Category Archives: Uncategorized

Harvard, Cisco, BBN bring high-speed Internet to Cambridge Rindge and Latin

Cambridge Chronicle

Harvard University recently announced a new partnership with Boston and Cambridge designed to bring the world to students faster and clearer than ever.
Harvard will share its access to the super high-speed Internet2 Network connection with Boston and Cambridge schools, granting all 148 public schools in the two cities use of the most advanced networking consortium in the world.
In addition, Cisco is contributing Cisco TelePresence equipment to the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School enabling the students and teachers to connect with people around the globe. This interactive collaboration tool will reportedly put them at the forefront of teaching and learning. Raytheon BBN Technologies, an advanced networking research company, has donated the networking equipment that provides connectivity to Cambridge.
“Technology is exciting but it isn’t a goal in and of itself,” said Cambridge Superintendent Jeffrey Young. “Making it easier for students and teachers to access and participate in the world of ideas as players not just observers is what matters. These resources can break down the walls of the classroom and extend teaching and learning to every corner
of the globe.”

Merging Career Tech & College Prep

In this series, Schools That Work, Edutopia takes a deep look at what school successes are made of. How principals and teachers, parents and students, and schools and school districts collaborate to change the futures of their young people.
We share with you the blueprints that the change makers used — the contracts, lesson plans, and teacher-training tools that could be relevant to your school and your path to change.
Then we do one more thing: We put you together with the change makers themselves. You will meet the teachers and administrators of Schools that Work in our groups and discussions. You will hear about the hurdles they overcame. You will discover how reform comes to life, and how it succeeds.

Four Steps to Promote Savings in School (town) Spending

Dr. Armand A Fusco, via email

There is one harsh and undeniable fact that must be accepted with school (and town) spending: There is no strong incentive to save dollars. Unlike schools, the business world’s incentive to save is driven by the “bottom line.” Unfortunately, there is no “bottom line” in school operations because, with rare exception, there is always more money provided every year regardless of productivity or results. Yet, even though the business world has a strong incentive, the American Productivity and Quality Center, estimates that there is still 20%-30% waste in time and money.
Waste is defined as “Anything that adds cost without adding value.” This, of course, is assessed more easily in business organizations; however, it is rarely a consideration in schools. For example, in job descriptions it would be unusual to find any mention that an employee is responsible for controlling and cutting costs; in addition, it is not part of any evaluation process or even as a policy statement. An exception was found in Ann Arbor, MI, and if all superintendents’ job descriptions followed this example, it would have a powerful and meaningful impact on fiscal accountability.
Step One: Job Description
The Superintendent (1) shall diligently identify opportunities to reduce costs and improve operating efficiency in all areas of district operations (2) is charged with the responsibility of seeking ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency while maintaining the organization’s mission and performance (3) will provide guidelines to support constant and continual improvement in the organization (4) will ensure that promoting savings will be a part of every employees’ and department’s yearly evaluation (5) shall regularly inform new and current employees that finding more efficient and economical ways to accomplish the district’s educational mission and that it is an implied component of every job description (6) may call on any employee to assist in a formal investigation to identify more efficient operations and/or cost-reduction opportunities (7) will establish a program through which employees may make suggestions relating to more efficient operations and/or cost-reduction opportunities, and be recognized for such efforts (8) will ensure that department heads shall continually monitor their areas to identify any potential cost reduction and/or efficiency improvement and will report quarterly on specific efforts made to promote savings through controlling or cutting costs, as well as, the process or procedure that was used to determine the savings calculation and (9) shall present such findings to the Board and community on a quarterly basis.
Step Two: Policy Adoption
However, the job description and evaluation process is not enough. The BOE must adopt a policy that will clearly establish a culture of fiscal accountability. The following example is edited from Greenwich, CT:
1. The District shall not engage in the mismanagement of financial, physical and human resources and Shall not fail to act as a good fiduciary for all taxpayer assets.
2. Taxpayer assets, including but not limited to, all facilities, equipment, materials, tax dollars, and all other sources of funds may not be inadequately maintained, unnecessarily risked, wasted, or allowed to deteriorate
3. The District shall not fail to maintain procedures and systems to control management of resources, including, at a minimum, accounting; budgeting; data management; purchasing; ordering goods and services; inventories of equipment and supplies, and record retention.
Step Three: A Pledge
All officials, upon election or appointment, shall pledge verbally and in writing the following:
“It is my sworn duty and obligation to manage all physical, human, and financial resources in the most effective, efficient, economical and ethical manner. Furthermore, I will support the establishment of a Citizen’s Performance and Review Audit Committee (CPRAC) to provide independent and objective oversight to ensure that the commitments made for fiscal responsibility will be followed in spirit and action. I will demonstrate my support to the CPRAC by providing all requested public documents and information at no cost and without FOI requirements.”
Step Four: The CPRAC
The committee will consist of local volunteers who will be trained in best financial and management practices and will be self governing. The author of this op-ed piece, a retired school superintendent, will provide the orientation, materials and training at no cost: Such committees have already been established in several communities.
These simple steps only require action on the part of a BOE (the town can do the same) and will have no budgetary implications.
Why would any official refuse to implement such a simple process?
Dr. Armand A. Fusco, 1563 Durham Rd, Guilford, CT
Name Dr. Armand A. fusco
Telephone 203-453-1301
Submit Submit

Ed school professors resist teaching practical skills

Jay Matthews

Amid the chatter about the Obama administration’s Race to the Top funds, NBC’s Education Nation programs and the release of the film “Waiting For ‘Superman'” (warning: I am in it), I am not hearing much about how education schools fit into this new ‘saving our schools’ ferment. A new survey of education school professors reveals traditional teacher training institutes are trying, sort of, to adjust, but still resist giving top priority to the hottest topic among young teachers, learning how to manage the kids.
When researchers Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett asked 716 randomly selected teacher educators at four-year colleges and universities about major challenges for new teachers these days, they did not seem that excited about them.
Only 24 percent said it was “absolutely essential” to produce “teachers who understand how to work with the state’s standards, tests and accountability systems.”
Only 37 percent gave the highest priority to developing “teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom.” Only 39 percent said the same about creating “teachers who are trained to address the challenges of high-needs students in urban districts.”

Not so shallow after all …

Harry Eyres

The cohort of young people just going to university, which includes many of my friends’ children and my eldest nephew, is, as usual, the target of accusations of degeneracy and warnings about dumbing-down.
In the past, such jeremiads generally concentrated on the moral aspect of things: in one of his rare moments of intemperance, the Roman poet Horace berated the young women of Rome for learning Greek dances (the provocative young minxes), the inevitable prelude to a later career of adultery. He was writing at a time when the Emperor Augustus had instigated one of those doomed back-to-basics campaigns promoting a return to “traditional values”, only to find that his own daughter had been involved in a string of adulterous affairs.
When it comes to the current generation, the accusations centre less on moral looseness and more on an inability to concentrate, brought about by an addiction to computer games and the internet. The direst of the warnings has been issued by Nicholas Carr in The Shallows, buttressed by research carried out by Gary Small, director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr Small argues that the very structure of people’s brains has been changed by new media – to the extent, as Carr puts it, that “our ability to learn suffers and our understanding remains shallow”.

The class ceiling

Adam Haslett

Thirty years ago, at another moment of recession and national malaise in the United States, Lisa Birnbach, then 23, edited and co-wrote The Official Preppy Handbook, a guide on how to dress and behave like old money, ie those who went to prep schools (the US term for public schools), and then on to Ivy League colleges.
The hangover of the 1970s was coming to an end, Ronald Reagan was about to enter the White House, and small “c” conservatism of the sexually restrained, personal comportment variety was about to enjoy a resurgence every bit as strong as Milton Friedman. Lacoste was back, the collars were turned up and, after 20 years in the fashion wilderness, the establishment had found its groove again. It was hip to be square, or at least to dress that way. Birnbach’s book spent 38 weeks at the top of The New York Times bestseller list in 1980, helping to launch a remarkably enduring trend in US culture: the commodity fetishisation of that etiolated species, the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Wasp).
For most of the nation’s history, male Wasps more or less ran the place, occupying virtually every position of political and financial power in the US. This is no longer the case. There could be no clearer signal of this than the composition of the Supreme Court, the institution traditionally requiring the greatest educational pedigree. It is made up of three Jews and six Catholics, and is one third female. There is a Latina and an African-American but not a single Protestant.
Strangely enough, it was just around the time when this class hegemony began to fade for good in the late 1970s and early 1980s that people became so enamoured of the clothing worn by Wasps, particularly when on summer holiday. From Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to the revival of Abercrombie & Fitch, the fading old Wasp clothier, via Bruce Weber’s photographs of shirtless young Aryans playing touch football on vast and perfect lawns, mainstream US fashion has for years now been peddling the fantasy of life as an endless Nantucket house party.

Teachers Unions Still Powerful Election Force

Sarah Longwell

Between the success of President Obama’s education reform initiative Race to the Top and the adulation being poured on the pro-education reform documentary Waiting for “Superman” – including appearances on “Oprah” and “Good Morning America,” as well as fawning articles in magazines and newspapers across the country – one would be forgiven for thinking that teachers unions have lost their political clout.
Anyone harboring such suspicions is in for a rude awakening.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) reminded us just how much power teachers unions still have by pouring more than a million dollars into the Washington, D.C., mayoral campaign. Spent on organizing efforts and advertising campaigns, this money was crucial in turning the race around for a candidate who is far friendlier to the teachers unions, far more antagonistic to school chancellor and darling of the reform set Michelle Rhee, and far less likely to pursue reforms than his predecessor.
Quashing this Rhee-volution is just the first item on the agenda for the teachers unions.
You can expect to see more of the same in Chicago’s mayoral primary in 2011, where Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, has said that she was ready “to throw the weight of 30,000 members and their families and students and teachers [into the Democratic primary]. I mean, we’re looking at 800,000 people we could affect on some level.” Lewis has worked hard to stymie the reforms implemented by outgoing Mayor Daley; she’s gearing up for a fight to elect someone more amenable to protecting poor teachers at the expense of their students.

The Changing Landscape of Teaching

Tom Vander Ark

Now that anyone can learn anything and learning professionals can work anywhere, a learning ecosystem is being created around the formal public delivery system–sometimes supporting, sometimes competing, sometimes infiltrating.
Online learning is full and part time option for millions of students. Massive foundation and government programs are pushing data driven-instruction and teacher evaluation. The combination of direct intervention and the surrounding web of opportunity means a slow decline in traditional education employment and strong growth in non-traditional roles.
As schools adopt formats that blend online and onsite learning, there will be an increase of tiered staffing models with well paid master teachers in school leadership roles, new teachers in training, paraprofessionals and volunteers. Teachers with proven abilities will have the opportunity to influence the outcomes of several hundred students.
Teachers delivering all or most of their instruction online will grow from about 25,000 to more than 10 percent of the total by the end of the decade with higher penetration in high school, particularly Advanced Placement, science, math, and speech therapy. Most teachers will work in schools that use online and computer based instruction.
During the last decade, funded by new money foundations, we’ve seen an explosion of school developers, managed school networks, technical assistance providers, and advocacy organizations. Teach for America helped to make education cool as a career. A long recession and federal stimulus made it as it an easier choice. Many TFA alum become edupreneurs.

Virginia High school graduation, dropout rates for 2010

Virginia Pilot

The Virginia Department of Education publishes annual reports that detail outcomes for students who entered the ninth grade for the first time together (“cohorts”) and were scheduled to graduate four years later (“on time”). Percentages account for students who transfer, are held back or are promoted.
All public high schools for the seven major Hampton Roads cities are listed here. Choose a school and click “Search” for details on that school.

Schools’ problem is government: Schools No Longer Focus on Teaching & Learning

Deborah Simmons

President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee jump-started the week on national television by discussing public education. They all pushed for more reform, but none of them went on the offensive and mentioned what surely is a huge stumbling block to effective teaching and learning in public schools: federal government interference.
The broadening of federal education policy has tied our local public systems in knots. Local and state school authorities cannot make a single policy move without first making sure they are adhering to laws and regulations established by Washington bureaucrats.
That fact lies at the very heart of several questions posed by a reader of my column from last Friday.
“Do you think that the school system attempts to take on so much responsibility — in addition to education — that the outcome does not change?” the reader asked in an e-mail.
Ding, ding, ding. Our public school “systems” no longer focus on teaching and learning.

School Reform Rainmakers

The Wall Street Journal

It was a banner September for education philanthropy. Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show to announce his $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey, public schools. And this Wednesday the Charter School Growth Fund launched a new $160 million fund that will finance the expansion of high-performing charter networks across the U.S.
Since 1970, average per-pupil expenditures after inflation have more than doubled, yet test scores have remained flat. Today the Newark public school system spends some $22,000 per student, or more than twice the U.S. average, and the high school graduation rate is only 50%. Adding private money to this system would be a dreadful waste. So what excites us about these new donations is not the money per se but the reform agenda to which the dollars are tethered.
Mr. Zuckerberg is entrusting his donation to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a strong advocate of vouchers and school choice, as is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The Newark teachers contract expired over the summer, and Mr. Booker has spoken favorably of the recently negotiated teacher contract in Washington, D.C., where schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee used private donations as leverage to enact reforms that tie teacher pay to student progress.

Milwaukee’s New Teacher Union Contract

Becky Vevea & Erin Richards:

A pay freeze, which retroactively applies to the 2009-’10 school year when teachers were working under the old contract, saves the district from roughly $13.5 million in raises it likely would have paid if the previous contract were renewed. Teachers will be in line for a 3% raise for this school year and 2.5% for 2011-’12. Another 3% raise is set for the 2012-’13 school year. The freeze does not apply to those teachers who were eligible for a step increase, which gives teachers with a certain amount of experience an automatic jump to a higher salary level, union officials said. The average salary of an MPS teacher is $56,000 per year, slightly lower than in districts in outlying areas.
“We didn’t get where we wanted to get, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Superintendent Greg Thornton said, adding that the agreement is still “monumental.”
The contract is the first four-year contract negotiated between the district and MTEA. The previous contract expired July 1, 2009, and teachers had been working under the terms of the expired contract since that time.
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has recommended that its members not enter into contracts that last for more than two years because of the fiscal uncertainty with the state budget. But Thornton said the longer contract will allow both parties more time to work on reforms in the district.
Contract negotiations stalled repeatedly under the previous administration of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, with the major sticking point being revisions to the teachers’ health care benefits.
Under the old contract, MPS offered two health care plans – an HMO plan that costs $16,440 a year for a family, offered by United Health Care, and a PPO plan through Aetna that allows a broader range of choices in doctors and costs $23,820 a year for a family.
In May, the district said that unless various unions agreed to take a lower cost health care plan, it would move forward with layoffs. The district laid off more than 400 teachers in June, though about half of them have since been recalled.
The new agreement maintains the choice of PPO and HMO plans, but both will be provided by United Health Care and will have lower premiums than the Aetna plan did. Under both options, teachers will for the first time contribute a portion of their salary – 1% for single coverage, 2% for family coverage – to their health care package starting in August 2011. The specific costs of the two options are unknown.

GM’s Reuss: We’ll help boost Detroit education

Brent Snavely

General Motors is working with the United Way to explore how best the automaker can contribute to improving K-12 education in Detroit, Mark Reuss, president of North America said today.
In a passionate speech, Reuss said education in Detroit is in a state of emergency.
“We are exploring an idea to take five Detroit schools and essentially divide each school into four academies to train our children to have marketable skills in the city off Detroit,” Reuss during a speech during the 11th Annual Rainbow Push Global Automotive Summit in Detroit.
Reuss said General Motors is working with Detroit Public Schools, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, charter schools and several other organizations.

In Study, Children Cite Appeal of Digital Reading

Julie Bosman

Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books.
These are a few of the findings in a study being released on Wednesday by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the “Hunger Games” trilogy.
The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 children ages 6 to 17, and their parents, in the spring.

Career politician, outsider vie to lead California schools

Two candidates hope to become California’s next superintendent of public instruction, a position that requires the patience to answer a frequent question from constituents: “So, what exactly do you do?”
The short answer is that the state’s top education official runs California’s 9,500 schools, which educate 6.3 million students.
The long answer is more complicated. The superintendent is a bureaucrat, a politician, an administrator and, in worst-case scenarios, the one who takes over bankrupt school districts.
He is a University of California regent and a California State University trustee, and he controls community college cash.

Charter, Shmarter

New Jersey Left Behind

Lady Liberty Academy Charter School in Newark, a K-8 school with 456 kids (273 are on the waiting list), is the subject of a 4-page story in New Jersey Newsroom today that highlights its dysfunction, poor governance, and the unfair firing of a kindergarten teacher. Only two seats are filled on the 9-member Board of Education (there were four, but two members resigned after the teacher was fired), staffers compare elaborate preparations for DOE visits as “a Potemkin village,” and one of the principal’s criticisms of the fired teacher was that she dresses “‘too professionally,’ complaining that ‘you teachers love those long skirts.'”
How do the kids do? According to 2008-2009 DOE data, 62.5% of 3d graders failed the language arts portion of the NJ ASK 3 and 52.1% failed the math portion. Among 8th graders, 43.1% failed the language arts portion of the ASK 8 and 56.9% failed the math portion. Pretty shabby.
Is this the story of a much-ballyhooed charter school that masks lack of accountability, lack of due process for teachers, and inept management in spite of frequent monitoring by the State DOE, a perfect emblem for charter school foes? Seems likely.

Education in Vietnam Low grades for the party The Communist Party’s grip is holding back the country’s best and brightest

The Economist

WHEN Ngo Bao Chau won a Fields Medal, the mathematics version of a Nobel prize, it made headline news in his native Vietnam. The president sent a telegram of congratulations. Mr Chau is the first Vietnamese winner. But he does not ply his trade in Vietnam. Mr Chau is a professor at the University of Chicago and a naturalised citizen of France, where he completed his PhD.
Who can blame him? Vietnam’s university system is “archaic”, says Hoang Tuy, another mathematician. Teaching methods are outdated, universities are stuffed with cronies and smothered by Communist orthodoxy. Censorship and interference are pervasive.
For an emerging economy trying to build a technology sector, this is both discouraging and damaging. Top-notch research universities and innovative manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Vietnamese universities do little original research, and are rarely cited by scientific scholars, says a recent UN-financed study. Graduates are poorly prepared: as many as 60% of new hires by foreign companies needed retraining, according to a Dutch report.

Run to the Hills!

Matthew Ladner

From Education Week:
After five years of providing critical reviews of education-related reports by nonacademic think tanks, education professors Alex Molnar and Kevin G. Welner hope to expand their own reach with a new, broader research center.
The new National Education Policy Center, based at Mr. Welner’s academic home, the University of Colorado at Boulder, will consolidate his Education and the Public Interest Center and Mr. Molnar’s Education Policy Research Unit, previously at Arizona State University. It will review existing research, conduct new research, and, for the first time for both groups, make policy recommendations.
The story goes on to print claims from these guys that they are independent from the unions, quotes Little Ramona taking pot shots at think-tanks, etc.
It’s would be easy to cry foul that the NEA is simply renting the credibility of academic institutions to produce propaganda. They gave Molnar’s outfit a quarter of million dollars a year at Arizona State. Overall, however, I don’t really have a problem with them doing so. Think-tanks always face scrutiny when releasing reports, and more scrutiny is better than less. As Rick Hess notes in the story:

Is Michelle Rhee’s Revolution Over?

Judith Warner

Around the country, supporters of education reform — or at least of the test-scores-driven, tenure-busting, results-rewarding sort of reform epitomized by organizations like Teach for America and championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — gave a collective gasp of dismay last month when voters in a number of districts handed primary defeats to candidates closely associated with just this type of reform. In New York, three state-senate candidates who ran on pro-charter-school platforms each failed to garner more than 30 percent of the vote. In Washington, voters overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of the City Council chairman, Vincent Gray, as the Democratic candidate in this year’s mayoral election. The Fenty defeat worried many people particularly because he was inextricably linked with his crusading, nationally celebrated schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.
Rhee, who was appointed by Fenty in 2007 and given unprecedented power to shake up the ailing school system, fired hundreds of teachers and dozens of bureaucrats and principals, even removing the popular head of her daughters’ elementary school in the northwest part of the district. She demanded that the city’s tenure system be replaced with one that would reward teachers for producing measurable performance gains in their students. For her efforts, she became a heroine to some — gracing the cover of Time magazine, earning the praise of the Obama administration and an invitation to appear on “Oprah” — but she also received enormous enmity from teachers, their unions and, surprisingly enough to outside observers, many public-school parents, not a few of whom were profoundly offended when, the night after the mayoral primary, Rhee appeared at the Washington premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s much-talked-about education documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” and told an assemblage of prominent Washingtonians that the election results “were devastating, devastating. Not for me, I’ll be fine . . . but devastating for the school children of Washington, D.C.”

Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause …

Winnie Hu

By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers worried that a new math program was too easy when it covered just 1 and 2 — for a whole week.
“Talk about the number 1 for 45 minutes?” said Chris Covello, who teaches 16 students ages 5 and 6. “I was like, I don’t know. But then I found you really could. Before, we had a lot of ground to cover, and now it’s more open-ended and gets kids thinking.”
The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district’s new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country’s success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.
Franklin Lakes, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.

Madison’s Proposed 4K Program Update: Is Now the Time?

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad PDF:

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) recently made a request for proposals (RFP) for early childhood care and education (ECE) centers interested in partnering with MMSD to provide four year old kindergarten (4K) programming starting in Fall 2011. In order to be considered for this partnership with the district, ECE centers must be accredited by the City of Madison or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to ensure high quality programming for MMSD students. The ECE centers can partner with MMSD to be either a 4K Model II program (in an ECE center with an MMSD teacher) or a Model III program (in an ECE center with the ECE center’s teacher). The budget for 4K will support only 2 Model II programs, which aligns with the proposals submitted. There are 2 ECE centers who applied for Model II participation and 2 that applied to be either Model II or Model III. The ECE center proposals that have been accepted in this first step of the review process for consideration for partnering with the district to provide 4K programming are explained further in the following section.
II. ECE Center Sites
The following ECE center sites met the RFP criteria:
Animal Crackers
Bernie’s Place
Big Oak Child Care
Creative Learning Preschool
Dane County Parent Council
Eagle’s Wing
Goodman Community Center
Kennedy Heights Neighborhood
KinderCare-Old Sauk
LaPetite-North Gammon
Meeting House Nursery
Middleton Preschool
Monona Grove Nursery
New Morning Nursery
Orchard Ridge Nursery
Preschool of the Arts
The Learning Gardens
University Avenue Discovery Center
University Houses Preschool
University Preschool-Linden
University Preschool-Mineral Point
Waisman EC Program
Of the 35 ECE center sites, 28 met the RFP criteria at this time for partnerships with MMSD for 4 K programming. Seven of the ECE center sites did not meet RFP criteria. However may qualify in the future for partnerships with MMSD. There are 26 qualified sites that would partner with MMSD to provide a Model 111 program, and two sites that will provide a Model 11 program.
At this time, the 4K committee is requesting Board of Education (BOE) approval of the 28 ECE center sites that met RFP criteria. The BOE approval will allow administration to analyze the geographical locations of the each of the ECE center sites in conjunction with the District’s currently available space. The BOE approval will also allow administration to enter into agreements with the ECE center sites at the appropriate time.
The following language is suggested in order to approve the 28 ECE center sites:
It is recommended to approve the 28 Early Childhood Care and Education centers identified above as they have met the criteria of RFP 3168 (Provision of a Four-Year- Old Kindergarten Program) and further allow the District to enter into Agreements with said Early Childhood Care and Education centers.

Much more on Madison’s proposed 4K program here.
I continue to wonder if this is the time to push forward with 4K, given the outstanding K-12 issues, such as reading and the languishing math, fine arts and equity task force reports? Spending money is easier than dealing with these issues…. I also wonder how this will affect the preschool community over the next decade?
Finally, State and Federal spending and debt problems should add a note of caution to funding commitments for such programs. Changes in redistributed state and federal tax dollars may increase annual property tax payments, set to grow over 9% this December.

Indiana paid nearly $94 million for 16,315 ‘ghost’ students in 2009

Dan Carden

Indiana taxpayers shelled out nearly $94 million to public schools last year to support “ghost” students no longer attending those schools.
State legislators learned Wednesday that, in 2009, schools got paid for 16,315 students no longer in attendance. How to change the formula to be more fair to all students was at the heart of a Statehouse committee meeting Wednesday.
“That’s just absolutely horrendous that we’re spending $94 million on students that don’t even exist,” said state Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville.
Indiana spends about $8.5 billion on elementary and secondary education each year.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett told the committee Indiana needs a systemic change in the way it funds schools. The first-term Republican said education money should follow students and each student should be allowed to use those resources at any school in the state — including private schools.

IBM High: Big Blue to Sponsor School, Mold Future Employees

Ariel Schwartz:

Want your kids to have a plum job after graduation? Send them to a New York City high school currently being planned by the City University of New York and IBM. The school, which will play host to around 600 students, will span grades 9 to 14. Its students will leave with an associate’s degree–and a guaranteed job with IBM. It’s a “a ticket to the middle class, or even beyond,” according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
WNYC reports that IBM has offered $250,000 for New York City to create the computer science-focused school, which is set to open next fall. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is throwing in $3 million. It will be the first high school in the U.S. to go through grade 14. No word on how students will be selected to attend, but we do know that they won’t be academically pre-screened.
The IBM-sponsored high school is part of the larger trend of corporate-sponsored education that has popped up over the past few years. This past spring, Microsoft graduated its first class at the School of the Future, a Philadelphia high school that trains students in a “culture of innovation.” And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a $100 million dollar donation to Newark, New Jersey’s public school system.

Madison’s Promega Corporation offered to work with the Madison School District on a Middle School (Madison Middle School 2000) during the late 1990’s.

French education: A system under attack for being too tough on pupils, not too easy

The Economist

AT THE end of every academic year, when British school-leavers get their A-level exam results, a chorus rings out about grade inflation and indulgent marking. This year, some 27% of British students who took the exam secured either an A or the new A* grade. Across the channel in France, the worries could scarcely be more different. Some educationalists fret that lycée (upper secondary-school) pupils work too hard, are graded too fiercely and are victims of a system designed to fail them.
A handful of new books are stirring this debate. In one, Richard Descoings, head of SciencesPo, an elite university in Paris, laments that French schools are “training generations of anxious youths, who worry about their future, feel treated like numbers [and] distrust one another and the system”. Last year, Mr Descoings visited 80 schools and met 7,000 pupils as part of a government review of lycées. Pupils told him, he reports, that in school they veered “between boredom and dread”.

American Schools Lax on Cheating

Jay Matthews

The Sept. 1 edition of Education Week had a provocative commentary, “All my favorite students cheat,” by high school teacher Christopher L. Doyle. He and I agree that cheating is rife, but we don’t agree on what causes that.
He thinks students are protecting themselves against widespread insecurity in a declining America. I think the larger problem is that teachers so love and trust their students that the teachers become easy marks.
America used to be tough on cheaters. Before World War II, miscreants could be suspended, expelled or caned. Schools went soft in the 1960s, and although we have little data, cheating probably increased. In a 1995 survey by “Who’s Who Among American High School Students,” 76 percent of high-schoolers with at least B averages said they had cheated at least once. In suburban, upper-middle-class, high-achieving schools, such as the place Doyle still teaches or many Washington area schools, cheating is still common.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an important attempt to get the American public behind education reform

The Economist

FOR America’s children the education system is often literally a lottery. That is the main message of a new documentary about America’s schools, “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” Made by the team that gave us “An Inconvenient Truth”, and supported with the sort of marketing budget that other documentary makers can only dream of, it is intended to create a surge in public support for education reform at least as great as the clamour to do something about climate change generated (for a while) by Al Gore’s eco-disaster flick.
The timing could hardly be better. The “jobless recovery” is finally bringing home to Americans the fact that too many of those who go through its schools are incapable of earning a decent living in an increasingly competitive global economy. The number of jobs advertised but not being filled is increasing even as the unemployment rate stays resolutely high. And despite its depressing enumeration of the failure of so many schools, particularly in poorer urban areas, its miserable ending, and the bleakness of its title, the movie also has a message of hope: there are good schools and teachers in America, whose methods could make its education system as good as any in the world if only they were allowed to.

Creepy Start-Up Or Sign Of The Times?

Nathan Vardi:

A Santa Barbara, Calif., start-up is officially launching a social media screening and monitoring service Tuesday that the nation’s 14.9 million unemployed might want to know about before their next job interview.
Social Intelligence Corp. is essentially taking the traditional background checks that are commonly used by corporate human resource departments to look for things like criminal records and moving them online to track social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, LinkedIn, and individual blogs.
“You cannot believe the things that we see. The amount of references to drugs and alcohol and the amount of provocative photos and the things that people say is jaw dropping,” says Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence Corp. “People that we see that are applying for jobs that have this kind of really incriminating information out there.”

Race Matters in Milwaukee: Segregation & Education

The Milwaukee Drum:

It has been suggested that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and there is no question that the black community continues to lag behind when it comes to all matters of education. This is especially so here in Milwaukee, where MPS reading scores lag behind those of other major urban school districts, state black reading scores are the worst in the nation, and the percent of blacks with a college education is lower here than it is in most other places. These are crisis-level facts.
This has not completely escaped the community’s notice. Everybody understands the importance of improving Milwaukee Public Schools. And while massive disagreement concerning proposed changes ultimately resulted in the prevailing of the status quo, rather than some sort of meaningful compromise or reform, at least the community showed that it was energized and willing to fight for local education.
But one thing that seems to continue to escape notice, maybe since the time that Chapter 220 was created, is the impact that segregation has on education.
Segregation and 4th Grade Reading Scores

4-year-old kindergarten could be money-loser for Madison preschools

Gayle Worland

As the director of a Madison pre-school, Sarah Dill believes all four-year-olds should have a chance for an education at that age.
But if the Madison School District launches a free pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds as anticipated next fall, it could cost Dill’s Meeting House Nursery School $50,000 a year.
That’s because the district may not pay the nonprofit pre-school — one of dozens being considered for participation in the new program — its full cost of offering the education, which is now borne by parents. To close the gap, Meeting House might have to hike tuition costs for its younger students.
“It’s a huge chunk of money,” said Dill. “Fifty-thousand may not sound like a lot to some corporations, but for us, that’s big. And we’re now going to have to sell it to our families that, ‘If you’re willing to pay a little bit more when they’re two and three, hang in there with us and when they’re four, it will be free for you.'”
It’s one of the financial tradeoffs of a public/private 4K program that has been in the works off and on for nearly a decade. There’s a good chance the district will have to ask property taxpayers to help foot the start-up costs of 4K. Parents are still unsure about how it will all work — and some preschool providers are unsure of 4K’s effect on the bottom line.

An Emphasis on Adult Employment

Andrew Coulson:

This week, President Obama called for the hiring of 10,000 new teachers to beef up math and science achievement. Meanwhile, in America, Earth, Sol-System, public school employment has grown 10 times faster than enrollment for 40 years (see chart), while achievement at the end of high school has stagnated in math and declined in science (see other chart).
Either the president is badly misinformed about our education system or he thinks that promising to hire another 10,000 teachers union members is politically advantageous-in which case he would seem to be badly misinformed about the present political climate. Or he lives in an alternate universe in which Kirk and Spock have facial hair and government monopolies are efficient. It’s hard to say.

Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%, and Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Janet Mertz:

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below. I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed. We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade. One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.

South Carolina College Tuition Summit

Josh Dawsey

College tuition in South Carolina has skyrocketed in recent years, rising to troublesome rates that place financial hardship on many South Carolina families.
In fact, tuition rates have increased by 143 percent since 1999. Compare that to income growth of 50 percent and an inflation rate of 29 percent. They’re the highest in the Southeast.
Simply put, there are problems that need solutions.
On those facts, all parties agreed during Tuesday’s higher education summit at Midlands Technical College.
But how do you fix it?
That’s the question Gov. Mark Sanford, college leaders and others in a packed auditorium debated for more than two hours. There was no shortage of opinions.
And there was certainly no shortage of tension and numbers discrepancies as leaders readily admitted they were dealing with complex issues without a foolproof solution.

Education Reform Goes Mainstream

Jay Green:

I have no idea why a bunch of ed reformers are so gloomy.  Matt has already observed how Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli can’t seem to enjoy the moment when ed reform ideas go mainstream.  Now Liam Julian is joining the poopy parade, lamenting that the new crop of naive reformers are doomed to fail just as past ones have, and “it never works out.” And continuing the gloomy theme, Rick is worrying that school choice (in the form of vouchers) over-promised and under-delivered, losing the support of people like Sol Stern.  That may be, but as a graduate student observed to me today, choice (in the form of vouchers) may have lost Sol Stern, but choice (in the form of charters) just gained Oprah, the Today Show, and the Democratic Party platform.    Overall, he thought that was a pretty good trade, especially since he had to look up who Sol Stern was.
Let’s review.  It is now commonly accepted among mainstream elites — from Oprah to Matt Lauer to Arne Duncan — that simply pouring more money into the public school system will not produce the results we want.  It is now commonly accepted that the teacher unions have been a significant barrier to school improvement by protecting ineffective teachers and opposing meaningful reforms.  It is now commonly accepted that parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve.  It is now commonly accepted that we have to address the incentives in the school system to recruit, retain, and motivate the best educators.

Congress in the Classroom

The Dirksen Center’s monthly enewsletter, via a Cindy Koeppel email:

Sketches of famous and not-so-famous Senators and Representatives
Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives
Ichord, Richard II (1926-1992), a Representative from Missouri; born in Licking, Texas County, Mo., June 27, 1926; B.S., University of Missouri, 1949; J.D., University of Missouri, 1952; United States Navy, 1944-1946; lawyer, private practice; member of the Missouri state house of representatives, 1952-1960, speaker pro tempore, 1957, speaker, 1959; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-seventh and to the nine succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1961-January 3, 1981); chair, Committee on Un-American Activities (Ninety-first Congress); chair, Committee on Internal Security, formerly Committee on Un-American Activities (Ninety-first through Ninety-third Congresses); was not a candidate for reelection to the Ninety-seventh Congress in 1980; professional advocate; died on December 25, 1992, in Nevada, Mo.; interment in Pinelawn Cemetery, Houston, Mo.

Will Anyone at NBC Ask About the 216?

Conn Carroll

There are plenty of issues the journalists at NBC could be asking about but aren’t: the silent push toward national standards, the assault on for-profit learning, the waste in education spending. But most galling is NBC’s continued refusal to ask about the Obama administration’s war on school choice. The closest accountability moment came when an audience member asked President Obama a question on the Today Show:

Viewer: “As a father of two very delightful and seemingly very bright daughters, I wanted to know whether or not you think that Malia and Sasha would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school, as compared to their very elite private academy that they’re attending now?”Obama: “I’ll be blunt with you. The answer’s ‘no’ right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the years to move in the direction of reform; there are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system. And that’s true by the way in every city across the country. In my hometown of Chicago there are some great public schools that are on par with any private school in the country. But it goes to the point Matt and I were talking about earlier. A lot of times you’ve got to test in, or it’s a lottery pick for you to be able to get into those schools and so those options are not available for enough children. I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.”

This would have been a great opportunity for Matt Lauer to ask about the 216. Who are the 216? Like each of the families in Waiting for Superman, thousands of parents in Washington, D.C., are dying to get their children out of violent and non-functioning local public schools and into alternatives like the Sidwell School that President Obama chooses to send his kids too. One-thousand-seven-hundred low-income D.C. school children have attended private schools with the help of the $7,500 scholarships awarded through this D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.

Neal McCluskey:

But the reforms don’t seem promising. Sure, RTTT got some states to lift caps on charter schools and eliminate some barriers to evaluating teachers using student test scores. For the most part, though, RTTT just prodded states to promise to plan to make reforms, and even things like lifting charter caps do little good when the problems go much deeper. Indeed, the only thing of real substance RTTT has done is coerce states into adopting national curriculum standards, pushing us a big step closer to complete federal domination of our schools. That’s especially problematic because special interests like teacher unions love nothing more than one-stop shopping.
But isn’t the President taking on the unions?
Hardly. While he has lightly scolded unions for protecting bad teachers, he has given them huge money-hugs to sooth their hurt feelings. Moreover, perhaps to further heal their emotional ouchies, on Today he offered union-hack rhetoric about teachers, going on about how they should be “honored” above almost all other professions, and how selfless and hard working they are.
Now, lots of teachers work hard and care very much about kids, but shouldn’t individual Americans get to decide how much they want to honor a profession, and how much they are willing to pay for the services of a given professional? Of course they should — who’s to say definitively whether a good teacher is more valuable than, say, a good architect? – but when government controls education, it decides what teachers “should” get paid.
Unfortunately, the President chose to seriously inflate how long and intensively teachers work, saying they work so hard they are downright “heroic.” No doubt many do work very long hours, but research shows that the average teacher does not. A recent “time diary” study found that during the school year teachers work only only about 7.3 hours on weekdays- including work on and off campus — and 2 hours on weekends. That’s 18 fewer minutes per day than the average person in a less “heroic” professional job. Oh, and on an hourly basis teachers get paid more than accountants, nurses, and insurance unerwriters.

UK Med School Students Get a New Prescription: iPhones

Christina Warren

The University of Leeds announced it will be issuing iPhones to all fourth and fifth-year medical students. The always-connected nature of smartphones coupled with the burgeoning app marketplace has made smartphones an increasingly attractive learning tool.
According to the university, this is the first time a UK medical school has issued smartphones to its students. The 520 students in the medical program will each be loaned a 16GB iPhone 3GS for the remainder of their education.
The phones will be preloaded with apps and textbooks designed to keep students informed, help them take notes and test their knowledge. Students will also be able to download any other apps from the App Store.

Education Reform a Risky Business: Fenty


Leaders must be willing to take political risks in order to improve schools, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said at an NBC “Education Nation” panel discussion in New York Tuesday.
Fenty’s choice of tough reformer Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. schools wound up being a main issue, along with his personality, in his bid for a second term, which he lost.

Cal Thomas: Politicians allow public education to fail kids

Cal Thomas:

“Waiting for Superman” is the new film by documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and it should be mandatory viewing for every member of Congress.
As a synopsis on the Fandango movie site says, this film “explores the tragic ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation’s children. …”
Not only do we see children and their parents on the edge of their seats during a lottery that will determine who gets the educational equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card, we also watch the crestfallen faces of those who don’t draw the magic numbers for decent schools, a better education and, thus, a hope for the future. Is this how a poor child’s destiny should be decided, by lottery?

Signal on D.C. education reform from Gray’s camp

Jay Matthews

On Sunday, the All Opinions Are Local page of ran a commentary by former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous. I am rerunning it because I think it has unusual importance as we look toward the future of D.C. schools under Vincent Gray. The piece doesn’t indicate ties to Gray. Nor does the identification of Chavous that ran with the piece. But Chavous is close to the presumptive mayor and the commentary provides many clues to what Gray might try to do.
I realize this is a throwback to my China-watching days, reading more into an editorial than it seems to say. But Gray has expressed his support for charters, a theme of Chavous’s piece, so there are clear links between Gray and this line of thought. Chavous is worth reading in any case, and it is important to note that he is probably the best-informed and best-connected person in the Gray camp on educational innovation and education policy issues.

Parental Reform

Michael Jensen

There’s a lot of buzz about education this week. Most of it coinciding with a new documentary that explores the failures of the American public education system. But as a classic cynic, I also suspect the education discussion is a well-timed diversion from the economy — just before the November elections.
Regardless of the motive, there is ample reason to discuss education in America and our slide from education excellence as measured against other nations. The new documentary “Waiting For Superman” has created a stir primarily because it calls into account the teachers’ unions for resisting changes in education reform while protecting their union membership.
President Obama, who depends on union donations for his political survival, even weighed in on the teachers’ unions by saying they too must be accountable if reform is to occur. Those words from this President are both shocking and appropriate.
The Obama administration has touted their Race to the Top initiative for education with mixed results in the early going. That program most certainly cannot match the No Child Left Behind program for ineptitude.

Booker hopes Newark can be a national laboratory for education reform

Patricia Alex

Failing schools in Newark may be shuttered, charter schools expanded and private money used to boost salaries and provide merit bonuses to teachers, Mayor Cory Booker said Tuesday.
The city can be a national laboratory for education reform thanks in part to an unprecedented $100 million pledge from the founder of Facebook, Booker said. The mayor provided broad outlines of the reform plan during a meeting with The Record’s editorial board.
And he signaled a willingness to take on the city teachers union and what he called a “clogged” and bloated bureaucracy in the state’s largest school district.
“If you’re failing my children, get out of the way,” Booker said.

Viva La Rhee-volución

Elizabeth Bloom

There was a significant election on September 14. No, it wasn’t the primary for a senate seat, or even for a governorship. It did, however, have ramifications for Washington, D.C. and for the nation.
I’m talking about the Democratic primary for the office of mayor of the District of Columbia. Council Chairman Vince C. Gray defeated incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in convincing fashion. This election was significant because it could mean the forced or voluntary departure of the D.C. Public School system’s controversial chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee.
Rhee, a former Teach for America corps member and founder of a non-profit that recruits teachers for public schools, took over the school system after Fenty became mayor in 2007. Fenty had written legislation giving him mayoral control over the schools and asked Rhee to run the system. She became chancellor on the condition that Fenty would give her the political cover necessary to make unpopular reforms in the country’s worst school system.

Best Value Law Schools

National Jurist:

With tuitions up, and lawyer salaries stagnant, its more important than ever for law schools to deliver a good value. We crunched the numbers to identify the best value law schools for 2010.
Even though Jennifer Keegan had gone to Florida State as an undergraduate, she wasn’t ready to enter law school at the same university without looking around at other places.
“I had a long list of 15 schools including private schools and schools outside the state, because I like trying new things,” she said. “But when I looked at all the factors – actual cost, the amount of career placement, the bar passage rate — I crossed many of the places off my list. FSU had all the things I wanted at an incredibly good cost.”
She’s now a first-year law student at Florida State.

Governor Seeks Pay and Tenure Changes in New Jersey Education Overhaul

Terrence Dopp

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he wants to link public school teachers’ pay and tenure to their students’ performance, and to make it easier for districts to fire their worst educators.
“Pay should go to the people who have earned it,” he said today in a town hall meeting in Old Bridge Township. Tenure has become “a sclerosis that coats the veins of our school system.”
Christie, a Republican who has said the state’s education system is costly and failing many children, plans to administratively overhaul the process of teacher performance evaluations and to spend $20 million during the next two years improving a database that tracks them. He also proposed expanding teacher training and “alternative routes” to becoming a principal.

Related, Janet Mertz: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

The irony behind Obama’s Sidwell/D.C. schools remarks

Valerie Strauss:

There is some irony behind President Obama’s comment that his daughters could not get as fine an academic experience in a D.C. public school as they do at private Sidwell Friends School: His education policies promote some practices that Sidwell wouldn’t dream of adopting.
Obama sparked a heated debate when he said during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that schools in the D.C. public system were making progress but were not as good as Sidwell.
My colleague, Jay Mathews, wrote on his Class Struggle blog that Obama was wrong. Jay said that there are some D.C. schools that are “just as good in every important way,” and the important ways he cites are setting high standards and having excellent teachers.
There are indeed teachers in the city schools that are as fine as any teachers at Sidwell, and some D.C. schools set extremely high standards for kids. But high standards and fine teachers do not alone make a great school, not if the fine teachers aren’t given the support and resources they need to help the kids meet the high standards. And, some of these fine teachers have told me, they aren’t.

“In bigger cities, youth sport is overorganized and overcoached,” Dr. Côté says.

Austin Kelley, via a Diane Harrington email

Growing up among the 1,341 people in Taylorsville, Miss., Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell probably didn’t encounter the best coaches or the greatest competition. Which probably helped him reach the NFL. Studies show that small towns are better breeding grounds for athletes than cities, and sports psychologists are using these data to question our ideas about talent development.
Only one-in-four Americans come from towns of fewer than 50,000 people, but nearly half of NFL players and PGA golfers do, according to two recent studies. The small-town figures for golf and baseball are just under 40%. The studies use 1980 Census figures because they most closely represented the birth year of pro athletes.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Household income plunged in 2009

Carol Morello and Dan Keating:

Three out of 10 children in the nation’s capital were living in poverty last year, with the number of poor African American children rising at a breathtaking rate, according to census statistics released Tuesday.
Among black children in the city, childhood poverty shot up to 43 percent, from 36 percent in 2008 and 31 percent in 2007. That was a much sharper increase than the two percentage-point jump, to 36 percent, among poor black children nationwide last year.
The number of poor minority children also rose in many parts of the Washington suburbs, including Montgomery , Alexandria, Arlington and the northern half of Fairfax County.
But the District, where unemployment has risen to nearly 30 percent in Ward 8, had the most sobering rise. Last year, there were more than 30,000 black children living in poverty in the city, almost 7,000 more than two years before, according to Census Bureau data.

Baltimore Ends Linking Pay to Years of Employment (Tenure)

Liz Bowie & Erica Green

The Baltimore school district and its teachers union have struck a landmark agreement that would end the longtime practice of linking pay to years of employment and place the city at the forefront of a national reform effort, according to sources familiar with the pact.
The two sides have discussed a pay system that would reward skills and effectiveness and are expected to announce the details of the agreement Wednesday.
Experts in teacher compensation said Baltimore was poised to become one of only a handful of places in the country, including Washington, D.C., New Haven, Conn., and Pittsburgh, that have moved toward paying teachers for performance as a way to improve the quality of education in their schools. The Obama administration has been pressing for such changes.

Rick Scott’s education plan would cut taxes, increase private school vouchers

Marc Caputo and Sergio Bustos:

Pledging to cut taxes and increase school choice for parents, Republican Rick Scott rolled out his education plan Tuesday in what could presage a long fight with the state’s teachers union.
“Parents ought to have a right to choose a school for their kids,” said Scott. ”Competition is good.”
To accomplish his education plan, Scott wants to increase taxpayer-backed private school scholarships, charter schools, home schooling and virtual, online education. At the same time, Scott wants to trim $1.4 billion in property taxes for schools and cut up to $700 million more in corporate income taxes — a main vehicle to fund a state educational voucher program.

How High Schools Become Exemplary: Ways That Leadership Raises Achievement and Narrows Gaps by Improving Instruction in 15 Public High Schools

The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, via a kind reader:

In early 2009, the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University identified fifteen high schools with unusually strong evidence of student learning as measured by gains on standardized state exams. The schools had improved over a period of years. Most were racially and socioeconomically diverse. The AGI invited leaders of the identified schools to a two-day conference in June of 2009 to explain how their schools achieved such outstanding results.1 This report, How High Schools Become Exemplary, reviews and summarizes the presentations. The featured schools come from Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington, DC. Each chapter here details how leaders engaged other adults in successful efforts to improve learning outcomes. The central theme is that schools improved performance by striving relentlessly to improve instruction.
Located at the boundary between adolescence and adulthood, high schools are critically important institutions. Unfortunately, they are the most stubborn part of the K-12 system to reform–the most impervious to change.2 In his recent book, So Much Reform, So Little Change, Charles Payne discusses the difficulty of reforming elementary schools and then comments that “The problems of elementary schools are exacerbated in high schools.”3 High schools tend to be fragmented organizations in which order is sometimes challenging to maintain and where responsibility for improving instruction resides mainly in isolated academic departments and classrooms. Principals are often distracted by crises. Many defer routinely to the subject-matter expertise of department leaders, seldom interfering with how departments monitor, evaluate, or attempt to improve teaching and learning.

4,100 Students Prove ‘Small Is Better’ Rule Wrong

Sam Dillon

A decade ago, Brockton High School was a case study in failure. Teachers and administrators often voiced the unofficial school motto in hallway chitchat: students have a right to fail if they want. And many of them did — only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.
Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.
Their efforts paid off quickly. In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts. The gains continued. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools. And its turnaround is getting new attention in a report, “How High Schools Become Exemplary,” published last month by Ronald F. Ferguson, an economist at Harvard who researches the minority achievement gap.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

An Interview with Christopher Woodhead: About Ofsted

Michael F. Shaughnessy, via email

5) What are the main problems that the educational system in Britain currently faces?
Again, see above. It isn’t inadequate funding that ultimately explains poor standards in our schools. It is the progressive, child centred, ideas which are peddled by teacher trainers and administrators. The educational enterprise should initiate the young into the best that has been thought and written. At present we are far from this ideal in the UK. The great and the good who pontificate about education seem to believe that the curriculum can be personalised and that the subjective and ill-informed views of pupils matter more than the authority of the teacher and, beyond the teacher, of the disciplines into which the young should be initiated
6) Let’s talk about children with special needs- How well prepared is the average teacher in England to provide quality instruction for these students?
It depends what you mean by special educational needs. For the last thirty years it has been assumed that one in five children will have a special educational need at some point in their school career. I think this is nonsense. Properly taught, most children can cope, up to a point, with a basic curriculum and most teachers, properly trained, can teach such children. There are, of course, children who have real needs, physical, emotional and/or intellectual. I do not think that mainstream teachers can reasonably be expected to deal with the problems such children experience. The last Government shut down many of the special schools which used to exist for these children. This was a tragedy.

An Interview with Richard D. Kahlenberg: College and Other Issues

Michael F. Shaughnessy, via email

3) Why, in your mind is the book important, and why are the issues important?
There have been dozens of books written about racial affirmative action, but this is the first full-length book devoted to a larger affirmative action program based on lineage. The first part of the book includes chapters on the history of legacy preferences, their current use, whether they in fact help in fundraising (as supporters claim), and their impact on students of color. The second part of the book looks at legal theories and political reforms to curtail legacy preferences.
I think the issue is important because our public and private colleges and universities, which are heavily supported with taxpayer subsidies, are supposed to be serving the public interest. Instead, thousands of hard working students are bumped aside every year at selective institutions because of a system that discriminates based on ancestry. This practice is fundamentally unAmerican in my view.
4) How exactly do you define ” legacy ” and are there any specific colleges or universities that seem to hold ” legacy ” as a variable of importance?
Legacy preferences provide an admissions advantage to the children (and sometimes the grandchildren and siblings) of alumni. They are used at roughly 3/4 of selective national universities and virtually all selective liberal arts colleges. Among highly selective universities, controlling for grades and test scores, a given student’s chances of being admitted are 20 percentage points higher if they are legacies. We have a list of those national universities that use and do not use legacy preferences in a chapter by Chad Coffman that is available on our website.

The iPad Project: How It’s Going

Frasier Speirs:

So many people have asked me to explain the educational impact of the iPad. I simply can’t yet get to grips with everything that’s happening. Put simply, the iPad deployment has transformed our school. Not evenly and not everywhere yet, but it’s coming.
There are stages to technology adoption. Two important stages are ‘replacement’ and ‘transformation’. With replacement, you take an existing resource and replace it with an essentially identical digital resource. Think of a paper textbook replaced by the same textbook in PDF form. That’s not to be sniffed at – there are big advantages to that.
What we’re reaching in some classes is the transformation stage. We’re seeing the iPad completely change the way that certain subjects are taught. Our best example so far is Art. I will write and share more about what we’re doing in Art over time but it’s fair to say that it is already far beyond anything I expected in the first year, let alone the first month.
At this point, all I can give you are some practical anecdotes which, I hope, will give you a flavour of the change.

Wisconsin Education: Sounding the Alarm: A Wakeup Call With Directions

Frederick Hess & Oliva Meeks

There was a time when Wisconsin was a leader in school reform, and it wasn’t that long ago. All you have to do is go two decades back, and the state’s performance on reading and math assessments put its students in the nation’s upper tier. The 1990 Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was heralded as a watershed for school choice, and today, it is the nation’s largest school voucher program. Wisconsin was also an early adopter of charter schooling, and its SAGE class-size-reduction program gained national attention in the 1990s.
In the current education landscape, those days of innovation seem a long way off.
Wisconsin is no longer mentioned as an education innovator in the same breath as states like Louisiana, Tennessee, or Colorado. Wisconsin has also seen a tremendous erosion of its once-impressive math and reading performance. In 1990, Wisconsin outperformed 76% of the states in eighth-grade math scores. Today, Wisconsin has fallen to the middle of the pack. In reading, the decline has been even more precipitous.1 And all of this has happened in spite of the fact that statewide per-pupil spending has risen from $7,749 per student in 1990 to $10,041 in 2007 (in constant 2007 dollars), proving that just throwing money at a problem will not solve it.2
Perhaps the most vexing statistic is the racial divide – 93% of white students graduated high school in 2009 statewide, compared to only 66% of African-American students.3 This is a divide that no state or country can tolerate if it intends to remain functioning, let alone successful. The situation is most grim in Milwaukee, where only one-third of African-American tenth-graders–34%–are proficient in reading compared to 67% among their white classmates; in math, 19% of African-American students are proficient compared to 56% of white students.4

Lessons from the Chessboard

Stephanie Banchero

At a school for troubled kids on this city’s tough North Side, life’s lessons are learned on a chessboard.
In Room 103, Marqwon, 16 years old, kicked out of his regular school for bringing in a nail-studded piece of wood, tapped his forefinger in the air as he mapped out his next six moves.
Across the board, 15-year-old Joann, sent here after throwing a punch at a classmate, was losing the match and wasn’t happy about it.
“You’re just embarrassing me,” she said, toppling her king with a smack. “You know it’s over.”
Her action coaxed chess instructor Bill Thompson to the table. “Let’s not give up,” he said. “Let’s think of a way to get out of this.”
Chess has been a part of after-school programs for at least 40 years, but mainly in the suburbs. In the last decade, it has exploded in popularity in urban areas as research showed that students who play chess do better on achievement exams, especially math.
But few schools offer chess as an academic subject–and fewer still require it, especially for students already labeled as troublemakers, like the ones here.

Make Way for Merit Pay

Wisconsin State Journal

Deborah Kenny, CEO of the successful and innovative Harlem Village Academies charter schools in one of the poorest parts of New York City, summed up the need for change in a Wall Street Journal guest column last week:
“We need to stop treating teachers like industrial-era workers and start treating them like professionals,” she wrote.
Kenny lets her teachers choose their own textbooks and design their own courses. But they are then held accountable for how their students perform. So far, the results are promising, with test scores among the best in the nation for math, science and social studies.
Many teachers mistakenly fear that test scores will be the sole determinant of merit. Under most systems being proposed, gains in test scores would be one of several factors. A teacher might get a bonus, for example, for taking on a leadership role in mentoring beginning teachers.
In Washington, D.C., the most effective teachers are now eligible to earn almost twice what they used to make, thanks to merit pay.

San Francisco’s New Student Assignment Plan

Jill Tucker:

The new plan (PDF), a more nuanced approach that’s been in the works for more than four years, hopes to balance the needs of struggling students and the desire for proximity.
Like the old system, the version the school board will take up Tuesday will give parents a choice of schools and rank families based on established priorities whenever demand for a school is greater than the space available.
The assignment scheme varies depending on whether a child is in elementary, middle or high school.
The board established the school assignment process in March. Since then, the district has been hammering out the details, such as the attendance areas for each school.
If those details are approved Tuesday, district officials will use the new system beginning in the 2011-12 school year for kindergarten, sixth- and ninth-grade school assignments.

This is a lot of talk about Eric Bledsoe’s grades

I wonder if, when he was sitting in that fateful Algebra3 class in high school, Eric Bledsoe ever imagined this equation: u + A = UK2K.
Something feels wrong when so much time, interest and intensity is focused on one kid’s grade in a math class. I know people who spent more time lately thinking about the former University of Kentucky basketball player’s Algebra3 grade than they did their own kids’ grades. Come to think of it, I was probably one of them.
Today, UK’s victories (including No.2,000) that were earned last season with Eric Bledsoe’s help look safe.
Though an independent legal investigation found it was “not credible” for a teacher to have changed Eric Bledsoe’s senior year grade in Algebra3 from a C to an A, the teacher told investigators that Eric Bledsoe did makeup work to raise his grade, and Birmingham superintendent Craig Witherspoon said he hadn’t seen anything to suggest the transcript should be changed now.

Putting Newark Mayor Booker in charge of city schools will incite legal action, experts say

Jessica Calefati:

If Cory Booker even thinks of making a decision affecting Newark schools, he and Gov. Chris Christie will find themselves in a lawsuit faster than you can say Facebook, the head of the Education Law Center said yesterday.
David Sciarra, a veteran of numerous court battles involving public education, said it would be “improper and illegal” for Christie to formally offer Booker any authority to make decisions about the Newark Public Schools. Sciarra was lead counsel on the historic — and successful — Abbott suit filed in 1997 against the state to provide more funding for its neediest schools.
“I have no doubt appropriate legal action would be taken on behalf of the residents of Newark to challenge such a move in court,” Sciarra said.

How to Raise Boys Who Read

When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.
According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.
The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Thank you from Singapore

From: Oliver Kim
Date: September 26, 2010 5:17:44 AM EDT
Subject: Thank you from Singapore
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
Thank you for publishing my essay on the Maginot Line in this year’s fall issue of The Concord Review. Receiving your letter was at once joyous and humbling.
From the rise of the standardized test as a measure of academic success, to the subordination and disappearance of the long-form essay in the high school curriculum, the humanities appear to be losing ground in education. In light of the numerous competitions and accolades available to students of math and the hard sciences, options for students of the humanities, especially history, are comparatively few. The Concord Review stands alone as an exemplar for quality writing by lovers of history.
Thanks to your hard work, my school has all freshman students write a long-form historical essay based on the model of the essays that appear in The Concord Review. All students of AP European History are required to do the same, and, even in those classes that do not require long-form essays, The Concord Review is employed as a standard of quality and academic rigor. Though I cannot speak for my whole school, I can say that, anecdotally, this project has sparked historical curiosity and illuminated unexplored talents in my classmates.
Again, thank you for publishing my essay. I hope that the Review will find a solution to its financial woes and continue inspiring future generations of historians.
Warm regards,
Oliver Kim
Singapore American School [Class of 2011]
The Concord Review.

We can measure teacher effectiveness, objectively and transparently Read more: Richmond County Daily Journal – We can measure teacher effectiveness objectively and transparently

Terry Stoops

Is it possible to measure teacher effectiveness? For decades, public school principals have subjected teachers to a battery of observations and evaluations purportedly designed to assess the quality of classroom instruction. Rather than yield appreciable information, however, these kinds of teacher assessments merely served as one of the few formal requirements needed to attain lifetime job security, also known as tenure.
On the other hand, the “value-added” method of teacher evaluation continues to show promise as an objective and reliable assessment of teacher quality. Value-added analysis uses standardized tests to estimate teacher effectiveness. This powerful evaluation method employs advanced statistical techniques to project the future performance of individual students based on their past performance. The difference between the projected and actual performance of students determines the value added or subtracted by the teacher.
Value-added analysis has upended the conventional wisdom on teacher quality. For years, public school advocacy groups complained that the most talented teachers snub minority and low-income schools by migrating to less challenging and higher paying schools in culturally and economically homogeneous suburbs.

Terry Stoops is director of education studies at The John Locke Foundation.

The List: Five of the best campus novels

David Lodge

The campus novel emerged as higher education expanded and novelists increasingly took day jobs in universities. Inherently comic and satirical, it is focused on the lives of academic staff rather than their students, and explores the gap between the high ideals of the institution and the human weaknesses of its members. As the new academic year begins, here are five of the best.
1. The Groves of Academe (1952) by Mary McCarthy
Can claim to be the first campus novel. The plot, like that of many of its successors, turns on the question of whether the central character will keep his job. Henry Mulcahy, an idle, irresponsible, middle-aged Irish-American instructor at a small liberal arts college, is deservedly denied tenure but manages to exploit the weakness and vanity of his colleagues so that they defend his cause. McCarthy’s mordant wit is a joy throughout.

Jefferson County, Colorado schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000 Read more: Jeffco schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000

Jeremy Meyer

Top-level teachers in select Jefferson County schools could be paid more than $100,000 a year under a pilot program funded by a new $32.8 million federal grant.
The program would make some educators working in a handful of high-poverty schools the highest-paid public school teachers in Colorado.
Jefferson County’s pilot pay system will roll out in the 2011-12 academic year in a few schools — changing the base pay of all teachers, providing up to $10,000 in annual performance bonuses and creating “master teachers.”
“We’re changing the norms,” said Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “The profession has to change. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it to us.”
Jefferson County and Colorado Springs District 11 learned Thursday that they were among 62 winners in 27 states of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, which support performance-pay plans in high-need schools.

Changes to the Madison School District Student Conduct and Discipline Plan

16 Page PDF:

Attached please find a proposed DRAFT of the Student Conduct and Discipline Plan, The revisions noted in the DRAFT are for the following purposes:
1) Correct a reference to Madison City Ordinance 39,03(2)(t) 2) Add a reference to the Phoenix Program as an alternative to proceeding to an expulsion hearing
Specifically, on page 1 please note that the reference to fornler Madison City Ordinance 3,23(2)(t) has been amended to Madison City Ordinance 39.03(2)(t), This was necessitated by alterations in the numbering associated with Madison City Ordinances,
On pages 4-5 please note that language was added in order to allow the Superintendent or appropriate instructional Assistant Superintendent to consider and implement an “abeyance option” as an approved method of modifying a recommendation ‘for possible expulsion,
Also on page 5 please note that language has been added detailing specific violations of the code of conduct which, if committed, would preclude a pupil from being eligible to participate in the abeyance option. The added language also indicates that a student’s participation in an abeyance option is not a guaranteed right and is within the discretion of the Superintendent or instructional Assistant Superintendent. Finally, the added language also provides a brief explanation of the “abeyance program,”


Nicholas Lehman

A hundred years ago, eight and a half per cent of American seventeen-year-olds had a high-school degree, and two per cent of twenty-three-year-olds had a college degree. Now, on any given weekday morning, you will find something like fifty million Americans, about a sixth of the population, sitting under the roof of a public-school building, and twenty million more are students or on the faculty or the staff of an institution of higher learning. Education is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; the creation of the world’s first system of universal public education–from kindergarten through high school–and of mass higher education is one of the great achievements of American democracy. It embodies a faith in the capabilities of ordinary people that the Founders simply didn’t have.
It is also, like democracy itself, loose, shaggy, and inefficient, full of redundancies and conflicting goals. It serves many constituencies and interest groups, each of which, in the manner of the parable of the blind men and the elephant, sees its purpose differently. But, by the fundamental test of attractiveness to students and their families, the system–which is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and decentralized–is, as a whole, succeeding. Enrollment in charter schools is growing rapidly, but so is enrollment in old-fashioned public schools, and enrollments are rising at all levels. Those who complete a higher education still do better economically. Measures of how much American students are learning–compared to the past, and compared to students in other countries–are holding steady, for the most part, even as more people are going to school.

Four Kids, Four Languages, One World

Patchworks Films:

At a time when 31 states have passed “English Only” laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish.
Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. This charming story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need in the 21st century.

The Problem With Kaleem Caire’s (Madison Preparatory IB Charter School) Plan

Forward Lookout:

Before I get into this, Kaleem Caire, who is going to be on Oprah later today, does have a point in that the minority achievement gap in Madison and in Wisconsin is very troubling. Madison and Wisconsin need to do a lot better job making sure all students have opportunities to excel…
But I don’t think his solution is going to do much good:

a male-only charter school using a rigorous curriculum geared toward boys of color in grades 6 through 12

There are two issues I have with this proposal:
1. A segregated school? Really? Seriously? Yeah, okay it’s only targeted towards boys of color and not strictly segregated, but really….it’s not a good idea. It doesn’t matter what the motivations are, segregating by race is unwise…and is race even the right way to look at this? What about economics?

Much more on the Madison Preparatory Academy here.
The Forward Lookout writer(s) appear to suggest that Caire work within the current system to address the achievement gap. An optimist all around, I believe that to be a challenging strategy, for any large organization.

Homeschooling: Achieving Techno-Literacy

Kevin Kelly

This past year my wife and I home-schooled our eighth-grade son. One school day, he and I decided we would make fire the old way — out of nothing but plant materials and our own hustle. Our son watched a seemingly endless series of instructional survival videos on YouTube as part of his research. He chose the bow method based on our physics class about friction. He then constructed a bow from a branch in the woods, carved a stick for the spindle and added a fiber string. It was mighty tough going. We spent hours refining the apparatus. He was surprised by the enormous amount of bodily energy required to focus onto a very small spot, and how a minuscule, nearly invisible bit of fuel, once sparked, can quickly amplify into a flame and then a fire. Chemistry, physics, history and gym all in one lesson. And, man, when you are 13 years old and Prometheus, it’s exhilarating!
Now that the year is done, I am struck that the fancy technology supposedly crucial to an up-to-the-minute education was not a major factor in its success.

Technology will change faster than we can teach it. My son studied the popular programming language C++ in his home-school year; that knowledge could be economically useless soon. The accelerating pace of technology means his eventual adult career does not exist yet. Of course it won’t be taught in school. But technological smartness can be. Here is the kind of literacy that we tried to impart:
• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.
• Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.
• Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.
• Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.
• The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
• Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?
• Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?
• The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.
• Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.

Kevin Kelly’s blog.

Correlating Federal Spending and College Tuition

Political Calculations

When we discovered that the average cost of tuition at four-year higher education institutions was largely pacing the growth of total federal government spending in the United States, that was a very surprising result. The reason why that’s surprising is because of how most universities are funded.
According to Table 5 of the Digest of Education Statistics 2009, as of the 2007-08 school year, there were 2,675 Title IV degree-granting institutions (aka “colleges and universities”) in the U.S. Of these, 653 were public institutions (mainly state universities) and the remaining 2,022 were private institutions.
But it is the size of the institutions that matters, not their numbers. In the U.S., 92 of the top 100 universities by enrollment are public, state-supported universities and 77% of all college students attend state-supported institutions. As a result, we would then expect the average tuition figures for four-year public institutions to closely follow state-level government spending and not the federal government’s total level spending from year-to-year.

The School of Hard Drives

Deborah Solomon:

This interview is for a special issue on education and technology, so let me start by asking you about computers in classrooms. As the secretary of education, do you think every kid in America needs a computer?
I think every student needs access to technology, and I think technology can be a hugely important vehicle to help level the playing field. Whether it’s in an inner-city school or a rural community, I want those students to have a chance to take A.P. biology and A.P. physics and marine biology.
What does that have to do with having a computer?
We have thousands of students today taking online classes. We actually have virtual schools today.

Report: Poor science education impairs U.S. economy

Dan Vergano

Stagnant scientific education imperils U.S. economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures.
Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and congressmen of both parties, the report updates a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.
Nevertheless, the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” review finds little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary technical education since then.
“Our nation’s outlook has worsened,” concludes the report panel headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine. The report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following”:

Affirmative Action for the Rich

Richard D. Kahlenberg

The use of race-based affirmative action in higher education has given rise to hundreds of books and law review articles, numerous court decisions, and several state initiatives to ban the practice. However, surprisingly little has been said or written or done to challenge a larger, longstanding “affirmative action” program that tends to benefit wealthy whites: legacy preferences for the children of alumni.
Affirmative Action for the Rich sketches the origins of legacy preferences, examines the philosophical issues they raise, outlines the extent of their use today, studies their impact on university fundraising, and reviews their implications for civil rights. In addition, the book outlines two new theories challenging the legality of legacy preferences, examines how a judge might review those claims, and assesses public policy options for curtailing alumni preferences.

Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%

685K PDF: Fall Budget Assumption Update.

The district received $51,169,349 in Equalization Aid in 2009-10. The 2010-11 Spring Amended Preliminary budget projected the district’s Equalization Aid to be $43,761,095. On July 1 the district received an Equalization Aid projection from the Department ofPublic Instruction for $45,330,641. This equates to a projected increase in aid o f $1,569,546 from the 2010-11 Spring Amended Preliminary budget.
On October 15 the district will receive an updated and certified Equalization Aid calculation for the current fiscal year from the Department o f Public Instruction.
An adequate Fund Balance is necessary for the successful fiscal operation ofthe district. Maintaining a sufficient operating reserve allows the district to minimize short-term borrowing, reduce financing costs, and safeguard against unanticipated and unrealized revenues. The District’s financial condition remains strong and maintains a MIG I rating by Moody’s Investor Service.
On June 30, 2009 the District General Fund Balance was $35.3 million (6/30/2010 Fund Balance was $44,490,453.59, page 13). The 2009-10 was projected to utilize $2.6 million ofthe District’s General Fund Balance, but due to revenues exceeding expenditures in 2009-10 an additional un-audited $5.1 million will be added to the District’s General Fund Balance. The major areas making up this $5.1 million are as follows:

Page 19 discusses the property tax rate (9+%) and levy (5+%) increases.
I did not immediately see a revised 2010-2011 2010-2011 total revenue forecast in this document.

Comments on Zuckerberg’s $100M for Newark Schools

New Jersey Left Behind

Everyone’s abuzz over Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s donation of $100 million to Newark Public Schools on the condition that the State turn over control to Mayor Cory Booker. Here’s some choice quotes:
From detractors of the donation:
Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, (fresh from his guest appearance on Jersey Shore [JK!]): “Vouchers is not going to happen.”
David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center: “It would be improper under the law for the governor to try to delegate authority to the mayor.”

Related: Number of Kids on Waiting Lists for Newark Charter Schools and

Waiting for the Teacher’s Union

Joel Klein

If you do one thing this weekend, go see Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, Waiting for Superman, which opens in theaters across the country today. The film, which has been met with well-deserved critical acclaim, paints a blunt and at times heartbreaking picture of the state of public education in America, told through the stories of families fighting to get their children into safe, high-performing schools.
First, it’s a terrific film. But more importantly, it has helped catapult the debate on education reform to the national stage.
It’s not surprising that the film is making many people uncomfortable. The truth is harsh. It’s easier to turn away than to watch a crying mom clutch a losing lottery ticket that just cost her child a spot at a top-performing charter school.
What is surprising is that some–including the teachers’ unions–are railing against the film, dismissing it as anti-teacher and pro-charter school propaganda.

Waiting for Solutions

Ruth Starkman

“He’s a rockstar,” says documentary director Davis Guggenheim of Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York, an organization that endeavors to increase high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem. Mr. Canada appears as one of the few catalysts of educational reform in Guggenheim’s provocative new documentary Waiting for Superman about America’s notoriously crisis-ridden public school system.
According to Guggenheim, America’s public schools are in desperate need of rockstar teachers and administrators visionaries like Geoffrey Canada. No one watching the charismatic Mr. Canada or hearing about his accomplishments would disagree, as the documentary records Canada’s successes and follows the lives of several talented American children, whose education and future lives hang in balance.
Guggenheim invites viewers’ outrage as he presents the shocking statistics that most Americans already know: our once great public schools are failing our young people and no one seems prepared to take bold steps toward change. Waiting for Superman is also a character-driven tear-jerker, elaborating the desperation of several American children, Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, from a variety of backgrounds, both middle class and disadvantaged, African American, Latino, white in California, New York and Washington. These children occupy the center of the story, but nothing about their fate gives cause for cheer. Instead, the documentary devotes most of its energy to what it sees as the cause for their troubles, the political impasse of American education.

New Jersey districts to post teacher evaluations online

A report card on local teachers will soon be posted on school district websites around the state.
The information will not identify specific teachers but will give parents and taxpayers a basic overview of how many teachers in their schools are effectively teaching their students, based on standards set by the local districts.
The teacher and principal evaluation reports are a requirement of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine allocated $1 billion of the state’s stimulus money to school districts. One of the strings attached to that aid was that districts would have to post on their school websites the results of local teacher evaluations.
The U.S. Department of Education is scheduled to do an audit of New Jersey’s compliance with the law Oct. 19, state DOE officials said. Districts have been asked to have their data posted online by Oct. 15.

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity:

With concern about rising deficits and debt taking center stage in Washington right now, President Obama has formed the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, led by Republican former Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, to make its own recommendations on how to ensure a sound fiscal future for our country. As the Commission deliberates between now and the release of its recommendations on December 1,Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity believes that one critical issue for the Commission and policymakers to consider is how efforts to rein in deficits and manage the budget will impact low-income and poor people.

That’s why, over the coming months, Spotlight will present a diversity of views from policymakers, economists, and many others from across the spectrum to discuss the work of the Commission and how its recommendations will (or should) affect low-income individuals. Entitled “Poverty, Opportunity, and the Deficit,” the series will include the following commentaries:

Parents use ‘digital’ grounding as a 21st century disciplinary tool

Donna St. George

Not so long ago, teenagers in trouble got grounded. They lost their evenings out, maybe the keys to the family car. But lately the art of family discipline has begun to reflect our digital age.
Now parents seize cellphones, shut down Facebook pages, pull the plug on PlayStation.
That’s how it went in Silver Spring last school year, when Iantha Carley’s high-schooler got a midterm grade report that contained letters of the alphabet that were not A, B or C.
Carley decreed there would be no more Facebook until he delivered a report card with better grades. The result: six weeks offline. “He lived,” Carley reports, “with no lasting damage.”
Her approach has become increasingly common as technology has changed so much about growing up, including what teenagers value most. For the digital generation, the priority isn’t always going out with friends. It’s being with them – in text, online.

Why are Alabama schools going broke?

Jon Miltimore:

Alabama made national headlines this week when 25 more schools reported they will likely have to extend lines of credit to remain open, in addition to the five schools that borrowed from banks last year.
According to a CNN report, Alabama schools suffer from a “combination of having the lowest per capita property tax collections in the nation … a constitution that prohibits local governments from independently increasing taxes, and a state-funded education system with funds that stem almost exclusively from income and sales tax revenues.”
Namely, Alabama schools are ailing due to inadequate funding. The reporter buttressed the thesis by pointing to the 20 percent cut in the state’s education budget over the last three years.
“We’re suffering. We are on a decline,” Joe Morton, Alabama’s state superintendent of education, told CNN.
But what Morton failed to note is that state education spending tripled in the decade-and-a-half preceding the economic downturn.
According to U.S. Census records, state education spending increased from $3.57 billion in 1992 to $10.65 billion in 2008.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Looking for Baby Sitters: Foreign Language a Must

Jenny Anderson:

When Maureen Mazumder enrolled her daughter, Sabrina, in a Spanish singalong class a year ago, she hoped it would be the first step in helping her learn a second language. But the class did not seem to do the trick, so Ms. Mazumder decided to hire a baby sitter, one who would not only care for her daughter but also speak to her exclusively in Spanish.
“It was a must that she speak Spanish,” said Ms. Mazumder, who said neither she nor her husband was fluent in the language. “We feel so strongly that our daughter hear another language.”
Ms. Mazumder, whose daughter is nearly 3, has company. Although a majority of parents seeking caretakers for their children still seek ones who will speak to their children in English, popular parenting blogs and Web sites indicate that a noticeable number of New York City parents are looking for baby sitters and nannies to help their children learn a second language, one they may not speak themselves.

Competition and Education

Matthew Yglesias:

After all, as Brad DeLong likes to point out the “get a bunch of people in a room to listen to some guy talk” model of education was an organizational response to the high price of books. In principle, it would seem to have been made obsolete by the printing press and the public library. Yet obviously that didn’t happen. Colleges and universities managed to make themselves indispensable sources of credentials and social prestige. And though they’ve of course incorporated information technology innovations into their work, they still engage in an incredible quantity of pre-Gutenberg educating.

The Case For Getting Rid of Tenure

Christopher Beam:

Imagine you ran a restaurant. A very prestigious, exclusive restaurant. To attract top talent, you guarantee all cooks and waiters job security for life. Not only that, because you value honesty and candor, you allow them to say anything they want about you and your cuisine, publicly and without fear of retribution. The only catch is that all cooks or waiters would have to start out as dishwashers or busboys, for at least 10 years, when none of these protections would apply.
It sounds absurd in the context of the food-service industry–for both you and your staff. But this system has governed academia for decades. Tenure–the ability to teach and conduct research without fear of being fired–is still the holy grail of higher education, to which all junior professors aspire. Yet fewer and fewer professors are attaining it. The proportion of full-time college professors with tenure has fallen from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The numbers for 2009, soon to be released by the Department of Education, are expected to dip even lower.

Academic Fraud in China

The Economist:

CHINA’S president, Hu Jintao, speaks often and forcefully of the need to foster innovation. He makes a strong case: sustaining economic growth and competitiveness requires China to get beyond mere labour-driven manufacturing and into the knowledge-based business of discoveries, inventions and other advances.
Yet doing so will be hard, not least because of the country’s well-earned reputation for pervasive academic and scientific misconduct. Scholars, both Chinese and Western, say that fraud remains rampant and misconduct ranges from falsified data to fibs about degrees, cheating on tests and extensive plagiarism.
The most notable recent case centres on Tang Jun, a celebrity executive, a self-made man and author of a popular book,”My Success Can Be Replicated”. He was recently accused of falsely claiming that he had a doctorate from the prestigious California Institute of Technology. He responded that his publisher had erred and in fact his degree is from another, much less swanky, California school.

Mobile Education Uprising

Douglas Crets:

Most of the great iterative tech changes to education have happened in higher education. But those changes are starting to drift down into K12, and take on their own shape and meaning. Here is a list we found online that charts those changes and pinpoints the evolutionary steps you should be looking to track to stay ahead of the curve. The clearest example of iterative change is the rise of mobile computing tied to the cloud. I have taken a few paragraphs from a recent report to show you how accelerated the changes will be.
From the ConvergeMagazine report:
In the past two years, netbooks have arrived on the scene, but their sales are already growing more than 200 percent per year. K-12 schools adopt them at a higher rate because many of them provide devices for their students. Netbook trends include 10-inch screens, faster processors, longer battery life and built-in wireless wide area networks.

Despite cost-cutting, most Phila.-area districts are planning tax increases for the coming school year.

Dan Hardy:

In nine districts, taxes went up by more than double the state inflation rate, and in three – Upper Dublin, Southeast Delco, and Bristol Borough – they went up by more than 10 percent. The 2010-11 property-tax increase for all 63 suburban districts averaged slightly more than 4 percent, up from 2.9 percent in 2009-10, even though the education inflation rate for this year was higher, at 4.1 percent.
In Bucks County’s Bristol Borough district, one of the smallest in the area with an enrollment of about 1,225, taxes are going up 15 percent. School Board President Ralph DiGuiseppe III, who was elected in November, said almost the entire increase is because of a 2009-10 deficit, when the board did not raise taxes.
To keep from going even higher, DiGuiseppe said, the board has cut some teaching jobs, and will reduce administrative pay by having the superintendent double as high school principal for part of the coming school year. Another administrator will teach part time. Three sports teams also were eliminated.

Locally, the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget will increase property taxes by about 10%. The increase is due to spending growth, a reduction in redistributed state tax dollars and a decline in property values (assessments).

Soft-Drink Sales Drop in Schools, Group Says

Betsy McKay:

The main trade association representing Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., and other beverage companies plans to release a report Monday showing that sales of soda and other drinks in U.S. secondary schools have dropped sharply since 2004, in a sign that efforts to improve nutrition in schools are progressing.
The report comes as first lady Michelle Obama is leading a campaign to combat childhood obesity and as Congress is poised to consider regulating the drinks allowed in school-vending machines.
Sales volume of beverages shipped to schools from bottlers fell 72% between the first semester of the 2004-05 school year and the first semester of the current academic year, according to the report, which was compiled for the American Beverage Association by economic research firm Keybridge Research LLC. The report showed a 95% decline in sales volume of full-calorie soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, and a 94% decline in juice drinks. Full-calorie soft drinks accounted for just 6.8% of beverage volume shipped to schools last semester, while they made up 40% of the product mix in 2004.

All teachers fired at R.I. school. Will that happen elsewhere?

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

All the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island were fired by the board of trustees this week. More such cases are likely to arise across the US in the coming year because of pressure from the Obama administration – and the incentive of billions of federal dollars.
A small, high-poverty school district in Rhode Island is now ground zero for some of the most explosive debates over reforming America’s worst-performing schools.
To the dismay of many local and national union members, all the teachers, the principal, and other staff of Central Falls High School were fired by the board of trustees this week. The move is part of a dramatic turnaround plan proposed by the superintendent and approved by the state education commissioner.
Because of pressure from the Obama administration – and the incentive of billions of federal dollars – more such cases are likely to arise across the United States in the coming year.
Advocates of the “turnaround” approach say it’s a way to remove bad teachers or change a culture that makes it difficult for good teachers to work effectively. But teachers feel scapegoated. And there’s no clear-cut research guaranteeing that student test scores will improve when schools are reorganized with new staffs.

Roma children segregated in Czech schools

Jan Cienski:

The Czech Republic is continuing to segregate Roma children into sub-standard schools for the mentally disabled, charged a report released on Wednesday by Amnesty International.
The 80-page report prepared by the London-based human rights group found that discrimination in the school system persists despite a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found that the Czech Republic was sending gypsy children to special remedial schools.
“What is needed is a very strong approach to discrimination,” said Fotis Filippou, the report’s author, adding that Amnesty was calling for a freeze in placements to schools for mental disabilities for the current school year while the system is reviewed.
According to the report, which studied four schools in the area around Ostrava, in the east of the country, Roma children are often sent to special schools, or sent to mainstream schools where they form the overwhelming bulk of the population, and the standards of education tend to be much lower than for Czech children. Many parents, often with little education themselves, are not equipped to keep their children in the mainstream system.

Behind the Classroom Door: A rare glimpse indicates the extent–and persistence–of variation in teacher practice

Robert Rothman:

In recent years, a raft of research has called attention to the importance of effective teaching in influencing student achievement. Yet federal and state accountability policies continue to focus primarily at the school level: using schools as the unit of performance, identifying “failing schools,” and more recently targeting “turnaround schools” for special intervention. One of the best-kept secrets in educational research, it seems, is the fact that differences in the quality of instruction from classroom to classroom within schools are greater than differences in instructional quality between schools. This finding has been documented in a variety of studies, most of which used indirect measures to evaluate instruction (such as relying on teachers’ perceptions or looking at curriculum materials to determine how much time they spent on particular topics). Despite the limitations of these measures, these studies have suggested that there is considerable variation in practice even among teachers in the same building.
Over the past five years, however, researchers led by Brian Rowan, the Burke A. Hinsdale Collegiate Professor in Education at the University of Michigan, have asked teachers in 112 schools to keep detailed logs of their actual practice. The newly released results of the Study of Instructional Improvement (SII) document dramatic differences in the kinds of skills and content taught from classroom to classroom. For instance, the study showed that a fifth-grade teacher might teach reading comprehension anywhere from 52 days a year to as many as 140 days a year. Similarly, first-grade teachers spent as little as 15 percent to as much as 80 percent of their time on word analysis. Thus, the study found, students in some classrooms may spend the majority of their classroom time on relatively low-level content and skills, while their peers in the class next door are spending much more time on higher-level content.

Jay Matthews has more.

4K in Madison : Some Answers but More Questions

On Monday night, the Madison Board of Education will vote on whether to implement 4-year-old kindergarten. It has taken the Madison school district years to get to this point, and for some time it looked like 4K would not happen. Several obstacles were removed in the past year, however, and the district was able to work with community early childhood educators and with Madison Teachers, Inc., to arrive at a model that is acceptable to the district, the community, and the teachers’ union.
That’s the good news. On Monday night, there are two outstanding issues that will need to be resolved: financing for the first two years and, the start date for the first 4K cohort. I speak for myself, but believe that my board colleagues would agree that the need and value for such a program was resolved some time ago, so the issues are not whether to implement 4K, but rather the best way to proceed.
Full post at School Daze blog.

Monthly Update From Madison BOE President Arlene Silveira

Reading Programs: The Board received a presentation on Reading Recovery in the district. A number of questions were raised about our reading programs and how programs worked together to ensure we were meeting the needs of all of our students. Therefore, the Board requested a full evaluation of all reading programs at the elementary level so we have a better understanding of the big reading picture.

Superintendent Goals:
As part of the Superintendent evaluation process the Board, in conjunction with the Superintendent, developed goals for the Superintendent. There are a lot of details associated with each goal. The Goal area and targeted Results of each goal are below:
1. Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students who are proficient and advanced in reading. Results: Increased proficiency and advanced proficiency on WKCE or its replacement, other district assessment or standards-based tests. By 2012-14, 100% of students will meet this target.
2. Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students at all grade levels who attend school at 96% or more. Results: Increase attendance for students in every grade, with a specific focus on the students in key transition grades. By 2014-15, 96% or more of students will meet this target.
3. Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students on track for credit attainment for graduation in four years. Results: Increased percentage of students on track for credit attainment for graduation. By 2014-15, 90% or more will meet this target.
4. Goal Area: Completion of a review of the District’s organizational structure and organizational systems/processes and develop a plan to align the work of the Administration to the District’s mission and Strategic Plan. Results: This goal will be assessed by Board approval and successful Administrative implementation of a Plan that aligns the work of the Administration with the District’s mission and Strategic Plan and to principles of quality organizations, and is fiscally sustainable over time.
5. Goal Area: Board relations. Results: Development and implementation of a sustainable system for improving and demonstrating effective communication with the Board of Education.
6. Goal Area: Implement the Strategic Plan action steps targeted for year one as approved by the Board of Education. Results: A report in June 2010 outlining progress toward implementation of the action steps including any evaluation of new programs that has occurred using the approved performance measures.
7. Goal Area: Leadership development goal. To focus on encouraging the heart in others and challenging the process.
What’s Up in January?: 2010 will be a busy year. Items of interest on our January agenda: Decision on the implementation of 4-year-old kindergarten; Race to the Top funds; initial presentation of an environmental charter middle school; core performance measures associated with the strategic plan; and kick-off of the 2010-11 budget process.
Thanks for all you do for our children. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments at .

On Teacher Mentoring

Amy Hetzner:

Every morning before their classes start at North Middle School in Menomonee Falls, teachers Becky Zimprich and Kristi Seston have a chance to catch up with each other.
Everything from instructional questions about how to handle specific issues with students to more technical inquiries about how to navigate the district’s grading system is fodder for the discussions between the two. The fellow teachers of English language learners were paired up by the Menomonee Falls School District’s mentoring program for Zimprich’s first year teaching in the district.
“I find the mentoring program awesome,” said Zimprich, who has 16 years teaching experience, mostly in elementary and technology education. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a new teacher or experienced teacher. It helps you acclimate to the school. It helps you acclimate to the district.”

Menomonee Falls Superintendent Keith Marty is a consultant for the Madison school District’s  “Strategic Planning Process“.

Are Wisconsin Students Progressing?

The Wisconsin Taxpayer [Request a Copy]:

Wisconsin spent more than $10 billion in 2008-09 to educate 861,000 public school students. At more than $11,000 per student, this represents a public investment of over $I50,000 per student over their 13-year elementary and high school career.
The success of any investment-public or private-is measured by comparing its return wilh the amount invested. With public education, measuring returns can be difficult.
In an attempt to measure student progress, Wisconsin has tested public school students using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) since thc mid-
I990s. The tests are based on Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards. Although not a perfect measure of how students (and schools) are doing, the results can provide useful information on academic progress.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was passed with bipartisan support in 2001, requires thai “not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001-02 school year, all students … will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievement on the State assessments.” Wisconsin uses the WKCE to test public school students in reading and math in third through eighth grades, and again in 10th grade. In fourth, eighth and 10th grades, Wisconsin tests students in language arts, science and social studies, as well as reading and math. Student test scores are rated as minimal, basic, proficient, or advanced.