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Is Math a Young Man's Game?

Jordan Ellenberg:

Last month at MIT, mathematician Grigori Perelman delivered a series of lectures with the innocuous title "Ricci Flow and Geometrization of Three-Manifolds." In the unassuming social universe of mathematics, the equally apt title "I Claim To Be the Winner of a Million-Dollar Prize" would have been considered a bit much. Perelman claims to have proved Thurston's geometrization conjecture, a daring assertion about three-dimensional spaces that implies, among other things, the truth of the century-old Poincaré conjecture. And it's the Poincaré conjecture that, courtesy of the Clay Foundation, carries a million-dollar bounty. If Perelman is correct--and many in the field would bet his way--he's made a major and unexpected breakthrough, brilliantly using the tools of one field to attack a problem in another. There's only one problem with this story. Perelman is almost 40 years old. In most people's minds, a 40-year-old man is as likely to be a productive mathematician as he is to be a major league center fielder or an interesting rock musician. Mathematical progress is supposed to occur not through decades of experience and toil but all at once, in a numinous blaze, to a born genius. Think of the young John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, discovering the Nash equilibrium in a smoky bar where his less precocious classmates think they're just picking up coeds, or the aged mathematician in Proof who "revolutionized the field twice before he was twenty-two." It's not hard to see where the stereotype comes from; the history of mathematics is strewn with brilliant young corpses. Evariste Galois, Gotthold Eisenstein, and Niels Abel--mathematicians of such rare importance that their names, like Kafka's, have become adjectives--were all dead by 30. Galois laid down the foundations of modern algebra as a teenager, with enough spare time left over to become a well-known political radical, serve a nine-month jail sentence, and launch an affair with the prison medic's daughter; in connection with this last, he was killed in a duel at the age of 21. The British number theorist G.H. Hardy, in A Mathematician's Apology, one of the most widely read books about the nature and practice of mathematics, famously wrote: "No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game."

What Happens When Great Teachers Get $20,000 to Work in Low-Income Schools?

Dana Goldstein:

Teacher merit pay. It's one of those perennially popular policy ideas that, historically, hasn't worked very well. A few years ago, New York City offered teachers in select schools $3,000 if the entire school's test scores went up. But scores at the merit pay schools did not improve any faster than scores at control schools. (In some of the merit-pay schools, scores actually went down.) In Nashville, teachers who volunteered for a merit pay experiment were eligible for $5,000 to $15,000 in bonuses if kids learned more. Students of those teachers performed no better on tests than students in a control group. And in Chicago, teachers were paid more if they mentored their colleagues and produced learning gains for kids. Again, students of the merit-pay teachers performed no better than other kids. That's why the results of a new study, the Talent Transfer Initiative, financed by the federal government, are so important. Surprisingly, this experiment found merit pay can work. In 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston, researchers at Mathematica identified open positions in high-poverty schools with low test scores, where kids performed at just around the 30th percentile in both reading and math. To fill some of those positions, they selected from a special group of transfer teachers, all of whom had top 20 percent track records of improving student achievement at lower poverty schools within the districts, and had applied to earn $20,000 to switch jobs. The rest of the open positions were filled through the usual processes, in which principals select candidates from a regular applicant pool.

Brain stimulation boosts social skills in autism

New Scientist:

THE first clinical trial aimed at boosting social skills in people with autism using magnetic brain stimulation has been completed - and the results are encouraging. "As a first clinical trial, this is an excellent start," says Lindsay Oberman of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, who was not part of the study. People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder often find social interactions difficult. Previous studies have shown that a region of the brain called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) is underactive in people with autism. "It's also the part of the brain linked with understanding others' thoughts, beliefs and intentions," says Peter Enticott of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Enticott and his colleagues wondered whether boosting the activity of the dmPFC using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which involves delivering brief but strong magnetic pulses through the scalp, could help individuals with autism deal with social situations. So the team carried out a randomised, double-blind clinical trial - the first of its kind - involving 28 adults diagnosed with either high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome.

Lunch with Michelle Rhee

Edward Luce:If you want to enliven a parent-teachers evening in Washington, DC, raise the subject of Michelle Rhee, the city's former schools chancellor. Most education officials toil in obscurity. Rhee is a national celebrity. Some see her as an unflinching champion of US education reform and a bold opponent of the powerful teachers' unions. Others revile her as a mouthpiece of billionaire philanthropists and advocate of school privatisation. People tend to have strong views about Rhee. In 2008, when Rhee was in the midst of overhauling Washington's classrooms, she was pictured on the cover of Time magazine holding a new broom - "How to Fix America's Schools", it said. Anyone who failed to grasp the symbolism was disabused two years...

Nashville Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Charter Schools

Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

In the last few years, those at the helm of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) have become increasingly hostile to the city's fast-growing charter school sector. Last year, the school board refused (despite a directive from the state to approve) a charter application from Great Hearts Academy, a respected Arizona charter management organization. This is despite the fact that only about 40% of the district's students in grades 3-8 are meeting proficiency standards. In the past few weeks, the relationship between the MNPS directors and charter schools has deteriorated to the point that some describe as nuclear war. Schools Director Jesse Register has engaged lawyers to argue that the decade-old charter school law is unconstitutional. Last week, a Nashville paper called for MNPS to adopt a portfolio strategy, meaning that the district should stop trying to be a monopoly operator of schools. Becoming a portfolio district would not mean that Nashville would put all its schools out to bid to charter schools. It would mean that the district would stop treating the students in Nashville charter schools as somebody else's responsibility and start seeing its job as ensuring that all children in the city are well served by the public schools, no matter who runs them. If a particular neighborhood was not being well served and a renowned district principal wanted to open a new school there, great. If a high-performing charter school was in a position to open a new school there, great. Portfolio districts don't have a preference for charters or district-run schools; they prefer whatever arrangement gets good results for kids.

Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce seeks boost in dual enrollment

Josh Brown:

For some high school students who want to get a head start on college, scraping together the roughly $160 needed to pay for a dual enrollment class in Tennessee can be a barrier. Now, a coalition of business and education groups is shining light on the issue in a bid to reduce or eliminate the cost for students to participate in the classes, which count both as college and high school credit. Earlier this year, the coalition led by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study to look at how to improve the state's dual enrollment program. The study, performed by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, recommended increasing funding for the program.
Much more on dual enrollment here.

UW Law School 2013 Graduation Speech

Judge Barbara Crabb (PDF), via a kind Susan Vogel email:

Dear Raymond, new graduates and their proud guests. I start today with rousing congratulations to the new graduates. I realize that some of you may be thinking that condolences are more in order, but I don't agree. Yes, the market is not great for new lawyers. Yes, many of you have large student loans to worry about. But you are the holders of a degree many people can only dream of acquiring. And that degree is more than a piece of paper. It is evidence that you think differently today--you've been taught to do so critically and analytically. You attack problems differently because you have new tools for doing so. You demand proof of propositions you used to take for granted. Best of all, you understand that every complicated problem will, when properly studied, turn out to be even more complicated. You've had three years of study with some great teachers. They've opened your minds to new possibilities. They've forced you to think harder than you thought you ever could. You may have worked on a law review. You may have taken part in moot problems you might never have imagined. You may have had internships--some of which were in federal court, which has given me a chance to get to know you-- and those have enabled you to put into practice your classroom learning. And now, after what loomed as an eternity three years ago, you're joining the ranks of the legal profession. Many people have contributed to make this day a reality: parents, spouses, partners, teachers, professors, friends, the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin. All of them believe that their investment in you is a valuable one. Yes, the future is uncertain. But uncertainty is a fact of life. I can assure you that you are not the first or the last class to graduate into uncertainty. I always keep in mind that Nathan Heffernan, who was chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1983 to 1995, started his career in the only job he could find at the time of his law school graduation, which was as an insurance claims adjuster. What is certain is that the world as we know it today will not be the world of tomorrow. Fifty years ago, people graduating from law school were worried about the war in between the words of the Constitution and the reality of life for so many of the nation's citizens, but they had no idea of the protests that would take place in a few years as more people began to claim their rightful place in American society. In 1963, those graduates were mostly unaware of the civil rights movement that was simmering in Nashville and that would eventually change our country forever. The world you are entering is in its usual and fractious state, although the causes and the disagreements are different. It seems possible that governmental functions will reach a permanent condition of stasis unless courageous and enlightened people can find areas in which they can cooperate and compromise. The middle east poses a multitude of threats and opportunities, as do many other areas of the world. The widening income gap in the United States is worrisome, as is the diminution of personal privacy. The point is that life is never settled or determinable in advance. The next fifty years are as unknowable to you as the last fifty were in 1963 to those, like me, who graduated from law school then. None of us graduates with a script; we all improvise and adjust as we perform our roles in a play in which there are no rehearsals, often finding about. But it is this very uncertainty for which lawyers are trained. Big challenges, seemingly insoluble problems, conflict of all kinds, confrontations--they're all grist for the lawyer's mill. Mediating disagreements, finding common ground, defending the rights of minorities, holding those in power accountable when they abuse their power, finding solutions to problems, helping businesses grow, expand and create jobs, advising nonprofit corporations, defending the Constitution--that's what your training has prepared you to do. It is wholly improbable that lawyers will be underemployed for long, given the need for them in every area. With your law degree, you have skills too valuable to go unused for long. Some of you will find those skills indispensable in a job outside the legal profession; some of you will take the more traditional routes of working for a firm, or the government or a nonprofit organization providing legal services. Some of you will end up teaching. Some of you will make your contribution in politics, a field perennially in need of smart, well educated lawyers who understand the world and the Constitution about finding work. You may have to be innovators and the inventors of your own jobs, as the media keeps predicting. That seems to be part of the future: the stars of the future will be those who can invent not just new products but whole new ways of working. For those of you with these skills, I challenge you. Imagine a way of integrating technology with legal skills and information. Think about providing legal help to the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in our country who need lawyers and cannot afford them. It is a daunting challenge, especially because the only way to make it work is to make it profitable. But it is enormously important. How can it be good for a democracy to have the kind of mismatch between legal needs and underutilized lawyers that we do? Consider these realities: The vast majority of people seeking a divorce are unrepresented. Parents who face the loss of their children in court actions to terminate parental rights have no right to appointed counsel. Few persons facing foreclosure have counsel, including members of the armed forces while they are deployed. Legal aid agencies are overworked and lack the funding to add lawyers. It is clear that the present fee-for-service model isn't working for these people. It is also clear that reliance on governmental or philanthropic funding is not an answer. We know how untreated medical problems can drag people down; unfilled legal needs can have the same effect. This country needs to learn how to help the millions of people whose lives could be improved and who could be contributors to society if their legal problems were be resolved. Perhaps it's time to rethink the assumption that legal services always have to be individualized. Maybe ideas like an answer--or at least a marker on the road to something better. Are there other, better ways of delivering and paying for legal services? I challenge you to come up with new ideas for other problems and to question everything. Does law school have to be three years long? Should lawyers continue to better ways to organize and provide legal services? Can courts be more effective and productive? Are the prison and probation systems doing as good a job as they could of reducing crime rates and turning out offenders ready to take their proper place in the community? You are in the position to take a fresh look at what is not working as well as it could be in our country. You can help effect change. You can do your part in making the words of the Constitution a reality for more people. You have the legal education and you have a big advantage most of us older lawyers do not, which is an innate awareness of the possibilities of electronic media. On a personal note, my wish for each of you is to find work to do that will engage all of your talents, provide you challenges and satisfaction, free you from the shadow of debt--and even give you time for a life. The law has given me unimaginable opportunities. From the vantage point of the judge's bench, I have seen drama more exciting than any movie; I have seen lawyers of amazing talent. I have had fascinating cases to decide (along with many not so fascinating); some of these cases have been of great interest to the public; others have been important only to the parties. I have learned more about our society than I would have thought possible, about criminal schemes to defraud, about drug conspiracies, about family feuds over money and property, about patent litigation and about all forms of discrimination. I have had a glimpse into the unimaginable misery of the lives of some of the poorest and most deprived members of our society and have seen as well bits of the lives of some of the most fortunate and prominent members. I have seen firsthand how important the law is to people at every level of society and how every person values fairness and a chance to be vindicated. I have seen how lawyers have given them that chance and how hard the lawyers have worked in doing so. I still believe that the law is an honorable profession and that those who practice it are among the luckiest people I know. Even with its flaws and shortcomings, it remains the bulwark of our society. I hope that you, too, will find your careers rewarding. I hope you will continue the work of your predecessors in improving the profession and in making legal services more accessible to more people. Good luck and congratulations.

National Civics, History Tests to Disappear

Haley Stauss

The National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in civics, U.S. history, and geography have been indefinitely postponed for fourth and twelfth graders. The Obama administration says this is due to a $6.8 million sequestration budget cut. The three exams will be replaced by a single, new test: Technology and Engineering Literacy. "Without these tests, advocates for a richer civic education will not have any kind of test to use as leverage to get more civic education in the classrooms," said John Hale, associate director at the Center for Civic Education. NAEP is a set of national tests of fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders that track achievement on various subjects over time. Researchers collect data for state to state comparisons in mathematics, reading, science, and writing. The other subjects only provide national statistics and are administered to fewer students. The tests provide basic information about students but do not automatically trigger consequences for teachers, students, and schools. Students have historically performed extremely poorly on these three tests. In 2010, the last administration of the history test, students performed worse on it than on any other NAEP test. That year, less than half of eighth-graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and only 1 in 10 could pick a definition of the system of checks and balance on the civics exam. Science vs. Humanities Since most civic education is taught to first-semester high school seniors, Hale said, not testing in twelfth grade creates a major gap of information. "Is it possible to have a responsible citizenry if we don't teach them civics, history, and the humanities?" said Gary Nash, a professor of history education (sic) at the University of California Los Angeles. Postponing the exams, typically administered every four years, does not mean classroom education in the humanities will be cut. But the cuts indirectly say we can do without civics and U.S. history, Nash said. Trading the humanities tests for technology tests is necessary to measure "the competitiveness of U.S. students in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-focused world," said David Driscoll, chair of the NAEP Governing Board, in a statement. "The [Technology and Engineering Literacy] assessment, along with the existing NAEP science and mathematics assessments, will help the nation know if we are making progress in the areas of STEM education." Nash agrees the U.S. needs more engineers and scientists: "But what are they without humanities under their belt?" he said. Excellence in one area flows into others A summer report from the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences explained the need for these subjects this way: "The humanities and social sciences provide an intellectual framework and context for understanding and thriving in a changing world. When we study these subjects, we learn not only what but how and why." Nash pointed out that Franklin High School in the Los Angeles Unified School district is 94 percent Latino, and many families are immigrants. Without changing anything in science and math, the school began to emphasize humanities. The scores in science and math improved, testing almost on par with students in Beverly Hills. "It's about increasing their passion for learning," he says. Furthermore, giving students a context for learning helps them learn more. Masters of Our Government Students must be prepared "to think for themselves as independent citizens," said Hale. "Civics and Government (& History) is (are) as generative as math; we are not born as great democratic citizens. We aren't born knowing why everyone should have the right to political speech, even if it is intolerant speech." Consider the current events of the last few weeks, he said: the Supreme Court rulings on marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the National Security Administration's data collection, and Congress debating immigration and student loan rates. "Our leaders make decisions every day based on interpretations on the proper role of government; we have no way of knowing if these [decisions] are good or bad," Hale continued. "We are supposed to be masters of our government, not servants of it." Cutting the civics tests indicates the government's priorities, and priorities affect curriculum, Nash noted. He suggested danger for a country that must govern itself if children do not learn how.
----------------------------- "Teach by Example" Will Fitzhugh [founder] The Concord Review [1987] Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995] National Writing Board [1998] TCR Institute [2002] 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24 Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA 978-443-0022; 800-331-5007; Varsity Academics®

Study Finds Spatial Skill Is Early Sign of Creativity

Douglas Quenqua:

A gift for spatial reasoning -- the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator -- may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science. The study looked at the professional success of people who, as 13-year-olds, had taken both the SAT, because they had been flagged as particularly gifted, as well as the Differential Aptitude Test. That exam measures spatial relations skills, the ability to visualize and manipulate two-and three-dimensional objects. While math and verbal scores proved to be an accurate predictor of the students' later accomplishments, adding spatial ability scores significantly increased the accuracy. The researchers, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said their findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to focus more on spatial ability, to help identify children who excel in this area and foster their talents. "Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don't capture with traditional measures used in educational selection," said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. "We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords."
Steve Hsu comments.

SNHU's College for America program provides low-cost, accessible higher education

Danielle Curtis:

Kim Wright took a few college courses after graduating high school but never earned a degree. Though she thought about going back to school for years, financial constraints always held her back. So when her employer told her about a self-paced online program that would help her earn her associate degree in less than two years, she jumped at the chance. "I always want to challenge myself, to get more knowledge and prove that I can do it," Wright said Wednesday. "I'm just excited to see how far I can go." Wright, facilities manager at The Moore Center in Manchester, which provides care to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and brain injuries, is one of about 500 employees from companies and organizations around the country participating in an eight-month pilot program of Southern New Hampshire University's College for America online, competency-based degree program.

Can Rocketship Launch a Fleet of Successful, Mass-Produced Schools? (Opening in Milwaukee later in 2013)

PBS NewsHour:

JEFFREY BROWN: Now we look to a California education experiment called the Rocketship Model that involves teachers, kids and parents and aims to expand one day to serve a million students. NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has our report. JOHN MERROW: The Model T was the first, the first innovative and affordable car available to the masses. Others had built good cars, but Henry Ford figured out how to build a lot of them. He and his moving assembly line proved that quality can be mass-produced. Mass production is a problem the auto industry solved over 100 years ago, but it's an issue our education system has yet to figure out. America has lots of terrific schools. People open great schools every year, but typically open just one. Nobody has figured out how to mass-produce high-quality, cost-effective schools. John Danner is the latest to give it a shot. He created an innovative charter school model with replication in mind. Charter schools receive public funding, but are privately managed and operate outside of the traditional public system. ..... JOHN MERROW: New Orleans, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Memphis have all approved charters for Rocketship schools to be built in their cities. Next year, two new schools will open in San Jose and one in Milwaukee. Danner plans to have 46 schools up and running in five years, with a vision of someday serving 50 cities and a million students. If he succeeds, Rocketship could become the Model T of education.
Notes and links on Rocketship's arrival in Milwaukee.

The Best Teachers in the World: Why we don't have them and how we could get them

John Chubb, via a kind email:

"My manicurist requires a license to do my nails, but our nation isn't sure we should license teachers." Camilla Benbow, Peabody College Camilla Benbow is the dean of the top-ranked school of education in the United States, Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Under her leadership, which began in 1999, Peabody has risen in stature--passing Harvard, Stanford, and other elite institutions--to reach the top spot in the U.S. News & World Report rating system, which it has occupied since 2009. Peabody is the only school of education in an elite national university that trains undergraduates to become licensed K-12 teachers. Because Vanderbilt is a very selective institution overall (ranked in the top twenty of national universities), and because the brightest high school students in the United States have few choices if they wish to become teachers upon graduation from a four-year institution, Peabody enrolls extremely high-achieving students. Their average SAT combined math and critical reading score in 2011 was 1438.3

Charter School Flap Escalates

Stephanie Banchero:

Tennessee education officials withheld $3.4 million from Nashville's school district after the city barred a charter school from opening in an affluent neighborhood, in a fight that highlights the growing tension over the expansion of such schools. The Tennessee Department of Education's unusual move came after it told Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in July that its school board had violated state law by not allowing Great Hearts Academies to open a charter school, a public school run by an outside entity. The Arizona-based nonprofit wanted to open a school in 2014 in West Nashville, and four more in later years. The Nashville tussle reflects a broader controversy over a recent push into middle-class and suburban communities by operators of charter schools, which typically have been seen as an alternative for low-income and minority students in underperforming urban schools.

Saving our universities? New Humanist interviews AC Grayling

Caspar Melville:

"I believe that a mature civilised society ought to be funding universities properly through tax. Students should go to university for nothing because it's an investment that society's making in itself." The words belong to Professor Anthony Grayling, Master of New College of the Humanities (NCH). This unashamedly elite private university - student fees £18,000 a year - is housed in an 18th-century mansion in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, where its first students will be unpacking their suitcases and sticking up their Radiohead posters right about now.

Tennessee Directs Nashville to Back Charter School; Per Student Spending Comparison

Stephanie Banchero:

The Tennessee State Board of Education has cleared the way for a charter school backed by neighborhood parents to open in middle-class West Nashville. The board voted Friday to direct the Metro Nashville Public Schools to approve an application by Great Hearts Academies, a nonprofit that operates prep-school-like charter schools in the Phoenix area, to open a school in 2014. The group hopes to open four more schools across Nashville after that. The Nashville school board, whose members are elected on a nonpartisan basis, approved two other charter schools last month. But it twice rejected Great Hearts' application, claiming the school would recruit only affluent students and harm diversity efforts in the district, where 45% of elementary students passed state reading exams last year, and 33% passed math. The local teachers union didn't take a public stand on the application.
Nashville schools spent $674,034,800 [PDF] to educate 79,117 students [District Fact Sheet PDF, 71% "economically disadvantaged"] during the 2011-2012 school year ($8519.47/student), 42% less than Madison's $14,858.

The Long-Term Effects of Student-Loan Debt

Frank Donoghue:

First, let's break down the staggering $1-trillion in student debt that has become so familiar a number to all of us in the last year or so. First, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as quoted in Sheryl Nance-Nash's recent article in Forbes, "Unlike other consumer credit products, student debt keeps growing at a steady clip. Students borrowed $117-billion in just federal loans last year. And students continue to borrow private student loans, which lack the income-based repayment and deferment options of federal student loans." The average total loan debt for undergraduates is $26,000, with the debt for those choosing to attend law school, medical school, or business school obviously much greater. This enormous amount of debt has consequences for all of us since--although few economists discuss it at length--it represents a tremendous drain on the economy and is slowing our recovery from the recession that began in 2008. College graduates and postgraduates, instead of buying cars, buying houses, getting married, having children--in other words, becoming full-fledged consumers are, as Nance-Nash puts it, "running back home." That hurts us all.

Nashville Metro Schools Director Delivers State Of Schools Address

News 5:

Metro Schools director Dr. Jesse Register gave his "State of Metro Schools" address on Thursday. In the speech Register spoke about issues facing the school system, including the possible expansion of charter schools here in Tennessee. He also highlighted some of the some of the accomplishments the district has made over the past year- as well as the challenges they continue to face. The past year has been busy for the Metro Schools district. At the beginning of the school year US Education Secretary Arne Duncan challenged Tennessee to become the fastest improving state in the country. This school year the district hired the Tribal Group to help turn around its lowest performing schools. The England Based consultants are working with more than 30 schools, interviewing staff, parents and students- and making individualized recommendations about how to improve student achievement.

Tennessee Education "Innovation Zones"

Joey Garrison:

Duplicating a Metro strategy, the Tennessee Department of Education is challenging the three school districts with the state's lowest-performing schools to create so-called "offices of innovation" to find creative ways to spur turnarounds. The plan, including its terminology, is identical to an approach Director of Schools Jesse Register unveiled for Metro in July when he announced the district's 10 weakest achieving schools would be isolated into a special innovation cluster. Now, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Memphis City Schools and Hamilton Schools are all in the process of drafting formal plans for innovation zones that require state approval, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters at an inaugural "brown bag" lunch gathering Thursday. "Metro Nashville was already going to do this," Huffman said. "It seemed like an interesting model, so we tried to sketch out some parameters." The three districts are required to turn in Office of Innovation proposals by March 31. At stake is $35 million in federal school improvement grants to be spread out among the districts over three years

Memorial Basketball Players Face Theft Charges

Theft charges have been filed against four Madison teens, including two players on Madison Memorial High School's basketball team. A criminal complaint charges Albert "Junior" Lomomba, 19, and Jamar Morris, 18, both top players on the basketball team, with misdemeanor retail theft. Lomomba has a full-ride scholarship to play for Cleveland State. The complaint also charges Max W. Genin, 17, and Lavell D. Nash, 18, with misdemeanor retail theft.

Costs drop 5 percent for Nashua School District's special education out-of-district placements; District spends $7,854/student, or $12,145/student

Cameron Kittle & Maryalice Gill:

While the overall cost of out-of-district placements for special education students is expected to drop next year, some individual placements continue to run the district $100,000 and beyond. The most expensive placement this year is for a student at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt. The estimated tuition cost for this year is $158,096. There are also two other placements costing upward of $100,000 this year, including one student at Crotched Mountain in Greenfield for $136,934 and another student at the Nashoba Learning Group in Bedford, Mass., for $104,570.
Nashua School District's 2011 budget is $93,425,591 for 11,895 students ($7,854 per student). TJ Mertz sent a kind email noting that another Nashua document describes spending as follows: FY 2012 operating budget: $144,475,503 for 11,895 students = $12,145/student. Locally, Madison will spend $14,858.40 per student this year, nearly double Nashua's spending based on this document, or perhaps 18% more based on the 2012 document noted above... Global Report Card comparison: Madison Nashua

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