the contract expires or earlier if both parties agree. The success of the policy is dependent on voluntary implementation of it by individual beverage companies and by school officials. The policy will not supercede federal, state and local regulations already in place. ABA’s Board of Directors, which unanimously approved the policy, represents 20 companies that comprise approximately 85 percent of school vending beverage sales by bottlers.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S., and the responsibility for finding common-sense solutions is shared by everyone, including our industry. We intend to be part of the solution by increasing the availability of lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages in schools,” said Susan K. Neely, ABA president and chief executive officer.

Pepsi Statement | Coke Statement (not yet online). Betsy McKay has more (click the link below).

Continue reading Soda Marketers To Reduce School Sales

“How to Reform Your Local School Board”

Steve Loehrke:

I have been the President of the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board for the last four years. I own a small realty and appraisal company,a small computer, and Internet website development company. I recently founded a non-profit charitable corporation to help underprivileged children in Wisconsin. I serve on the school board primarily as a concerned parent of school aged children and as a taxpayer
I always tell my employees “Don’t bring me a problem without bringing me at least two possible solutions.” So I’m going to tell you what I perceive to be the problem and give you some possible solutions. Some people perceive the problem to be not enough money for education and their only solution is to dig deeper into taxpayer’s pockets. From where I sit, the problem is “How do we maintain or improve the quality of education in Wisconsin while controlling the current and future costs to taxpayers?”
Most people associated with schools in Wisconsin are worried about some type of tax freeze because they think it will limit the money available to schools. I am not. Here’s why: Historically, school districts budgeted for what they thought they would need to run their respective district and raised taxes to match. Then, around 1993, as part of the QEO law changes, the State of Wisconsin established revenue caps. So instead of a bottomless billfold, school districts suddenly had a fixed amount of taxpayer’s money placed into their billfold each year. They had to learn to spend no more than they made, just like most people with regular jobs. However, instead of learning to do with what was available, school districts did things like promote referendums to exceed the revenue cap.
Before I got on the Board, our school district tried three times until they finally received voter approval for a referendum. When I got on the Board, I was told that our district would have to plan for another referendum when the existing one ran out in order to keep our district afloat. Demographics showed that our school district would be switching from an increasing enrollment to a declining enrollment. I have observed that an increasing enrollment hides many financial problems while a declining enrollment emphasizes the problems. Our school district had been running deficits budgets and was depleting its fund balance to pay regular expanses. Our mill rate was one of the highest in the area. Our administrative overhead was one of the highest in the county. Our employees’ health insurance costs were one of the highest in our neighborhood. Our post retirement costs were the highest in our conference. Yet, everyone said they expected another referendum to sustain the bloat. No one wanted to tighten the belt.

More on Steve Loehrke.

2005 ACT Scores: Minnesota #1, WI Minority Achievement Gap Increases

Alan Borsuk (69% of Wisconsin’s Class of 2005 took the ACT):

Wisconsin kids in the Class of 2006 averaged 22.2 on a scale of 36 on the ACT, the same score for Wisconsin for the sixth straight year. But the average score in Minnesota moved up a tenth of a point to 22.3, breaking last year’s tie for the best record among 25 states where the ACT is the dominant exam.
Wisconsin officials said 10.2% of the 45,700 students in the Class of 2005 who took the ACT were from minority groups, up from 9.8% in 2004.
However, the gap between white students and some minority groups, particularly African-Americans, remained a major concern, both Ferguson and Burmaster said, and the new results presented little evidence that the gap was closing.
The composite score of black students in Wisconsin was 16.9 this year, compared with 17.2 a year ago. The composite score of white students stayed the same at 22.6.
ACT officials also report results based on whether students took what is considered a “core curriculum” for getting ready for college – at least four years of English and three years of math, natural sciences and social sciences.

Wisconsin students who did that had an average score of 22.9 while those who took less than the core program averaged 20.9. Both figures were a point or better than the comparable national averages.

ACT data and results are available here.

Online Tutoring Part of Growing Web Education Tools

Mark Chediak:

When students in Leslie Chernila’s English class at the Art Institute of Washington write an essay about the work of Garrison Keillor, she has them send it off to a critic halfway across the country before turning it in. The paper soon returns, complete with comments about structure and word choice.
The service, offered by District-based Smarthinking Inc., is part of a growing educational trend that has millions of students logging on to get assistance with reading, writing and arithmetic. Once a dot-com pipe dream, online education is now maturing into a viable market. More than 2.6 million students in the United States were expected to study online through courses and tutoring last fall, up from 1.9 million in 2003, according to the Sloan Consortium, an online research group.
Burck Smith, chief executive and co-founder of Smarthinking, credits the rise in demand for online educational services to several factors, including an increase in the number of non-traditional students who don’t have a lot of time to look for on-campus resources, a more competitive educational landscape in which colleges and schools are trying harder to attract students with additional services and students’ greater familiarity with the Internet.
More than 500 institutions, including Anne Arundel Community College, Gallaudet University and the Art Institute of Washington, subscribe to Smarthinking. And the company says it has signed up 19 institutions for this fall, including District-based Southeastern University.

Continue reading Online Tutoring Part of Growing Web Education Tools

Milwaukee Public Schools Community Advisory Hearing on School Closings

Milwaukee Public Schools – PDF:

With 95,600 students enrolled in its facilities, and room for 122,000 students, MPS has too much vacant space. To save money and more prudently use MPS resources, the administration, working with consultants, developed the draft guidelines for public input. After the public has had the opportunity to provide feedback, the guidelines will be finalized and sent to the school board for final approval this fall.

7 State Students Ace the ACT (out of 251 Nationwide)

Amy Hetzner:

Werner, who is 17, was one of seven Wisconsin high school students who posted a 36 on the ACT during the 2004-’05 testing cycle, according to data released by ACT Inc. on Friday. They were among 251 students nationwide who averaged a top score on the battery of English, reading, science and math tests during that time.
In addition to Werner, Astrid Stuth of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee and Kent Rosenwald of Waukesha North High School represent the Milwaukee area. Corey Watts of Madison West High School and Dan Gerber of Onalaska High School got perfect scores, too. All of the students, except for Gerber, were juniors when they got their 36s. Gerber was a sophomore.

68% of Wisconsin students took the ACT (national average is 40). Those taking the test scored slightly higher than the national average composite score (22.2 vs. 20.9). State comparisons can be found here and here.

Colorado’s TABOR Battle

Jason DeParle:

The stricter Colorado cap does three things: it imposes firm spending caps (which grow only to reflect population and inflation), returns any excess revenues to taxpayers and allows only voters, not legislators, to override the caps.
Both sides agree that the measure reined in the budget. The growth in per capita spending fell to 31 percent in the decade after the cap from 72 percent in the decade before, according to the Independence Institute, a Colorado group that favors it.
Supporters say the cap ignited the subsequent economic boom, with low taxes luring businesses. They also say it kept the state from overspending when flush only to face painful cuts later. “Tabor saved Colorado’s fiscal fanny,” said Jon Caldara, the institute’s president……
Another major fight is under way in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pushed an antispending provision onto the fall ballot, albeit one seemingly less strict than that of Colorado.
In Maine, a veteran tax opponent, Mary Adams, is gathering signatures to put a spending cap on the ballot next year. And last year, the leader of the Wisconsin Senate, Mary Panzer, a moderate Republican, delayed convening a special session to consider a spending cap. That drew a primary challenge from a conservative rival, Glenn Grothman, who defeated her in what Mr. Norquist calls a watershed moment.

Washington Post Editorial on Teacher Training

Washington Post Editorial Page:

The results are almost unanimous: Standards are low, teacher training is poor and unless something is done right away, there will be an enormous teacher shortage, particularly in math and science, within the next decade. The Teaching Commission — a group whose board includes former IBM chief executive Louis V. Gerstner Jr. and former first lady Barbara Bush — concluded that rigid rules for teacher pay have failed to attract teachers to more difficult schools and more difficult subjects; that education schools needed higher standards; and that teacher licensing should be more rigorous. Last May the National Academy of Education issued a set of recommendations designed to deal with precisely the same problems: performance-linked teacher pay, incentives to teach in urban and poor rural schools, higher standards for teacher training, and more support for beginning teachers. The Education Trust, which has studied the extraordinarily weak content of teacher training curriculums, advocates rigorous quality standards that will make the entire teaching “market” more effective by identifying better teachers and allowing them to command higher salaries.

School Climate at an LA South Central High School

Michael Winerip:

Teachers rarely know the full story behind their students, and this is particularly so at Locke, in South Central, one of the city’s poorest and toughest areas. “So much goes on away from school,” says Ms. Levine, who loses students to homelessness, pregnancy, work, drugs and jail. She never knows which ones will make it through. Most don’t. The ninth grade at Locke four years ago had 979 students; in June, 322 graduated.

The Internet at School

Lee Rainie and Paul Hitlin (PDF version):

The internet is an important element in the overall educational experience of many teenagers. Schools are a common location where online teens access the web, although very few online teenagers rely exclusively on their school for that web access. Further, there is widespread agreement among teens and their parents that the internet can be a useful tool for school. However, 37% of teens say they believe that “too many” of their peers are using the internet to cheat. And there is some disagreement among teens and their parents about whether children must be web-literate by the time they begin school. Additionally, large numbers of teens and adults have used the web to search for information about colleges and universities.
The most recent Pew Internet Project survey finds that 87% of all youth between the ages of 12 and 17 use the internet. That translates into about 21 million people. Of those 21 million online teens, 78% (or about 16 million students) say they use the internet at school. Put another way, this means that 68% of all teenagers have used the internet at school.
This represents growth of roughly 45% over the past four years from about 11 million teens who used the internet in schools in late 2000. In the Pew Internet Project survey in late 2000, we found that 73% of those ages 12 to 17 used the internet and that 47% of those in that age cohort used the internet at school.

Triangulating Teachers

Jenny D:

The big difference between the US. and other nations is at the low end of the achievement spectrum. Our kids who score low are at the VERY bottom, well below the lowest scoring kids in other nations that we compare ourselves to (think Germany, Japan, Singapore, Denmark). Thus our average score is much lower than that of other nations. Not because our smart kids are scoring poorly, but because we have so many kids at the bottom, and our bottom is so low.
This is overlooked by education ideologists who just want to whine without solving problems. And the solutions don’t cost more money. But they demand that we rethink the way we deploy educational resources. I’m talking as a nation, not a parent. Any individual parent wants what they want for their kid. But from a public policy perspective, it is better for the nation as a whole if we raise the floor.
All the organizational stuff–class size (and btw, the rich white parents in my district are the MOST vocal about getting smaller class sizes, and many send their kids to private schools in order to get junior into a class of 18), desk arrangements, etc.–is just moving deck chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. Education is in trouble because it’s very core is rotten. We don’t know how to teach teachers.

Wade Questions Constitutionality of Doyle Budget Vetoes

Fred Wade questions Governor Doyle’s vetoes that recently provided more funds for Wisconsin Schools by moving funds and increasing state debt:

There are at least six reasons why the most important vetoes that Gov. Jim Doyle made in the 2005-07 state budget are unconstitutional.
The text, history, design and structure of the Wisconsin Constitution all make clear that legislation must be authorized and enacted by the Legislature in order to be a legitimate exercise of governmental power.
The vetoes violate this basic requirement of our fundamental law by deleting words, digits and punctuation marks from the bill that the Legislature passed in order to create new spending mandates that the Legislature did not authorize.
It is as if someone found your checkbook on the street and wrote checks on your account without your permission, except that these checks are written for amounts in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Continue reading Wade Questions Constitutionality of Doyle Budget Vetoes

Monday Madison School Board Meeting Summary

Cristina Daglas:

The debate about advertising in Madison schools continued Monday night as School Board members came a step closer to forming a subcommittee to examine the issue.
After years of stiff opposition to similar proposals, board members are being cautious. In a meeting of the Finance and Operations Committee, board member Johnny Winston Jr. said district policies currently do not allow advertising. But with tight budgets, no avenue should be overlooked, he said.

AP Audits

Doug Guthrie:

The quality of Advanced Placement programs is coming under scrutiny at a time when educators are pushing to strengthen the academic level of high school class offerings.
Come February, the college prep classes at high schools across the nation will be audited amid concerns that some schools may be offering watered-down versions of AP courses. Full descriptions of every AP course, syllabus, sample assignment and sample exam for the 2007-08 year will be reviewed.
“Administrators are under pressure to create advanced-type classes. Parents want them. Policy-makers want them. If I’m being told to teach Advance Placement, I can put AP in front of any course name,” said Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. “Of course, it’s more than simply adding the name, and that’s where the College Board is crying foul.”
The College Board, which sets AP curriculum standards and conducts nationwide exams each spring, is reviewing the courses in response to calls from colleges and universities about ensuring the rigor of AP classes, officials said.

Eduwonk has additional comments

More on Free Curriculum: Princeton Issues DRM Textbooks

Richard Forno:

Alas, the e-books are encoded in DRM which pretty much spoils the potential success of this pilot project:

  • Textbook is locked to the computer where you downloaded it from;
  • Copying and burning to CD is prohibited;
  • Printing is limited to small passages;
  • Unless otherwise stated, textbook activation expires after 5 months

  • Activated textbooks are not returnable;
  • Buyback is not possible.

We all need to become familiar with the ongoing DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) machinations all around us. Things are getting worse. Learn more about DRM via wikipedia.

Rigor & College Readiness

Keeping on topic 🙂 Dave Newbart finds that 1/3 of Illinois’ high school grads are not ready for college. Thus, 2/3 apparently are (evidently not, according to the article).

If colleges are to retain and graduate more students, the state needs to do a better job of educating them long before they set foot on campus, lawmakers and educators said Thursday.
New research presented by the Illinois Education Research Council at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Higher Education showed many Illinois high school graduates are simply not prepared to go to college.
More than one-third of Illinois graduates are not ready for college, said Jennifer Presley, director of the council, which is tracking nearly the entire class of 2002. Another 28 percent are only partially ready, she said. Yet 43 percent of the least ready students go to college, and 58 percent of minimally ready students do.

Joanne Jacobs has more.

Continue reading Rigor & College Readiness

9-13 Year Old Test Score Gains Are Largely in The South

Gail Russell Chaddock:

Much of the national progress reported for 9- and 13-year-olds was driven by gains in the South. For example, while 9-year-olds in the Northeast gained 10 points in reading achievement (the equivalent of a grade level) over the past 30 years, the South gained 24, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). While reading scores for 13-year-olds barely budged in most of the United States, the South gained 12 points, more than a grade level.
It’s vindication for a generation of Southern governors, business groups, and educators who launched the standards movement in education a decade before it was picked up by the rest of the nation.

Organizational Learning from Open Source

I cringe when I hear people in any organization discussing “our experts know the best”, or generally advocating a top down, command and control approach. Paul Graham recently wrote a wonderful article on the lessons we can learn from “Open Source”. He refers to open source software and blogging among other avocations. Graham includes three lessons from the open source and blogging worlds:

  • People work harder on stuff they like
  • The standard office environment is very unproductive
  • Bottome up often works better than top-down.

Graham is a technologist and investor.

WKOW TV on Madison Schools Overcrowding


In May, voters rejected referendums for more operating money and a new “Leopold” school. That failed budget meant significant staffing cuts. But in the case of the new school, the district admits, they had no back-up plan. Now, the board is working to address student issues, as Madison continues to grow.
“Both parents and staff are going to find things a lot more difficult… We cut custodians, we cut teaching positions, we cut services, we cut people downtown,” says school board president Carol Carstensen.
A long range planning committee has been asked to seriously evaluate boundary changes in the district.

Free the Curriculum!

Jimbo Wales:

The second thing that will be free is a complete curriculum (in all languages) from Kindergarten through the University level. There are several projects underway to make this a reality, including our own Wikibooks project, but of course this is a much bigger job than the encyclopedia, and it will take much longer.
In the long run, it will be very difficult for proprietary textbook publishers to compete with freely licensed alternatives. An open project with dozens of professors adapting and refining a textbook on a particular subject will be a very difficult thing for a proprietary publisher to compete with. The point is: there are a huge number of people who are qualified to write these books, and the tools are being created to leave them to do that.
I just wanted to add one little note to today’s post, based on an excellent philosophical question Diana Hsieh asked yesterday about my views on free knowledge. While I do, in fact, think that it is wonderful that each of the ten things I will list will be free, the point of naming the list “will be free” rather than “should be free” or “must be free” is that I am making concrete predictions rather than listing a pie in the sky list of things I wish to see.

Jimmy Wales is the founder of wikipedia

WEAC Paying for Doyle TV Ads

In a rather quick followup to Governor Doyle’s recent budget line item changes (details), WEAC is running TV ads supporting his budget changes. Colin Benedict has more:

The first thing you notice about a new ad touting Gov. Jim Doyle’s work in the budget is that it feels like a Doyle campaign ad.
But it isn’t. Its paid for by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state teachers’ union. When it paid to run the ad at WISC-TV, WEAC dropped off a 52-page document justifying every claim made in this ad.
The ad says, “After inheriting a budget mess, Gov. Jim Doyle has saved millions by cutting waste and balancing the budget.” That is true, News 3 reported. When Doyle took office, the deficit was the largest in state history — $3.2 billion. However, “cutting waste” is a very subjective term — one person’s waste is another’s lifeline.
WEAC’s definition of waste is $60 million for Milwaukee’s Marquette interchange, $35 million to study work to the zoo interchange, and $94 million in proposed rate increases for nursing homes and other health care providers. Doyle vetoed it all to find more money for schools.
The ad also credits Doyle for balancing the budget. News 3 points out he is required by law to do that. He is not allowed to run deficits like the federal government.
The ad goes on to explain the governor understands working families are being squeezed by taxes.
The ad says, “That’s why he froze property taxes, cut the gas tax, and eliminated state taxes on Social Security. All while keeping the state’s promise to fund our great schools.”
This needs clarification. The ad is giving Doyle credit for three ideas originally introduced by Republicans.

Blogs, Podcasts and Virtual Classrooms

Ethan Todras-Whitehill:

He was introduced to blogging as an educational tool by Patrick Delaney, Galileo’s librarian. Mr. Delaney also helped Mindy Chiang, a Mandarin-language teacher at Galileo, set up a blog for her Chinese-American and Chinese immigrant students to write about and post their experiences for the benefit of fifth and sixth graders from schools in Elk Grove and Santa Barbara, Calif., who were studying Chinatowns.
Ms. Chiang and Mr. Delaney were delighted to discover that the quality of the writing for the blog surpassed her students’ previous work. Moreover, when Ms. Chiang had them record audio versions of their essays in English and Mandarin using school iPod’s, the students’ accents were vastly improved.
“It’s pretty clear that they were worried about being embarrassed,” said Mr. Delaney, noting that the essays were available to the students’ families and Web surfers in China. “Having an audience compelled these kids to step it up a notch.”
Still, some educators are not completely sold on the value of interactivity. “If interactivity becomes the fundamental basis of the educational process, how do we judge merit?” asked Robbie McClintock, a learning technologies expert at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Wisconsin DPI Receives a $17M Charter School Grant

Wisconsin DPI (PDF):

The grant will support the planning, design, and implementation of charter schools in areas of the state with a large proportion of schools that have been identified for improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Additionally, it will support increased collaboration among educational partners to enhance the charter climate and support educational options through charter schools; assure quality educators and strong leadership in every charter school; increase capacity for opening charter schools that boost student achievement and comply with NCLB and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004; evaluate the effectiveness of charter schools and share those results; strengthen management and fiscal sustainability of the state’s charter schools; and increase parent, teacher, and community involvement in the development of charter schools through the dissemination of best practices that improve student achievement.

Minneapolis Public Schools Offer Virtual Classes

Sam Dillon:

Physical education is one of 27 online courses now offered by the Minneapolis Public Schools, which had none four years ago. Thousands of other districts nationwide are adding online courses, said Susan Patrick, director of educational technology at the federal Department of Education.
“We’re seeing just tremendous growth,” Ms. Patrick said, “in enrollments and in the kinds of courses offered.”
In a survey, the department estimated that there were 328,000 student enrollments in online courses offered by public schools during the 2002-3 year. Ms. Patrick said enrollments had probably doubled since then.

This is a great example of the “out of the box – non same service thinking” that is required today. Johnny’s post illustrate’s the District’s same service financial challenges:

  • Revenue caps limit spending growth (though Madison spends $13K+ per student, among the highest in Wisconsin)
  • A “same service” budget approach has reached its’ limit.
  • Choices need to be made, one of which could be growth in virtual tools.

Virtual programs may, in some cases and for some students, be far more effective. We all use virtual learning tools daily. I believe our children will increasingly do so as well.

Aptitude Aplenty

Kathy Lally:

Ohmygosh. She screamed and turned to her father, Martin Fraeman, who had picked her up at Blair in the family Toyota. I’m a finalist! A finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, the competition that might as well be a junior Nobel Prize. Abby called her mother and screamed again. The hundreds of hours she’d spent researching her astronomy project at Washington’s Carnegie Institution had given her a shot at winning one of the nation’s most coveted science awards.

Jallon Brown: Annapolis Charter School Principal

Tyler Currie:

Still, when Jallon showed up in Annapolis last August with her proposal to create KIPP Harbor Academy, she was not received with open arms. For months, the Anne Arundel County school board appeared poised to reject Annapolis’s first charter school, which would be publicly funded but independently operated. School board members worried that the charter school would drain students and resources from Annapolis’s two existing middle schools. Jallon, who lives in Hanover near Arundel Mills Mall, found herself in constant — and ultimately successful — negotiation with school board members and leaders from the county teachers union.

Commercialism & High School Sports

Robert Andrew Powell takes a rather amazing look at the EA Sports Elite 11, a “camp” for the top 12 (following the Big Ten’s math example, there are 12 high school quarterbacks in this California camp):

Cody Hawkins arrived from Boise, Idaho, wearing Converse sneakers and a rainbow-colored polo shirt he bought for $3 at Goodwill. As soon as he set foot on campus here Monday, Hawkins, along with 11 other top high school quarterbacks, was handed new gear. In an oversized black Nike duffel bag, he found pairs of Nike Shox running shoes and cleats, and a Nike football, the only brand he would be allowed to use for the next four days.
Nike is an official sponsor of the EA Sports Elite 11, which its organizers call a “campetition” for quarterbacks. Orange-flavored Cytomax is the camp’s official sports drink. Muscle Milk Carb Conscious Lean Muscle Formula is the official protein drink, available in vanilla creme, chocolate creme and banana creme flavors. For dinner, campers ate barbecued ribs, chicken breasts and dollops of garlic mashed potatoes provided by Outback Steakhouse, a camp sponsor.

Milwaukee: Middle Schoolers Perform Better in a K-8 Setting

Sarah Carr:

Suspensions are down. Test scores and attendance are up. And many people are happier.
So concludes a first-of-its-kind report in Milwaukee on how sixth- through eighth graders are faring in the school district’s rapidly growing number of kindergarten through eighth-grade (or K-8) schools.
In a relatively short period of time, K-8s have expanded to dominate the school landscape in Milwaukee and other cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Philadelphia, so the report will be heavily scrutinized here and elsewhere.
In 2000, there were only about 10 K-8 schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools district; this fall there will be 61 K-8 schools, including those that are transitioning to become K-8s. Meanwhile enrollment in traditional middle schools is expected to plummet by 16% in one year alone, from about 13,200 students last fall to about 11,050 this fall.

Teacher Merit Pay

Joanne Jacobs has an interesting set of links and comments on teacher merit pay:

Teacher Quality Bulletin’s merit pay round-up includes a story on a privately funded plan at an elementary school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Each teacher got a bonus based on the percentage increase in her students’ test scores.

For each pupil who made up to a 4 percent gain on the May test when compared with the pre-test last August, the teacher was entitled to $100. For each pupil who made a gain of between 5 percent and 9 percent, the bonus was $200. If the pupil’s gain was between 10 percent and 14 percent, the bonus was $300 and if the gain exceeded 15 percent, the bonus was $400.

Bonuses ranged from $1,800 to $8,600, and cost $65,000. The entire cost was $145,000 including testing costs and bonuses — based on the overall 17 percent gain of students schoolwide — to 25 other employees, including math and literacy coaches, the media specialist and maintenance and cafeteria workers.

In Florida, some districts give merit pay to many teachers; others have plans that make it impossible to qualify. The union wants it that way.

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association was bitterly opposed to performance pay and helped set the eligibility bar so high that union chief Jade Moore said it would “make it nearly impossible” for any teachers to earn them.

Hillsborough is more flexible and leaves much of the bonus-granting power in the hands of principals.

Meanwhile Florida is having trouble with teacher certification scams (pdf). One 24-year-old claimed to have earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate within three months.

State Debt Rises Along with School Funds

Karen Lincoln Michel:

Wisconsin schools got the budget increases they wanted, but the money comes at a cost of $195 million in debt interest over the next 20 years, according to figures by the governor’s budget office.
In the state budget signed Monday, Gov. Jim Doyle through his partial veto power transferred $159 million from the transportation budget to the general fund to help pay for the $861 million increase in K-12 funding.
To recapture some of the costs while maintaining all current road projects slated for the 2005-07 budget, Doyle created $213.1 million in bonding to fund the Marquette Interchange project in Milwaukee — resulting in $158 million in debt interest over the next 20 years. In addition, Doyle authorized $52 million in bonding for major road projects, resulting in $37 million in debt interest over the same period.

Teaching Children CyberSecurity and Ethics

Cyber Security Industry Alliance [PDF]:

Just as we teach our children “right from wrong” in the physical world, we must ensure that the same lessons are taught in the cyber world as well.

What is missing here is a focused and organized national effort to teach children cyber security, cyber ethics, and cyber safety with national security in mind. These elements of cyber awareness are vital because pervasive use of the Internet also poses risks that may harm the emotional and personal safety of children. The technology, unfortunately, enables devious and unethical behavior toward people, organizations or information technology underpinning critical infrastructure. The cyber education our children receive does not go far beyond how to turn on the computer and use a mouse. It is incomprehensible that we are not teaching cyber security, ethics, and safety at an early age. Poor awareness by children about cyber security may cause inadvertent damage to their own PC, other electronic devices or personal information, and could ultimately threaten the fabric of our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure.

Governor Doyle’s Budget Message

Governor Doyle signed the State of Wisconsin’s next two year budget document today. He also posted an extensive pdf document that outlines the changes he made to the Legislature’s version, via his line-item veto power. Included in these changes:

Taken together, the budget I am signing today will increase state funding for schools and property tax relief by over $400 million compared with the Legislature’s budget. Schools will receive a modest 3 percent cost-of-living increase, just as they have received annually for many years under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. The additional funding I am providing through my vetoes will enable the state – rather than local taxpayers – to shoulder the burden of paying for the increased costs of education over the next two years so that property taxes can be frozen.

Follow the discussion via the Budget Blog Brief budget Message (pdf).

3.8MB Full veto message pdf

K-12 Schools & Technology

“The greatest asset of the American, so often ridiculed by Europeans, is his belief in progress,” Victor Vinde, in 1945
Mary Kay Battaglia recently wrote about the virtual non-existence of electronic communication with parents in the Madison School District. I agree with Mary Kay’s comments.
Having said that, I believe that any District technology investment should be made in the context of these three priorities:

  • Curriculum: we should strive to teach our children to be creators rather than consumers (writing and thinking rather than powerpoint).
  • High Expectations: Our children must have the skills (arts, languages, math, science, history) to compete in tomorrow’s world. Retiring Milwaukee High School Principal Will Jude refers to the Tyranny of Low Expectations:

    Graduation comes, “but it’s at the expense of content.” The student goes to college and finds other kids are way ahead. Jude’s response: “You were doing the A section of the book while they were doing the B and C sections. You covered a lot of material but it was very shallow. They covered a lot of material but it was in depth.” . Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron (1961) provides further useful reading.

  • Inquisitiveness: Our students interest in and ability to ask questions, in other words, their willingness to question things that they read, observe and hear (Jay Rosen shows how important this is to our democracy).

Today’s communication tools provide our students and community with an unprecedented ability to converse, debate and learn. Our K-12 students, like their parents and those who teach them should be comfortable conversing in written form, email, cellphones, voicemail, weblogs and html.

The Madison School District, as Troy Dasler pointed out, will soon start to implement a new internet based Student Information System.

Continue reading K-12 Schools & Technology

Wisconsin K-12 State Budget Update

Governor Doyle continues to dribble out his line item state budget changes (a classic way to keep a politician’s name in the news each day). Details here on the “property tax freeze” which is not really a freeze. Rather Doyle’s line item vetoes cap the rate of increase in property taxes to 2% or the net change in new construction, whichever is greater (I’m not sure this is the best approach from a land use perspective):