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Schools We Can Envy by Diane Ravitch

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg, with a foreword by Andy Hargreaves Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper) In recent years, elected officials and policymakers such as former president George W. Nothing is said about holding accountable the district leadership or the elected officials who determine such crucial issues as funding, class size, and resource allocation. The belief that schools alone can overcome the effects of poverty may be traced back many decades but its most recent manifestation was a short book published in 2000 by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., titled No Excuses. For a while, the Gates Foundation thought that small high schools were the answer, but Gates now believes that teacher evaluation is the primary ingredient of school reform. The main mechanism of school reform today is to identify teachers who can raise their students’ test scores every year.

Privatizing Public Education, Higher Ed Policy, and Teachers - Alec Exposed Undermining Protections for Students With Disabilities The ALEC Special Needs Scholarship Act has been introduced in Wisconsin as AB 110 by Rep. Michelle Litjens, and co-sponsored in the Senate by Leah Vukmir, who was an ALEC "Legislator of the Year" in 2009. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction said: This bill strips special education students of due process rights and rights to services. To read more about this story, click here or here or here. The "Voucher" Strategy and Requiring Tax Subsidies for Private For-Profit Schools For almost 20 years, a top priority item for ALEC has been the privatization of public schools through school vouchers. Tracking the ALEC school voucher agenda, Governor Walker's 2011 Wisconsin budget expanded voucher schools throughout Milwaukee County and to the Racine school district, lifted the cap on participation, and increased income eligibility to 300% of the federal poverty level. Have any of these bills been introduced or enacted in YOUR state?

ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection Untold sums of cash poured into ALEC by Charles and David Koch have been an effective investment in advancing their worldview. This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series. Hundreds of ALEC’s model bills and resolutions bear traces of Koch DNA: raw ideas that were once at the fringes but that have been carved into “mainstream” policy through the wealth and will of Charles and David Koch. About the Author Lisa Graves Lisa Graves, a former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, is the executive director of the... Also by the Author The man behind Fix the Debt has spent decades trying to foment panic over a looming economic disaster, with little to show for it. No one knows how much the Kochs have given ALEC in total, but the amount likely exceeds $1 million—not including a half-million loaned to ALEC when the group was floundering.

How, and How Not, to Improve the Schools by Diane Ravitch In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed that teachers should “stop teaching to the test” and that the nation should “reward the best ones” and “replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.” This all sounds sensible, but it is in fact a contradictory message. The president’s signature education program, called Race to the Top, encourages states to award bonuses to teachers whose students get higher test scores (they are, presumably “the best ones”) and to fire teachers if their students get lower test scores (presumably the teachers “who just aren’t helping kids”). If teachers want to stay employed, they must “teach to the test.” The president recommends that teachers stop doing what his own policies make necessary and prudent. Like George W. In Finland, the subject of the first part of this article, Finland’s success confounds the GERM theorists, because almost every teacher and principal in Finland belongs to the same union. View Offers

Big Philanthropy's Role in Higher Education - The Chronicle Review By Stanley N. Katz In a January speech at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, laying out his policy for higher education, President Obama opened by noting his agenda: "How can we make sure that everybody is getting the kind of education they need to personally succeed but also to build up this nation—because in this economy, there is no greater predictor of individual success than a good education." Although the United States still has "the best network of colleges and universities in the world," he said, "the challenge is it's getting tougher and tougher to afford it." Thus his primary policy concerns were high tuition and student debt. At Ann Arbor, President Obama captured the spirit of the megafoundation program for higher education. First, consider how the foundation world has changed. According to a recent Chronicle study, America's top 50 donors gave a total of $10.4-billion in 2011, rebounding from the $3.3-billion of the previous year, with its recession worries.

What Ails Us Forgive American consumers if they feel a bit perplexed. Policymakers and pundits have been warning them about the prospect of deflation (a prolonged and widespread decline in prices), but there’s no sign of any decline in many of the prices that people pay every day. Car-insurance premiums jumped more than nine per cent last year. Health-insurance costs are soaring, to say nothing of the cost of a haircut. Why the divergence? An economist would say that the productivity of classical musicians has not improved over time, and in this regard the musicians aren’t alone. The rest of the American economy functions differently. Generally, productivity growth is a boon, but it creates problems for non-productive enterprises like classical music, education, and car repair: to keep luring talent, they have to increase wages, or else people eventually migrate to businesses that pay better. There are really two American economies: one that’s getting more productive and one that’s not.

Duncan Calls for Urgency in Lowering College Costs The characterized Mr. Duncan’s remarks, at a Las Vegas conference of college financial aid workers, as the start of a “national conversation” about high costs, which have prompted raucous protests across the country and ignited an angry push among some borrowers demanding debt forgiveness, federal grants and interest-free loans. The department used the opportunity to call attention to steps the Obama administration had taken to reduce the net price that students and families pay for higher education and make it easier to repay . “Three in four Americans now say that college is too expensive for most people to afford,” Mr. College seniors with loans now graduate with an average debt load of more than $25,000. “I’m glad to see the administration use the bully pulpit, but the problem issue won’t be solved by exhortation alone,” Mr. And he and other education experts point out that despite the power of the bully pulpit, the Obama administration has little power to force change. Mr. Mr.

Democratic mayors challenge teachers unions in urban political shift Villaraigosa is one of several Democratic mayors in cities across the country — Chicago, Cleveland, Newark and Boston, among them — who are challenging teachers unions in ways that seemed inconceivable just a decade ago. “This is a very, very interesting political situation that is way counterintuitive,” said Charles Taylor Kerchner, who has written two books about teachers unions. At at time when most Americans believe that U.S. education is imperiled, and cities are especially struggling to improve schools, the tension between the mayors and the unions is causing a fundamental realignment of two powerful forces in urban politics. In the clash over what is best for children, adults on both sides are gambling. The mayors risk turning labor friends into enemies, a lesson then-D.C. The mayors want a raft of changes. And nearly all of those mayors have set their sights on the one workplace protection that teachers have held central for more than 100 years: tenure.

Steven Brill's Class Warfare: What's wrong with the education reformers' diagnosis and cures If you saw Waiting for "Superman," Steven Brill's tale in Class Warfare will be familiar. The founder of Court TV offers another polemic against teacher unions and a paean to self-styled "education reformers." But even for those who follow education policy, he offers an eye-opening read that should not be missed. Where the movie evoked valiant underdogs waging an uphill battle against an ossified behemoth, Brill's briskly written book exposes what critics of the reformers have long suspected but could never before prove: just how insular, coordinated, well-connected, and well-financed the reformers are. Brill's heroes make a high-profile gallery. The case they make for their cause by now enjoys the status of conventional wisdom. Protecting this incompetence are teacher unions, whose contracts prevent principals from firing inadequate (and worse) teachers. The embodiment of Brill's dream is a non-union charter school teacher named Jessica Reid.

Essay: Washington college grant program favors vocational over liberal education Last year, as Washington State faced a severe budget crisis, legislators embraced a novel way to fund student financial aid: a public-private partnership between the state and private corporations. Called the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, the fund attracts private donations and matches them with public money in order to support students in science, technology, and other “high demand” fields. As Inside Higher Ed reporter Paul Fain wrote, “the thinking in Washington was that if corporations had more direct control of how their donations were used, they might be more inclined to give. “ This is exactly right -- Boeing and Microsoft quickly pledged $50 million -- but the creation of the fund must be placed in the broader context of state defunding of public higher education. The idea for the fund originated in a task force established in summer 2010 by Governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat. Nowhere on the panel were the other interests of society represented.

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success - Anu Partanen - National The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence. Sergey Ivanov/Flickr Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model -- long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization -- Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. And yet it wasn't clear that Sahlberg's message was actually getting through. Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. For starters, Finland has no standardized tests.

How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. If the national movement to “reform” public education through vouchers, charters and privatization has a laboratory, it is Florida. It was one of the first states to undertake a program of “virtual schools”—charters operated online, with teachers instructing students over the Internet—as well as one of the first to use vouchers to channel taxpayer money to charter schools run by for-profits. About the Author Lee Fang Lee Fang is a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Also by the Author They're using the Ukraine crisis to push for expedited approval of US natural gas exports. News reports and politicians lauding US gas exports as “best for Crimea” don’t disclose the US gas companies pushing the line, or their Russian connections. But as recently as last year, the radical change envisioned by school reformers still seemed far off, even there.

U.S. Subsidies to Profit-Making Colleges Keep Growing I got interested in ITT Tech after I watched one of its commercials, full of promise of bright career opportunities for students who sign up. At the end of the commercial, the following words flashed on the screen, in small type and for only a few seconds: “Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.” If you enroll in a public community college and get a two-year associate degree, you can almost certainly transfer to a four-year college and complete your bachelor’s degree in two more years. How many students who enroll at ITT Tech go on to get a degree? That sounds like a simple question, but it is not one that ITT Educational wants to answer. The company does disclose a lot of numbers. It did, however, point me to a government Web site that lets you check graduation rates campus by campus. Raising that 7 percent has been an issue. ITT Educational has impressive profit margins. The decline in earnings did not slow the flow of money to shareholders.

Why Is College So Expensive? - To the Point on KCRW College students and graduates have racked up more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt, as the cost of a higher education is rising fast. Why are colleges and universities increasing tuition instead of cutting expenses? Is online learning on the verge of changing the way Americans prepare themselves for employment in the so-called "knowledge economy?" Also, the G8 Summit convenes at Camp David. On Reporter's Notebook, this weekend, six playoff games will be played in both hockey and basketball — in one single arena. Banner image: Students walk across the campus of the University of California. Making News The G8 Summit Convenes at Camp David (12:00PM) President Obama today welcomed the new French President, François Hollande, to the White House for the first time. Guests: Michael Hirsh: National Journal, @michaelphirsh Main Topic Rising Cost and the Future of Higher Education (12:07PM) Reporter's Notebook Hectic Weekend at Staples Center (12:44PM) Engage & Discuss

Remaking the University: Quality Public Higher Ed: From Udacity to Theory Y Those who have long claimed that public funding cuts do lower the educational quality of public universities are finally seeing the connection go mainstream. The New York Times made it explicit again in the title of last week's coverage of the ongoing crisis in Caifornia higher ed: "California Cuts Threaten the Status of Universities." The story's accompanying photo is an image of the kind of factory-style higher ed that everyone from commercial e-learning companies to small-seminar advocates agrees will no longer do. Simultaneous news came last week that "S.F. We dreamed the Cities of Intellect that Ansel Adams photographed (UC Irvine mid-1960s, courtesy of UC Berkeley's On the Same Page project). The piece's author, Jennifer Medina, nicely captures the biggest single strategy shift since the funding crisis re-surfaced in 2009. But now what? There is general agreement on several features of real learning, and one of them is that direct individual feedback is its foundation. Mr.