A look at “ai” writing feedback



Jill Barshay:

This week I challenged my editor to face off against a machine. Barbara Kantrowitz gamely accepted, under one condition: “You have to file early.”  Ever since ChatGPT arrived in 2022, many journalists have made a public stunt out of asking the new generation of artificial intelligence to write their stories. Those AI stories were often bland and sprinkled with errors. I wanted to understand how well ChatGPT handled a different aspect of writing: giving feedback.

My curiosity was piqued by a new study, published in the June 2024 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Learning and Instruction, that evaluated the quality of ChatGPT’s feedback on students’ writing. A team of researchers compared AI with human feedback on 200 history essays written by students in grades 6 through 12 and they determined that human feedback was generally a bit better. Humans had a particular advantage in advising students on something to work on that would be appropriate for where they are in their development as a writer. 

But ChatGPT came close. On a five-point scale that the researchers used to rate feedback quality, with a 5 being the highest quality feedback, ChatGPT averaged a 3.6 compared with a 4.0 average from a team of 16 expert human evaluators. It was a tough challenge. Most of these humans had taught writing for more than 15 years or they had considerable experience in writing instruction. All received three hours of training for this exercise plus extra pay for providing the feedback. 

ChatGPT even beat these experts in one aspect; it was slightly better at giving feedback on students’ reasoning, argumentation and use of evidence from source materials – the features that the researchers had wanted the writing evaluators to focus on.




Looming substantial Madison tax and $pending increases



Allison Garfield:

 If the property tax increase covered the projected $27 million deficit, it would cost the average household an additional $284 annually, or roughly $24 a month.

If approved by voters, the increase would add to a revenue stream Madison already relies heavily upon to fund its services, with over 70% of the city’s money coming from property taxes. The city’s rapidly growing population has added to the demand for services, and while a property tax hike is one of only a few options available for the 2025 budget, the City Council is also considering what steps can be taken to address future deficits down the line.

——

Madison taxpayers have long supported far above average k-12 $pending. Dive in, here.

Yet:

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?




Notes on the Taxpayer Funded Milwaukee Public Schools $pending, governance and outcomes



Brian Fraley:

“How bad are things that MPS? Only 40% of MPS sophomores are proficient at reading and less than 30% are proficient at math. And the graduation rate and MPS is abysmal. Obviously what MPS has been doing is not working. So why has DPI ignored the problems of MPS? Why can’t the Superintendent and her deputies take a leadership role?”

More than 15 years ago, Rose Fernandez, then a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, tried in vain to rally the education community to address the dysfunction and dereliction to duty on full display at Milwaukee Public Schools.  In the decade and a half since her campaign, things at MPS have gone from bad to worse as the ‘leaders’ at DPI and Milwaukee’s public schools have failed hundreds of thousands of Milwaukee students. 

The bureaucrats at the state Department of Public Instruction have threatened to hold up some state aid targeted to Milwaukee Public Schools because the district keeps failing to file fiscal reports with the state. This could impact more than $215 million in general and special education aid payments. This has been going on since September, but DPI made the political decision to withhold this information from the public until late May.

This crisis comes on top of news that MPS may no longer be able to run the city’s Head Start program because of systemic failure there.




NIH scientists made $710M in royalties from drug makers — a fact they tried to hide



Adam Andrzejewski

Almost all that cash — $690 million — went to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), the subagency led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, and 260 of its scientists.

Information about this vast private royalty complex is tightly held by NIH. My organization, OpenTheBooks.com, was forced to sue to uncover the royalties paid from September 2009 to October 2021, which amounted to $325 million over 56,000 transactions.

We had to sue a second time, with Judicial Watch as our counsel, to pry open this new release.

Payments skyrocketed during the pandemic era: those years saw more than double the amount of cash flow to NIH from the private sector, compared to the prior twelve combined. All told, it’s $1.036 billion.

It’s unclear if any of the Covid vaccine royalties from Pfizer and Moderna, the latter of which settled with NIH by agreeing to pay $400 million, is even included in these new numbers. NIH isn’t saying.

Citizen Free Press

Dr. Robert Redfield was CDC director under Trump.

He was known to be a covid Vaccine truthteller, even back then.

This is a fantastic clip with Chris Cuomo.

——

2021.

Deeper dive.

Nicholas Kristof:

In retrospect, many of us in the journalistic and public health worlds were too dismissive of that possibility when she and others were making the argument in 2020.

NIH omertà – Debbie Dingel.




K-12 Tax & $pending Climate: how debt ate Chicago



Judge Glock:

An ever-mounting debt burden is the greatest threat to the city’s survival. As that problem worsens, more residents will question whether they want to stay in a windswept city paying down someone else’s pension—or decamp for places that don’t place such a millstone around their citizens’ necks.

According to the group Truth in Accounting, Chicago continues to live up to its moniker “Second City” in at least one respect: it has the second-worst debt load of any big city in America—about $43,000 per taxpayer, or almost $40 billion in total. The first is New York City, but Chicago residents also have to deal with Illinois’ debts, which total $42,000 per taxpayer, third worst in the nation. Thus, a family moving to Chicago suddenly becomes the inheritor of almost $85,000 in liabilities. By this metric, Chicago is no longer second but has by far the worst debt burden of any major city.

Chicago’s accumulating debt might be bearable if the city had low taxes and therefore room to raise them and pay down some of the liabilities. But taxes in the Windy City already rank among the nation’s harshest. According to a national study, Chicago’s combined city and state taxes would eat up over 12 percent of a U.S. median family income. The only large cities with higher proportionate taxes are Rust Belt towns with much smaller populations, such as Detroit and Newark. Chicago imposes the highest sales tax of any major city (10.25 percent) and punishing property taxes, too.

Chicago’s taxation is also brutal on businesses. A recent study of 53 cities found that Chicago’s tax on industrial properties was nearly double the average of other cities. Chicago’s commercial property-tax rate, at more than 4 percent per year, was by far the worst of any major city and more than twice the average.

High debt and taxes might be manageable if the city’s economic fundamentals were strong. They’re not. Chicago relied for years on commercial properties, especially downtown offices in the Loop, to power its economy and fund the city’s excesses. But those jobs are fleeing. Downtown Chicago’s office vacancy rate recently approached 24 percent, a record high. Boeing has moved its headquarters from the Loop to Northern Virginia. These white-collar firms will not pay the city’s higher taxes in the future; they won’t even pay their existing leases.




Peter Voser says university leavers let down by education system and governments that have neglected manufacturing



Arjun Neil Alim and Michael O’Dwyer

The number of UK graduates going into professional services careers rather than manufacturing represents a “failure” of industrial policy, former Royal Dutch Shell chief Peter Voser has said.

Voser, who now chairs Swiss engineering group ABB, said that British university graduates had been let down by the country’s education system and successive governments that neglected its manufacturing sector.

“I think the UK forgot how important certain sectors are,” he said. “It’s a failure . . . [that so many graduates go into consulting]. There should be more in, for example, advanced manufacturing.”

Professional services firms such as consultancies have expanded rapidly, helped by demand from companies short on staff and desperate to make their operations digital after the pandemic. The need for advice on compliance with regulations and the adoption of climate impact targets has also driven demand for advisers.




Notes on College Enrollment



KW:

College enrollment is in “crisis.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions decreased by 15 percent (from 18.1 million to 15.4 million students).” After a small spike in 2022, freshman enrollment declined again in 2023, with “the plunge in enrollment the worst ever recorded.”

Low birth rates are part of the story behind this “enrollment cliff.” But, they are only part. Just as important is the growing disinterest that many high school students have in graduating from college. According to data from Monitoring the Future, a long-running survey of American 12thgraders, the percentage of high school seniors reporting no interest in graduating from a four-year college rose from 18% to 28% between 2011 and 2022 (Figure 1).




Mississippi students and educators have closed the gap and reached the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.



Julia James:

This growth can be attributed to several factors, but chief among them is a 2013 state law that created a more robust infrastructure around helping children learn to read and holding them back at the end of third grade if they didn’t hit a certain benchmark.

But this national test also measures students again in eighth grade. The gap between the national average and Mississippi’s eighth-grade reading score has gotten smaller over the last decade, but it hasn’t closed at the rate of fourth-grade reading. 

State leaders are paying attention. 

“Some of our challenge points are eighth-grade reading,” Interim State Superintendent Ray Morgigno said when presenting an annual report at the Jan. 18 State Board of Education meeting.

Morgigno then pointed to the pilot programs underway around the state to expand Mississippi’s fourth-grade reading strategies up to the middle school level. One is being operated by the Mississippi Department of Education in conjunction with a regional arm of the U.S. Department of Education. 

Literacy momentum stalls in Wisconsin (DPI): Why would Wisconsin’s state leaders promote the use of curriculum that meets “minimal level” criteria, instead of elevating the highest-quality

——-

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?




Civics: The Tragedy of Portland: ‘It’s a Ghost Town, Except for Zombies’



Nate Hochman:

A once great American city has become something short of a dystopia, where shop owners sleep with shotguns and citizens must act as police.

For seven months, Dylan Carrico Rogers slept in his bike shop with a shotgun. TriTech Bikes, located in the Montavilla neighborhood of northeast Portland, Ore., where Rogers grew up, had been battered by three break-ins, two nearby shootings, and countless instances of vandalism. Portland’s serially understaffed police force was nowhere to be found. And in the face of $25,000 of stolen bike parts, TriTech’s insurance company was ready to jump ship. “They said, ‘if you claim another one, we’re just gonna drop you,’” Rogers told National Review. “So I’m paying $1,200 every three months to be told that I have …

—-

“All will now be released into Oregon’s communities”.




Civics: Notes on election integrity



Charles Benson:

West Bend and Germantwn have an option of $60,000 for West Bend and Germantown to count absentee ballots at polling places instead of a central count location. 

Municipalities will have the option of $40,000 to expand early voting hours and hire more poll workers.

There is $15,000 available for a post-county-wide audit of results in the presidential and us senate races.

An additional $6,700 is available for random voluntary audits on election night.

The remaining funds will be divided to cover additional expenses. 

Why the audits?

“We have heard concerns from our constituents about our voting equipment and we want to reiterate they are functioning properly and restore that confidence for those individuals,” said Reichert.




Civics: Notes on three felonies a day



Prodigal:

“The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.

In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to “white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals.




Google search documents



Mia Sato:

A collection of 2,500 leaked internal documents from Google filled with details about data the company collects is authentic, the company confirmed today. Until now, Google had refused to comment on the materials.

The documents in question detail data that Google is keeping track of, some of which may be used in its closely guarded search ranking algorithm. The documents offer an unprecedented — though still murky — look under the hood of one of the most consequential systems shaping the web.

“We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information,” Google spokesperson Davis Thompson told The Verge in an email. “We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.”




SEO experts say a massive leak of 14,000 ranking features exposes the blueprint for how Google secretly curates the Internet.



Maxwell Zeff:

Google Search is often referred to as the doorstep to the internet—it’s the first stop on most people’s journey to information online. However, Google doesn’t say much about how it organizes the internet, making Search a giant black box that dictates what we know and what we don’t. This week, a 2,500-page leak, first reported by search engine optimization (SEO) veteran Rand Fishkin, gave the world an insight into the 26-year-old mystery of Google Search.

“I think the biggest takeaway is that what Google’s public representatives say and what Google search engine does are two different things,” Fishkin said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo.




Notes on The Possible Demise of Milwaukee’s taxpayer funded K-12 Superintendent



Rory Linnane:

Milwaukee School Board members could fire Superintendent Keith Posley or take other disciplinary action against him at a meeting Monday night, according to a meeting noticeupdated Friday evening, days after board members found out MPS had failed to submit key financial reports to state officials.

According to the meeting notice, board members could discuss Posley’s employment in a closed door meeting, before possibly returning to a public meeting to take action.

At the meeting, board members may consider “dismissal, demotion, licensing or discipline” of the superintendent. They may also discuss Posley’s compensation and performance evaluation data, and confer with legal counsel, according to the meeting notice.

The meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Monday at MPS’ Central Office, will also include a public hearing on the district’s budget and financial situation. Board members delayed voting this week on a district budget for the 2024-25 school year to get more information about where the district’s finances stand.

Also at the meeting on Monday, board members plan to announce the hiring of an outside financial consultant that will help the district get its financial reports in order.




The mental health consequences of social justice fundamentalism



Greg Lukianoff and Andrea Lan

In their 2015 article and 2018 book, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg and Jonathan Haidt argue that cognitive distortions (practices like catastrophizing, black and white thinking, overgeneralizing, discounting positives, and emotional reasoning) and overprotecting children results in an external locus of control, helplessness and despair, and both the mental health crisis and the rampant culture of illiberalism on campus that we’re seeing today.

Certainly, the two major concerns from the 2015 article have borne out, with academic freedom and free speech on campus being threatened at an unprecedented scale since 2014 — but especially since 2017 — and mental health of young people tanking to a degree even greater than even Greg and Jon ever predicted. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has reported consistent and rapid increases in the rates of suicide and depression in teens (12-17) and young adults (18-25) since at least 2012. Just last year, nearly 20% of teens (12-17) and a similar number of young adults (18-25) reported experiencing a major depressive episode. This is compared to just 7% in adults older than 25 last year, and just 9% of teens and young adults back in 2012.

Something is clearly happening, but what’s the cause? The recent documentary film “The Coddling of the American Mind,” directed by Ted Balaker, showcases how the adoption of what Tim Urban calls “social justice fundamentalism” (a.k.a.  “Wokeness” — a term we don’t love) and its associated catastrophizing spirals led three of the film’s protagonists, Kimi, Lucy, and Saeed, into feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Arnold Kling:

“At the extremes, 57% of very liberal students in our study reported feelings of poor mental health at least half the time, compared to just 34% of very conservative students”

…Only 41% of very liberal males report feelings of poor mental health more than half the time, compared to 60% of very liberal females, and a whopping 70% of very liberal non-binary students.

She writes as if the causality runs from social justice extremism to emotional fragility. But I am inclined to think that it is the other way around. If you are mentally fragile, you are likely to be attracted to an extreme ideology that gives you an external source to blame for your discomfort.

Ted Gioia proposes a reading list for a course on stupidity. Among the essay questions he proposes for a final exam are these:

——

Commentary.




Advocates of discredited way to teach reading the most dangerous cult of all



Chris Reed:

Given how many kids struggle with reading proficiency, it’s stunning that the ‘whole language’ approach is still used in so many elementary schools

Who are the most dangerous cultists — adherents of a belief system regarded as unorthodox or spurious, to use a common definition — in the United States? Some will point to religions perceived as out of the mainstream, others will cite extreme political movements and still others might take a potshot at devotees of Red Sox Nation.

But in a country built on the idea that free, competent public education is the bedrock to the success of individuals and society in general, the most dangerous cult is the one that promotes unscientific methods of teaching reading. Despite massive evidence that the “phonics” approach is far more effective, the “whole language” approach is still a part of the reading instruction curricula used by 72 percent of elementary school teachers, according to a 2019 Education Week Research Center survey. Education researchers routinely note that lesson plans with no history of working well are ubiquitous in U.S. schools.

Language education experts say this is a big reason why nearly two-thirds of fourth- and eighth-graders in the U.S. in 2019 — before the pandemic disruption hurt scores even more — were not proficient readers. The stats were similar but slightly worse in California. The implications are grim. Poor reading skills correlate with dropping out of school, a lack of career success and even a much shorter life expectancy.

—-

Reed is deputy editor of the editorial and opinion section….

Meanwhile, Madison’s legacy newspaper opinion folks supported a successful candidate – Jill Underly – for the Wisconsin department of public instruction who sought (and continues) to get rid of our only early literacy teacher knowledge exam. More.

—-

More, here.

—-

Literacy momentum stalls in Wisconsin (DPI): Why would Wisconsin’s state leaders promote the use of curriculum that meets “minimal level” criteria, instead of elevating the highest-quality

——-

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?




10-year-old ‘sleeping in her bed peacefully,’ when she was shot, killed Friday morning



Sophie Carson & David Clarey

A 10-year-old Milwaukee girl was shot and killed while sleeping in her bed early Friday morning when an upstairs neighbor accidentally fired a bullet through her ceiling, striking her in the chest, her 14-year-old sister said.

The girl’s sister identified her as Isdennyeliz Ortiz, a student of Milwaukee’s Kagel School who was born in Puerto Rico, played volleyball and loved making YouTube videos.

“She was very happy. She was smiley. She loved the color purple. She wanted to be a YouTuber. She loved animals with all her heart,” said Brandy Ortiz, 14, who spoke on behalf of her mother Friday morning outside their home on the 2100 block of West Orchard Street on Milwaukee’s south side.

The family moved from Puerto Rico seven years ago, Brandy said.




K-12 Tqx & $pending Climate: “bailouts forever”



Alex Tabarrok:

When interest rates rise, the price of long-term assets falls. Consequently, when the Fed began raising interest rates in 2022, the value of bonds and mortgages dropped, causing significant accounting losses for banks heavily invested in these assets. Silicon Valley Bank went bust, for example, because depositors fled upon realizing it was holding lots of Treasury bonds.

Interest rates remain high and many banks have large unrealized losses on their books.  According to the latest FDIC data (see below) unrealized losses currently total $516.5 billion, far exceeding levels seen during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Price risk is not the same as default risk and if the banks can hold onto their assets until maturity then they will be solvent. The real danger, as with SVB, is if unrealized losses are combined with a deposit run. So far that doesn’t seem to be happening but it’s well within the realm of possibility.




“I can play the game; just tell me the rules.”



John Lucas:

One of my former law partners, a world class trial lawyer, when faced with an adversary who wanted to engage in unprofessional “hardball” litigation tactics would say, “I can play the game; just tell me the rules.” The Democrats have made the rules, and their opponents will have little choice but to play the game.  

This is not a game that can or will be played by one side only. The rules are now set. When Republicans have the chance, they will play the game. Many, perhaps most, will think that a response is mandatory and that “taking the high road” is no longer an option. Instead, it would be regarded by the “progressive” left — that is to say those now in charge of the Democratic party — as weakness if they roll over and fail to respond. This is an existential threat to the stability of our political system and nation. That risk makes this the most dangerous day in the history of the Country, at least in our lifetimes. 

Henceforth, weaponization of the justice system against a political opponent will be the norm. Political grudges will be resolved by political opponents in cherry-picked courtrooms where conviction is most likely. All this confirms that when controlled by scoundrels, our judicial system is becoming more like what we expect in places like China, Cuba or Venezuela, where political opponents are routinely imprisoned or worse. 

Regardless of what you think of former President Trump – and I have criticized him sharply in the past both privately and in public – you, too, should fear for our Country.




Appeal to Heaven: On the Religious Origins of the Constitutional Right of Revolution



John Kang:

This Article explores the religious origins of the right to alter or abolish government. I show in Part I that the right was widely accepted among the American colonies as expressed through their constitutions and, later, the federal constitution. In Part II, I usher the reader back in time and across the continent to seventeenth century England. There, I introduce two men who would have abhorred everything about American constitutional democracy – King James I and the philosopher Sir Robert Filmer. Both men, prominent in their respective domains of authority, devoted themselves to the governing axiom that kings were bequeathed a right by God to absolute rule. Part III sketches the seventeenth century arguments of two other Englishmen, also prominent–the philosophers John Locke and Algernon Sidney – who challenged James and Filmer. Locke and Sidney argued that God had never sanctioned the divine right of kings and instead had justified the people’s right to overthrow tyrants. 

The arguments of Locke and Sidney will, as I show in subsequent sections, influence the American clergy who supported war against Britain and the right of revolution in general. Indeed, the development of this connection will occupy me for the remainder of the Article, but, in Part IV, I take a brief respite to summarize the historical circumstances that severely hampered governmental control over religion in colonial America and thus provided partially autonomous spaces for people to reflect on religion, including in ways that would inform their right to alter or abolish government. I illustrate in Part V how several prominent American clergymen, following Locke and Sidney, rejected as impossible the divine and supposedly infallible status of rulers. God, the clergy insisted, was the only one who could claim such infallibility; the clergy warned that rulers would do well to devote themselves to the people’s well being, not the former’s aggrandizement. In Part VI, I argue that, again echoing Locke and Sidney, a prominent group of American clergymen insisted that, contrary to the anti-democratic jeers of monarchists, God had given people the capacity for reason which enabled them to make meaningful decisions about their political future. I conclude in Part VII by illustrating how the federal and state constitutions following the American Revolution sought to protect conditions for the faithful to contemplate the religious meaning of the right to alter or abolish government.




Loudoun Co. Superintendent under scrutiny for extensive travel amid school overdose crisis



Nick Minock:

After Loudoun County’s previous superintendent was fired and indicted, the Loudoun County School Board hired Aaron Spence as superintendent to make a difference for the embattled school district.

7News has learned through public records requests that Loudoun County Superintendent Spence has missed a month of the school year. And this is Spence’s first academic year on the job in Loudoun County.

This year, Spence attended the Consortium for School Networking (COSN) in Miami. Here’s the marketing video on the conference’s website. The video advertising the conference looks like a party for educators, showcasing Miami’s water activities and beach scene, nightlife, entertainment, yoga and more.




“FOIA proof” slack chat images



Bryce Nichols:

@COVIDSelect uncovered that NIH official Greg Folkers tried to avoid FOIA by intentionally misspelling Kristian Andersen’s name as Anders$n. To commemorate this, I created special “FOIA proof” slack chat images.
(1/n)




Turn Hours Of Homework Into Minutes



Moltar:

Simply upload any document, URL, or Youtube video and Moltar will analyze the content, offering instant responses and insights to all your questions.
Try it out for free below! 👇




Civics: The ‘Hong Kong 47’ Convicted in the City’s Largest Trial to Crush Democracy.



FreedomHK:

Today, the Hong Kong courts convicted 14 pro-democracy activists in the city’s largest national security trial.  The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation unequivocally condemns these sentences and calls for the immediate release of the 47 and all other political prisoners currently being held in Hong Kong prisons.

The sentences come after the trial of 47 pro-democracy figures, 31 of which have already pleaded guilty. Of the 16 who pleaded not guilty, 14 individuals were found guilty of ‘conspiracy to subvert state power.’ The ‘Hong Kong 47’ were arrested in February 2021 for participating in primary elections. Their trial began in February 2023. Prosecutors alleged that the activists held primary elections to ‘overthrow the government.’ The convicted activists will be sentenced at a later date, together with the 31 who entered a guilty plea.




University continues hiring freeze and implements early exit initiative to balance budget



Sofia Tosello:

Queen’s University will cut costs this year as it grapples with ongoing budgetary issues.

The University is projecting a $35.7 million operating budget deficit, confirmed in the Final Operating Budget Report to the Board of Trustees on May 10. To mitigate the impact of the deficit, the University will uphold the hiring freeze initiated in May 2023 and put into action Voluntary Retirement Initiatives currently ongoing in the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS).

READ MORE: Buyout begin as ArtSci gives staff incentive to leave

In addition to increased costs and inflation, the budget deficit was blamed on provincial tuition cuts and freeze for in-province students and decreased international and graduate student enrollment.




Tech Workers Retool for Artificial-Intelligence Boom



Katherine Bindley:

To try to make that happen, workers are attempting to bridge the gap between what they know and what they need to know, adding skills and knowledge to pivot into this game-changing technology. Tech companies, meanwhile, are refashioning themselves as AI companies and trying to remold their workforces to be more AI proficient.

“I’ve been leading with an AI-tailored resume for the last two to three months,” says Asif Dhanani, 31 years old, of Irvine, Calif., who was laid off from his job as a technical product manager at Amazon in March.

Dhanani has landed plenty of interviews for AI product manager roles, but he hasn’t received any offers. He has worked with large language models but not since 2016; the technology has changed significantly since then. He also isn’t entirely convinced that companies know what they are looking for. On top of that, two different hiring managers told him they were sifting through hundreds of applicants.

His next step is a two-week online AI boot camp from Deep Atlas costing $6,800. “The skills building for me is a worthwhile investment,” he says, even if it doesn’t help land him a job.




NEA budget, spending and teacher salary reports



NEA

NEA Research collects, maintains, and analyzes data on issues and trends affecting the nation’s public education systems, their employees, and students.

This report, Rankings of the States 2023 and Estimates of School Statistics 2024, contains data primarily based on information from state departments of education.




“news about significant state funding at risk due to bureaucratic mismanagement is both shocking and infuriating”



MMAC

The school district’s non-compliance with federal and state statutes should have been disclosed to the Milwaukee taxpayers, the majority of whom are working families, before they were asked to increase the district’s budget by more than a quarter-billion dollars annually in April. It would have changed the narrative and forced the electorate to think twice about entrusting this amount of funding to a body who seemingly can’t manage it.  MPS has a transparency problem, and the state and federal governments are holding it accountable.  

We now ask the Milwaukee Public School Board to investigate the matter and hold those responsible fully accountable.  A deep, independent performance audit of the district must be conducted, and the results made public.  

Our students are told to complete their work and turn it in on time. MPS administration needs to be held to that same standard.    

——

“I asked @WisconsinDPI why they didn’t inform the public months ago about MPS’s failure to disclose financial data…..”

——-

Rory Linnane:

Milwaukee School Board members could fire Superintendent Keith Posley or take other disciplinary action against him at a meeting Monday night, according to a meeting noticeupdated Friday evening, days after board members found out MPS had failed to submit key financial reports to state officials.

According to the meeting notice, board members could discuss Posley’s employment in a closed door meeting, before possibly returning to a public meeting to take action.

At the meeting, board members may consider “dismissal, demotion, licensing or discipline” of the superintendent. They may also discuss Posley’s compensation and performance evaluation data, and confer with legal counsel, according to the meeting notice.

The meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Monday at MPS’ Central Office, will also include a public hearing on the district’s budget and financial situation. Board members delayed voting this week on a district budget for the 2024-25 school year to get more information about where the district’s finances stand.

Also at the meeting on Monday, board members plan to announce the hiring of an outside financial consultant that will help the district get its financial reports in order.

Some community members have called for Posley to resign, or for school board members to fire him, since news broke this week that the district has failed to submit financial reports to the state Department of Public Instruction, some of which were due more than eight months ago. DPI warned that it could suspend funding to MPS if the reports are not filed promptly.

MPS has not granted the Journal Sentinel an interview with Posley.

Quinton Klabon:

Good gracious! Alderman Westmoreland “disgusted and embarrassed” by MPS situation.

“Change at MPS is imperative to prevent a fate as disastrous as the Titanic’s.”

“[MPS] must excel in every area they can control. There is absolutely no room for error.”

Madison’s chamber involvement in the schools…?




Covid policy review: Dr. Anthony Fauci transcribed interview



Select Subcommittee:

SOCIAL DISTANCING: The “6 feet apart” social distancing recommendation forced on Americans by federal health officials was arbitrary and not based on science.

Dr. Fauci testified that this guidance “sort of just appeared.”

MASKING: Dr. Fauci testified that he did not recall any supporting evidence for masking children.

Mask-wearing has been associated with severe learning loss and speech development issues in America’s children.

——-

Related: Taxpayer funded Dane County Madison Public Health lockdowns….




Civics: Prosecutors Got Trump — But They Contorted the Law



By Elie Honig:

But that doesn’t mean that every structural infirmity around the Manhattan district attorney’s case has evaporated. Both of these things can be true at once: The jury did its job, and this case was an ill-conceived, unjustified mess. Sure, victory is the great deodorant, but a guilty verdict doesn’t make it all pure and right. Plenty of prosecutors have won plenty of convictions in cases that shouldn’t have been brought in the first place. “But they won” is no defense to a strained, convoluted reach unless the goal is to “win,” now, by any means necessary and worry about the credibility of the case and the fallout later.

The following are all undeniable facts.

The judge donated money — a tiny amount, $35, but in plain violation of a rule prohibiting New York judges from making political donations of any kind — to a pro-Biden, anti-Trump political operation, including funds that the judge earmarked for “resisting the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s radical right-wing legacy.” Would folks have been just fine with the judge staying on the case if he had donated a couple bucks to “Re-elect Donald Trump, MAGA forever!”? Absolutely not.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg ran for office in an overwhelmingly Democratic county by toutinghis Trump-hunting prowess. He bizarrely (and falsely) boasted on the campaign trail, “It is a fact that I have sued Trump over 100 times.” (Disclosure: Both Bragg and Trump’s lead counsel, Todd Blanche, are friends and former colleagues of mine at the Southern District of New York.)

Most importantly, the DA’s charges against Trump push the outer boundaries of the law and due process. That’s not on the jury. That’s on the prosecutors who chose to bring the case and the judge who let it play out as it did.

The district attorney’s press office and its flaks often proclaim that falsification of business records charges are “commonplace” and, indeed, the office’s “bread and butter.” That’s true only if you draw definitional lines so broad as to render them meaningless. Of course the DA charges falsification quite frequently; virtually any fraud case involves some sort of fake documentation.

But when you impose meaningful search parameters, the truth emerges: The charges against Trump are obscure, and nearly entirely unprecedented. In fact, no state prosecutor — in New York, or Wyoming, or anywhere — has ever charged federal election laws as a direct or predicate state crime, against anyone, for anything. None. Ever. Even putting aside the specifics of election law, the Manhattan DA itself almost never brings any case in which falsification of business records is the only charge.

—-

Guy Benson:

Ultimately, the judge in the case — who donated to his defendant’s political opponent in their last election match-up — told the Manhattan jury that they could select from a menu of three options that could be considered the critical, felony-creating ‘other crime.’  These options were not adjudicated at trial, let alone proven. They weren’t spelled out in the indictment.  The defense was not able to defend against them.  Attempts at educating the jury on the most likely of the options were barred by the Biden donor judge.  A top expert’s highly-relevant testimony was preemptively disallowed, and therefore never heard.  One of the prosecutors in the courtroom joined Bragg’s legal team from President Biden’s Justice Department, where he’d been serving as the third highest-ranking official.  He quit and became an assistant in a local DA’s office, which is unheard of.  This man, who was paid thousands of dollars for political consulting by the Democratic National Committee during Trump’s presidency, clearly had a very specific objective in mind.  Days before Trump’s conviction, his electoral opponent’s team held a campaign event at the courthouse.  These facts — in isolation, and especially taken together — are breathtaking.

More.

—-

And:

I’ve been so impressed with @eliehonig’s coverage of the Trump trial @CNN. His intelligent, impartial analysis was brave and patriotic, exposing CNN viewers to his skepticism about the trial. His piece on the unprecedented and unconstitutional nature of the trial is a must read:




“AI” and education



Luona Lin:

About a third of high school teachers (35%) say these tools do more harm than good. Roughly a quarter of middle school teachers (24%) and 19% of elementary school teachers say the same.

Fewer than one-in-ten teachers at all levels say these tools do more good than harm.

Some 47% of elementary school teachers say they aren’t sure about the impact of AI tools in K-12 education. That is much larger than the shares of middle and high school teachers who say this.

Teens’ experiences with and views of ChatGPT

In a separate survey, we asked U.S. teens about their experience with and views of ChatGPT, a generative AI tool, in their schoolwork.




Resume polishing is #1



Joanne Jacobs:

Learning is not the priority of most Harvard students, writes Aden Barton in Harvard Magazine. Going to class and doing classwork as “simply another item on their to-do list.” Earning good grades is easy. Resume polishing requires more effort.

“Harvard has increasingly become a place in Cambridge for bright students to gather — that happens to offer lectures on the side,” he writes.

Students will do whatever it takes to earn an A, writes Barton. But they know professors’ expectations are low.

He took a seminar with three friends. “Although we knew hundreds of pages of readings would be assigned each week, we were excited about the prospect of engaging with the material. As time went on, the percentage of readings each of us did went from nearly 100 to nearly 0.” All received A’s.




‘I was misidentified as shoplifter by facial recognition tech’



James Clayton:

“Within less than a minute, I’m approached by a store worker who comes up to me and says, ‘You’re a thief, you need to leave the store’.”

Sara – who wants to remain anonymous – was wrongly accused after being flagged by a facial-recognition system called Facewatch. 

She says after her bag was searched she was led out of the shop, and told she was banned from all stores using the technology. 

“I was just crying and crying the entire journey home… I thought, ‘Oh, will my life be the same? I’m going to be looked at as a shoplifter when I’ve never stolen’.”




The Massive Immigration Wave Hitting America’s Classrooms



Jon Kamp and Alicia A. Caldwell:

Adding the 90 shelter students has cost Stoughton, which teaches a total of 3,740 students, at least $500,000 for increased staff and busing costs. The state said it has reimbursed nearly all of that money. But the lag time and uncertainty about how much would be paid back has challenged the district’s ability to plan, said Joseph Baeta, Stoughton’s superintendent.

The most immediate upfront costs this year were hiring five new staff members, including two teachers, and contracting for a bus to shuttle students to and from the hotel shelters, Baeta said. The district has gone from seven to 17 English-as-a-second-language teachers in the past five years.

Massachusetts is legally mandated to offer shelter to any family that seeks it. Migrant families recently comprised about half of the 7,477 homeless families recently living in state shelters, which are at capacity. The state since October 2022 has spent roughly $26 million to reimburse school districts for costs associated with students living in shelters.




“I asked @WisconsinDPI why they didn’t inform the public months ago about MPS’s failure to disclose financial data…..”



JR Ross Thread:

“Deputy State Superintendent John Johnson wrote MPS will likely see a “significant” reduction in state general aid payments for the 2024-25 school year due to errors the district reported for 2022-23 shared costs”

Two of the reports were due eight months ago, and the district is in danger of missing out on a $15.7 million special education aid payment next month, as well as a $200 million general aid payment.

Wispolitics:

Johnson wrote not only were many reports “incredibly late,” but the district had “demonstrated a pattern of submitting incomplete data” and requesting changes without the required documentation to support it. 

He added DPI staff had been meeting quarterly with MPS since April 2023, then monthly as of February, weekly starting in mid-March and now daily during May. 

Johnson added MPS’s failure to submit the financial data hinders DPI’s ability to complete its statutorily-required July 1 general school aids estimate. That impacts every district in the state.

Emilee Fannon:

I asked @WisconsinDPI why they didn’t inform the public months ago about MPS’s failure to disclose financial data when they began meeting in 2023 (months before a referendum asked residents for $252 million for the school district).

Duey Stroebel:

MPS can’t get their finances in order and more than 80% of their kids can’t read at grade level. There’s no accountability.

This is why we need to fund students, not systems. If a choice school fails to submit their financial reports, they’re kicked out of the program.

WTMJ:

The biggest question voters had when a $252 million MPS referendum passed in April, was “Where is this money going?”

This week we’re learning it’s apparently a question the state is also asking.

AJ Bayatpour:

Folks, we’ve got even more @MilwaukeeMPS issues. The Dept. of Public Instruction is now threatening to withhold money from the district because it’s fallen more than eight months behind on providing financial data to the state…

More from AJ:

Here’s a taste of tonight’s wild MPS board meeting.

Plus, this exchange with board VP Jilly Gokalgandhi…

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed legislation that would break up the taxpayer funded Milwaukee school district into four smaller districts. Mulligans are worth a look.




‘A dying empire led by bad people’: Poll finds young voters despairing over US politics



Shelby Talcott:

Young voters overwhelmingly believe that almost all politicians are corrupt and that the country will end up worse off than when they were born, according to new polling from Democratic firm Blueprint obtained exclusively by Semafor.

The sour mood points to potential trouble for Joe Biden, who is struggling with Gen Z and younger Millennials in polls compared with 2020, and needs to convince them he can be relied on to improve their lives.

As part of the online poll of 943 18-30-year-old registered voters, Blueprint asked participants to respond to a series of questions about the American political system: 49% agreed to some extent that elections in the country don’t represent people like them; 51% agreed to some extent that the political system in the US “doesn’t work for people like me;” and 64% backed the statement that “America is in decline.” A whopping 65% agreed either strongly or somewhat that “nearly all politicians are corrupt, and make money from their political power” — only 7% disagreed.

——

Commentary.

Yet, an optimist, the opportunities all around us are unprecedented. Plenty to do in all directions.




high school teacher survey notes



Daniel Buck:

Tolerance tops the list. Actual facts about history is at the bottom

Only half care about respecting authority, following rules, the Bill of rights, basic economics, the Founding, or the Civil War




My Uber Driver, the Book Banner



Frederick Hess:

Some issues are so tough to explain to amateurs.

“Look,” I said, “schools are trying to be inclusive and ensure there’s LGBTQ+ representation in libraries and reading lists . . .”

“That’s fine,” she said. “But I’m guessing there are books about gay kids that are more like Harry Potter or Snow White and less like some adult website. Why don’t they put those books in my daughter’s middle school?”

She wasn’t getting it. “In our schools,” I explained, “we don’t believe librarians should censor what students read.”

“But school libraries don’t stock Penthouse or Playboy,” she said. “There are millions and millions of books, and I’ve heard that something like 99.99 percent of them aren’t in school libraries. I also heard that the author of that Gender Queer book even said it wasn’t written for kids. So why is the school so focused on having that book instead of something that was intended for kids?”

I shook my head. “The American Library Association put it powerfully: ‘When we ban books, we’re closing off readers to people, places, and perspectives. But when we stand up for stories, we unleash the power that lies inside every book.’” I sat back. I figured that must clear things up.

“Maybe I’m not smart enough to get that,” she said, “but that just sounds like a word salad.”

I sat there reflecting on just how frustrating it can be to try and enlighten the unenlightened.

She continued. “I heard on the radio that, during the pandemic, President Biden’s people told Amazon it should stop selling books that said the vaccines were bad. Where were your librarians then? That sounds like the kind of censorship they should be yelling about.”

“Well, I’m sure they’ve been very busy,” I said.




Notes on law school rankings



Paul Caron

Have the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings become irrelevant? The ostensible purpose of the US News law school rankings is to give prospective law students convenient and reliable information about the relative quality of law schools and help them decide which law school to attend. Law schools care about the US News rankings because prospective law students care about the US News rankings. A ranking increase means more prestige and better credentialed students, while a ranking decrease means less prestige and students with worse credentials. Accordingly, law schools are jealous of their US News ranking.

Do prospective law students actually care about the US News rankings anymore? We compared changes in law school US News rankings to changes in prospective law student preferences the following year. Those variables should be strongly positively correlated. If a school’s US News ranking increases, prospective law students should prefer it more the following year, and if it decreases, they should prefer it less. But in fact, they were at best very weakly positively correlated, and often they are weakly negatively correlated. In other words, prospective law students appear to be largely indifferent to changes in a school’s US News ranking.




The Nonprofit Industrial Complex and the Corruption of the American City



by Jonathan Ireland

Yet nonprofit organizations are frequently the exact opposite of what they appear to be. As a consequence of the benefit of the doubt provided to nonprofits, there is rarely enough oversight to guarantee that they are doing what we pay them to do. In some cities, upwards of a billion dollars of public funds are paid to nonprofit organizations every year with glaringly insufficient safeguards to ensure that the money is used in a manner likely to serve the public interest.

This money is then spent in ways that would shock the taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars are being effectively stolen from them. Non­profits that self-righteously declare themselves providers of homeless services actively lobby to make homelessness worse in order to increase their own funding; nonprofit organizations hire convicted felons—including murderers, gang leaders, sex offenders, and rapists—who go on to commit more felonies while receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts; and the executives of nonprofits, the very people in charge of institutions whose stated purpose is not to make money, earn millions of dollars while catastrophically failing to deliver the public services we are paying them to provide.

And as all of that is going on, the nonprofits in question receive tax breaks from the IRS, ensuring that the incompetent organizations wors­ening your city’s homelessness crisis exert their corrupting influence all the way to the halls of power in Washington, D.C.




The school president defends his concessions to anti-Israel protesters.



Wall Street Journal:

Fortunate? The encampments were illegal and protesters’ conduct included multiple violations of university policy as Mr. Schill defined it during the hearing. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) noted reports that Jewish students at Northwestern were assaulted and spat on. Mr. Schill says no students have been suspended or expelled, so presumably the perpetrators are still on campus.

An antisemitism task force might help, but Northwestern’s version disbanded recently after seven Jewish students resigned to protest the university’s agreement to end the encampment. Others on the antisemitism task force had previously supported anti-Israel boycotts and the call to free Palestine “from the river to the sea.”




Milwaukee School District could have funding suspended after failing to submit financial reports to state



Rory Linnane:

State officials are admonishing Milwaukee Public Schools and threatening to suspend funding to the district after MPS officials have failed to provide key financial reports, some of which were due over eight months ago, according to a recent letter to MPS Superintendent Keith Posley released to the public Wednesday.

Following months of failures by MPS administrators to submit the required documents to the state Department of Public Instruction, Milwaukee School Board members are stepping in.

Jilly Gokalgandhi, vice president of the board, said board members are working with “subject matter experts” to chart a course forward, which could include adding staff, filling vacancies in the district’s finance department or bringing in outside help to produce the needed reports for state officials.




“Collins implored a group of esteemed international scientists to produce a paper that would discredit the lab leak theory of COVID-19’s origins”



Peter Laffin:

Twice during the call, Fauci prodded Dr. Kristian Andersen, a Danish evolutionary biologist, to lead the effort. 

In a subsequent email obtained by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Collins urged the swift production of the paper. In his view, the absence of a strong case for a “natural origins” theory of COVID-19 would allow ”the voices of conspiracy to quickly dominate, doing great potential harm to science and international harmony.”

…..

And according to a growing number of experts and institutions, its conclusions were dead wrong. 

——

Glenn Greenwald:

The now amply documented lies fed to the public about COVID have — for dumb reasons — turned into a liberal v. conservative culture war issue, where no liberal can or will admit how deliberately deceitful Fauci was. It’s bizarre: like a religion.

Yet new proof keeps emerging:

Related: Taxpayer funded Dane County Madison Public Health lockdowns….




2 Wisconsin spellers competing in Scripps National Spelling Bee.



Abbey Machtig:

Two eighth-grade students will represent Wisconsin this week in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Nethraa Muthupandiyaraja and Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya, both 13, will compete Tuesday in the preliminary round of the bee hosted in National Harbor, Maryland. Both have been putting in long hours wielding prep books, vocabulary apps and posters of Latin and Greek roots in an effort to memorize as many words as they can.

Aiden won the Badger State Spelling Bee, which the Wisconsin State Journal sponsors, March 16. Nethraa was runner-up.




The case of the angry history postdoc



Noah Smith:

But that is not what got Twitter — or X, as it’s now officially known — in a tizzy today. Instead, it was Walsh’s declaration that his failure to get a tenure-track academic job is due, at least in part, to the fact that he is a White man:

When a (nonwhite, female) history professor disputed this assertion, he accused her of “punching down” on him from her position of power. 

This angered absolutely everyone on Twitter, from progressives who decried Walsh as just one more mediocre White man who assumes he’s more qualified than women and people of color, to conservatives who derided Walsh as someone who brought this upon himself by supporting the rise of an unfair DEI regime. The only thing the various sides could agree on was that they all despised Walsh. A day-long battle royale ensued. Walsh issued a stumbling apology, but it’s pretty clear that he does in fact believe that he was more qualified than the people who got the jobs he applied for:

——

The Elite Overproduction Hypothesis




The Legacy of Cecil Rhodes in the University of Oxford



Global History:

On 9 June 2020, more than a thousand people gathered in central Oxford demanding that Oriel College remove the statue of imperialist and mining magnate, Cecil Rhodes. Congregating in defiance of the Covid-19 pandemic, protesters drew renewed attention to the long-standing struggle to decolonise
education and tackle institutional racism at British and South African universities. They also knelt with
fists raised for over nine minutes in tribute to George Floyd, a man whose recent murder at the hands of
Minneapolis police marked only the latest atrocity in a long history of racialised violence in the United
States. Amid the local and global reckonings over race and racism taking place in the wake of Covid-19
and Floyd’s murder, the 2020 Rhodes Must Fall protest marked the latest iteration in a fight to remove
Rhodes from campuses that began over five years earlier.1

In 2014, after completing his master’s degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa,
Ntokozo Qwabe won a Rhodes scholarship to study a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree at Keble
College, University of Oxford. Qwabe arrived in Oxford amid growing calls for the removal of the
statue of Rhodes back home. UCT students argued that Rhodes’s monument embodied the pervasive
white privilege at the university, and that tackling those problems required removing his oppressive
figure from campus. On 9 March 2015, students accelerated their demands for change. Political science student Chumani Maxwele hurled excrement at Rhodes’s statue. Others occupied UCT offices and posted




New Trier School District set to produce next $8 million superintendent pensioner 



By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

New Trier Township HS District 203’s Superintendent Paul Sally is set to retire next year and he can count on lifetime pension benefits of nearly $8 million. When he does retire, he’ll join the ranks of the Teachers Retirement System’s top pensioners.

We’ve written for years that Illinois’ pension systems are out-of-whack with what taxpayers can afford. It’s a two-class system where those in government get guaranteed lifetime pensions and other protected benefits while those in the private sector, who get no such guarantees and protections, are forced to pay for them. 

But it’s the superintendent pensions that help bring attention to just how problematic public pensions are. Sally has done nothing wrong, of course. He’s simply benefitting from the system that’s been put in place by lawmakers. The true blame falls on the politicians who created the pension system, those who continuously sweetened benefits over the decades, and today’s lawmakers who refuse reforms.

With no reforms expected in the near term, all we can do is highlight the results of Illinois’ two-class system.

——

Commentary.




Civics: Unseal the Deals! Over 250 Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Hidden from the Public by Congress



Change.org

What if I told you that Congressmen settled over 250 sexual harassment lawsuits using taxpayer money, and there was no way to find out who these Congressmen were? Would you believe me? 

The truth is that the situation is as described in the question. For decades members of Congress would use your taxpayer dollars to buy their way out of bad publicity. (Read, She Said A Powerful Congressman Harassed Her. Here’s Why You Didn’t Hear Her Story.)

When a member of Congress was accused of sexual harassment, the case went to a secret courtknown as the Office of Compliance. Hidden from public view, Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out over $17 million for 264 settlements involving misconduct and sexual harassment.  (Read, Over the past 20 Years, Congress has paid out $17.2 million in settlements.)




Notes on Florida School Choice



Andrew Atterberry

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans have spent years aggressively turning the state into a haven for school choice. They have been wildly successful, with tens of thousands more children enrolling in private or charter schools or homeschooling.

Now as those programs balloon, some of Florida’s largest school districts are facing staggering enrollment declines — and grappling with the possibility of campus closures — as dollars follow the increasing number of parents opting out of traditional public schools.

The emphasis on these programs has been central to DeSantis’ goals of remaking the Florida education system, and they are poised for another year of growth. DeSantis’ school policies are already influencing other GOP-leaning states, many of which have pursued similar voucher programs. But Florida has served as a conservative laboratory for a suite of other policies, ranging from attacking public- and private-sector diversity programs to fighting the Biden administration on immigration.

“We need some big changes throughout the country,” DeSantis said Thursday evening at the Florida Homeschool Convention in Kissimmee. “Florida has shown a blueprint, and we really can be an engine for that as other states work to adopt a lot of the policies that we’ve done.”

Education officials in some of the state’s largest counties are looking to scale back costs by repurposing or outright closing campuses — including in Broward, Duval and Miami-Dade counties. Even as some communities rally to try to save their local public schools, traditional public schools are left with empty seats and budget crunches.

——

Commentary.




When to Use Fancy Words



Richard Hanania:

Academia appears to have evolved these norms because if papers could be as long as blog posts, how would anyone distinguish the scholars from the hobbyists? Journal papers in the social sciences are longer than blog posts on the same subjects less because academics have more to say than the fact that professors need to justify their positions as credentialed experts rather than amateurs. A lot of smart people can write decent blogs, but no one has the time to track down all the citations you need to be published in the American Political Science Review unless they’re working full-time as a professor. On the surface, more words and more citations signal “I know more about this,” but in reality they just show that one has devoted more time to it, in the hopes that observers can’t tell the difference.

Academia has made a specialty of bad kinds of signalling, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t good kinds. When you read my articles, I want you to know that I am a smart person who has thought carefully about the issues I write about, and I have some of the basic skills and training necessary to make sense of the world. There are legitimate choices here to be made regarding tone, writing style, and word choice, and other things to consider besides broad accessibility.




Civics: A scary little theory about information and freedom.



Noah Smith:

I was raised in an age of liberal triumphalism. Liberal democracy won the 20th century — imperialism, fascism, and communism all collapsed, and by the end of the century the U.S. and its democratic allies in Asia and Europe were both economically and militarily ascendant. Even China, which remained an autocracy, liberalized its economy and parts of its society during this time. Even scholars who turned up their noses at Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” were generally favorable to arguments that capitalism and/or liberal democracy fostered peacehappiness, and prosperity. There was an overwhelming sense that freedom — the freedom to speak your mind, to live as you liked, to buy and sell what you wished — was the thing that won

Just two decades later, that idea is deeply in doubt. The wave of democratization and social liberalization went into reverse. The U.S. has been riven by social and political chaos, and its weaknesses in manufacturing and homebuilding have been starkly exposed. Meanwhile China, the ascendant superpower of the early 21st century, has moved back toward a more dirigiste economy and a more totalitarian society under Xi Jinping.




Lessons from school districts that tied pandemic-era tutoring contracts to student achievement



Jill Barshay:

Schools spend billions of dollars a year on products and services, including everything from staplers and textbooks to teacher coaching and training. Does any of it help students learn more? Some educational materials end up mothballed in closets. Much software goes unused. Yet central-office bureaucrats frequently renew their contracts with outside vendors regardless of usage or efficacy.

One idea for smarter education spending is for schools to sign smarter contracts, where part of the payment is contingent upon whether students use the services and learn more. It’s called outcomes-based contracting and is a way of sharing risk between buyer (the school) and seller (the vendor). Outcomes-based contracting is most common in healthcare. For example, a health insurer might pay a pharmaceutical company more for a drug if it actually improves people’s health, and less if it doesn’t. 

Although the idea is relatively new in education, many schools tried a different version of it – evaluating and paying teachers based on how much their students’ test scores improved – in the 2010s. Teachers didn’t like it, and enthusiasm for these teacher accountability schemes waned. Then, in 2020, Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research announced that it was going to test the feasibility of paying tutoring companies by how much students’ test scores improved. 




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Medical Debt



Shannon Najmabadi:

Last summer, a rural hospital on the Kansas plains began filing dozens of lawsuits against patients who hadn’t paid their medical bills.

In July and August 2023, four of every five sheriff-delivered court summonses in Pratt County were from Pratt Regional Medical Center. In September, 95% of civil cases set to be heard in Magistrate Judge Ronald Sylvester’s Pratt courtroom were brought by the hospital. By December, it had sued some 400 people in a county of 9,000—more than it had in the past five years combined.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Cynthia Mehlhorn recalls an officer telling her when she got her court summons for $5,619 in outstanding hospital bills last year, “you’re not the only one.”

The debt-collection spree is an example of how some hospitals in recent years have become more aggressive in recouping bills from the estimated more than 15 million Americans who have medical debt. The issue can be particularly acute in rural areas like Pratt, where residents are more likely to be older and uninsured, and hospitals are under financial stress.




A lawsuit backed by teachers and public workers challenging Wisconsin’s near-complete ban on collective bargaining rights for most public employees….



Mitchell Schmidt:

The lawsuit was filed late last year by teachers and other public workers and argues Act 10’s exemption of some police, firefighters and other public safety workers from the bargaining restrictions violates the Wisconsin Constitution. Plaintiffs also note in court filings that those exempted from the restrictions endorsed Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial election, while those subject to the restrictions did not.

People are also reading…

Attorneys for the Legislature have argued for the case to be dismissed because previous legal challenges against Act 10 have failed. They’ve also said union officials waited too long to bring the latest legal challenge.

The lawsuit is the first to come after the Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to a liberal majority last year with Justice Janet Protasiewicz joining the court.

While filed in Dane County Circuit Court, the lawsuit is expected to eventually reach the state’s high court, which rejected a similar lawsuit in 2014, when conservatives held the majority.

—-

Much more on Act 10, here.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Milwaukee pension scandal trial primer.

—-

Meanwhile: Illinois.




“The conflict between the bureaucratic, managerial priorities of school administrators and the moral ideals of teachers has characterized my seventeen-year teaching career”



Jeremy Noonan:

It is also a major reason why teachers are fleeing public schools. The public school accountability system, by relying solely on quantitative metrics like graduation rates to gauge educational quality and to evaluate administrators, frustrates teachers’ ability to truly teach and care for their students and look out for their long-term well-being. 

The first shock to me was the “make-up work” policy. My school let students skip assignments and miss deadlines until the end of the semester, then let them do the work at the last minute to avoid a failing grade. When I objected, stressing the importance of personal responsibility, the assistant principal replied, “Is it your job to teach chemistry or to teach responsibility?” She didn’t care to hear my answer: “Both.”

Next came the “curving” practice, which dictated that I convert a raw score on a test by multiplying the square root of it by ten. Hence, a score of forty-nine, an F, would be “curved” to seventy, a C minus. When I refused to curve grades, the principal had my department chair make the changes covertly. When I found out, I objected once again, and the principal rebuked me for “denying these children the opportunities all of us had.”

These were both cases of what Michael Polanyi calls “moral inversion”: a presumed moral duty to do immoral actions. This tacit duty to the immoral means that teachers who exercise integrity by refusing to go along with these policies are perceived as the bad guys. Never would an administrator acknowledge the bureaucratic purpose of these policies, which was to keep the wheels turning and money flowing. A failing student is a wrench in the system. He lowers the graduation rate, and the school looks bad. The bureaucracy rationalizes that the students will be better off with a diploma. But if they aren’t learning, their futures are being compromised.  

My next moral conflict with administrators put me in a position to blow the whistle on a practice called “online credit recovery” (OCR). I was teaching the two-year Theory of Knowledge course in the International Baccalaureate program, a kind of honors school-within-a-school. Top students in the school could enroll, and so could students from nearby schools who wanted vigorous college prep. 

——

Literacy momentum stalls in Wisconsin (DPI): Why would Wisconsin’s state leaders promote the use of curriculum that meets “minimal level” criteria, instead of elevating the highest-quality

——-

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

——-




Notes on the nonprofit industrial complex 



Arnold Kling:

One theme is that non-profits take advantage of the intention heuristic. The other trope of mine is that nonprofits evade the accountability that is inherent in profit-seeking business.

Steven F. Hayward writes,

Add up all of these macro-and-micro funding sluices across the full spectrum of leftist causes and we arrive at a point where the supposedly ancillary “non-profit sector” has become a key instrument on par with the permanent bureaucracy of the administrative state, and a menace to democratic self-government.

He is drawing attention to the way that the left takes advantage of non-profit status. But my criticisms apply as much to the right-wing non-profit sector as the left-wing non-profit sector.

People assume that because non-profits do not seek profits, their intentions are good. And good intentions are sufficient to make them morally superior to profit-seeking enterprises. The intention heuristic ignores the possibility that the outcomes of profit-seeking businesses can be—and often are—more socially beneficial than the outcomes of nonprofits. We should evaluate enterprises based on outcomes, not on intentions.

Then there is the issue of accountability. A profit-seeking business is ultimately accountable to customers, who are in the best position to gauge the value of what the business provides. If customers do not pay more than the cost of what the firm provides, the firm loses money and goes out of business. In contrast, a nonprofit only has to keep its donors happy. If the services it provides are not worth the cost, it can continue to operate by maintaining good relationships between the executives of the nonprofit and the providers of funding.

The problems with nonprofits are particularly acute when the funding comes from government. Ireland writes,




Civics & Covid lockdowns: “Tony Fauci’s deputy, David Morens, admitted in a hearing he deleted government records”



Paul Thacker:

True to form, Science Magazine downplayed some of the hearing’s most explosive findings, in an article whose title misinformed readers by stating that Morens’ evasion of federal record laws had only “allegedly” happened: “House panel takes Fauci adviser to task for allegedly evading public records laws.”

This headline was belied by several of Morens’ very own emails where he described deleting emails, such as a June 2020 email that he sent to Daszak and Keusch.

—-

At the NIH, a Scandal Grows Around an Official’s Evasion of Public Records Law

The FOIA scandal first came to light last summer. In June 2023, I broke the news in The Interceptthat Dr. David Morens, a long-time senior advisor to Dr. Anthony Fauci, had engaged in efforts to evade the Freedom of information Act. In a September 2021 email to a group of high-profile critics of the so-called lab leak theory, Morens wrote: “As you know, I try to always communicate on gmail because my NIH email is FOIA’d constantly.”

“Don’t worry,” he added, “just send to any of my addresses, and I will delete anything I don’t want to see in the New York Times.”

Fauci’s chief-of-staff Folkers misspelled Andersen name in emails as “Anders$n” to evade FOIA searches on “Andersen.”

—-

More.




How Does a School District Go Broke With $1.1B in Revenues?



Chad Aldeman:

When It Spends $1.3B

This macabre joke is all-too real for San Francisco Unified, where this spring a state oversight panel took control of all budget decisions until the district balances its spending. After reviewing the district’s budget, the oversight panel decreed that the locally elected school board no longer has full authority over, “any action that is determined to be inconsistent with the ability of [the district] to meet its obligations for the current or subsequent fiscal year.” 

According to an independent fiscal analysis, the district has a number of budgetary problems: 

  • It paid for employee positions using one-time federal relief funds and will need to lay them off or find other revenues or savings;
  • It has not adjusted student enrollment projections to account for continued declines;
  • It does not track monthly attendance data and, as a result, overstates average daily attendance in projecting future revenues; and
  • Its budget office is understaffed, leading to inadequate control over its  payroll system and problems tracking employee overtime costs. 

Some parts of this story make San Francisco unique. For example, it spent $40 million in a failed effort to fix its payroll processing system. And, to avert a strike last fall, the district agreed to large salary increases — 19% over two years for teachers and 16% for service workers. 

California is also unusual in that it has a powerful oversight agency. The Department of Education’s Fiscal Crisis Team reviews district budgets to ensure they are financially solvent, and it can take over budgeting decisions if the need arises. 




Causes and Consequences of Resource Disparity in Mississippi circa 1940



David Card,  Leah Clark, Ciprian Domnisoru  & Lowell Taylor

A school finance equalization program established in Mississippi in 1920 failed to help many of the state’s Black students – an outcome that was typical in the segregated U.S. South (Horace Mann Bond, 1934). In majority-Black school districts, local decision-makers overwhelmingly favored white schools when allotting funds from the state’s preexisting per capita fund, and the resulting high expenditures on white students rendered these districts ineligible for the equalization program. Thus, while Black students residing in majority-white districts benefited from increased spending and standards for Black schools, those in majority-Black districts continued to experience extremely low – and even worsening – school funding. We model the processes that led the so-called equalization policy to create disparities in schooling resources for Black students, and estimate effects on Black children using both a neighboring-counties design and an IV strategy. We find that local educational spending had large impacts on Black enrollment rates, as reported in the 1940 census, with Black educational attainment increasing in marginal spending. Finally, we link the 1940 and 2000 censuses to show that Black children exposed to higher levels of school expenditures had significantly more completed schooling and higher income late in life.

——

Much more on Mississippi, here.




“you’re not allowed to change your mind about things”



Celia Walden:

She cites drug legalisation as one example: “I was so pro-legalisation, but then you start to see things in the world, you learn things and you think: ‘I might have been wrong about this or that.’ And it’s not like I need to disavow me at 25. It’s just that now that I’m 36, I’m seeing that certain things aren’t a good idea.”

I’m pretty sure there’s a term for that: life experience? Although in a recent review of Bowles’ new book, Morning After The Revolution: Dispatches From The Wrong Side of History – a book in which she chronicles that arc – The Washington Post preferred to liken the author’s political awakening to geriatric decline: “If Leftism is a hazard of adolescence, conservatism is all too often an unfortunate symptom of ageing, not unlike senility.”

“Not that I’d even identify as a conservative,” Bowles protests, once we’ve both stopped laughing at the quote – one of a few zingers her collection of biographical essays has predictably received from the Left-leaning media. “I’m just…” she searches for the word. “Maybe softer.”

On Zoom, the San Francisco-born writer certainly looks softer than the severe portraits of her in heavy-rimmed spectacles I found online. Luminous-skinned and full-mouthed, dressed in denim dungarees and a white T-shirt, she seems too wholesome to be a political provocateur. “But progressives want to say that anyone who is not the furthest to the Left isn’t with them,” she goes on. “They can’t allow there to be a moderate, middle, messy faction.”




‘I was misidentified as shoplifter by facial recognition tech’



James Clayton:

Within less than a minute, I’m approached by a store worker who comes up to me and says, ‘You’re a thief, you need to leave the store’.”

Sara – who wants to remain anonymous – was wrongly accused after being flagged by a facial-recognition system called Facewatch. 

She says after her bag was searched she was led out of the shop, and told she was banned from all stores using the technology. 

“I was just crying and crying the entire journey home… I thought, ‘Oh, will my life be the same? I’m going to be looked at as a shoplifter when I’ve never stolen’.”




The most common test of statistical significance originated from the Guinness brewery. Here’s how it works



Jack Murtaugh:

The Guinness brewery has been known for innovative methods ever since founder Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease in Dublin for £45 a year. For example, a mathematician-turned-brewer invented a chemical technique there after four years of tinkering that gives the brewery’s namesake stout its velvety head. The method, which involves adding nitrogen gas to kegs and to little balls inside cans of Guinness, led to today’s hugely popular “nitro” brews for beer and coffee.

But the most influential innovation to come out of the brewery by far has nothing to do with beer. It was the birthplace of the t-test, one of the most important statistical techniques in all of science. When scientists declare their findings “statistically significant,” they very often use a t-test to make that determination. How does this work, and why did it originate in beer brewing, of all places?

Near the start of the 20th century, Guinness had been in operation for almost 150 years and towered over its competitors as the world’s largest brewery. Until then, quality control on its products consisted of rough eyeballing and smell tests. But the demands of global expansion motivated Guinness leaders to revamp their approach to target consistency and industrial-grade rigor. The company hired a team of brainiacs and gave them latitude to pursue research questions in service of the perfect brew. The brewery became a hub of experimentation to answer an array of questions: Where do the best barley varieties grow? What is the ideal saccharine level in malt extract? How much did the latest ad campaign increase sales?




K-12 Tax & $pending Climate: “Today, so-called dollar stores have items well over a dollar and even more than $5”



Peter Wilogren

Dollar Tree, which owns Family Dollar, recently said it will close nearly 1,000 stores. That’s after Dollar Tree raised prices in the past couple of years for the first time in decades.

Others, like Dollar General, say they continue to grow, even if it’s been a rocky road. Dollar General recently opened its 20,000th store and plans to open even more this year.

Its CEO once said, “We do very good in good times, and we do fabulous in bad times.”

Bigger retailers offering discounted prices have already felt the sting. JC Penney, Sears, and others (the stores we grew up with) are vanishing fast.




Civics: “I learned from our foia lady here how to make emails disappear”



Allysia Finley:

Subpoenaed private emails from Dr. Fauci’s senior adviser, David Morens, now show how NIH officials and EcoHealth President Peter Daszak sought to conceal their lapses. After the Trump administration in April 2020 suspended funding for EcoHealth, Dr. Morens rallied to Mr. Daszak’s defense.

“There are things I can’t say except Tony [Fauci] is aware and I have learned there are ongoing efforts within NIH to steer through this with minimal damage to you, Peter, and colleagues, and to nih and niaid,” Dr. Morens wrote to Mr. Daszak on April 26, 2020. “I have reason to believe that there are already efforts going on to protect you.” (NIAID is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Dr. Fauci directed from 1984 through 2022.)

Dr. Morens led the Daszak protection program. His subpoenaed emails show that he helped edit EcoHealth’s press releases and worked to get its funding restored. He also sought to thwart Freedom of Information Act requests by outside groups regarding the EcoHealth grant.

On Feb. 24, 2021, Dr. Morens wrote to Boston University scientist Gerald Keusch: “I learned from our foia lady here how to make emails disappear after i am fioa’d [sic] but before the search starts, so i think we are all safe. Plus i deleted most of those earlier emails after sending them to gmail.”

Safe from what? Public scrutiny?

More.

and:

“[E]vidence suggests a conspiracy at the highest levels of NIH…to avoid public tranpsarency…[T]his is an…attack on public trust that must be met with… swift enforcement and consequences for those involved.”




The Colleges Where You’re Most Likely to Have a Positive Return on Your Investment



Alyssa Lukpat:

New graduates need to earn at least $50,000 a year, on average, in their first decade off campus for the degree to pay off, according to new research from Strada Education Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzed federal education and earnings data. If they can land that salary, or make $500,000 before taxes over 10 years, state school graduates across sectors will find the investment worth it and should be able to pay off their loans, Strada says.

At a time when many Americans are questioning the value of a college degree—and some teens and 20-somethings are forgoing higher education for trade work like plumbing, welding and construction—four-year state universities are a bargain compared with their private counterparts and still often provide a path to financial security.

“As long as you’re above that $50,000, even in the most expensive states, you’ll still have that positive return on investment,” said Nichole Torpey-Saboe, Strada’s vice president of research.

James Maiden, 32 years old, dropped out of the University of Missouri-Kansas City about a decade ago because he needed to make money. He held various jobs, including at a shoe store, before landing one as a marketing manager for a nonprofit theater in Kansas City, Mo., where he earned less than $50,000. It was tough to envision a career path.




Civics: Censorship Legislation



Wall Street Journal:

Forget about starting a meeting with a prayer. Nor could employers talk about the costs of unions or state policies. Criticizing Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and advocating an expansion of state tax-credit school scholarships would be off-limits. The bill could be construed to prohibit employers from criticizing anti-Israel protesters.

Driving the bill are unions, which accuse employers of holding “captive audience” meetings to persuade workers against joining. But the federal National Labor Relations Act explicitly permits employers to express “any views, argument, or opinion” about unions as long as their “expression contains no threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit.”

Democrats claim their bill doesn’t forbid employers from expressing their political or religious views, but merely prohibits them from penalizing workers who don’t attend meetings where such matters are discussed. This is a distinction without a practical difference.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Inflation



Angel Au-Yeung:

The most recent index of consumer prices showed the annual inflation rate slowed slightly in April, to 3.4%. But inflation was routinely below 2% in the years before the pandemic—and anyway, what matters to people is the price of things, not the level of price changes.

“They do care, and they’ve always cared,” said James Hines, an economist at the University of Michigan.

We trod through the streets in San Francisco to ask people how much they make, whether it feels like enough and their plans for the future. Their answers have been edited for clarity and length. Income is monthly, after taxes.




“My Decision to Leave Academia”



J Mitchell Sances:

Their reality is so different from the rest of the world’s, and it has been for a long time

What do you do when your passion and career trajectory have been infected with amorality? This is the question I was forced to ask myself after over a decade of working toward what I thought was to be my goal: ensconcing myself in academia as a prolific researcher and respected professor.

It was no secret that education in America was in a downward spiral for much of the 1990s and early 2000s—data from the National Assessment of Education Progress shows only about 30% of students in the U.S. were and are proficient in basic educational fundamentals.

Educators have placed the blame on many factors including the implementing of No Child Left Behind—what some in the business unaffectionately called No Child Gets Ahead. The wildly unpopular George W. Bush program has been criticized for focusing on the students with lower proficiencies and ignoring the needs of higher performing students allowing them to slip through the cracks in true collectivist fashion.

To me, someone who was privileged enough to receive stellar Catholic private education all my life, these battles were fightable and winnable. As part of the system, I could aim to affect change from within, and with my zeal, passion, and ambition I was poised to do so. Alas, a wave of postmodern thought had other plans—the type of thought in which there is no such thing as objective truth and anything majoritarian is evil.

—-

And:

Academic who researches the right realizes he can’t get a job because he’s a white male.

Richard Hannania

Academia is obviously different. The standards are soft, and hiring committees don’t personally go broke if they hire only incompetents. Along with the ideological capture of the universities, it’s become extremely hard for white men to get jobs.

In the hard sciences there are standards, many people just can’t do the work.

But the number of people who can do something that looks like “social science” or history is vast, and departments can go completely off of ideology and identity.




What Went Wrong with Federal Student Loans?



Adam Looney & Constantine Yannelis:

At a time when the returns to college and graduate school are at historic highs, why do so many students struggle with their student loans? The increase in aggregate student debt and the struggles of today’s student loan borrowers can be traced to changes in federal policies intended to broaden access to federal aid and educational opportunities, and which increased enrollment and borrowing in higher-risk circumstances. Starting in the late 1990s, policymakers weakened regulations that had constrained institutions from enrolling aid-dependent students. This led to rising enrollment of relatively disadvantaged students, but primarily at poor-performing, low-value institutions whose students systematically failed to complete a degree, struggled to repay their loans, defaulted at high rates, and foundered in the job market. As these new borrowers experienced similarly poor outcomes, their loans piled up, loan performance deteriorated, and with it the finances of the federal program. The crisis illustrates the important role that educational institutions play in access to postsecondary education and student outcomes, and difficulty of using broadly-available loans to subsidize investments in education when there is so much heterogeneity in outcomes across institutions and programs and in the ability to repay of students.

——

Commentary.




A Theoretical “Case Against Education”



Scott Alexander

In a 1999 poll, only 66% of Americans age 18-29 knew that the US won independence from Britain (as opposed to some other country). About 47% of Americans can name all three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial). 37% know the closest planet to the sun (Mercury). 58% know which gas causes most global warming (carbon dioxide). 44%know Auschwitz was the site of a concentration camp. Fewer than 50% (ie worse than chance) can correctly answer a true-false question about whether electrons are bigger than atoms.

These results are scattered across many polls, which makes them vulnerable to publication bias; I can’t find a good unified general knowledge survey of the whole population. But there’s a great survey of university students. Keeping in mind that this is a highly selected, extra-smart population, here are some data points:

  • 85% know who wrote Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare)
  • 56% know the biggest planet (Jupiter)
  • 44% know who rode on horseback in 1775 to warn that the British were coming (Paul Revere)
  • 33% know what organ produces insulin (pancreas)
  • 31% know the capital of Russia (Moscow)
  • 30% know who discovered the Theory of Relativity (Einstein)
  • 19% know what mountain range contains Mt. Everest (Himalayas)
  • 19% know who wrote 1984 (George Orwell)
  • 16% know what word the raven says in Poe’s “The Raven” (“Nevermore!”)
  • 10% know the captain’s name in Moby Dick(Ahab)
  • 7% know who discovered, in 1543, that the Earth orbits the sun (Copernicus)
  • 4% know what Chinese religion was founded by Lao Tse (Taoism)
  • <1% know what city the general Hannibal was from (Carthage)

Remember, these are university students, so the average person’s performance is worse.

——

Commentary.




Civics: elections and media/platform bias commentary



Ann Althouse:

The question is whether they do more insidious things that bias the entire platform! I think they do. What makes Musk different here is that he participates in the way that anyone can participate on X and he takes individual responsibility for his personal statements. But maybe he’s also involved in the kind of hidden manipulations we’ve seen on platforms run by leaders who pose as neutral. 




Yale molecular biophysics and DIE



John Sailer:

Yale University’s department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry requires all job applicants to submit a DEI statement.

Here’s the evaluation rubric, which shows the exhaustive DEI criteria for assessing any scientist hoping to work in the Yale department.

——

More.




Civics: “Good progressives are tossing the heady days of wine and wokeness down the memory hole. Lucky for us, there was a witness”



David Mikics

Nellie Bowles’ Morning After the Revolution is a grand tour through the craziness that followed the killing of George Floyd and continues to this day, despite the majority of Americans shaking their heads in bewilderment. Bowles, a former Timesreporter, started out as a progressive seeker, curious and hopeful about the new thinking, and she is still seeking solutions to racism, income inequality, and attacks on women’s rights. But she also sees the absurdity of much of what passed for progressivism, yet was actually narcissistic, neo-racialist, and aggressively inhumane.

At the Times, Bowles was hounded by an anti-disinformation editor, who was there to remind writers that the lab leak hypothesis was a conspiracy theory and also that conservatives were very bad people. The real danger was Trump, she was told, and anything questionable that the left did had to be passed over in silence, lest the enemy gain succor. When she said she wanted to go to Seattle to check out the new anarchist collective that had abolished the police, she was asked, she says, “Why do you care? No, but seriously why do you care?”

Bowles wrote several significant stories for the Times, including one on antifa in 2020, before leaving the paper along with her wife, Bari Weiss, who founded the now-indispensable Free Press. (Bowles was told by a Times editor that her new romantic partner, Weiss, was “a Nazi,” as their colleagues nodded in agreement.) Bowles wrote a mordantly funny weekly column, TGIF, for the Free Press, where she has covered many stories not fit to print in the Times and The Washington Post.




Giving Windows total recall of everything a user does is a privacy minefield



Richard Speed:

The Windows 11 feature is supposed to eventually expand to allow users to pull up anything that happened recently on their Copilot+ PC and interact with or use it again, as the system logs all app activity, communications, and so on, as well as by-the-second screenshots, to local storage for search and retrieval.

Microsoft, which was just scolded by the US government for lax security, said: “Recall will also enable you to open the snapshot in the original application in which it was created, and, as Recall is refined over time, it will open the actual source document, website, or email in a screenshot. This functionality will be improved during Recall’s preview phase.”

Improvements will certainly be needed, particularly in how the function deals with privacy.




“America is a country whose children score low in math and science but off the charts in self-esteem”



Oliver Wiseman:

A study of eight developed countries found that U.S. students were dead last in math skills but number one in confidence in math skills, even though they suck at it. Yes, we’re number one in thinking we’re number one.

The idea that kids have too little self-esteem is antiquated. It’s a Zombie Lie, one of those ideas that perhaps was true in the past but now is not, and yet people keep saying it. Kids now have too much self-esteem, and it’s turning them into angry, screaming grievance collectors.

All of that childhood tolerance is resulting in grown-up tyrants. It’s no wonder that by the time they get to college, just having to listen to an opinion they don’t agree with is considered an act of “violence.” This is what happens when no one ever loses and everyone gets a prize. You can run the wrong way on the field and score five goals for the other team, and you’re still a winner. Even though you’re actually a big fucking loser. No wonder today’s NBA players give each other high fives when they miss a foul shot.

We tell our children they don’t have to fix their flaws, because it’s the world’s job to accept everything about them and love it. Like they say on reality shows, the most important thing is just “you doing you.” But what if “you” is a big asshole?




Infected Blood Inquiry is to report on mistakes that led to 1,250 people in UK contracting HIV and 5,000 more contracting hepatitis C



Cara McGoogan:

Internal documents from American pharmaceutical companies show they knew a “wonder drug” made from human plasma could transmit HIV to patients, but they sold it regardless.

Some 1,250 people in the UK contracted HIV in the 70s and 80s from Factor VIII, a treatment for the bleeding disorder haemophilia. Up to 5,000 more also contracted hepatitis C.

The Infected Blood Inquiry will report later this month on mistakes that allowed Factor VIII contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C to be imported into the UK and prescribed to patients on the NHS.

Survivors who have been seeking justice for 40 years expect the final report on May 20 to be critical of Factor VIII manufacturers, successive governments, and doctors. The report will also explain how as many as 26,800 people contracted hepatitis C from blood transfusions.




Are Gaza Protests Happening Mostly at Elite Colleges?



by Marc Novicoff and Robert Kelchen

Using data from Harvard’s Crowd Counting Consortium and news reports of encampments, we matched information on every institution of higher education that has had pro-Palestinian protest activity (starting when the war broke out in October until early May) to the colleges in our 2023 college rankings. Of the 1,421 public and private nonprofit colleges that we ranked, 318 have had protests and 123 have had encampments.

By matching that data to percentages of students at each campus who receive Pell Grants (which are awarded to students from moderate- and low-income families), we came to an unsurprising conclusion: Pro-Palestinian protests have been rare at colleges with high percentages of Pell students. Encampments at such colleges have been rarer still. A few outliers exist, such as Cal State Los Angeles, the City College of New York, and Rutgers University–Newark. But in the vast majority of cases, campuses that educate students mostly from working-class backgrounds have not had any protest activity. For example, at the 78 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on the Monthly’s list, 64 percent of the students, on average, receive Pell Grants. Yet according to our data, none of those institutions have had encampments and only nine have had protests, a significantly lower rate than non-HBCU schools. 

Protest activity has been common, however, at elite schools with both low acceptance rates and few Pell students. You can see these findings in the chart below.




For decades, the university cultivated the conditions that led to its campus Intifada.



Christopher Rufo:

The images of the recent protests at Columbia University have grabbed the attention of the American public: students chanting for a Palestinian state, “from the river to the sea”; activists setting up a mass tent encampment on the campus lawn; masked occupiers seizing control of Hamilton Hall. For some, it was a sign that ancient anti-Semitism had established itself in the heart of the Ivy League. For others, it was déjà vu of 1968, when mass demonstrations last roiled campus.

After weeks of rising tensions, Columbia president Minouche Shafik resolved the immediate conflict by summoning the New York City Police Department, which swiftly disbanded anti-Israel student encampments, removed the occupiers of Hamilton Hall, and arrested more than 100 students, who were subsequently suspended.

President Shafik feigned surprise. In a statement to students, she expressed “deep sadness” about the campus chaos. But to anyone who has observed Columbia in recent decades, the upheaval should not come as a surprise. Behind the images of campus protests lies a deeper, more troubling story: the ideological capture of the university, which inexorably drove Columbia toward this moment. Columbia for decades has cultivated the precise conditions that allowed the pro-Hamas protests to flourish. The university built massive departments to advance “postcolonialism,” spent hundreds of millions of dollars on “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and glorified New Left–style student activism as the telos of university life.




Over 750,000 antimicrobial resistance deaths preventable yearly via vaccines, water, sanitation and infection control



Lancet:

Authors say if the world does not prioritize action on AMR now, we will see a steady increase in the global death toll—currently 4.95 million per year from infections linked to AMR—with young infants, elderly people, and people with chronic illnesses or requiring surgical procedures at the highest risk.

Improving and expanding existing methods to prevent infections, such as hand hygiene, regular cleaning and sterilization of equipment in health care facilities, availability of safe drinking water, effective sanitation and use of pediatric vaccines, could prevent over 750,000 deaths associated with AMR every year in
low- or middle-income countries (LMICs), estimates a new modeling analysis as part of a new four paper Series published in The Lancet.

Each year, an estimated 7.7 million deaths globally are caused by bacterial infections—1 in 8 of all global deaths, making bacterial infections the second largest cause of death globally. Out of these bacterial infection deaths, almost 5 million are associated with bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics. Authors of the new Lancet Series on antimicrobial resistance call for support for sustainable access to antibiotics to be central to ambitious and actionable targets on tackling AMR introduced at the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2024.




Notes on machine learning



r/Artificialintelligence

For all those interested, and for those interested in the more complex and technical side of machine learning/AI…

Ilya Sutskever gave John Carmack this reading list of approx 30 research papers and said, ‘If you really learn all of these, you’ll know 90% of what matters today.’




‘Our Forever President’: Black Harvard Graduates Celebrate Claudine Gay at Affinity Ceremony



By Madeleine A. Hung and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson:

Here and around the world, students, faculty, alumni organize, mobilize resistance movements to fight our own institution’s facilitation of the dehumanization of the Filastin people,” m’Cheaux added.

m’Cheaux’s remarks come days after the Harvard College Administrative Board suspended five undergraduates and placed at least 20 others on probation for their participation in the 20-day pro-Palestine encampment of Harvard Yard, which ended last week.

Though the sanctions barred 13 seniors from graduating at Commencement on Thursday, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to add them back to the list of degrees recommended for conferral on Monday.

As of Tuesday evening, the status of their degrees remains uncertain.

——

Commentary.




Rebuilding a safe, pro-learning culture at an inner-city school



By Shannon Whitworth

It’s been a rough cultural transition back to schools since the lockdowns, and we are starting to see the price that will be paid for keeping our kids out of the nation’s schools for as long as we did. We are fighting to reclaim our schools for the sake of the children we serve. Some schools, like mine, have been up to the task, but many others have not recovered.

I am the Director of the Free Enterprise Academy at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.  Milwaukee Lutheran is a school of approximately 860 students, most of whom are inner-city, economically disadvantaged, black kids who attend using a school choice voucher.  Like most schools during the closures, Milwaukee Lutheran went to virtual learning, with varying levels of success.  When we returned to in-person instruction, little did we know the problems were only just beginning.

Many people have written about the drops in proficiency and attendance since our return from the lockdowns. One of the most important aspects often not considered is the damage done to a school’s culture. Anti-social behavior, insubordination, fighting, and tardiness seemed to be the norm.




“Up to half of UCLA medical students now fail basic tests of medical competence. Whistleblowers say affirmative action, illegal in California since 1996, is to blame”



Aaron Sibarium:

Long considered one of the best medical schools in the world, the University of California, Los Angeles’s David Geffen School of Medicine receives as many as 14,000 applications a year. Of those, it accepted just 173 students in the 2023 admissions cycle, a record-low acceptance rate of 1.3 percent. The median matriculant took difficult science courses in college, earned a 3.8 GPA, and scored in the 88th percentile on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

Without those stellar stats, some doctors at the school say, students can struggle to keep pace with the demanding curriculum.

So when it came time for the admissions committee to consider one such student in November 2021—a black applicant with grades and test scores far below the UCLA average—some members of the committee felt that this particular candidate, based on the available evidence, was not the best fit for the top-tier medical school, according to two people present for the committee’s meeting.

Their reservations were not well-received.

When an admissions officer voiced concern about the candidate, the two people said, the dean of admissions, Jennifer Lucero, exploded in anger.

“Did you not know African-American women are dying at a higher rate than everybody else?” Lucero asked the admissions officer, these people said. The candidate’s scores shouldn’t matter, she continued,  because “we need people like this in the medical school.”

More:

How does this relate to the Free Beacon article that speaks to *admissions (you’re talking about exams taken by second-year students. This is the data people are asking for.

And:

They have not “released” those results. They didn’t give me the more positive data when I reached out for comment or include them in a subsequent press release.

Plus:

This is the problem with saying: “well, they still have to pass all their licensing exams, so who cares if they fail their shelf exams?”




Google vs the open web



Andrew Orlowski:

Google is currently erecting a wall between the searcher and the information they seek, using Generative AI, which the company believes creates more useful results such as summaries. This barrier, consisting of what Google’s former research director Meredith Whittaker calls “derivative content paste”, causes problems: what’s generated may or may not resemble the original, thanks to additional errors and “hallucinations”. The new barrier also removes the creators of original material from the value chain. The world was never as exciting as we were promised by the web utopians; now, it will be blander than ever.




Civics: Subverting Open Records at taxpayer funded NIH



Alex Ruoff:

NIH has a “foia lady” who instead of responding to records requests advises colleagues on circumventing the law, according to emails released by Oversight today.

——

It borders on contempt for @atfhq Director Dettelbach to refuse to answer Congress’s questions about the pipe bombs discovered on January 6th.




being sued for defamation for criticizing her school district on social media for employing a “social justice coordinator.”



WILL

WILL filed this appeal because Ms. Johnson’s posts are protected by the First Amendment. She should not have to endure a costly, pointless, and incoherent jury trial. 

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel, Luke Berg, stated, “The case against Ms. Johnson should have been promptly dismissed. She was expressing her opinion, and the First Amendment gives her the right to do so. We hope the Court of Appeals allows her to appeal to avoid a misguided trial.”   

Scarlet Johnson, stated, “We have a right to free speech in this country and no one should be treated differently under the law because of their political beliefs. I am hopeful that we can establish what is a clear protection of the 1stAmendment.”  

Additional Background: The lawsuit involves a defamation claim for run-of-the-mill social media posts on X and Facebook. The posts in question criticized a school district for having a “social justice coordinator,” and described people who hold such positions as “woke,” “white savior[s]” with a “god complex,” “woke lunatics,” and “bullies.” Statements like these are pervasive on social media; indeed, they were more restrained than a lot of online speech. Nevertheless, the Plaintiff, who previously held the position, chose to respond with a defamation lawsuit.  

——

Legislation and Reading: the Wisconsin Experience 2004-

——

Literacy momentum stalls in Wisconsin (DPI): Why would Wisconsin’s state leaders promote the use of curriculum that meets “minimal level” criteria, instead of elevating the highest-quality

——-

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?




How Should We Critique Research



gwern.net

Scientific and statistical research must be read with a critical eye to understand how credible the claims are. The Reproducibility Crisis and the growth of meta-science have demonstrated that much research is of low quality and often false.

But there are so many possible things any given study could be criticized for, falling short of an unobtainable ideal, that it becomes unclear which possible criticism is important, and they may degenerate into mere rhetoric. How do we separate fatal flaws from unfortunate caveats from specious quibbling?

I offer a pragmatic criterion: what makes a criticism important is how much it could change a result if corrected and how much that would then change our decisions or actions: to what extent it is a “difference which makes a difference”.

This is why issues of research fraud, causal inference, or biases yielding overestimates are universally important: because a ‘causal’ effect turning out to be zero effect or grossly overestimated will change almost all decisions based on such research; while on the other hand, other issues like measurement error or distributional assumptions, which are equally common, are often not important: because they typically yield much smaller changes in conclusions, and hence decisions.

If we regularly ask whether a criticism would make this kind of difference, it will be clearer which ones are important criticisms, and which ones risk being rhetorical distractions and obstructing meaningful evaluation of research.




The trust state



Zoe Williams:

Korsgaard states this plainly: “We were so used to this idea of ourselves as a nation: we were Christian, we were white, we were equal, we spoke Danish.” The whole of this century has been racked by questions of inclusion and integration, and many Danes will frame the ghetto policy as a question of perspective: from one angle, no question, it looks unbelievably racist; from another, it’s trying to eradicate pockets of deprivation. The other criteria for a ghetto are above average jobless and crime rates and lower than average educational attainment. No one has ended up homeless as a result of this regeneration.

Does a commitment to equality have to mean an in-group and an out-group? “One should absolutely acknowledge the question mark over the next decades of Denmark’s evolution of trust,” Shapins says, “as you continue to have an evolution of migration and belonging.” Denmark has had, Korsgaard says, “a painful time in recent history, where we had to renegotiate, ‘OK, you can be part of this community, even though you’re not white, even though your birth language is not Danish,’ and luckily, I think that is more or less settled.”




Notes on a National Curriculum



Daisy Christodoulou

In England, the national curriculum has been in the news after the Shadow Education minister, Bridget Phillipson, reminded everyone that a future Labour government plans to review it. 

I have written a lot about the curriculum and I think it’s an important part of education. But I also think that the national curriculum in England – and many other countries – is not as important as is sometimes assumed. This is not just because some schools in England are exempt from following the national curriculum. Even if it were compulsory for every school, it would still not be a significant lever for change. Four other parts of the education system make a bigger difference to what students learn. 

Thank you for reading No More Marking. This post is public so feel free to share it.

Share

  1. Lesson resources

When most non-educationalists think about “the curriculum”, I think they have something like this in mind: the curriculum basically tells teachers what to teach each lesson. That is a reasonable assumption, but in England it is not the case. The national curriculum provides nothing like this level of detail, even our current 2014 version which is more specific and detailed than its predecessors. The entire primary and secondary curriculum for every subject is about 300 pages long. A huge amount of work has to be done to turn what you see in this curriculum document into actual living and breathing lessons.

Who does this work? Individual teachers, textbook writers, digital resource creators, central teams at multi-academy trusts…it varies. 




Notes on “Shadow Banning”



Tauhid Zaman

In a new study, Yale SOM’s Tauhid Zaman and Yen-Shao Chen show how a social media platform can shift users’ positions or increase overall polarization by selectively muting and amplifying posts in ways that appear neutral to an outside observer. Zaman says that the dangers of such “shadow banning” are much more immediate than the concerns that led Congress to force a sale of TikTok.

More clandestine than a straightforward ban from a platform, shadow banning limits the broader visibility of a user’s content without their knowledge. A Facebook or Instagram post that’s been subjected to shadow banning would remain on the original poster’s profile page, but it would appear less, or not at all, in the timelines of other users.

In a new paper co-authored with Yale SOM PhD student Yen-Shao Chen, Zaman takes up this phenomenon—not to determine whether it’s currently happening but instead to lay out exactly how it can be done and how powerful it can be.

For the study, the researchers built a simulation of a real social network, and then succeeded in using shadow banning to shift simulated users’ opinions as well as increasing and decreasing polarization. Even when the goal was to use shadow banning to move collective sentiment to the right or left, Zaman says, the content moderation policy appeared neutral from an outside perspective. That’s because it’s possible, he discovered, to shift opinions by turning down the volume on accounts on both sides of a debate at the same time.

“It’s like a frog sitting in a pot of water; the frog’s relaxing, and suddenly, he’s cooked,” Zaman said. “A network could, in fact, be driving people towards one point of view, but if someone tries to call them out on it—like a regulatory body—they’re going to see the network censoring both sides equally,” Zaman says. “It looks like there’s nothing untoward happening, so they leave the network alone—and suddenly everybody thinks the earth’s flat. That’s what we find you could do with our technique, which is a little scary.”




“In the spotting-academic-fraud business, we call this a slam dunk”



Katl Stack:

The dossier thoroughly documents numerous additional instances of theft of figures, exaggerated claims of novelty, misappropriation of a previous researcher’s device, plagiarism, citation fraud, similarities to past winning ISEF projects, and potential scientific inaccuracies. It’s a brutal takedown. I find this evidence highly compelling; however, I am not including it all in my article to save space. 

I strongly encourage you to read the dossier yourself:




St Albans aims to be smartphone-free for under-14s



Sally Weale

“This is mega!” said Daisy Greenwell from the Smartphone-Free Childhood campaign. “We are absolutely thrilled and we believe it’s going to have a domino effect.”

She was reacting to news that St Albans in Hertfordshire is attempting to become the first UK city to go smartphone-free for all children under 14.

Before St Albans, it was Greystones in Irelandlast year, where parents banded together to collectively tell their children they could not have a smartphone until secondary school. Greenwell believes others will now take similar steps.

“People are going to feel emboldened to follow suit,” said Greenwell, whose local WhatsApp group on the issue “exploded”, attracting 100,000 supporters in a matter of months. “The groundswell of support we have seen has been completely mindblowing.”

Headteachers in 30-plus primaries across St Albans got together to draw up a joint letter to send to families, in which they declared their schools smartphone-free and urged parents to delay giving their children a smartphone until at least year 9 of secondary school.