Check out the www.schoolinfosystem.org site for many great post on:
Madison Board of Education Member Ruth Robarts posted an insightful article on periodic information delivery via packets of papers.... (via van or diesel truck).
Given a choice between increased strings and wrestling fees and driving paper around, I'd support the students first....
The Governor's Task Force on Educational Excellence is evidently poised to suggest that the state fund schools by:
I think that school funding should include:
The son of a Milwaukee plumber, Rev. Reginald Foster has devoted his lift to saving Latin from extinction, says Clifford Levy from Vatican City.
Barb Schrank updates us on the winners & losers in the recently passed $308+M 2004-2005 MMSD Budget:
Barb Schrank summarizes Monday evening's School Board budget discussions ($1m of changes to the Administration's $308m budget, including the first ever fee for an academic program ($50 for strings)). Schrank also discusses the urgent need for the board to adopt a more proactive budgeting process.....
Quite a few interesting articles on the Madison School Districts 308M+ budget are available at www.schoolinfosystem.org
Forbes Mark Tatge writes about our "Miracle in the Midwest":
David C. Schwartz is right at home in the dark. That's where his fluorescent microscopes can do their work, scanning thousands of samples of DNA that make a slow crawl across computer screens and methodically map the human genome. All this activity is packed into a cramped room inside a lab at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "Most people think I came here because I hated New York," he says with a boyish smile and a twitch of the mustache that curls over his lip. "I came here to start a companyInteresting sidebar:
Out-of-state venture capitalists complain that most of these hatchlings need better management. G. Steven Burrill, who runs the San Francisco merchant bank Burrill & Co. and has invested $15 million to $20 million in young Wisconsin companies, bemoans the failure to capitalize on opportunities. "We see 100 deals a month in life sciences," he explains. "But I don't see even one a month from MadisonBurrill is correct - while there are many opportunities here, it is not generally a risk taking culture.... unfortunately.
Alex Tabarrok comments about a recent NY Times article by William J Broad that states we are losing our lead in sciences. Tabarrok makes some excellent points, including this quote from Thomas Jefferson:
He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.
Kelley Bruss writes about the Northeastern Wisconsin Charter School, opening this fall:
Those who’ve experienced online education say good things are in store when the Northeastern Wisconsin Online Charter School opens in the fall.
But students enrolling in the Web-based courses shouldn’t expect a light load. The work is demanding, said Sara Dennison, 17, a Gibraltar High School junior who took an oceanography class online last semester.
“You have to be very driven to want to do the class,” Dennison said. “You really have to stay focused on your own time and be very self-directed to finish it. … You really have to put the effort in and want to learn it.”
Every fifth- and sixth-grader at Johnson Elementary will receive a $1,350 IBM ThinkPad computer loaded with digital versions of state-approved textbooks and 2,000 works of literature. If the experiment works, the program will be expanded to other grades.
In Henrico County, Va., where schools give laptops to all high schoolers, Apple Computer Inc. replaced pop-out CD-ROM trays with slides on its iBook laptops when students kept breaking off the trays after forgetting to close them.
"They get heavy use, and occasionally they drop them," said Cathy Fisher, Henrico's director of high school education. Still, she said breakage, as well as thefts, are rare.
The Henrico school board will decide next year whether to renew the deal with Apple, which cost the school district $18.5 million over four years. Fisher said the district can't prove that computers raise test scores, but she said they make learning more interesting.
Smith, whose program serves up to 150 students, doesn't know what he'll do after the experiment with textbook-loaded laptops next year. It all depends on the price, he said.
Its name remains unchanged: Elm Creative Arts Elementary School. Young students still walk the halls, with violins and saxophones swinging at their sides.Interestingly, she includes some other viewpoints on school spending:
At first glance, it looks very much the art school its name reflects. Colorful papier-mache and art projects of all kinds decorate the hallway walls and dangle from the ceilings.
But ask the principal and parents what's going on here, and the story is anything but joyous. Some parents cry as they talk about it.
Students at this specialty art school on Walnut St. risk losing their art teachers. Budgetary woes have already claimed three art specialists in the last few years. The remaining four are in jeopardy.
Rep. Luther Olsen (R-Berlin): "Look at the amount of money spent per student. "Wisconsin is number eight in the country. . . . The answer is not dumping more money in because we don't have the money."
Mike Birkley, of the lobbying group Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc.: "Our tests scores are going up. Our SAT scores continue to be among the highest in the nation. Our dropout rates are down. The quality of education has not suffered."
Madison School District 2004-2005 $310+m budget discussions continue:
1991 New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto wrote this fascinating article in the Whole Earth Review:
Without a fully active role in community life you cannot develop into a complete human being. Aristotle taught that. Surely he was right; look around you or look in the mirror: that is the demonstration.
"School" is an essential support system for a vision of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows to a control point as it ascends. "School" is an artifice which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution). In colonial days and through the period of the early Republic we had no schools to speak of. And yet the promise of democracy was beginning to be realized. We turned our backs on this promise by bringing to life the ancient dream of Egypt: compulsory training in subordination for everybody. Compulsory schooling was the secret Plato reluctantly transmitted in the Republic when he laid down the plans for total state control of human life.
The current debate about whether we should have a national curriculum is phony; we already have one, locked up in the six lessons I've told you about and a few more I've spared you. This curriculum produces moral and intellectual paralysis, and no curriculum of content will be sufficient to reverse its bad effects. What is under discussion is a great irrelevancy.
None of this is inevitable, you know. None of it is impregnable to change. We do have a choice in how we bring up young people; there is no right way. There is no "international competition" that compels our existence, difficult as it is to even think about in the face of a constant media barrage of myth to the contrary. In every important material respect our nation is self-sufficient. If we gained a non-material philosophy that found meaning where it is genuinely located -- in families, friends, the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy -- then we would be truly self-sufficient.
Meg Kissinger writes about the challenge Milwaukee Public Schools face educating homeless children:
Like about 1,400 other Milwaukee schoolchildren on any given day, and more than 13,000 a year, Kenesha has no home to call her own. The challenge of educating her and the others is staggering for school administrators as the children move from one place to another, often without notice.
Activity levels of students drops from years ago according to Nicole Sweeney:
"We want the kids to be smart academically," said Otha Frazier, a physical education teacher at Racine's Case High School. "Well, it's not showing too much intelligence if you're going to destroy the body to prepare the mind."
Tom Friedman writes about a recent trip to Silicon Valley:
Still others pointed out that the percentage of Americans graduating with bachelor's degrees in science and engineering is less than half of the comparable percentage in China and Japan, and that U.S. government investments are flagging in basic research in physics, chemistry and engineering. Anyone who thinks that all the Indian and Chinese techies are doing is answering call-center phones or solving tech problems for Dell customers is sadly mistaken. U.S. firms are moving serious research and development to India and China.
The bottom line: we are actually in the middle of two struggles right now. One is against the Islamist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, and the other is a competitiveness-and-innovation struggle against India, China, Japan and their neighbors. And while we are all fixated on the former (I've been no exception), we are completely ignoring the latter. We have got to get our focus back in balance, not to mention our budget. We can't wage war on income taxes and terrorism and a war for innovation at the same time.
Curriculum was and is a hot topic in the Madison School District.
Further, the tech industry has been playing footsie with Hollywood (ironic, given the size of the tech industry vs Hollywood) regarding our fair use rights. Dan Gillmor has recently published a draft version of his upcoming book: Making the News. Chapter 11 includes some very troubling quotes:
When Microsoft shipped its first search-engine (which makes a copy of every page it searches), it violated the letter of copyright law. When Microsoft made its first proxy server (which makes a copy of every page it caches), it broke copyright law. When Microsoft shipped its first CD-ripping technology, it broke copyright law.
It broke copyright law because copyright law was broken. Copyright law changes all the time to reflect the new tools that companies like Microsoft invent. If Microsoft wants to deliver a compelling service to its customers, let it make general-purpose tools that have the side-effect of breaking Sony and Apple's DRM, giving its customers more choice in the players they use. Microsoft has shown its willingness to go head-to-head with antitrust people to defend its bottom line: next to them, the copyright courts and lawmakers are pantywaists, Microsoft could eat those guys for lunch, exactly the way Sony kicked their asses in 1984 when they defended their right to build and sell VCRs, even though some people might do bad things with them. Just like the early MP3 player makers did when they ate Sony's lunch by shipping product when Sony wouldn't.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's answer has been to build Digital Rights Management -- the more appropriate term is "Digital Restrictions Management" -- into just about everything it makes.
But now consider the ways it could be used, beyond simple tracking by copyright holders of what they sell. Anderson writes:
[Trusted Computing] provides a computing platform on which you can't tamper with the application software, and where these applications can communicate securely with their authors and with each other. The original motivation was digital rights management (DRM): Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a TC platform, but which you won't be able to copy. The music industry will be able to sell you music downloads that you won't be able to swap. They will be able to sell you CDs that you'll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. All sorts of new marketing possibilities will open up.
The potential for abuse extends far beyond commercial bullying and economic warfare into political censorship. I expect that it will proceed a step at a time. First, some well-intentioned police force will get an order against a pornographic picture of a child, or a manual on how to sabotage railroad signals. All TC-compliant PCs will delete, or perhaps report, these bad documents. Then a litigant in a libel or copyright case will get a civil court order against an offending document; perhaps the Scientologists will seek to blacklist the famous Fishman Affidavit. A dictator's secret police could punish the author of a dissident leaflet by deleting everything she ever created using that system - her new book, her tax return, even her kids' birthday cards - wherever it had ended up. In the West, a court might use a confiscation doctrine to `blackhole' a machine that had been used to make a pornographic picture of a child. Once lawyers, policemen and judges realise the potential, the trickle will become a flood.The Trusted Computing moves bring to mind a conversation in early 2000 with Andy Grove, longtime chief executive at Intel and one of the real pioneers in the tech industry. He was talking about how easy it would soon be to send videos back and forth with his grandchildren. If trends continued, I suggested, he'd someday need Hollywood's permission. The man who wrote the best-seller, "Only the Paranoid Survive," then called me paranoid. Several years later, amid the copyright industry's increasing clampdown and Intel's unfortunate leadership in helping the copyright holders lock everything down, I asked him if I'd really been all that paranoid. He avoided a direct reply.
The Apple Learning Interchange has posted a virtual field trip: The Wright Start
The invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright is one of the great stories in American history. It tells of the creation of a world-changing technology at the opening of an exciting new century, an era full of promise and confidence in the future. At the center of the tale are two talented, yet modest, Midwestern bicycle shop proprietors, whose inventive labors and achievement transformed them from respected small-town businessmen into international celebrities. The influence of their invention on the 20th century is beyond measure. The transport by air of goods and people, quickly and over great distances, and the military applications of flight technology, have had global economic, geopolitical, and cultural impact. The Wrights' invention not only solved a long-studied technical problem, but also fashioned a radically new world.
Pat Schneider writes that the Madison School Board last night delayed a study of administrative costs:
The district would need $318 million to continue current programming next school year, but a state formula caps district spending at $308 million.
Superintendent Art Rainwater proposed cutting approximately 135 jobs, resulting in larger class sizes in middle and high schools, and reductions in special services. Schools would be cleaned less often, and athletic programs would be pared down while fees would be raised.
School board members must hammer out a spending document by July 1, but teachers facing downsizing must be notified by the end of May.
Veteran board member Carol Carstensen, who had proposed the evaluation of administrative costs, said she sought it because of her own limited understanding of many of the district's business functions. "I don't know how many people we ought to have working in the purchasing department," she said, for example.
According to Carstensen, $3.6 million in administrative salaries - not counting 70 school principals - fall under the state spending caps,.
An in-house draft document seeking the administrative evaluation did not include anyone in the superintendent's office, legal services or the district's public information office as among those to be evaluated. No administrators in instructional programs were included, either.
Carstensen acknowledged that no study could be done in time for this year's tough round of budgeting. "But if we don't get it started, we'll never have it," she said.
Board member Ruth Robarts seemed eager for a measure of administrative effectiveness, but she argued that that could not be obtained until the board laid out an instructional plan with performance goals.
"We push a lot for the kids to be successful." And she is convinced all her students - all black, almost all from low-income homes - can learn "if given the right opportunities and the right environment.
She says she urges parents to limit television and to read more at home. Children are influenced by this.
But she also knows that many of her students lead challenging lives. During a class discussion of what fourth-graders can do that infants can't, making your bed is mentioned by one student. Another says he doesn't have to do that because he sleeps on the floor. Guinn understands that this means he doesn't have a bed of his own.
Over several months, a string of novice tutors from a private company offering federally financed after-school classes had tried and failed to control Room 207's dozen rambunctious students. A supervisor from the company was dispatched to troubleshoot. Effie McHenry, Wentworth's principal, was clucking her tongue in disapproval.
I just don't think they're prepared to deal with challenging inner city children," Mrs. McHenry said of the company, talking past the supervisor to a visitor. "I think they expected to find children who'd just sit down and wait for them to expound. These kids aren't like that. They need challenging instruction."
The Chicago-based Joyce Foundation announced Wednesday that it would provide $15 million over the next three years to support efforts to improve the quality of teaching in low-performing schools in Milwaukee, Chicago and Cleveland.
Dozens of Madison public school students are learning this month that their race can be the sole factor in whether they're allowed to transfer to another district under the state's open enrollment law.
The Madison School District said Tuesday it has denied 65 open enrollment requests for next fall because the shift of those students - all of them white - would upset the racial balance at specific schools.
Milwaukee's voucher program prompted sustainable achievement gains for the city's public elementary schools, according to a new study by a Harvard economist.
Researcher Caroline Hoxby followed up on a study of three years ago, in which she concluded that the private school choice program pushed the public schools to improve.
In the new study, she adds test score data from two additional years - the 2000-'01 and 2001-'02 school years - and finds that the gains were sustained, although they did not accelerate. The study was published in the Swedish Economic Policy Review.
Bizzaro Wisco Column - [Humor]
March 30, 2004
A document released today by the Madison Metropolitan School District
outlines the administration’s proposal to close the district’s $10 million
budget shortfall by eliminating all “education” activities and focusing on
the district’s core “child storage” functions. According to Superintendent
Art Rainwater, the increasing cost of “education” has impaired the
district’s ability to balance its books.
Thanks to Lucy Mathiak for pointing me to this article.
Nahal Toosi writes a very thin article about blogging, including campus initiatives.
According to city assessor Ray Fisher Friday when 2004 property assessments were released. "My house went up 10 percent this year. I look at it as money in my pocket." - Beth Williams writes. Interesting perspective.... Can't say that I agree with Ray on that one. Bill Novak writes:
"Last year, assessments went up 8.6 percent and the local real estate tax was up 7.1 percent, according to the Assessor's Office. In 2002, assessments were up 8.1 percent and taxes went up 3.2 percent. In 1997 and 1999, assessments went up and taxes went down." What about 1998, 2000 and 2001?
There has been talk in the state legislature of completely shifting school taxes from the property tax to other sources, such as the sales tax. Wayne Wood, a retiring representative from Janesville and Rep Mickey Lehman (R-Hartford) developed a proposal that would have used a sales tax increase to reduce property taxes for schools.
Michigan dramatically changed their school finance system a few years ago, substantially reducing property taxes, in return for an increase in sales taxes.
My view is that the time is long past to remove school spending from Wisconsin's high property taxes. Every Wisconsin property owner should reasonably expect:
How should we replace some of the property tax revenues?
Political paralysis on this issue can only lead to drastic measures in the not too distant future.
Imagine an educational system where children do not start school until they are 7, where spending is a paltry $5,000 a year per student, where there are no gifted programs and class sizes often approach 30. A prescription for failure, no doubt, in the eyes of many experts, but in this case a description of Finnish schools, which were recently ranked the world's best.
- Most attendees at recent VC & Economic Conferences were from government agencies, community development organizations, schools and universities (why? most real entrepreneurs don't have time to sit around and talk, they'd rather make things happen)
- Byrnes further muses that perhaps our culture is to blame: "We may be dealing with the long-term effects of an overprotective social climate that discourages risk taking."
- Too much overhead: Byrnes cites a recent study by the California-based Milken Institute which shows that Wisconsin has more economic development offices and business incubators per capita that almost every other state, including California! Byrnes calcuates that the ratio of business support people to entrepreneurs is 100 to 1; if you add educators, the ratio is 1000 to 1!
Byrnes is right on. We don't need more state sponsored programs (that generally only benefit the largest firms). We in fact, need less paperwork (I can't imagine how a small business keeps up with it all....), more risk taking and a more entrepreneurial financial environment (California has this in droves).
Byrnes article appeared in the April, 2004 issue of Corporate Report Wisconsin.
Ron Brownstein summarizes John Kerry's positions on education reform, then and now, including a discussion of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Alan Borsuk writes about the demise of Milwaukee Public Schools 8-T program, an initiative "aimed at dealing with a problem that perplexes urban school districts across the United States: what to do with the large number of eighth-graders who are not really ready for high school".
Extensive research indicates that neither holding students back a grade nor promoting them unprepared fosters achievement," the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory said in a report summarizing the issue.
So what do you do with such students?
In 1997, the Milwaukee School Board voted to require students to meet a set of proficiency standards before they graduate from middle school in an effort to deal with a "social promotion" problem that made ninth grade, in the words of one MPS administrator, "a parking lot" for hundreds of kids who were doing poorly.
The technology legend and his wife Betty Moore donated $250,000 to the school's foundation, charter-school supporters announced Saturday during a casino-night fundraiser held at the Fremont Hills Country Club.
Gordon Moore, who is famous for predicting that a computer chip's power would double every two years, stated in the charter-school foundation's press release that ``Betty and I feel very strongly that competition in educational opportunities results in innovation and significant improvements for all participants.'' From Tim Oren
The Washington Post Magazine Features a series of articles on integration.
Many researchers see the root causes of this gap in the early years. There is a growing conviction that even good schools cannot do enough for students who start far behind.
"If we send kids to kindergarten with this big gap, we can be pretty sure that as things stand, the gap is not only going to remain, but will get bigger," said Deborah Stipek, the dean of Stanford University's School of Education.
Increasingly, educators are focusing on preschool programs as a critical step in making up the deficit, and they are developing - or being pushed to develop - programs that are more overtly academic than ever. Nationally, some programs are cutting nap time; others have instituted more formal assessments. Literacy blocks - the jargon for early language and reading programs - are becoming as common as wood blocks.
This looks like a rather expensive election. Olson has raised nearly twice as much money as Robarts, according to recent campaign finance disclosure filings. MTI Voters had $47K on hand according to their March 25, 2004 campaign finance disclosure filing [116K PDF].
* MTI Voters Campaign Finance Disclosure shows a $1,560 contribution to Johnny Winston, Jr's campaign on March 17, 2004, but Winston's March 29, 2004 disclosure does not show the receipt of this contribution.
Raised most $'s: Alix Olson $11,203.21 (Olson's opponent, incumbent Ruth Robarts has raised $5,839.44 and has accepted no PAC money) Received most Pac $'s: Alix Olson $2,185.00 Raised least amount: Sam Johnson $1,656.30 (Johnson's opponent, incumbent Shwaw Vang has raised $5,153,98 and has accepted $2,135 in PAC money) Raised least PAC $'s: Ruth Robarts $0.00 PAC with most cash: MTI Voters
(Madison Teachers, Inc. PAC)
$47,391.55 PAC with least cash: Get Real $289.81 Fund raising Summary Seat 3 Sam Johnson $1,656.30 Shwaw Vang $5,153.98 PAC Receipts $306.30 $2,135.00 Seat 4 Melania Alvarez $2,111.27 Johnny Winston, Jr.$9,683.93 PAC Receipts $266.27 $600 other + $1560MTI* Seat 5 Alix Olson $11,203.21 Ruth Robarts $5,839.44 PAC Receipts $2,185.00 $0.00 Learn more here... and vote April 6, 2004
Two interesting items related to the April 6, 2004 Madison School Board Election:
- Doug Erickson writes that Madison Teachers, Inc. filed a request with the UW Madison for all records pertaining to Ruth Robarts salary & compensation. (Robarts is an assistant law school dean)
- This Week's Isthmus has a fascinating set of letters regarding their recent article on the School District's math curriculum. Unfortunately, not online.
African-Americans make up a larger proportion of students than teachers. Many educators say that as a result African-Americans students suffer because they lack role models and white students suffer because they lack diversity. In a newly published paper (working paper version), Thomas Dee (Swarthmore College) supports some but not all of this story. Using data from Tennessee's Project Star, a very important experiment in which K-3 students were randomly assigned to small and regular sized classes, Dee finds that black students improve when they have black teachers. So far so good. Dee also finds, however, that white students improve when they have white teachers. Uh, oh. There goes the diversity is good for everyone story.
Dee is quick to point out that we don't understand why students perform better with a teacher of their own race. If it is a role-model effect then why would white students perform poorly with black teachers - surely there are enough white role models to choose from that one more or less isn't going to have an effect on the self-esteem of white students. Another theory, with some support from other studies, is that teachers spend more time helping students of their own race. Note that if it is the latter then better teacher training, to overcome natural biases, could improve the effectiveness of both white and black teachers.
The cite for the paper is Dee, Thomas S. 2004. Teachers, Race, and Student Achievement in a Randomized Experiment. The Review of Economics and Statistics 86(1): 195-210.
Michael Lewis pens a fascinating article on Billy Fitzgerald, the longtime baseball coach at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. Fitgerald has coached many exemplary student/athletes. Recently, some of them got together to fund the school's gym renovation in his name.
Lewis's article explores the friction between a coach trying to get the most out of student/athlete's and parents who want to protect their children.
''The parents' willingness to intercede on the kids' behalf, to take the kids' side, to protect the kid, in a not healthy way -- there's much more of that each year,'' he said. ''It's true in sports, it's true in the classroom. And it's only going to get worse.'' - Scott McLeod, Newman's headmaster.
Since then McLeod had been like a man in an earthquake straddling a fissure. On one side he had this coach about whom former players cared intensely; on the other side he had these newly organized and outraged parents of current players. When I asked him why he didn't simply ignore the parents, he said, quickly, that he couldn't do that: the parents were his customers. (''They pay a hefty tuition,'' he said. ''They think that entitles them to a say.'') But when I asked him if he'd ever thought about firing Coach Fitz, he had to think hard about it. ''The parents want so much for their kids to have success as they define it,'' he said. ''They want them to get into the best schools and go on to the best jobs. And so if they see their kid fail -- if he's only on the J.V., or the coach is yelling at him -- somehow the school is responsible for that.'' And while he didn't see how he could ever ''fire a legend,'' he did see how he could change him. Several times in his tenure he had done something his predecessors had never done: summon Fitz to his office and insist that he ''modify'' his behavior. ''And to his credit,'' the headmaster said, ''he did that.''
When the Random Lake School District cut high school course offerings last fall to save money, teachers and parents stepped in to help fill the gaps.
The district was faced with getting about $350,000 less in state aid, so it eliminated three high school teaching positions, one middle school teaching position and seven extracurricular activities, according to Joe Gassert, who’s been the district administrator for 10 years.
“The reduction in aid was a combination of declining enrollment and the smaller amount of money the state gave all school districts,” Gassert said.
Madison - The day he moved into his residence hall as a freshman, Christopher Loving heard the whispers of his hall-mates.
"There's a black guy on the floor. Somebody go talk to him."
Finally, three fellow University of Wisconsin-Madison students appeared.
After noting he was from Chicago, one asked Loving if he was from a rough neighborhood.
No, Loving said.
"My dad told me that all the black people in Chicago live in the projects. . . . Are you sure you didn't grow up in the Robert Taylor Homes?"
"Well, does your dad play for the Chicago Bears or something?"
No, Loving said. He wasn't rich.
"Well, how do you go to school here then? I thought you had to be either really rich or really poor to go here if you're black."
Loving, now a junior and president of the campus Black Student Union, recalls the encounter with humor and sadness.
Virginia Postrel writes that smart women who were shut out of the professions used to become teachers. That was bad for the women but good for their students. New York Times:
The best female students - those whose test scores put them in the top 10 percent of their high school classes - are much less likely to become teachers today.
"Whereas close to 20 percent of females in the top decile in 1964 chose teaching as a profession," making it their top choice, the economists write, "only 3.7 percent of top decile females were teaching in 1992," making teachers about as common as lawyers in this group.
So the chances of getting a really smart teacher have gone down substantially. In 1964, more than one out of five young female teachers came from the top 10 percent of their high school classes. By 2000, that number had dropped to just over one in 10.
Women who do become teachers, however, are better educated today than in earlier years so rather than a total dumbing down there has been a trend towards mediocrity.
Merit pay would lead to better teachers but it is opposed by unions.
This is from the ever-wise Virginia Postrel, NYT password required. Here is a link to the original research. Caroline Hoxby argues that wage compression, often brought on by unionization, is responsible for three-quarters of the decline in the aptitude of female teachers.
Washington, DC has selected a non-profit organization to administer the first federally funded school voucher program in the nation, according to Justin Blum:
"The group selected, the Washington Scholarship Fund, will be administering the first federally funded voucher program in the country. The program received final approval from Congress in January after contentious debate.Meanwhile, the local morning paper suggested that Governor Doyle sign Senate Bill 253, which would let Wisconsin public universities run specialized schools for younger students. The article also references a recent statement by UW Chancellor John Wiley:
The voucher program will allow at least 1,700 District children to attend private and religious schools this fall with grants of up to $7,500 per student.
At a news conference this morning, officials released new details of how the program will operate. Families first will apply to private schools and go through the schools' normal admissions procedures. Parents meeting the program's income guidelines then will apply for voucher funds, indicating their order of preference among the schools where their children have been accepted."
The measure could help address specific shortcomings in public schooling as well. For example, UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley this week cited "phenomenal shortages" in the country's supply of scientists and engineers. Charter schooling would let the UW System address the problem by getting in on the ground floor of public schooling, where educators could run a school geared to students with interest and aptitude in these areas. The students then get the preparation they need to pursue science and engineering degrees and careers.Wiley's comments follow a report from the American Electronics Association critical of American schools efforts teaching students science and math.
Michelle Delio writes that a new American Electronics Association report on outsourcing charges that the American school system fails to provide a strong science and math education to students.
"Despite our best efforts, our kids really have a hard time understanding why they might need advanced math or science in their adult lives", said New York middle-school teacher Keri Carnen.
Noting that roughly 50 percent of all engineering, math and science degrees awarded by U.S. universities now go to foreign nationals, AeA researchers also called on the federal government to give green cards to all foreign nationals upon their graduation with master's and Ph.D. degrees, in an effort to keep these people -- and their skills -- in the United States.
Lee Sensenbrenner writes that Madison School Board President Bill Keys stated during a telephone interview Tuesday that golf and strings should be on the chopping block as the Board considers $9m reductions in the $310+ budget:
"Funding for the fourth-grade stringed music classes and varsity golf teams is being questioned by Madison School Board President Bill Keys as the school district struggles to find $10 million worth of cuts.Interestingly, Barb Schrank sent a one page Madison Schools Budget update where she writes:
The district administration made its recommendations earlier this month for next year's budget, and the board is in the process of its own review.
Although administrators did not propose cutting the popular strings class, Keys said in a telephone interview Tuesday it's an option he'd like to consider.
"The strings class has always been brought up as a possibility, so I said let's bring it up again," Keys said."
"To date, the School Board has not received the budget for next year. How can the School Board make cut decisions without a reference budget?"[95K PDF] Great question.....
The Madison school district has, for a number of years, supported a Microsoft based monoculture of computing tools. This ill advised policy has placed far too much emphasis on one computing model (by the time today's elementary & middle school students enter the work force, the technology at hand will be quite different).
Among the documents introduced in court this week was a letter from June 1990 in which Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, told Andrew S. Grove, the chief executive of Intel at the time, that any support given to the Go Corporation, a Silicon Valley software company, would be considered an aggressive move against Microsoft.
Other evidence presented by the plaintiffs' lawyers at trial yesterday gave an account of how Microsoft violated a signed secrecy agreement with Go and showed that Microsoft possessed technical documents from Go that it should not have had access to.
Madison's financial support of this monoculture is absurd. We should take the cash we're sending to Microsoft and fund our PE program instead.... (Note that the argument that business uses Microsoft therefore we should feed our children the same dog food does not hold water. Increasingly, business is using open source tools such as linux, apache, php, mysql and other products)
Samantha Ganey writes about child rearing strategies:
You'd better be a good parent. Because if you're not, your kids will resent you, get tattoos, pierce their upper lip frenulums, drop out of school and maybe even join the circus. And believe me, you'll be sorry, Mister.
So how's that feel?
Meet Rita Mathes and Jeanne Gast, who stationed themselves in the high school’s front hall on St. Patrick’s Day with a giant box of cookies.
“Top of the mornin’ to you, help yourself,” Mathes wished students going her way.
“You, too, as soon as I can see,” responded a bleary-eyed boy as he shuffled in, fresh from the shower.
“They’re so polite,” said Gast, taking pride in their manners as if all the students were her own. This grandparent of 23 knows most kids in town. “We grew them up from pups, most of ’em,” she said.
Very nice high school web site, btw, including panoramic Quicktime VR Tours...
Bruce Murphy writes that low income students struggle to fund a college education:
"Fifty years after the Supreme Court ruled that black Americans must receive an equal chance at a quality education, a college degree has become the ticket to the middle class. But it is a ticket that poor families - a high percentage of them minorities - often can't afford.
...Holmes works eight hours a week on campus and another 21 hours a week off campus at a local bank. She's had to scale back her class load to keep up. She also could take out more loans in order to cut back on work, but that would saddle her with as much as $20,000 in debt by graduation, with years of medical school education yet to finance."
Lee Sensenbrenner writes about Wednesday's School Board Candidate Statements to the Madison Rotary Club:
Given six unfettered minutes to explain to the Madison Downtown Rotary why she is seeking re-election to the Madison School Board, Ruth Robarts said that with or without her, the school district has sharp divisions.
"I think it's wishful thinking that says removing me from the board will heal this divide, and we'll go forward in a unified way," she said during Wednesday's meeting. "I think now, in a very real way, our board needs a diversity of viewpoints. To grow confidence in the board, we need to have a full debate of issues and approaches."
The Cap Times Editorial Page comments on the role of the School Board vis a vis the Administration.
The Wisconsin State Journal's Editorial Page writes:
Instead of recognizing the Florence County cash squeeze for what it is - a symptom of a statewide school financing problem begging for legislative attention - lawmakers instead will:
Roll over for whiners hollering "crisis!" Many large rural school districts are in trouble, squeezed by declining enrollment, inadequate tax base and high transportation costs. Florence County's substantial loss of state aid in recent years matches a corresponding decline in student enrollment. Lawmakers wrote this formula, which applies to all public schools, not just one in the hinterlands.
Reward bad management. The Florence County School Board recently bought out the contracts of three administrators for a whopping $439,000, plus extended health coverage for the former superintendent. With that kind of money at stake, school officials could have served taxpayers better by jetting in Donald Trump to bark out his catch phrase: "You're fired!"
It's certainly time to revisit how we fund public education. I sincerely hope that Governor Doyle thinks about this while winging his way to China (on a Tommy Thompson style trade mission) [WI Dept of Commerce 6 page PDF document on the trip fees & schedule]
Cypress Semiconductor CEO TJ Rodgers is running for Dartmouth's Board of Trustees, with the stated goal that the college stop adding ethnic studies classes and refocus its resources on the fundamentals, such as civics, science and history.
UPDATE: Lee Sensenbrenner writes about last night's "tense" board meeting.
Doug Erickson writes:
Carol Carstensen suggested Monday that the board seek an independent analysis of the school district's administrative costs as it mulls $10 million in proposed cuts (on a 300+m budget).
Specifically, Carstensen said she's heard concern from the public about the cost of the district's administrators.
School Board President Bill Keys said he's not sure the board can cut much more from the administration.
"You still need to buy supplies and cut checks," Keys said. "There are things that have to be done."
Keys is correct that some of these things must be done. Perhaps there are better ways, including further automation, outsourcing to local businesses or simply eliminating some processes.
Christopher Hamady, technology coordinator for the Regina Coeli School, is looking for help with an interesting project:
Our Spanish teacher would like to find a school in a native Spanish-speaking country that would like to do web-based video correspondence with our students. The format would entail that each school would make QuickTime videos of their students asking simple questions about the culture of the other, and the other school would reply using the same medium. The videos would be uploaded to the Web so that each school could easily access them.
Each group of students would have the opportunity to ask and answer questions in both English and Spanish, thus aiding development skills in speaking and translating of both languages. The participating school would have to have access to a web server to post their videos. The rest of the details could be discussed via email.
This is a great idea, and is quite doable with very inexpensive tools today.
Email email@example.com [from macintouch]
John Gartner writes in Wired that Cyber Schools are not measuring up...
Cyber schools -- where students complete all coursework online using home computers -- are a big hit with parents, who are signing up their children as quickly as the virtual doors open. However, test results for 2003 show students at many cyber schools are not measuring up to state standards or to their peers who attend brick-and-mortar schools.
According to the non-profit Center for Education Reform, or CER, the number of online public schools has grown from 30 to 82 during the past two years, offering instruction in 19 states. That number could more than double in 2004, as school districts in Ohio have granted charters to 63 cyber schools, up from seven in 2003.
I don't know much about these initiatives, but one year's worth of data does not mean a whole lot....
Ruth Robarts emails her comments on the MMSD administration's proposed 3% budget reduction along with some alternative approaches.
Lee Sensenbrenner has a summary of the nearly $10m in proposed cuts to next years $308m Madison schools budget:
The chops fall hardest on custodians, teachers and support staff. But they also take a significant toll on high school athletics, including big fee hikes, fewer teams and coaching positions as well as the elimination of all high school athletic directors.
No upper level administrators would be affected by the proposed cuts.
Additional background here....
The Madison Metropolitan School District announced their recommended budget cuts [265K PDF] today. (MMSD Budget site)
Barb Shrank passed along two budget documents from a March 1, 2004 presentation to the School Board.
Board of Education Agendas, Minutes & Schedule
There's been much discussion recently regarding laptops in schools, including a recent chat I had with Madison Superintendant Art Rainwater (MP3 3.7MB - video on the way)
From District Administration:
For those who envision laptop computers in the hands of every student, this may be the best of times and the worst of times. While classrooms using this approach are churning out success stories, growing state budget deficits are threatening future funding, leaving educators to wonder whether laptops for everyone is a great idea that they simply can't afford.
A four-year, $37-million initiative to provide laptops to all seventh and eighth graders in Maine has transformed middle school classrooms there and generated positive reviews. At the same time, the state's budget crunch has left the program's longer-term future up in the air. In Michigan, a plan to equip the state's sixth graders with laptops recently lost more than half of its $39 million funding before it could get started, thanks to an almost $1 billion state budget shortfall.
Milwaukee goes after truant parents:
As part of an intensified effort to cope with the problem of truancy in Milwaukee, police will begin Monday to arrest parents of truant children. District Attorney E. Michael McCann called it "a new tactic" in the fight against truancy.
"The shortfall is caused by costs - mostly tied to staff contracts - that have increased faster than state law allows school districts to tax, officials said. It's a phenomenon that's been repeated since 1994, and assistant superintendent Roger Price predicted that the district will face $6 million to $7 million shortfalls every year."
Great to see this article online; this morning's Wisconsin State Journal interview with School Board Candidates Shwaw Vang & Sam Johnson is not.... [Ed: it's 2004, is it not?]
This is a real opportunity for the board & community to start developing alternative sources of revenue - other than the property tax.
Learn more about the April 6, 2004 election & school board candidates here.
Alice Waters is taking her message of eating healthfully, organically and locally to middle schoolers in their lunchrooms. If she builds a better sloppy Joe, will they eat it? By PEGGY ORENSTEIN
In order to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, New York State
and Illinois have stopped dedicating funds to providing enriched programs
for gifted students, The New York Times reports.
"As long as students pass the exams, the federal law offers no rewards for
raising the scores of high achievers, or punishment if their progress lags."
We have special protection for the disabled, the various races, the two
genders (I think), ESL students--and we condemn the brightest to
The consequences of abandoning a substantial percentage of the Republic's
brightest students--even if the great cities, by virtue of their size, and
the wealthiest suburbs, by spending their own money, are able to protect
their brightest--will be severe. "Justice cannot sleep forever."
Thanks to ALEX R. COHEN, J.D.
Larry Lessig posts on a recent debate between California 12th District incumbent Democrat Tom Lantos and challenger Ro Khanna. The debate included a discussion of the No Child Left Behind Act (google) (teoma) (alltheweb) (yahoo).
And here's a link to one of my favorite exchanges. Ro criticizes Congressman Lantos for supporting the "No Child (except public school childred) Left Behind Act." Just "talking to teachers," he says, would have told you that Act wouldn't work. In classic DC style, Lantos' response: Ted Kennedy supported it, so it is "outrageous" for a "newcomer" to criticize what people who have "devoted their whole life to education" say. Ro is cut off in his reply: "I'm assuming that teachers who have devoted their whole life to education know more..."
In 1980, when William Winter became governor of Mississippi, there was no state funded kindergarten. School attendance was not compulsory. Mississippi ranked last in the nation among most educational indicators. And in the more than 25 years that had passed since the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the state had not been able to come to terms with school desegregation.
In 1982, Gov. Winter succeeded, against all odds, in passing the most sweeping education reform the state had ever seen, which among other things established kindergarten for all Mississippians.
Doug Erickson profiles Madison Metropolitan School District Administrator Art Rainwater.
s objectionable as the idea is, buying off terrible teachers often works better than firing them.
Many times, settlements save taxpayer money and more effectively protect students. But the Madison School Board went too far last week in giving superintendent Art Rainwater sole authority to flash cash to settle employee misconduct cases.
A 4-3 board vote allows school administration to, in essence, pay teachers to quit - without board discussion or approval.
Opinion Page: Wisconsin State Journal
There are many challenges to successful technology implementations, including:
In a sign that this spring's Madison School Board elections are being taken more seriously than in years past, the debate season has already begun and an independent Web site is tracking the candidates' positions.
Whether the district will pursue another referendum to address its budget problems is certainly a leading issue, but candidates are also pushing curriculum changes to the front, as well asserting that board members have not been sufficiently independent from the district's administration.
I'll be posting video clips and mp3 files here shortly.
NY Times OP-ED Columnist Nick Kristof on the weakness in US science and math education.
Mr. Subbakrishna, a management consultant specializing in technology, notes that in his native Bangalore, children learn algebra in elementary school. All in all, he says, the average upper-middle-class child in Bangalore finishes elementary school with a better grounding in math and science than the average kid in the U.S.
The government is very close to deciding whether to grant the first licenses for commercial space flights carrying passengers, the chief commercial space regulator said on Monday.
Three teams have applied for permission to send people on suborbital ships, which would fly to an altitude of about 100 kilometers, or 63 miles, and then return near the point of launching.
Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites has posted an extensive library of photos and information from their test flight program (very interesting!). They recently flew faster than the speed of sound.
In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that segregating students in public schools by race denied black children their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Brown vs. Board of Education sparked the civil rights movement that wrought enormous change to America's laws and public schools. Yet 50 years later, most African-American children in Wisconsin remain far behind whites in education, jobs, housing, safety and family stability - further behind, in some measures, than in any other state. Why, in a Northern state with a progressive tradition, have we seen so little progress after so much time?
The Journal Sentinel has an excellent set of articles here.
Herb Kohl at 13. Bud Selig at 13. The solid base of the next generation of Milwaukeeans, not only future senators and baseball commissioners, but future tool-and-die makers and teachers, accountants and business owners, professionals and laborers of all kinds.
That was then at Steuben Middle School.
This is now:
"I have five assignments, I have 33 students. Why do I only have five assignments?" eighth-grade science teacher Yolanda Williams asks her class.
A few more comments from Steuben Middle School.
Sarah Carr writes that a drill-oriented approach to teaching reading is gaining followers in Milwaukee public school classrooms. In 1998, 15 MPS schools used direct instruction. Today, about 47 schools do.
But some critics say drill-based reading method hurts students.
"There's such tremendous pressure on teachers and administrators to advance reading scores that they are literally desperate to try new things they think will bring them success," said Randall Ryder, a professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Last month, Ryder completed a study concluding that students in direct instruction classrooms fared worse than students taught using other reading methods.
But Dolores Mishelow, a former principal and one of the leading backers of direct instruction within MPS, said: "I get really upset when people bash it, because I know that it works."
Anne Davis writes: "Wisconsin Connections Academy, Wisconsin Virtual Academy and, in particular, the just-approved iQ Academies at Wisconsin are using paid advertisements, billboards and direct mail to woo students during the state's three-week annual open enrollment period that begins Monday and runs through Feb. 20."
No matter what they spend, Northern Ozaukee school Superintendent Bill Harbron is asking K12 representatives to make some adjustments to their marketing approach this time around to avoid overselling the school.
After a short but intense campaign last year, the virtual academy received more than 1,000 applications. About 455 students actually enrolled, and the enrollment has continued to drop ever since as parents have discovered the program doesn't fit their needs, Harbron said.
"There's no sense recruiting a large number of students (and) then having them enter the program and drop out," Harbron said. "We want parents to make a very realistic choice for their child."