Category Archives: Uncategorized

Districts combine resources for alternative charter high school

Erin Richards:

Bob Kazmierski once struggled in a traditional high school classroom setting where he couldn’t get enough individualized attention, so he turned to Connects Learning Center, an alternative high school program in Cudahy.
Alternative schools often carry a stigma of catering to students lacking ambition, but Kazmierski said Connects serves students who simply learn differently. He graduated last year and has been working full-time at a fast food restaurant to save money for Gateway Technical College, where he’s registered to start classes in January.
“It’s not like (Connects) classes are easier at all,” Kazmierski said. “It’s just in a different format.”
The small school’s emphasis on personalized help for students is a key part of that, but its operational structure may be its most innovative feature. Connects is a charter school run by multiple districts that work together to provide a cost-efficient alternative path for students.

As charter schools get going here (Washington State), best-known charter chains may stay away

Linda Shaw:

The first charter schools in Washington probably won’t be run by the nation’s best-known charter groups with years of experience and strong reputations.
During the successful campaign for Initiative 1240, which will allow as many as 40 charters to open here over five years, supporters talked about wanting Washington students to have a chance to attend the kind of schools operated by the nation’s top charter operators.
But the highest profile chains are in such demand that most won’t be looking to expand here anytime soon — if at all.
Instead, assuming the new law survives a legal challenge, Washington likely will start out with kitchen-table charters, cooked up by a teacher or principal or two with a passion to try something new.

Infinite Campus & The Madison School District

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity enewsletter (PDF), via a kind Linda Doeseckle email:

As the District contemplates consequences for those teachers who are not using Infinite Campus, MTI has heard from several members about the difficulty in meeting this District expectation. District Assistant Superintendent Joe Gothard sent a letter to all middle and high school teaching staff in late August, mandating that they use the grade book within IC and enter grades at least once weekly. While this poses challenges across the board, it has been especially difficult for specials teachers as they see literally hundreds of students each week.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews and Assistant Director Sara Bringman have spoken with Gothard about how to alleviate this burden for specials teachers. Gothard reports that he has spoken with principals and shared this message: “If specials teachers have large classes, and/or an A/B day (schedule), they would not be held to the standard of weekly input. At a minimum they should be using it for progress and grade reports.” Gothard’s accommodation should help allay concerns among specials teachers for not following the District’s earlier mandate.

High school students cheating less, survey finds

Cathy Payne:

Are American students making the grade when it comes to ethics?
A new survey from the Josephson Institute of Ethics finds that the portion of high school students who admit to cheating, lying or stealing dropped in 2012 for the first time in a decade. The reasons aren’t totally known, but the results of the poll of 23,000 high school students give leaders of the Los Angeles-based non-profit organization hope.
The survey is “a pretty good sign that things may be turning around,” said Michael Josephson, the founder and president of the Josephson Institute. “I’m quite optimistic this is the beginning of a downward trend.”
Among the highlights from the survey, which is done every two years:

For the first time in a decade lying cheating stealing among American students drops:

A continual parade of headline-grabbing incidents of dishonest and unethical behavior from political leaders, business executives and prominent athletes suggests that we are in a moral recession. But a new report — the 2012 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth — suggests that a robust recovery is underway.
The survey of 23,000 high school students, which was conducted by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics, reveals that for the first time in a decade students are cheating, lying and stealing less than in previous years. The Institute conducts the national survey every two years.
CHEATING: In 2010, 59 percent of students admitted they had cheated on an exam in the past year; in 2012 that rate dropped to 51 percent. Students who copied another’s homework dropped 2 percent, from 34 percent in 2010 to 32 percent this year. Other good news:
LYING: Students who said they lied to a teacher in the past year about something significant dropped from 61 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2012. Those who lied to their parents about something significant also dropped from 80 percent to 76 percent. In 2012, 38 percent of the students said they sometimes lie to save money; that is a drop of 3 percent from 2010.

The Cost of Dropping Out Millions Struggle With High College Debt and No Degree

Ben Casselman:

The rising cost of a college education is hitting one group especially hard: the millions of students who drop out without earning a degree.
A bachelor’s degree remains by far the clearest path to the American middle class. Even today, amid mounting concerns about the rising cost of higher education and questions about the relevance of many college degrees, recent graduates have lower rates of unemployment, higher earnings and better career prospects than their less educated peers.

Give charter schools their due The campuses have spurred reform in L.A. Unified and should be appreciated, not assailed.

Los Angeles Times Editorial:

By now, it should be apparent that charter schools have been the spark to the education reform flame in the Los Angeles Unified School District. At first, applicants hoping to open publicly funded but independently operated charter schools had to fight for every new campus, opposed by school board members who were strong union allies. But as charters showed remarkable progress with disadvantaged and minority students who had been failing in regular public schools, appreciation for them increased. New laws limited the grounds on which the school board could reject charter applications, and the election of a more reform-oriented board brought the number of students attending charter schools to nearly 100,000, about twice as many as in the New York City school system.
Yet misguided attacks on charter schools still occur, most recently when L.A. Unified school board member Steve Zimmer introduced a resolution to temporarily halt the approval of new charters. The resolution was softened, but eventually, and rightly, it was rejected by the board.

An ABC proof too tough even for mathematicians

Kevin Hartnett:

On Aug. 30, a Japanese mathematician named Shinichi Mochizuki posted four papers to his faculty website at Kyoto University. Rumors had been spreading all summer that Mochizuki was onto something big, and in the abstract to the fourth paper Mochizuki explained that, indeed, his project was as grand as people had suspected. Over 512 pages of dense mathematical reasoning, he claimed to have discovered a proof of one of the most legendary unsolved problems in math.
The problem is called the ABC conjecture, a 27-year-old proposition considered so impossible that few mathematicians even dared to take it on. Most people who might have claimed a proof of ABC would have been dismissed as cranks. But Mochizuki was a widely respected mathematician who’d solved hard problems before. His work had to be taken seriously.

In the Book Bag, More Garden Tools

Lisa Foderaro:

In the East Village, children planted garlic bulbs and harvested Swiss chard before Thanksgiving. On the other side of town, in Greenwich Village, they learned about storm water runoff, solar energy and wind turbines. And in Queens, students and teachers cultivated flowers that attract butterflies and pollinators.
Across New York City, gardens and miniature farms — whether on rooftops or at ground level — are joining smart boards and digital darkrooms as must-have teaching tools. They are being used in subjects as varied as science, art, mathematics and social studies. In the past two years, the number of school-based gardens registered with the city jumped to 232, from 40, according to GreenThumb, a division of the parks department that provides schools with technical support.
But few of them come with the credential of the 2,400-square-foot garden at Avenue B and Fifth Street in the East Village, on top of a red-brick building that houses three public schools: the Earth School, Public School 64 and Tompkins Square Middle School. Michael Arad, the architect who designed the National September 11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan, was a driving force behind the garden, called the Fifth Street Farm.

Feds: Teachers paid for ringers to take aptitude tests

Adrian Sainz, via a kind reader’s email:

Clarence Mumford Sr. is facing more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges after authorities said he made tens of thousands of dollars from aspiring teachers who paid to have someone else take tests for them.
It was a brazen and surprisingly long-lived scheme, authorities said, to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they are qualified to lead their classrooms.
For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.
Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.
Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.

On US K-12 Staff Growth: Greater than Student Growth

Joe Rodriguez:

In a recent opinion piece, James L. Huffman requests Oregonians to ask “why those who run our public schools have seen fit to increase their own ranks at three times the rate of growth in student enrollment while allowing for a small decline in the number of teachers relative to students” (“Oregon’s schools: Are we putting money into staff at students’ expense?” Commentary, Nov. 17).
He references a report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice that uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics to document that K-12 personnel growth has outstripped K-12 student enrollment growth. The data are completely accurate, but the conclusions Huffman and the report reach are erroneous.
Huffman writes that some might be suspicious of the foundation as the source of the data. In reading the report’s conclusion (pages 19-22), such suspicion is justified.

Related: The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools:

America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.
In a recent Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, Lindsey Burke (2012) reports that since 1970, the number of students in American public schools increased by 8 percent while the number of teachers increased 60 percent and the number of non-teaching personnel increased 138 percent.
That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. This report analyzes the rise in public school personnel relative to the increase in students since FY 1992. Analyses are provided for the nation as a whole and for each state.
Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 46 percent; the growth in the number of administrators and other staff was 2.7 times that of students.

1.2MBPDF report 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).

Debunking “Learning Styles”: Popular ‘neuromyths’ about how we learn are creating confusion in the classroom

Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons:

The myth about learning styles was the most popular: 94% of the teachers believed that students perform better when lessons are delivered in their preferred learning style. Indeed, students do have preferences about how they learn; the problem is that these preferences have little to do with how effectively they learn.
Cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham explained this conundrum in his 2009 book “Why Don’t Students Like School?” In the best tests of the learning-styles theory, researchers first ascertain students’ preferred styles and then randomly assign them to a form of instruction that either matches their preferences or doesn’t. For example, in one study, students were randomly assigned to memorize a set of objects presented either verbally (as names) or visually (as pictures). Overall, visual presentation led to better memory, but there was no relationship between the learners’ preferences and the instruction style. A study comparing “sensing” to “intuitive” learners among medical residents being taught new procedures reached a similar conclusion.
Of course, good teachers sense when students are struggling or progressing, and they adjust accordingly. Students with disabilities have individual needs that should be addressed. But a comprehensive review commissioned by the Association for Psychological Science concluded that there’s essentially no evidence that customizing instruction formats to match students’ preferred learning styles leads to better achievement. This is a knock not on teachers–we are teachers ourselves–but on human intuition, which finds the claim about learning styles so self-evident that it is hard to see how it could be wrong.

Seeing the light: Ed Boyden’s tools for brain hackers

Ed Yong:

Ed Boyden, an engineer turned neuroscientist, makes tools for brain hackers. In his lab at MIT, he’s built a robot that can capture individual neurons and uses light potentially to control major diseases — all in his quest to ‘solve the brain’. To break into a neuron within a living brain, you need a good eye, extreme patience, months of training, and the ability to suck with gentle care. A mouse lies in front of you, brain exposed. Your mission is to impale one of its neurons with the micrometre-wide tip of a glass pipette.
An electrode in the pipette measures the resistance at its tip, and relays the signal to a monitor. You’re watching out for the subtle spikes that tell you that the tip has struck cellular gold. When it is in place, you suck on a rubber tube connected to the pipette – gently at first, to form a seal, and then slightly harder to create a small hole.
If it works, you now have full access to the neuron’s inner workings. You can inject a dye through the hole to map the cell’s many branches. You can measure its electrical activity as it communicates with its neighbours. You can suck out its contents to analyse the chemicals inside it. If you did that for hundreds of connected neurons, you could start to understand the molecules and electric pulses behind the rodent’s thoughts, emotions and memories.

Students continue to leave the Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

Step this way for a guided tour of the amazing, morphing education system in Milwaukee!
See the shrinking giant! Before your very eyes, watch the rapid growth of America’s most significant program to use public money for children to go to religious schools! Look in awe as thousands of kids head every day to the suburbs! Don’t miss the opening of new schools run by people from distant places!
In other words, the last figures are in and we can now take our annual tour of the many and sometimes wondrous ways a child can get publicly funded education in one of America’s most complex education environments. Here are some high points:
The shrinking giant: It was amazing several years ago to say that one out of every three Milwaukee children getting a publicly funded education was going to a school outside the traditional Milwaukee public school system. It signaled how much the definition of public education was being reshaped here. But that statement is out of date. It’s not 33% any more. It’s very close to 40%. The figure goes up about 1 1/2 points a year, which it did again this year.

Scientists see promising deep learning programs

John Markoff:

Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs.
The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer the promise of machines that converse with humans and perform tasks like driving cars and working in factories, raising the specter of automated robots that could replace human workers.
The technology, called deep learning, has already been put to use in services like Apple’s Siri virtual personal assistant, which is based on Nuance Communications’ speech recognition service, and in Google’s Street View, which uses machine vision to identify specific addresses.

Alice Bell on Science Books for Children

The Browser:

Children learn in many different ways and the best science books for young people reflect that, says the science writer. Her suggested reading takes in robots used to explain sex and a picture book about dinosaurs.
hat first got you interested in science?
When I was little, my mum was very keen on taking me to the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum in London. We would go to Kensington Gardens and play in the playground, and then walk down to Exhibition Road where she’d drag me round the dinosaurs and the spaceships. I found them a bit boring, but if I hung out with her at the spaceships and the dinosaurs then I would get to go and play in the Launchpad gallery, and have a go with some physics, which I enjoyed.

School Principals: Students Have Privacy and Free Speech Rights Too!

Jay Stanley:

One of the technology-related civil liberties battles that ACLU affiliates around the country have been fighting in recent years involves defending students’ rights to privacy and free expression in the new electronic media that are becoming such a large part of their lives. For some reason many school officials seem to believe that when it comes to online communications, students have no such rights
We have a case underway in Minnesota, for example, that exemplifies these problems. I got on the phone with Teresa Nelson, Legal Counsel at the ACLU of Minnesota, and she told me about it:

After Act 10, WEAC sees hope in local teacher advocacy

Erin Richards:

Unions actively reorienting themselves – even in states without Act 10-like legislation in place – are mobilizing teachers around curriculum and instruction issues. That could mean organizing teachers to champion what’s working best in the classroom by bringing new ideas to the school board, or working to get the community to support specific practices.
It means working more collaboratively, and offering solutions.
But collaboration can break down over ideological differences regarding what’s best for kids. Or teachers.
For example, while WEAC has supported a statewide evaluation system for educators in recent years, it has resisted emphasizing test scores in such evaluations. Others argue that robust data on test-score performance can say a lot about a teacher’s quality and should be used to make more aggressive decisions in termination or promotion.
Asking teachers to take a more active role in their union could also become an additional stress.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

When ‘Grading’ Is Degrading

Michael Brick via a kind Dan Dempsey email:

IN his speech on the night of his re-election, President Obama promised to find common ground with opposition leaders in Congress. Yet when it comes to education reform, it’s the common ground between Democrats and Republicans that has been the problem.
For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools.
So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter school waiting lists and the same anemic international rankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.
And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well.
It’s a mistake. In the year I spent reporting on John H. Reagan High School in Austin, I came to understand the dangers of judging teachers primarily on standardized test scores. Raw numbers don’t begin to capture what happens in the classroom. And when we reward and punish teachers based on such artificial measures, there is too often an unintended consequence for our kids.

Study: The Human Brain Can Solve Maths Problems Subconsciously

No Camels:

The results constitute a challenge to existing theories of unconscious processes that maintain that reading and solving maths problems – two prime examples of complex, rule-based operations – require consciousness.
To present sentences and equations unconsciously, the researchers used a cutting-edge technique called Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS). In CFS, one eye is exposed to a series of rapidly changing images, while the other is simultaneously exposed to a constant image. The rapid changes in the one eye dominate consciousness, so that the image presented to the other eye is not experienced consciously. Using this technique, more than 270 students at the Hebrew University were exposed to sentences and arithmetic problems.
In one set of experiments using this technique, participants were asked to pronounce numbers that appeared on a computer screen. These numbers were preceded with unconscious arithmetic equations. The results of the experiments showed that participants could more quickly pronounce the conscious number if it had been the result of the unconscious equation. For example, when 9-5-1 was shown non-consciously, the participants were faster in pronouncing 3 than 4, even though they did not consciously see the equation.


Attorney Representing Madison Teachers, Inc and WEAC Profiled in the Capital Times

Steven Elbow:

To complete the hat trick, late last month Pines, representing Madison Teachers Inc. and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, stuck it to Republicans again when Dane County Judge Amy Smith struck down part of a law that consolidated rule-making authority in the governor’s office. That law gave Gov. Scott Walker control over rules that govern agencies like the Attorney General’s Office, the Government Accountability Board, the Employment Relations Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Department of Public Instruction, all of which were previously independent. Pines argued, and Smith agreed, that State Superintendent Tony Evers had constitutional powers beyond the governor’s reach.
“They extended (the law) to the Department of Public Instruction despite the fact that they were told in the brief legislative hearings they held on that bill that it was likely unconstitutional,” says Pines. “But they didn’t care. They just did it.”
While Pines’ recent wins are likely to be appealed, one thing is clear: He’s on a roll. How did he get to be such a pain in the collective GOP butt?

8 math talks to blow your mind

Morton Bast:

Mathematics gets down to work in these talks, breathing life and logic into everyday problems. Prepare for math puzzlers both solved and unsolvable, and even some still waiting for solutions.
Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs
When Ron Eglash first saw an aerial photo of an African village, he couldn’t rest until he knew — were the fractals in the layout of the village a coincidence, or were the forces of mathematics and culture colliding in unexpected ways? Here, he tells of his travels around the continent in search of an answer.

Waukesha School District considering rewarding teachers for performance

Erin Richards:

One of the largest school systems in the state is considering changing its salary structure to reward teachers based on the quality of their performance, rather than on their seniority and education.
According to a contract proposal completed this month in the Waukesha School District, the administration wants to bring on national consultant Battelle for Kids to design a compensation and benefits system.
Waukesha’s School Board is holding off on voting on that approximately $77,000 contract until December, but individual board members said they supported the exploration.

Free Textbooks Spell Disruption for College Publishers Startup companies offering knockoff textbooks are attracting students, and lawsuits.

Michael Fitzgerald:

Ask Ariel Diaz why he’s taking on the college textbook industry and he’ll tell you, “Quaternions.”
Quaternions are a number system used for calculating three-dimensional motion, popular in computer graphics. And Diaz needed a crash course to help him with a consulting gig after his online video platform startup, Youcastr, had failed. He started with Wikipedia and found it was surprisingly good at explaining this complicated mathematics.
Diaz, who still resents how much he’d paid for textbooks in college and graduate school, realized he’d hit on his next business idea. In 2011, he started Boundless Learning, a Boston company that has begun giving away free electronic textbooks covering college subjects like American history, anatomy and physiology, economics, and psychology.
What’s controversial is how Boundless creates these texts. The company trawls for public material on sites like Wikipedia and then crafts it into online books whose chapters track closely to those of top-selling college titles. In April, Boundless was sued by several large publishers who accused the startup of engaging in “the business model of theft.”

Student Suspended for Refusing to Wear a School-Issued RFID Tracker

David Kravets:

2:30 p.m. PST UPDATE: A local Texas judge on Wednesday tentatively blocked the suspension, pending further hearings next week.
A Texas high school student is being suspended for refusing to wear a student ID card implanted with a radio-frequency identification chip.
Northside Independent School District in San Antonio began issuing the RFID-chip-laden student-body cards when the semester began in the fall. The ID badge has a bar code associated with a student’s Social Security number, and the RFID chip monitors pupils’ movements on campus, from when they arrive until when they leave.
Radio-frequency identification devices are a daily part of the electronic age — found in passports, and library and payment cards. Eventually they’re expected to replace bar-code labels on consumer goods. Now schools across the nation are slowly adopting them as well.

Charter School Special Education Enrollment Analysis

Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, Patrick Denice, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Responding to concerns that charter schools do not provide equal access to students with special needs, advocates in districts, states, and courts across the country have sought to improve such access. Lawsuits and complaints allege that some charter schools systematically discriminate against high-needs students. Additionally, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report showing that charter schools, on average, serve a smaller proportion of students with disabilities than do district-run public schools. In response, policymakers in some states are looking for ways to better ensure that financial, incentive, and support systems are in place to aid charter schools in providing greater access and services to students with special needs.
This report provides some context to these policy responses by describing the distribution of students with disabilities in New York State charter and district-run schools. The analysis shows that different levels of comparison–state level, school type, district level, and authorizer level–yield different results, and comparisons at high levels of aggregation (such as those made at the state level) mask important information and variation. Whether, and in what ways, charter schools appear to systemically underserve students with special needs depends on how you answer the question, “Compared to what?”

A Chinese Education, for a Price

Dan Levin:

For Chinese children and their devoted parents, education has long been seen as the key to getting ahead in a highly competitive society. But just as money and power grease business deals and civil servant promotions, the academic race here is increasingly rigged in favor of the wealthy and well connected, who pay large sums and use connections to give their children an edge at government-run schools.
Nearly everything has a price, parents and educators say, from school admissions and placement in top classes to leadership positions in Communist youth groups. Even front-row seats near the blackboard or a post as class monitor are up for sale.
Zhao Hua, a migrant from Hebei Province who owns a small electronics business here, said she was forced to deposit $4,800 into a bank account to enroll her daughter in a Beijing elementary school. At the bank, she said, she was stunned to encounter officials from the district education committee armed with a list of students and how much each family had to pay. Later, school officials made her sign a document saying the fee was a voluntary “donation.”
“Of course I knew it was illegal,” she said. “But if you don’t pay, your child will go nowhere.”


Coursera takes step to enable students to receive college credit for its courses

Ki Mae Hauser:

Since launching in April, Coursera has been on a tear, enrolling more than 1.8 million students and forging partnerships with 33 top-tier universities from around the world.
But, to date, the vast majority of Coursera students haven’t been able to receive credit for their online classes or count them toward a degree.
If all goes according to plan, however, that could change in a matter of months because, on Tuesday, the startup announced that it was working with the American Council on Education (ACE) to evaluate credit equivalency for its courses.
“Ever since we launched Coursera, we’ve known that university degrees are important,” said Coursera co-founder and Stanford professor Andrew Ng. “We wanted a more systematic way for students to earn academic credit… This is just a step in that direction.”
Over the past few months, a few institutions, including the University of Helsinki and the University of Washington, have unilaterally announced that they would award credit for some Coursera courses. And, last month, the Palo Alto startup announced a licensing deal with Antioch College that would enable Antioch students to take some Coursera courses for college credit, at a cost that is less than the per-credit cost of traditional courses.

Brazil education standards contribute to learning crisis: Brazil’s dismal education standards are too low for the world’s No. 6 economy and threaten to stunt the nation’s development.

Vincent Bevins:

JUAZEIRO, Brazil — As 6-year-old Ana Jamil skips up to the school gates, she has a simple question for the principal: “Is there class today?”
Children here are in the habit of asking, because their teachers often don’t show up, as hers didn’t the day before.
When Jose Pereira da Silva Municipal School does hold class, students spend just a little more than three hours a day with teachers who are woefully unprepared.
“Around here, there are teachers who can’t even read and write,” principal Maria Olivia Andrade says. “We’re waiting for the government to install air conditioning. We need a library. That’s essential. But by far the thing we need most desperately is training for the teachers.”
With salaries starting at just $350 a month and their jobs as state workers secure, teachers regularly stay at home. Although more kids are showing up for class, partly because of free lunches and government programs, they still have little chance of leaving with a decent education.
At Andrade’s school, the annual goal is that 70% will learn to read and write before they leave at age 14.

Private (Union) Takeover of Public Schools Privately run unions have ruined public schools, critics say

Tyler O’Neil:

President Barack Obama and the Democrats have portrayed themselves as supporters of public education, but their policies have turned public schools into strongholds for powerful private groups of teachers unions, critics say.
“The union is not some branch of public government–they’re just a private corporation,” said James Sayler, a 20-year public school teacher and founder of Colorado Educators for Bush in 2000 and 2004.
“Should a school district give away public authority to a private organization?” Sayler asked. “The unions, with the blessing and cooperation of the Democratic Party, have privatized education.”

Union questioning Florida teacher evaluation plan

Bill Kaczor:

Margaret Goodman says she received high marks from all five principals she’s worked for during 39 years, yet Florida’s new evaluation system gave her a low rating of “needs improvement.”
The third-grade teacher at St. Petersburg’s Westgate Elementary School on Tuesday said the system’s value-added model, or VAM, is demoralizing and unfair. It’s based on student test scores, but Goodman said her evaluation was based on exams taken by students she didn’t teach.
“The reality is the value-added model has nothing at all to do with adding, nor does it have anything to do with my proficiency as a teacher,” Goodman said.

The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2012

Larry Ferlazzo:

Here is my annual humble attempt to identify the best and the worst education news that occurred during the past 12 months. I don’t presume to say it’s all-encompassing, so I hope you’ll take time to share your own choices in the comment section.
I’ll list the ones I think are the best first, followed by the worst. However, it’s too hard to rank them within those categories, so I’m not listing them in any order.
You might also be interested in seeing my previous year-end “round-ups”:

Between the Rap Sheets

Ron Isaac:

The best thing to happen to democracy in recent years may be the popularity of blogs. They’re especially influential in politics and education. Anyone can access everyone these days. The marketplace of ideas is wide open. Edwize is, of course, the UFT’s blog. But the views contained in the following piece are solely those of the author and are independent of the UFT’s positions and policies.
Remember Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and unflappable former front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination until he blew his chances during a debate by plumb forgetting the name of the federal agency that he had sworn a thousand times to destroy? It was a helluva “aw shucks” moment for the supporter of state-sponsored murder.
But last year he showed leadership, for better or worse, in a way that is both highly uncharacteristic and typical of him. He signed into law a bill that extended rights to teachers but at the expense of their students. Whether that trade-off is fair is the question I pose to you.

High Standards Help Struggling Students: New Evidence

Constance Clark and Peter W. Cookson Jr.:

The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, promise to raise achievement in English and mathematics through rigorous standards that promote deeper learning. But while most policymakers, researchers, and educators have embraced these higher standards, some question the fairness of raising the academic bar on students who are already struggling.
Do higher standards hurt struggling students? High Standards Help Struggling Students: New Evidence, argues that the answer to that question is “no.” In the analysis, Education Sector analysts Constance Clark and Peter Cookson Jr. use state-by-state NAEP data to examine the effect of high standards on student achievement. They find there is no evidence that high standards have hurt low-achieving students. In fact, they found that higher standards have probably helped.
Clark and Cookson compare struggling students ─ those who score at “below basic” levels on the NAEP in reading and math ─ across states with low and high standards in 2003 and 2011. To define the rigor of the standards, they use a measure proposed by researchers Paul E. Peterson and Frederick M. Hess that evaluates standards based on the cut scores states use to set proficiency categories. The higher the cut score, the higher the state’s standards are judged to be. Here is what Clark and Cookson found on the extremes of the Peterson-Hess rating:

Ghana: On the Education Debate – Is It Free Vs. Quality?

I K Gyasi:

If not, why does the NDC appear to take up the position that free secondary education is not only impossible to achieve, but also, that free secondary education is poor quality education?
On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Joy FM played the voice of Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, one-time Minister of Education. I heard Dr. Spio-Garbrah say, “If you don’t pay for what is important, you don’t get the right quality.”
As someone who fully benefitted from a policy of free education, I find the idea that free education is synonymous with poor quality education as strange, ridiculous, nonsensical and offensive.
My father paid for my elementary school education at the Adansi Brofoyedru Methodist Primary School all the way to the T. I. Ahmadiyya Secondary School in Kumasi. He paid my examination registration fee.

Mazomanie Eagle Scout earns every merit badge, a rare honor

Nico Savidge, via a kind reader’s email:

There isn’t a lot of open space, to say the least, on the sash Colin Paiva wears across his chest.
That’s because just about every inch of it seems to be taken up by the Eagle Scout’s merit badges — 133 of them, in all. Every single one a Scout can now earn plus three that have been discontinued.
Such an accomplishment puts Paiva, a 16-year-old student at Edgewood High School, in rarified air among scouts: More than 100 million young men have joined the Boy Scouts since it was founded in 1910, but fewer than 200 have gotten every badge.

Madison School Board election starting to take shape

Matthew DeFour:

The upcoming Madison School Board election is drawing plenty of interest from potential candidates, including at least two who say they definitely will run for an open seat.
Dean Loumos, executive director of low-income housing provider Housing Initiatives, and Ananda Mirilli, restorative justice program coordinator at YWCA Madison, both told me they plan to run no matter who else jumps in the race.
Several others, including state Rep. Kelda Roys, Edgewood College history professor T.J. Mertz, Democratic legislative aide Greg Packnett and attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick all told me they are considering a run.
Interest in the School Board election has grown since Beth Moss announced she would not seek a third term. Some are waiting until Maya Cole makes a decision about a third term before committing one way or the other.

When You Hear Claims That Policies Are Working, Read The Fine Print

Matthew DiCarlo

When I point out that raw changes in state proficiency rates or NAEP scores are not valid evidence that a policy or set of policies is “working,” I often get the following response: “Oh Matt, we can’t have a randomized trial or peer-reviewed article for everything. We have to make decisions and conclusions based on imperfect information sometimes.”
This statement is obviously true. In this case, however, it’s also a straw man. There’s a huge middle ground between the highest-quality research and the kind of speculation that often drives our education debate. I’m not saying we always need experiments or highly complex analyses to guide policy decisions (though, in general, these are always preferred and sometimes required). The point, rather, is that we shouldn’t draw conclusions based on evidence that doesn’t support those conclusions.
This, unfortunately, happens all the time. In fact, many of the more prominent advocates in education today make their cases based largely on raw changes in outcomes immediately after (or sometimes even before) their preferred policies were implemented (also see here, here, here, here, here, and here). In order to illustrate the monumental assumptions upon which these and similar claims ride, I thought it might be fun to break them down quickly, in a highly simplified fashion. So, here are the four “requirements” that must be met in order to attribute raw test score changes to a specific policy (note that most of this can be applied not only to claims that policies are working, but also to claims that they’re not working because scores or rates are flat):

Scott Walker Tilts K-12 Education Toward the Needs of Business

Rebecca Kemble:

Under Scott Walker’s reign in Wisconsin, multinational corporations are given undue influence over public policy. Nowhere is this more evident than in public education. Some of the largest corporations in the world – GE, Caterpillar, Koch Industries – have privileged seats at Walker’s policy table, but they don’t necessarily show up themselves. Instead, they activate a whole network of local actors to do their bidding.
In his seminal work, Propaganda (1928), the “Father of Public Relations” Edward Louis Bernays wrote:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

Putting ideology aside, how have Wisconsin’s K-12 policies over the past few decades improved student learning, at all?

Why private school vouchers aren’t enough

Jay Mathews:

If I were a D.C. parent with little money and a child in a bad public school, I would happily accept a taxpayer-supported voucher to send my kid to a private school. But I still don’t think voucher programs are a good use of education dollars, particularly after reading a startling story on The Washington Post’s front page on Sunday.
My colleagues Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown revealed that the $133 million appropriated for vouchers in the District since 2004 have gone to private schools with no requirements to report publicly how well their students are doing. Some of those schools have dubious curriculums and inadequate facilities. At least eight of the 52 schools with voucher students are not accredited.
Paulette Jones-Imaan poses for a portrait photograph inside the cafeteria of the Academy for Ideal Education. (Astrid Riecken – For The Washington Post) Take a look at the Academy for Ideal Education in Northeast Washington. Almost all of its students are in the voucher program run by the nonprofit D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. The school’s founder, Paulette Jones-Imaan, believes in learning through music, stretching and meditation, Layton and Brown report.
The Academy for Ideal Education does not have to reveal its results on the nationally standardized test that voucher students are required to take, but I suspect those children are not learning much. I have some experience with the Ideal Academy, a charter high school also founded by Jones-Imaan. In 2009 I wrote about it having some of the lowest achievement rates in the city, which I knew because charters have to report their test scores. The D.C. authorizing board for charters forced it to close. Sadly, no agency has that power over private schools using vouchers.

In L.A., inexperienced teachers more likely to be assigned to students behind in math, study says

Teresa Watanabe:

A new study has found that inexperienced teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are disproportionately more likely to be assigned to lower-performing math students, perpetuating the achievement gap.
The study also found that L.A. Unified teachers “vary substantially” in their effectiveness, with top teachers able to give students the equivalent of eight additional months of learning in a year compared with weaker instructors.
Such findings raise “deep concerns,” said Drew Furedi, the district’s executive director of talent management, who oversees teacher training. “For us, it’s a call to action.”
The study by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, analyzed the performance of about 30% of L.A. Unified teachers and presented findings based primarily on students’ standardized math test scores from 2005 through 2011 in grades three through eight. The study’s authors acknowledged that test scores were only one measure of teacher effectiveness.
The study also found:
Teacher effects vary substantially in LAUSD, more than in many other districts. The difference between a 25th and 75th percentile elementary math teacher is over one-quarter of a standard deviation, which is roughly equivalent to a student having eight additional months of instruction in a calendar year.
Teach for America and Career Ladder teachers have higher math effects on average than other novices in their first year by 0.05 and 0.03 standard deviations respectively, which is roughly equivalent to one to two months of additional learning. These differences persist over time
The performance of math teachers improved quickly in the first five years, then leveled off.
Those with advanced degrees were no more effective than those without, although L.A. Unified pays more to teachers pursuing such degrees.
Long-term substitute teachers — who have been employed more frequently to fill in amid widespread layoffs — have positive effects in teaching middle-school math

View the complete 1.4MB PDF study, here.
Related: Math forum audio/video.

The Chosun News; Seoul, South Korea; 19 November 2012: “For College and Jobs, Practice your Non-fiction Writing skills”

“The Secrets to Good Writing” from the editor of The Concord Review [TCR]
Increase time spent on research, hone the quality of your writing
Stay away from “How to Write Well” books
Serious writing is no longer the specialty of a scholar. Ever since writing essays have become an important part of the college admission process, high schools have become in the grip of “writing fever.” Also known as the “Olympiad of History,” TCR is the first organization to put the publication of high school students’ essays into practice. Since 1987, TCR has published history papers by 1044 students in 39 countries around the world. Of all the participants, 36% (371) of them have been admitted to an Ivy League university. The rest have been admitted to Stanford, MIT, Oxford and Cambridge. Delicious Study held an interview on November 12th with Mr. Will Fitzhugh, the founder of TCR, and two students, Han Jae Hyuk (Seoul International School, Senior) and Lee Seon Woo (Asia Pacific International School, Sophomore), who are preparing for applying to colleges in the States. With the invitation from the Asian representative of TCR, Caroline Lee, Mr. Fitzhugh visited Korea for the first time. The following article describes what Mr. Fitzhugh had told the students about “Writing for College.”
The Quality of Writing comes from the Strong Facts
For each issue of The Concord Review, Mr. Fitzhugh reads at least 140 essays every 3 months. His “criteria for a good paper” were rather simple. “An interesting history paper is a good paper. However, for a paper to be enjoyable to read, the writer must have a genuine interest in the topic. In essays, for example, an interesting work has both a unique stance on a topic and a solid support of evidence. No matter how original one’s perspective is, without evidence, the essay is empty. It’s rare to find sources of evidence that fit perfectly with your interpretations. In fact, some students who have published essays in TCR have spent 18 months writing the essay. Had these students not been interested in what they were writing, they could not have put in such an effort.”
Then, Lee Sun Woo pointed out a difficulty many students faced: “Even with interest in a topic, it can be difficult to connect that to a topic one can write about.” Mr. Fitzhugh responded with an anecdote. “A student in an international school in Hong Kong sent an essay about the Needham Question (1900~1995). Cambridge Professor Joseph Needham studied why Chinese science had stopped advancing ahead of Western Science in 1500 as it had been until the 16th century. To satisfy his curiosity about Needham, Jonathan Lu organized an answer in essay form. He was able to connect the familiar topic of China with an unfamiliar one, science, through history. It’s a good example.”
Read First…Write Later
Throughout the interview, Mr. Fitzhugh continued to emphasize the importance of reading. From finding an interesting subject to research, reading has to be continually done. However, it is not necessary to read books that surpass one’s reading level. “How to Write Well” tutorials will jeopardize the genuineness of your writing and only the fancy phrases and diction will stand out.” Pertaining to writing, Han Jae Hyuk raised a concern whether “Other forms of communication (debating for example) can be as helpful as writing.” “Well,” Mr. Fitzhugh simply answered, “the main way to improve one’s writing skills is to write more.” “Writing a 1,000-word paper is much harder than speaking for the same amount. Of course, during the process of preparing for a speech, you encounter knowledge that you can use for a paper. However, without writing a single word, there will be no improvement in one’s writing aptitude.” He added, “What is needed for high school students today is practice in non-fiction writing.” “Today’s American high school students are given fiction-writing assignments to test and expand their creativity. However, even those who receive such assignments will one day attend college and encounter a variety of non-fiction writing. Because there is such a big gap between reality and today’s high school education, some companies spend $3 billion dollars each year in remedial writing courses for their employees. I’m assuming that the situation in Korea is not so different.”
The Concord Review
The only journal in the world that publishes papers written by high school history students (American school standard 9th to 12th grade). Under the principle “writing skill is a valuable asset,” TCR publishes 11 essays in each online issue every 3 months. Created by Mr. Will Fitzhugh in 1987. Funded by donations and subscriptions. Chooses 5 exceptional essays (of 44) each year for the Emerson Prize. The number of Koreans who have published in the journal is 22. With a payment of $40 (43,000 won), any high school can submit an essay for consideration.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

You Are What You Read: A lucid exposition of how Proust put his reading to work in the creation of “In Search of Lost Time.”

Joseph Epstein:

No one should read Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” for the first time. A first reading, however carefully conducted, cannot hope to unlock the book’s complexity, its depth, its inexhaustible richness. Roughly a million words and more than 3,000 pages long, it is a novel I have read twice, and one of the reasons I continue to exercise and eat and drink moderately and have a physical every year into my 70s is that I hope to live long enough to read it one more time.
Told with France’s Belle Epoque (that bright and lavish quarter of a century before World War I permanently darkened all life in Europe) as its background, “In Search of Lost Time” is the recollections of a first-person narrator over several decades. This narrator, who bears many resemblances to its author (he is called Marcel, and his family and circumstances are similar to Proust’s) but who also differs from him in striking ways (chief among them that his life is not devoted to writing a great novel), is relentless in his energy for analysis. In his detailed attempt to remember all things past, he is as all-inclusive as literature can get; what normal people filter out of memory the narrator channels in. And so it was with Proust himself: While most authors working at revision tend to take things out of their manuscripts, up to his death in 1922 Proust was continuing to add things to his.

“Standards based report cards and the Milwaukee Schools

Joy Pullman:

Milwaukee Public Schools plans to expand districtwide a pilot program in which schools ditch traditional letter grades. Instead of A, B, C, D and F, teachers will compare students to a list of things the state expects students to know on core subjects in each grade and mark their skills advanced, proficient, basic or minimal. It’s called a “standards-based report card.”
The idea has some merits and several significant flaws.
Parents and students benefit from objective, specific standards for academic performance. If a father knows Julia must learn to define a story’s theme in second grade, he can ask her to do so when they read together. Grading metrics can also help counter grade inflation, where teachers give students high marks they have not earned. A 2005 ACT study found high school grades inflated 12.5% between 1991 and 2003.

The Madison School District implemented the ill-advised middle school “standards – based report cards” several years ago. Unfortunately, this initiative was incompatible with the multi-million dollar “Infinite Campus” system.

I’m Not “Waiting for Superman.” Why is MMSD?

Karen Vieth:

In 2010, an anti-public education documentary made its debut. Waiting for Superman features Geoffrey Canada, a controversial education “reformer” who promotes anti-union sentiment and charter schools as a solution to the struggles that face our public education system. The documentary largely appeals to the heart, as it uses weak data and a faulty premise. For this reason, another documentary made its debut in 2011. The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman features the New York City teachers and counters the position taken in Waiting for Superman. With this documentary shedding light on the true nature of charter schools and faux reformers like Geoffrey Canada, I would hope this matter is settled, at least for those of us who rely on real data and results to drive decisions.
Why then is the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) listed as both a sponsor and partner of an upcoming event featuring the “legendary” Geoffrey Canada? Geoffrey Canada is the creator of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The two Charter Schools included in this zone are called “Promise Academy I” and “Promise Academy II.” Students win a spot in the schools based on a lottery. Canada believes that money is the answer for these children. The Harlem Children’s Zone invests $16,000 per student per year for expenses in the classroom, and thousands more per student for expenses outside the classroom. These expenses include student incentives, such as a trip to Disney World or the Galapagos Islands.

Madison Memorial High School Evening Meal Program Aims to Reduce Achievement Gap

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter:

Often one does not realize how information gathered may be used to benefit others when the information is first received. Such is the case of the Memorial High School Evening Meal Program. Several years ago, Art Camosy, MTI Vice President and MTI’s Senior Faculty Representative for Memorial High School, attended a lecture given by Columbia Teachers’ College Professor Richard Rothstein. The lecture was sponsored by MTI, State Representative Cory Mason (Racine), and several entities within the UW. Professor Rothstein spoke about the impact of poverty on learning, citing, among other things, that a lack of medical and dental care result in lack of readiness for school, one of the causes of an achievement gap for the children growing up in poverty.
According to Rothstein in his book, “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Achievement Gap” (, children of high school drop-outs probably know 400 words by the time they enter school; children of high school graduates 1600 words; and children of college graduates 2400 words. That preparedness deficit added to poor nutrition and lack of regular meals makes it almost impossible for a child to catch up with his/her peers who do not experience the described complicating factors. Rothstein states, “Low-income kindergartners whose height and weight are below normal children for their age tend to have lower test scores …. Indeed, the relationship between good nutrition and achievement is so obvious, that some school districts, under pressure recently to increase poor children’s test scores, boosted caloric content of school lunches on test days.”
Having heard Rothstein’s passion on the impact of poverty on nutrition, and nutrition on the achievement gap, Camosy approached MTI Executive Director John Matthews about providing an evening meal at Memorial. Matthews approached United Way President Leslie Howard, who was excited about the idea and offered UWDC support. MTI and United Way met last spring with various Memorial staff, students, parents and community members to get the project rolling. The Memorial Evening Meal Project got under way. Matthews also contacted Madison Mayor Paul Soglin to ensure appropriate bus transportation. Kick-off was last Monday, with 100 meals served and the number of participants rising. Added benefit to the students participating is tutoring by upper level students and teachers, all of whom are volunteering their time and talents. Thanks to the progressive Memorial Principal Bruce Dahmen, who not only has worked with Camosy to make the project a reality, but whose efforts in working with others in the District have made the Evening Meal Program an instant success. Camosy’s idea is sure to spread to other schools. It’s impact on the achievement gap is certain.

Milwaukee follows national trend of expanding charter school networks

Erin Richards:

At many traditional public high schools, the last bell of the school day signals the imminent transition to extracurricular activities, from musical rehearsals to sports practices.
But at Carmen High School of Science & Technology in Milwaukee, the after-school scene is predominantly focused on academics. Any student at the charter high school making below a C in a core subject is required to stay after school until 5 p.m. to work with teachers.
Mandatory after-school tutoring is a feature Carmen can more easily implement because of its status as a charter school within Milwaukee Public Schools. The district has approved Carmen opening a second high school, making it part of a network of Milwaukee charter schools that are serving more students than ever, according to a new national report that places Milwaukee among the top districts for percentage of students in charter schools.
The growth in market share of students for Milwaukee charter schools underscores important changes in the local landscape for such publicly financed, independently operated schools. MPS, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the City of Milwaukee are approving more charter schools, and a growing number of those proposals are coming from national operators.

Related: A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities.

It’s right to test learning by heart

Christopher Caldwell:

Professing himself an “enemy of those who would deprecate the study of French lesbian poetry”, Michael Gove, the UK education secretary, told a gathering of the Independent Academies Association in London on Wednesday that education was not so much about what one learnt as how one learnt it. He wants more – and more rigorous – meritocratic tests. Mr Gove also wants more rote learning.
Examinations can indeed help merit-based power structures to topple privilege – but Mr Gove is wrong if he thinks they do so reliably. “In America,” he says, “the use of scholastic aptitude tests opened up access to colleges which had in the past arbitrarily blocked minority students.” That may have been true three-quarters of a century ago, when a numerus clausus kept Jews out of elite universities. Something different happens today. While the SAT has certainly helped some recent Asian immigrants, its general tendency is to decrease, not increase, diversity. Where that happens, politics usually requires that the SAT be ignored or played down.

Using Just 10% of Your Brain? Think Again

Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons:

Pop quiz: Which of these statements is false?
1. We use only 10% of our brain.
2. Environments rich in stimuli improve the brains of preschool children.
3. Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic.
If you picked the first one, congratulations. The idea that we use only 10% of our brain is patently false. Yet it so permeates popular culture that, among psychologists and neuroscientists, it is known as the “10% myth.” Contrary to popular belief, the entire brain is put to use–unused neurons die and unused circuits atrophy. Reports of neuroimaging research might perpetuate the myth by showing only a small number of areas “lighting up” in a brain scan, but those are just areas that have more than a base line level of activity; the dark regions aren’t dormant or unused.

EdX to offer learners option of taking proctored final exam

Pearson VUE:

Online learning venture edX continues to transform higher education by announcing today its agreement with Pearson VUE to offer learners the option of taking a proctored final exam.
“Our online learners who want the flexibility to provide potential employers with an independently validated certificate may now choose to take the course exam at a proctored test site,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX. “This option enhances the value of our courses in the real world, helps us maintain our goal of making high-quality education both accessible and practical and thus is a natural evolution of ed’s core philosophy of transforming lives through education.”
Pearson VUE, a Pearson business, is the global leader in computer-based testing. Due to this new agreement, edX learners now have the option of taking a course final exam at one of over 450 Pearson VUE test centers in more than 110 countries. Proctors at the centers will verify the identity of the examinee and administer the tests. Examinees using the Pearson VUE centers will take the same rigorous exam as online learners and will be charged a modest fee for the proctoring service. EdX will offer the option to test takers for one of its online courses this Fall.

Tentative deal struck for some Ontario high school teachers

Kate Hammer:

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has reached a deal with two school boards, offering signs of hope in a school year that had teachers cut back report cards comments, sports teams and student supervision.
The deals were struck with York Region District School Board and Upper Grand District School Board. They are tentative, and will still require approval from the Minister of Education and possibly also from union membership.

The Science and Art of Listening

Seth Horowitz:

HERE’S a trick question. What do you hear right now?
If your home is like mine, you hear the humming sound of a printer, the low throbbing of traffic from the nearby highway and the clatter of plastic followed by the muffled impact of paws landing on linoleum — meaning that the cat has once again tried to open the catnip container atop the fridge and succeeded only in knocking it to the kitchen floor.
The slight trick in the question is that, by asking you what you were hearing, I prompted your brain to take control of the sensory experience — and made you listen rather than just hear. That, in effect, is what happens when an event jumps out of the background enough to be perceived consciously rather than just being part of your auditory surroundings. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.

Wisconsin Governor Walker promises major tax reforms, school funding changes

Daniel Bice:

Walker also said he wants to require the state’s public schools, including the technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System, to meet performance-based targets to receive increased state funding – similar to programs in Florida and Pennsylvania. The first-term Republican governor said he will push to expand the state’s voucher program for private schools and further streamline the state’s rules and regulations.

Urban League’s David Cagigal to Join Walker’s Team

Allen Ruff, via a kind email

An interesting little tid-bit has been bounced my way – a notice going out to various Wisconsin state agencies from Mike Huebsch, Scott Walker’s Secretary of Administration, to various Wisconsin agencies announcing the appointment of David Cagigal as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the state’s Division of Enterprise Technology (DET). Cagigal is scheduled to begin in his new position on November 19th.

Standards-based education is nothing new in this public space

David Weinstein:

As the founder of Harbor Connections, the experiential education program adopted by Thompson Island in 2008, I was pleased to see your Nov. 12 editorial “Thompson Island: A new way to excel on MCAS.” Whereas the educational value of the Boston Harbor cannot be overstated, some clarification and context are necessary.
Standards-based education has been happening on various Boston Harbor Islands since 1998 — on Georges, Gallops (closed in 2001), Lovells, Peddocks, Bumpkin, Grape, Little Brewster, Spectacle, Great Brewster, Rainsford, and Thompson. More than 17,000 Boston Public Schools students from more than 30 schools have extended their classrooms to these islands.
Hundreds of dedicated, creative Boston teachers and several forward-thinking administrators were essential to the success of the program. Other key allies were the National Park Service and the Metropolitan District Commission and Division of Environmental Management, which later merged into the state Division of Conservation and Recreation. Like Thompson Island, these government institutions are among the managing partners of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

A shakeup of higher education

Joseph E. Aoun:

As President Obama develops his second-term agenda, his administration will no doubt focus on a range of higher-education priorities, including affordability, attainment levels, and career preparation. Yet as important as these issues are, something more fundamental is happening: We’re witnessing the end of higher education as we know it.
This transformation is being brought on by “MOOCs” — massive open online courses being offered for little or no cost through entities like edX, Coursera, and Udacity, which aggregate classes from multiple universities onto a single computer-based platform. Millions of people are already utilizing them to tap into higher learning.
In the process, they’re spurring a shakeup of higher education — with dramatic implications.

Education data needs to be used carefully

Alan Borsuk:

From Washington to the classroom, everybody in education is more and more into data. Just look at the new report cards for every public school put out several weeks ago by the state Department of Public Instruction.
Data can drive quality, many policy-makers say, and there are schools that are justified in proclaiming how they have improved by being data driven.
Schools and districts are increasingly being judged by data.
There’s a lot of good in this. Not paying close attention to how students are doing – including test scores and similar data – is the road to mediocrity or worse.
But it also makes me nervous, especially when I hear things such as calls for “performance pay” or firing bad teachers based on student test scores and rates of improvement, despite the lack of evidence that such efforts can be reliable and useful, especially on a large scale.
In other words, if data is taking over how we judge schools and everyone who works in them, that will be good only if we use data well.

Indiana Teachers hope Ritz will help slow school changes

Associated Press:

Indiana teachers frustrated by sweeping changes in the state’s education system under schools chief Tony Bennett say they hope his successor will be able to slow the pace of change, but they say they don’t expect it to stop altogether.
Democrat Glenda Ritz, a library media specialist at an Indianapolis school, defeated Bennett in the Nov. 6 election with a grassroots campaign that largely was conducted through social media and backed by teachers across the state.
Teachers have been frustrated with the changes under Bennett, which include the nation’s broadest use of school vouchers, the state’s takeover of six schools and changes that tie teacher pay to student performance. Many have said they feel that they are being blamed for failing schools.

‘Do your parents know you are here?’ A new generation of young Indians is partying hard

Amy Kazmin:

It’s Halloween at Love Shack, a spacious rooftop bar in Bangalore, the epicentre of India’s information technology and call centre industries. The venue, evocative of a beach shack, is filled with students, software engineers, management consultants and other upwardly mobile youth – the boys still clad in office-casual and the girls decked out in form-fitting tops and minidresses, with teased hair and bright lipstick. Most patrons are knocking back drinks – women get two free – as Martin DSouza, a 27-year-old karaoke jockey, or KJ, spins the tunes.
Karaoke is popular in Bangalore, and customers vie for the microphone while the cheering crowd dances around the singers. Among the revellers is Priyanka Blah, 26, a free-spirited singer and artist manager with upswept hair, a gold hoop through her nostril and a tight, spaghetti-strapped top. Blah, who grew up in the northeastern town of Shillong, came to Bangalore as a student at just 16, and has lived here ever since. She has performed with her now-defunct electronica duo, Tempo Tantrick, and other singers, and writes about music, designs clothes and promotes musicians.

Up next for Washington charter schools: plans and lawyers

Donna Gordon Blankinship:

Now that voters have spoken about charter schools will the new, independent public schools be an option at the beginning of the next academic year?
It seems unlikely.
Voters narrowly approved Initiative 1240 earlier this month, but opening charter schools by 2013 would require many things to happen quickly — and there’s a strong possibility that the state’s top education officer will sue to block them.
First the state Board of Education has to figure out the next steps. The board has until March 6 to adopt rules to govern most aspects of charter schools in Washington. Board spokesman Aaron Wyatt said that schedule is tight, so people shouldn’t expect them to beat their deadline.
Next on the agenda: The new Washington Charter School Commission will be formed and begin its work. The independent state agency created by the initiative will be authorizing and supervising the new entities.

Arthur Levine – The Suburban Education Gap: The U.S. economy could be $1 trillion a year stronger if Americans only performed at Canada’s level in math

Arthur Levine, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

Parents nationwide are familiar with the wide academic achievement gaps separating American students of different races, family incomes and ZIP Codes. But a second crucial achievement gap receives far less attention. It is the disparity between children in America’s top suburban schools and their peers in the highest-performing school systems elsewhere in the world.
Of the 70 countries tested by the widely used Program for International Student Assessment, the United States falls in the middle of the pack. This is the case even for relatively well-off American students: Of American 15-year-olds with at least one college-educated parent, only 42% are proficient in math, according to a Harvard University study of the PISA results. That is compared with 75% proficiency for all 15-year-olds in Shanghai and 50% for those in Canada.
Compared with big urban centers, America’s affluent suburbs have roughly four times as many students performing at the academic level of their international peers in math. But when American suburbs are compared with two of the top school systems in the world–in Finland and Singapore–very few, such as Evanston, Ill., and Scarsdale, N.Y., outperform the international competition. Most of the other major suburban areas underperform the international competition. That includes the likes of Grosse Point, Mich., Montgomery County, Md., and Greenwich, Conn. And most underperform substantially, according to the Global Report Card database of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Related: The Global Report: Compare US School Districts to the World.

More on UW-LaCrosse’s Remedial Math Courses

Karen Herzog, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

A free, widely available online math course being developed by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse could dramatically reduce the need for students to take remedial math when they start college and put them on a faster, less expensive track to graduation, the UW System announced this week.
It also could better position the state to meet the needs of employers who have difficulty finding employees with adequate basic math skills, as the course would be available to people of all ages – literally anyone with an Internet connection.
An increasing number of freshmen in the UW System need remedial math when they start college, according to UW officials. As of 2007 – the latest data available – 21% of UW System freshmen did not have the necessary skills to succeed in college-level math. Among minority students, the percentage is significantly higher (40%).
Nationally, about 25% of high school graduates require remedial math in college.
That puts them at risk of not graduating, or of taking longer to finish a college degree, increasing the cost of their education, UW officials say.

Much more, here, including this: What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack and Michael fish.

UFT: Where’s the curriculum?

Maisie McAdoo:

A high-level gubernatorial commission on education reform on Oct. 16 got a rapid-fire earful from UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who warned that most teachers still do not have the curricula to prepare students for new state assessments this year that will incorporate challenging Common Core Learning Standards.
“Millions of students will be tested on a curriculum that was never supplied to their teachers,” Mulgrew warned the commissioners, to a round of audience applause, in his allotted three minutes of testimony.
Standards are not curricula, he wrote in lengthier submitted testimony. If the state and the city impose a new set of standards without the supports in place to teach to them, students and teachers will flounder. Some schools encourage common curriculum planning, he said, but many others leave teachers to come up with it on their own.

Tough exams and learning by rote are the keys to success, says Michael Gove

Peter Walker:

Learning facts by rote should be a central part of the school experience, the education secretary, Michael Gove, will argue on Wednesday in a speech which praises traditional exams to the extent of arguing they helped spur the US civil rights struggle.
In the address, titled In Praise of Tests, Gove describes the ideological underpinning to his planned shakeup of GCSEs and A-levels, a philosophy which will further delight educational traditionalists but is likely to prompt criticisms that he is seeking a return to the teaching styles of the 1940s and 50s.
Competitive, difficult exams for which pupils must prepare by memorising large amounts of facts and concepts will promote motivation, solidify knowledge and guarantee standards, Gove is to tell the Independent Academies Association, a trade body for academy schools.
“Exams matter because motivation matters,” Gove will say, according to extracts of the speech provided by his department.

Getting Down to Dollars and Cents: What Do School Districts Spend to Deliver Student-Centered Learning?

Larry Miller, Betheny Gross, Monica Ouijdani, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Student-centered learning (SCL) is an approach to learning that emphasizes authentic instruction, mastery-based assessment, and engaging students in real-life experiences that take their learning beyond the school walls and school day–all in an effort to connect students’ learning to their experiences, strengths, and interests.
This report offers the first detailed look into how districts and schools deal with funding issues when they adopt the SCL approach. Researchers examined district spending on SCL by comparing spending at SCL high schools to traditional high schools with similar characteristics. The researchers also performed a statistical analysis using New York City’s high schools, which included 79 SCL schools.

A Design Lens on Education

Tim Brown:

Recently I asked Sandy to share her thoughts on design thinking in education. Here’s an excerpt:
What’s different when you look at the world of education through the lens of design?
Most of us have deeply embedded ideas about what’s “right” for education. But when you look at the world of education through the lens of design, you start to see that there isn’t one right answer, there are many. And when you really examine the world of education, you realize that “the system” is actually an outcome of millions of different solutions, organizations, priorities, and experiences. As designers, our job is to understand the conditions in any given situation deeply enough to be able to find new, relevant solutions for a particular context, need, or challenge–whether it’s about interactions in the classroom or the structures that drive our system.

Please let them Fail and Make Mistakes

King Sidharth:

The best thing was seeing them make mistakes. Good mistakes.
Same mistakes that we made when we were younger. First urge was to tell them not to make those mistakes. After all that’s how adults behave around us – learn from our experience, don’t make same mistakes as we did, they say. But does that really work? Is it even healthy to intend that?
When I read back old notes on this website. I don’t agree with many of them! One day I was about to pull them down or re-write them. But then I remembered how strongly I felt about each one of them at the time of writing. Somewhere a kid is making same mistakes as I did and those are the things s/he will relate to more. And anyway, if no one is reading it I am proud to look at how far I’ve come.
Wisdom comes from experience and telling them not to repeat your mistakes it to deprive them of experience and hence the wisdom. Never do that. Please. You telling them that it something won’t work is knowledge, not experience.

Student Debt: Onerous for the young, a drag on society – and a major future problem

Fabius Maximus:

We have heard from a number of sources that researchers at the New York Federal Reserve Bank are worried that without some form of mortgage debt relief we may face a crisis in a couple of years that eclipses the one that took place in 2008. In line with such worries, the New York Fed has started collecting previously unavailable data on student debt, a form of indebtedness that’s a major burden on the young, and also more of a macroeconomic drag than many analysts realize. Here are some details on all that.
Runaway Inflation
The rise in college tuition has been relentless, far outpacing the famous rise in the cost of health care (see graph, below). Since 1980, the overall CPI is up 194%. Its medical care component is up 436%, more than twice as much. But its college tuition component is up 829%, more than four times as much.

Bureaucrats Paid $250,000 Feed Outcry Over College Costs

John Hechinger:

J. Paul Robinson, chairman of Purdue University’s faculty senate, strode through the halls of a 10- story concrete-and-glass administrative tower.
“I have no idea what these people do,” said Robinson, waving his hand across a row of offices, his voice rising.
The 59-year-old professor of biomedical engineering is leading a faculty revolt against bureaucratic bloat at the public university in Indiana. In the past decade, the number of administrative employees jumped 54 percent, almost eight times the growth of tenured and tenure-track faculty.
Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000 chief diversity officer. It employs 16 deans and 11 vice presidents, among them a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief.

Public responses to school report cards raise key questions

Matthew DeFour:

Gov. Scott Walker recently solicited feedback on the state’s new school report cards and received a few dozen responses offering a variety of suggestions and critiques.
The report cards are part of the state’s new school accountability system. They rate schools on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student math and reading achievement, improvement on test performance over time, how well schools are closing achievement gaps, and whether students are on track for college or a career.
Some themes that emerged from the responses Walker received:
Is the rating scale confusing?

Manhattan district schools protest Moskowitz co-locations

Micah Landau:

“Hey, Eva, we’re no fools! We won’t let you ruin our schools!” chanted more than 70 teachers from the six schools on the Washington Irving Campus, near Manhattan’s Union Square, as they rallied on the campus steps on Oct. 18 against the possible co-location of a new Success Academy charter school inside their building.
Washington Irving is one of two Manhattan high school campuses outside the Success Academy’s traditional domain in Harlem that the charter school chain has targeted for co-location. The other, Graphic Arts, is located in Hell’s Kitchen and is home to three schools. Parents, teachers and students from both campuses are putting up a spirited fight against the co-location proposals.
Speaking at the rally outside Washington Irving, International HS at Union Square Chapter Leader Thomas Hasler blasted Harlem Success founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz for creating “separate and unequal schools.”

What’s the Impact of Drop-Out Rates on High School Proficiency Scores?

Laura Waters:

Today’s Trenton Times reports on a recent Trenton School Board meeting at which board members puzzled over seemingly conflicting test scores: high school students performed better on standardized tests last year but younger students did worse than in previous years.
Specifically, last year 38% of high school students taking the HSPA reached proficiency in math and 65% reached proficiency in language art, an increase from the previous year. But at grades 3 -8, scores were flat, less than 50% proficient, and sometimes much lower than 50% proficient. Board President Toby Sanders complained about the district’s lack of academic leadership:

Hong Kong Baptist University ‘Blue Book’ criticises recruitment of foreign teachers

Stuart Lau:

A Baptist University-initiated publication already under academic investigation contains another contentious allegation about the British Council’s role in recruiting teachers under the native English-speaking (NET) scheme, the South China Morning Post found.
The Chinese-language Blue Book of Hong Kong: Annual Report on Development of Hong Kong (2012) says the NET scheme, in place since 1997, should be abolished because of its social and political bearing on Hong Kong. It describes some of the teachers selected as having “taken root in Hong Kong”.
The British Council said it had long stopped playing a role in the selection of these teachers.
Chinese University has already complained about the Blue Book’s “defamatory” claim that its liberal studies curriculum was influenced by a US foundation. Baptist University vice-chancellor Professor Albert Chan Sun-chi pledged yesterday to offer a satisfactory apology to Chinese University should its academic investigation panel find material in the book was not accurate.
“If we have been wrong, we should apologise,” he said.

Math Professor Teaches High School Classes

Darryl Long:

During the 2009-2010 academic year I did something unusual for a university mathematician on sabbatical: I taught high school mathematics in a large urban school district. This might not be so strange except that my school does not have a teacher preparation program and only graduates a few students per year who intend to be teachers.
Why did I do this? I, like many of you, am deeply concerned about mathematics education and I wanted to see what a typical high school in my city is like. Because I regularly work with high school mathematics teachers, I wanted to experience the life of a high school teacher for myself. I had neither a research project nor an agenda for changing schools or teachers.
I kept a blog during my adventure, but it took some months after that experience before I could begin to process all that had happened. Four lessons emerged from my experience that I hope will give college and university educators a clearer view of what teaching high school mathematics is like.

A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities

National alliance for public charter schools:

For the past 20 years, the public charter school movement has been a leader in innovation and education reform. By unleashing an environment of creativity in states and communities, charter schools have demonstrated that children of all backgrounds are capable of achieving high standards and that college and career readiness is a goal attainable for all. Charter schools have led efforts to narrow achievement gaps and are showing that success is possible in neighborhoods where schools have been failing for generations.
For these reasons, public charter schools have been the fastest-growing sector of America’s public education system. Beginning with a handful of charter schools in 1992, the number of charters has grown rapidly, especially in the past four years. Today, demand for public charter schools is at an all time high. In 41 states and the District of Columbia, more than 2 million students – almost 5 percent of total enrollment in public schools – now attend a charter school. The growth in public charter school enrollment presented in this report shows that parent demand for school options continues.
For seven years, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has tracked the growth in student enrollment at public charter schools. The enclosed report, A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities identifies school districts that have the highest percentage and highest number of public school students enrolled in public charter schools. In communities where families have choice, families are increasingly selecting public charter schools over the traditional public schools. The 2012 Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup poll indicates that two thirds of Americans favor charter schools. A recent poll of Detroit residents, for example, found that more than half of them believe charters are a better option than the schools in the traditional public system. In countless other communities, parents are clamoring for more high quality public options for their children. As a result, the public education landscape is shifting in many major cities.

Why online education works

Alex Tabarrok:

Oxford University was founded in 1096, Cambridge in 1209. Harvard, a relative newcomer, was founded in 1636. Other than religions, few institutions appear to have maintained their existence or their relative status for as long as major universities. And few institutions, notably again other than religions, have seen so little change. Oxford in 2012 teaches students in ways remarkably similar to Oxford in 1096, seated students listening to professors in a classroom.
I suspect that these two facts are related; stasis in methods has led to stasis in status. And I suspect that both of these facts are about to change. Online education will change how universities teach; as a result, online education will change which universities teach.

Wanted: More school board candidates

The Wisconsin State Journal

Local school boards prioritize spending and programs, hire top staff and help shape curriculums. They set long-term goals and schedule building referendums.
Too many school board races go uncontested. And a big reason for the lack of competition is simple: Being a school board member is a difficult, time-consuming and in many ways thankless job.
Yet strong school leadership is crucial to the success of your city, village or town.
Four candidates competed for two Madison School Board seats last spring. It wasn’t just an opportunity to pick leaders for the local district. It was a chance to have a high-profile conversation about how our schools and students are doing — and what they need to do better.

Three Madison school board seats will be on the Spring, 2013 ballot. Beth Moss recently announced that she does not plan to seek re-election during the spring, 2013 contest. James Howard is running. Maya Cole, according to Matthew DeFour’s article will decide after Thanksgiving if she plans to seek re-election.

Middle school students to showcase Girls’ Biz at Women’s Expo

Dennis Punzel:

When Sarah Buob moved from Rockford, Ill., to Madison last year, one of her first moves was to join the Wisconsin Women’s Entrepreneurs South Central Chapter.
As a freelance graphic artist, she figured it would be the best way to make some business contacts and develop some friendships along the way.
It didn’t take long for her to realize her daughter Quinn could accomplish much the same thing by joining the Girls’Biz program co-sponsored by the WWE and the Girls Scouts of America-Badgerland Council.
“I thought it would be good for Quinn because she didn’t know anybody up here either,” Buob said. “She liked the fact that she could make some money, make some friends and learn a little bit about business and make some money on top of it.”

UW-La Crosse gets $50K from the Gates Foundation to improve remedial math


The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has received a $50,000 grant to help incoming students who need remedial math courses.
The UW System says one in five incoming freshmen needs remedial math. And for under-represented minority students, that figure is double.
To bring those students up to speed faster, the La Crosse campus is using the grant money to develop an online math course. The program will be available to high school students who want to evaluate how ready they are for college, and for non-traditional students who’ve been away from school and need a refresher before coming back.

Remarkable. Are we making no progress? Perhaps it is time to revisit the math forum audio and video.
What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack and Michael fish.

Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning

Alix Spiegel:

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.
“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes on paper,” Stigler explains, “and one kid was just totally having trouble with it. His cube looked all cockeyed, so the teacher said to him, ‘Why don’t you go put yours on the board?’ So right there I thought, ‘That’s interesting! He took the one who can’t do it and told him to go and put it on the board.’ ”
Stigler knew that in American classrooms, it was usually the best kid in the class who was invited to the board. And so he watched with interest as the Japanese student dutifully came to the board and started drawing, but still couldn’t complete the cube. Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the rest of the class whether the kid had gotten it right, and the class would look up from their work, and shake their heads no. And as the period progressed, Stigler noticed that he — Stigler — was getting more and more anxious.

Firestorm Erupts Over Virginia’s Race-based Education Goals

Claudio Sanchez:

As part of Virginia’s waiver to opt out of mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind law, the state has created a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities.
Virginia Democratic state Sen. Donald McEachin first read about the state’s new performance goals for schoolchildren in a newspaper editorial.
“And I was shocked to find that the state board of education [was] putting in place permanent disparities between different subgroups — Asians at the top, African-Americans at the bottom,” says McEachin.
Here’s what the Virginia state board of education actually did. It looked at students’ test scores in reading and math and then proposed new passing rates. In math it set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities.

Newark teacher contract a turning point for teachers, students

Star-Ledger via Laura Waters:

The long effort to improve Newark schools faces a critical test on Wednesday when teachers will vote on a pioneering new contract that would put city schools on the vanguard of national reform. It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed, one that is good for kids and generous to teachers.
Despite the huge investment, half of Newark kids drop out of school. And of those who make it to college, 90 percent need remedial help. Clearly, money is not the entire answer. Reform of the teaching profession is needed as well.
The contract provides generous increases averaging 14 percent over three years. It offers highly effective teachers $5,000 bonuses, another $5,000 if they agree to work in struggling schools, and yet another $2,500 if they teach subjects such as math and science, jobs that are harder to fill.

Beaver Dam School District looking back and ahead

Beaver Dam Superintendent Steve Vessey, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

I would like to take this opportunity to look back at the 2011-2012 school year in the Beaver Dam Unified School District and glance forward to the advancements we will make throughout this year.
It has been an exciting time in education at the local, state and federal levels. We have accomplished much and will continue to move forward, reaching for excellence and continuing to sustain our position as the district of choice in South Central Wisconsin.
Academically, we have made significant gains in growing our students’ academic capabilities, increasing the academic rigor throughout our schools and offering new and exciting opportunities for the youth of Beaver Dam and the greater Dodge County area.
This past school year, we had in excess of 175 students take advantage of 300 advanced placement (AP) testing opportunities at our high school, resulting in 14 National Advanced Placement Academic Scholars. Through our full menu of AP courses, our students collected more than $100,000 worth of college credits. We have expanded our middle school math program to include eighth grade Algebra. We currently have 133 middle school Algebra students who will be positioned to explore advanced math opportunities as early as their sophomore year.

Federal Barriers to K-12 Innovation

Raegen Miller & Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

While some federal initiatives have been aimed at promoting innovation in education, some of the fiscal requirements of two large federal education programs stand in the way. This paper identifies three fiscal requirements that encourage the status quo, instilling in districts a profound deference for existing staffing and spending patterns. The report recommends closing the Title I comparability loop hole, streamlining its supplement-not-supplant requirement, and instituting a “challenge waiver” system for IDEA Part B maintenance of effort. The report also recommends redirecting Title II funds to support programs and initiatives designed to develop effective new instructional technologies and take them to scale. According to the authors, these modifications would break down barriers to innovation as well as promote smarter, fairer uses of taxpayer money to support public education.

White House Petition: provide University graduates ability to trade their diplomas back for 100% tuition refunds.

Whitehouse Petition Website

Because of the inability of recent college graduates to find gainful employment in order to repay their college debt, and since this college debt cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy, and most of the recent additions to the job market have been in service related industries, the Obama administration should take up the cause of reducing college debt and hold those accountable responsible.
In the name of Consumer Protection, recent college graduates should have the ability to return the diploma and not make any reference to receiving education from the college in exchange for a 100% refund of college tuition. This may be extended with a graduated (ha, get it?) reduction for the last four years, with a red line at January 20, 2008.

Admissions 101: Obama-Romney guide to great college essays

Jay Matthews:

Are you feeling the tension among the college-applying families you know? Nov. 1 — Thursday — is the deadline for many early action and early decision applications. Applicants still have time to use a tip demonstrated recently by President Obama and Mitt Romney. Their technique, if done well, guarantees an essay that will capture the hearts of every admissions officer.
This isn’t from the debates. If you use those rhetorical devices — insult, ire, overloaded erudition — your application will be consigned to the wastebasket.
I am referring to the candidates’ speeches at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner — all those jokes you saw on TV. Some of their wit didn’t work, but both men revealed a keen grasp of a device that is not only funny but sends the powerful message that you would be great to have on campus.

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (Book Review)

Bill Gates:

The quality of our colleges and universities – particularly for undergraduates – should be a topic we all care about as a country. College is crucial in educating and preparing young people to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.
We’ve seen for some time the disturbing data that America is falling behind other countries in the number of students who attend and complete post-secondary education. Now, new data suggests that many U.S. students who make it to college, and even succeed there, are actually learning very little.
The data comes from the book Academically Adrift, which raises some fundamental and surprising questions about the quality of U.S. undergraduate education. The authors, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, are sociologists who analyzed results from essay tests and surveys given to more than 2,000 students at the beginning of their freshman year and the end of their sophomore year. Between 2005 and 2007, data was collected from 24 four-year institutions, including state universities and liberal-arts colleges.
Two key findings have received a lot of attention:

Should this school be saved? The fight over Chicago’s Dyett High

Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher:

By just about any definition, Walter H. Dyett High School has failed.
Just 10 percent can pass the state math exam; barely one in six is proficient in reading. The technology lab is so ancient, some of the computers still take 3-inch floppy disks. More teens drop out than graduate.
Yet when the Chicago Board of Education announced plans to shut the place down, it sparked a community uprising.
Students, parents and teachers have staged sit-ins outside the mayor’s office; earlier this month, 10 were arrested for refusing to leave the fifth floor of City Hall. The protestors have held rallies. They’ve sued the school board. A group of students has filed a federal civil-rights complaint seeking to keep Dyett open.
Their quest to save a failed school may seem quixotic. But it is echoed in communities across the United States, as a rising anger at school closures takes hold.
The bipartisan education reform movement sweeping the nation – and promoted by President Barack Obama – calls for rating schools by their students’ test scores and then taking drastic steps to overhaul the worst performers by firing the teachers, turning the schools over to private management or shutting them down altogether.

Online Courses Put Pressure on Third-World Universities How a teacher in El Salvador became an advocate of massive open online courses, and why hardly anyone listens to him yet.

Antonio Regalado:

When prominent U.S. universities began offering free college classes over the Web this year, more than half of the students who signed up were from outside the United States. Consider the story of one of them: Carlos Martinez, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of El Salvador.
Last spring, Martinez enrolled in a class on electronic circuits offered by edX, the $60 million collaboration between MIT and Harvard to stream “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, over the Web. He thought it was so good that he began traveling around El Salvador to convince others to join the class and launched a blog in English to document his adventures as his country’s first “MOOC advocate.”

Tennessee Higher Education Commission report on Fast Track Teacher Certification

Professor Baker’s Blog:

Beginning public school teachers who earn their credentials from alternative types of programs in Tennessee are as effective as veteran teachers in some subject areas and even more effective in a few areas, according to a state report released this morning.
The alternative programs, such as Teach for America, allow college graduates from other fields to teach while participating in a fast track to certification.
“In looking at both traditionally and alternatively licensed graduates, there are four programs that stand out,” said Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE.

Teachers’ benefits cuts offset much of school-aid losses

Jason Stein:

In the state budget, Walker and GOP lawmakers sharply reduced aid to schools and then also dropped by more than 5% the cap on how much money schools can raise through state aid and local property taxes.
To offset that cut amounting to $451 million in the first year, Walker and lawmakers eliminated through the Act 10 legislation most collective bargaining for teachers and most other public workers and then required most public employees to pick up at least half the required contributions to their pensions. The legislation also required state workers to pay 12% of their health insurance premiums and allowed schools to require the same of their employees.
These changes, however, don’t currently apply in districts such as Milwaukee Public Schools, where unions and the district still have a valid contract laying out different terms.
The taxpayers alliance found that districts reduced their benefit costs by $366.3 million overall, which amounted to 81% of the total amount of revenue cuts to schools. However, part of that was due to schools shedding staff.
The study found that, through layoffs or simply not filling vacancies, districts statewide cut 2,312 positions, or 2.3%, last year, up from 1,519 positions, or 1.5%, the previous year.
Those staff cuts accounted for about $79 million of the overall benefits savings. They also contributed to a statewide rise in average student-to-teacher ratios to 14.4, up from 14.1 in 2011 and 13.9 in 2010.

Solidarity eNewsletter: Sick Leave Bank Assessment

Madison Teachers, Inc., via a kind Linda Doeseckle email 82K PDF.

he Sick Leave Bank (see Section VII-G of MTI’s Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreement) is an innovative and progressive Contract provision. Because of its value to those in need, unions across the country have tried to emulate it. A sign of Union solidarity, the Sick Leave Bank (SLB) has provided income to many teachers who otherwise would go without.
The SLB was created by MTI’s 1980 negotiations, with each member of MTI’s teacher collective bargaining unit donating three sick days to fund the “Bank”. The Sick Leave Bank acts as a short-term disability policy for teachers needing to be off of work for medical reasons and who have consumed their earned sick leave. SLB benefits begin after a teacher has been absent eleven (11) consecutive work days and has exhausted his/her Personal Sick Leave Account. SLB benefits are payable for a maximum of forty-four (44) days, or until the Contract provided long term disability benefit begins, whichever occurs first. The SLB Contract provision enables pay at 100% of the individual’s daily rate of pay for each work day from the SLB. Without the SLB, teachers without sufficient sick leave to cover an extended illness would be forced to go without pay until long term disability benefits begin when one is absent for 55 work days; i.e. until one qualifies for long term disability coverage.
Teacher recipients are not required to “repay” the bank for days withdrawn; rather all teachers are assessed an additional day from their personal sick leave account, when the balance of days in the SLB drops below the contractually defined threshold of six (6) days per teacher. To help offset the need for assessment, MTI negotiated that 80% of the unused sick leave of the Retirement Insurance Account of one who resigns or dies is transferred to the SLB. This has minimized the need for members of the bargaining unit to be assessed days to fund the Bank.
The SLB is yet another way that, through our collective efforts, MTI members are able to assist each other.
Given that the Sick Leave Bank balance has now dropped below the contractual minimum, all teachers will be assessed one earned sick leave day on their February 1 paycheck. Teachers who do not have at least one sick day in their personal sick leave account may be docked one day’s pay on the February 1 paycheck. This is only the fourteenth (14th) time in the thirty-two (32) year existence of the SLB that an assessment has been necessary.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (running for re-election in 2013) Proposes New State Tax $ Redistribution Scheme

Jennifer Zahn and Erin Richards:

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Monday reintroduced a proposal from two years ago to increase state funding for public education and change the way the state finances its public schools as part of his 2013-’15 budget request.
The proposal calls for a 2.4% increase in state aid in the first year of the budget and a 5.5% increase in 2014-’15, which Evers said would put the state back on track to return to two-thirds’ state support for public school costs by 2017.
The Department of Public Instruction’s 2013-’15 budget proposal guarantees state funding of $3,000 per pupil and would result in every school district either getting more state money or the same money as before, but Republican legislators on Monday did not express confidence in the total package.
Luther Olsen, chair of the Senate Education Committee and a Republican from Ripon, said Evers’ “Fair Funding for our Future” plan just shifts money around between districts and doesn’t really award more money to schools.
Olsen did say he would like to increase districts’ revenue limit authority per student – or the combined amount they can raise in state general aid and local property taxes – by at least $200 per pupil starting in the first year of the next biennial budget.
Evers announced his 2013-’15 state public education budget request Monday at Irving Elementary School in West Allis.


Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the proposal will be reviewed in the context of the overall budget, but said education is one of Walker’s top budget priorities.
“The governor will work to build off of the work done with Superintendent Evers on school district accountability and Read to Lead as he creates the first version of the state budget, which will be introduced early next year,” Werwie said.
Evers also said he’ll run for re-election next year, adding that despite the funding cuts, he’s excited to continue pushing reform and accountability.
“In order for us to create a new middle class and to move our state forward in a positive way, our public schools need to be strong, and the reforms we’re implementing now are going a long way toward accomplishing that,” Evers said. “We’re in a great place as a state and we’ll keep plugging away.”
Various conservative education sources said no candidate has come forward to challenge Evers yet, but talks were ongoing with potential challengers. Nomination papers can be circulated Dec. 1 and are due back to the GAB Jan. 2.

Matthew DeFour has more.

Sun Prairie Teacher Contract Bargaining Documents

Teacher Union proposal via sp-eye:

Really? You really think that under the new climate in Wisconsin that your existing contract should be allowed to stand? What the teachers union needs to come to grips with is that its getting harder and harder for the public to support their petulant positioning.
Can you name one…just one…occupation that gets an automatic 3% pay raise every year just for being a year older? And then…on TOP of that, you expect a big raise from the school board as well? About 4-6 weeks ago, you fine folks made a plea for a 3.1% increase. Those on “the grid” would then receive a 6.1% increase. What other occupation still gets an annual “step increase for basically continuing to work and having a birthday.

The District’s Contract proposal, via sp-eye:

SPEA, and across the state other teachers’ unions, have long spoken out about the low wage paid to entry level teachers. In the past, the “grid” has impeded the district’s ability to single out one group of SPEA members for above average pay increases. In addition, SPEA, like many teachers unions, establishes a “negotiations committee” which is heavily (if not totally) comprised of teachers earning wages either at the far end of the salary grid, or even “off” the grid. It can be argued that these “negotiators” are looking out more for their own interests than those of their lesser paid brethren.
Act 10, however, changed all that. And SPASD administration and members of the school board worked diligently to develop an offer that would earmark roughly one-third of the budgeted $552,392 towards raising the base wage for all entry level teachers. The new starting salary would be raised from $32,505 to $35,000 for a Bachelor’s Degree and $38,000 for a Master’s Degree. 96 SPEA members (roughly 17% of all SPEA members) would see their base wages increased to $35,000.
How could SPEA’s negotiation team argue against such a plan? It’s a no-brainer, right? Raising the floor would allow SPASD to be more competitive and attract the best and brightest teachers to work in the district. And that’s consistent with SPEA’s desires…right?

What will the 2012 election mean for education?

American enterprise Institute:

Although education was not the most salient issue of the 2012 US election season, a panel of education experts unveiled the issue’s growing significance at an AEI event on Thursday. AEI’s own Andrew Kelly began by asking what America’s largely status-quo election results mean for education.
Panelists agreed that Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett’s defeat was the most surprising outcome for education. AEI’s Rick Hess noted that the incumbent Republican’s loss is a foreboding trend on the national education horizon, one that indicates both union strength and a frustration with the highly partisan nature of the Common Core State Standards.
Panelists expressed a less-unified response to the next four years of education policy. Kristen Soltis of the Winston Group emphasized that the Obama administration must shift public opinion about education policies such as teacher pay, teacher evaluation, the Common Core, and class sizes to make progress in education reform and improve student outcomes.