Stanford University Study: No Significant Difference in Student Performance in Charter Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes just released its latest study on student performance in charter schools and basically found no significant differences with comparable public schools.  Charter school students on average slightly outpace comparable public school kids in reading and tie them in math, according to a large study of academic performance that shows slow but steady charter school improvement in some states since 2009.

Charter students on the whole end the school year with reading skills eight instructional days ahead of public school kids, and perform at about the same rate as public school students in math, according to the study released Tuesday by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO. In math, the study found that 29 percent of charter schools showed “significantly stronger learning gains” than their public school peers, with 40 percent performing similarly and 31 percent “significantly weaker.” In reading, 25 percent of charters showed “significantly stronger learning gains” than public schools, 56 percent showed no difference and 19 percent showed “significantly weaker gains.”

CREDO looked at 2.3 million charter students in 25 states and two cities — New York and Washington. It is likely the biggest study of charter schools to date — bigger than the Stanford group’s 2009 study of charter schools in 16 states that has been cited hundreds of times by scholars, lawmakers and advocates. The 2009 study showed charter students were losing seven days in reading and 22 days in math to public school students. It found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed public school peers and 37 percent were actually doing worse.

In New York, to think that we have caused such major disruptions in some of our public schools to house charter schools to say nothing about the siphoning off of precious  funds, for eight days of improvement in reading scores.


Supreme Court Passes on Affirmative Action!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday,  the Supreme Court issued a 7-1 decision that directed a lower court to reexamine affirmative action in the Abigail Fisher case and University of Texas-Austin policies specifically — and hold them to the “strict scrutiny” standard for race-based actions.  Essentially the  Supreme Court told an appeals court that it misinterpreted the justices’ precedent when reviewing the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action policy.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

The decision is a provisional victory for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who claimed that UT-Austin unconstitutionally discriminated against her after the state’s flagship university rejected her application in 2008 under its race-conscious admissions program. UT-Austin will now have a much more difficult job of proving its program constitutional under the standard the Supreme Court clarified on Monday.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, endorsed the Supreme Court’s prior decisions establishing affirmative action as constitutional to further states’ compelling interest in fostering a diverse student body. But the majority maintained that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit did not give a hard enough look at UT-Austin’s race-conscious admissions program.

“The University must prove that the means chosen by the University to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal. On this point, the University receives no deference,” Kennedy wrote. “Strict scrutiny must not be strict in theory but feeble in fact.”

Kennedy’s opinion is largely a reiteration of his dissent in the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case, Grutter v. Bollinger. In that decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor sided with the court’s four liberals to uphold the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy and, in so doing, reaffirm the constitutionality of race-conscious university admissions.

Back then, Kennedy accused the Grutter majority of watering down strict scrutiny, a standard of review that the court first articulated in 1978 — a standard that Kennedy did not believe the University of Michigan was able to meet. For the policy to meet the standard of strict scrutiny, according to Monday’s majority, it must be absolutely necessary to achieve diversity on campus. Whether UT-Austin can meet that standard is a question the Fisher majority has left for another day.”

So the constitutionality of affirmative action programs in colleges and universities and maybe beyond indeed waits for another day!



Rudy Crew Named President of Medgar Evers College!

Dear Commons Community,

The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York today appointed a nationally prominent educator, Dr. Rudy Crew, Oregon’s chief education officer, former New York City schools chancellor and Miami-Dade school superintendent, as president of Medgar Evers College. Chancellor Matthew Goldstein recommended Dr. Crew after a national search. As stated in the CUNY announcement:

“Dr. Crew has made it his life work to strengthen America’s public education system during a 30-year career that has spanned classroom teaching and leadership of the nation’s largest school districts. Since 2009 he has been a professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He is also president of the K-12 division of Revolution Prep, which seeks to use technology to improve math instruction and graduation rates in urban school districts. As Oregon’s first chief education officer he was charged by Gov. John Kitzhaber with revamping public education, improving Oregon’s high school graduation rate and refashioning public education from kindergarten through college into an integrated system.

In a joint statement, Board of Trustees Chairperson Benno Schmidt and Chancellor Goldstein said: “Dr. Rudy Crew brings to Medgar Evers College an exemplary record of academic, administrative and governmental accomplishment, combined with classroom experience and a strong commitment to students. We are confident that, with his leadership, Medgar Evers College will achieve new levels of excellence for its dedicated students and faculty and strengthen its role with the community. The college was established in 1970 to honor the memory and ideals of the slain civil rights martyr and it is highly appropriate that it will be uplifted by a leader who is deeply committed to academic quality, equal access, and student success.”

Dr. Crew has stated that his mission is to “improve student achievement, especially for poor and minority students.” To that end he worked closely with all stakeholders, first as New York City schools chancellor and later as superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, to place those cities’ lowest-performing schools in virtual districts whose boundaries were defined by student need, not geography, and used research-based practices to accelerate the pace of student learning.

Dr. Crew headed the New York City public schools from 1995-2000 — the nation’s largest district, with a million students — where he initiated many reforms, including adoption of curriculum standards for all schools, elimination of tenure for principals, and the introduction of school-based budgeting. As superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools from 2004-2008, with 356,000 students, he strengthened math instruction, created paths for more English-language learners and students of color and poverty to gain college entry with improved ACT and SAT scores, and started The Parent Academy serving more than 100,000 parents with courses and workshops to help them support their students’ education.”

Congratulations to Dr. Crew on this appointment!


Computers in a Pill!

Dear Commons Community,

The next major breakthrough in medicine is the ingestible computer that you swallow in a pill.  And once in your stomach or intestinal tract, it sends email messages to your doctor. As reported in the New York Times:

“They look like normal pills, oblong and a little smaller than a daily vitamin. But if your doctor writes a prescription for these pills in the not-too-distant future, you might hear a new twist on an old cliché: “Take two of these ingestible computers, and they will e-mail me in the morning.”

As society struggles with the privacy implications of wearable computers like Google Glass, scientists, researchers and some start-ups are already preparing the next, even more intrusive wave of computing: ingestible computers and minuscule sensors stuffed inside pills.

Although these tiny devices are not yet mainstream, some people on the cutting edge are already swallowing them to monitor a range of health data and wirelessly share this information with a doctor. ..For people in extreme professions, like space travel, various versions of these pills have been used for some time. But in the next year, your family doctor — at least if he’s technologically adept — could also have them in his medicinal tool kit.

Inside these pills are tiny sensors and transmitters. You swallow them with water, or milk if you’d prefer. After that, the devices make their way to the stomach and stay intact as they travel through the intestinal tract.

“You will — voluntarily, I might add — take a pill, which you think of as a pill but is in fact a microscopic robot, which will monitor your systems” and wirelessly transmit what is happening, Eric E. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, said last fall at a company conference. “If it makes the difference between health and death, you’re going to want this thing.”

One of the pills, made by Proteus Digital Health, a small company in Redwood City, Calif., does not need a battery. Instead, the body is the power source. Just as a potato can power a light bulb, Proteus has added magnesium and copper on each side of its tiny sensor, which generates just enough electricity from stomach acids.

As a Proteus pill hits the bottom of the stomach, it sends information to a cellphone app through a patch worn on the body. The tiny computer can track medication-taking behaviors — “did Grandma take her pills today, and what time?” — and monitor how a patient’s body is responding to medicine. It also detects the person’s movements and rest patterns.

Executives at the company, which recently raised $62.5 million from investors, say they believe that these pills will help patients with physical and neurological problems. People with heart failure-related difficulties could monitor blood flow and body temperature; those with central nervous system issues, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, could take the pills to monitor vital signs in real time. The Food and Drug Administration approved the Proteus pill last year.

A pill called the CorTemp Ingestible Core Body Temperature Sensor, made by HQ Inc. in Palmetto, Fla., has a built-in battery and wirelessly transmits real-time body temperature as it travels through a patient.

Firefighters, football players, soldiers and astronauts have used the device so their employers can monitor them and ensure they do not overheat in high temperatures. CorTemp began in 2006 as a research collaboration from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”



Rupert Murdoch/News Corporation: First Hacking – Now Bribery!

Dear Commons Community,

Another scandal involving bribery is brewing for Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation.   The Huffington Post is reporting:

“Two journalists for The Sun newspaper were charged Friday with allegedly paying public officials for information about psychiatric patients and a member of the royal family, British authorities said.

The charges are the latest in a series of bribery-related allegations against journalists at the best-selling tabloid, which named a new editor Friday…

The Sun’s Jamie Pyatt and John Edwards were charged along with Robert Neave, a former health care assistant at the Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, with conspiring together “and with public officials known” to commit misconduct in a public office, prosecutors said.

The unidentified alleged conspirators include public officials employed at Broadmoor, employees of two separate police forces and British army officials, prosecutors said. They allege that over nearly nine years, The Sun paid more than 30,000 pounds ($46,500) to public officials, including Neave, for information including details of the health and activities of Broadmoor patients, information about a royal family member’s work and facts about police investigations.

The charges are being brought as part of Operation Elveden, an investigation into allegations that newspapers were paying police and other officials for information.

The inquiry is running alongside investigations into phone and computer hacking sparked by the discovery that reporters at Murdoch’s now-closed News of the World tabloid regularly intercepted voicemails.

More than 30 people have been charged in the scandal, including journalists, police officers and former executives at Murdoch’s newspapers.

Half-a-dozen senior current and former reporters from The Sun have found themselves facing charges…”

This has not been very good couple of years for Murdoch and his News Corporation.


Super Moon Tonight!

Supermoon NYC

Dear Commons Community,

The biggest, brightest moon of 2013 will dominate the sky this weekend, making its once-a-year appearance as the “super moon.”

The super moon appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a normal fullmoon.

The moon officially turns full at 7:32 a.m. Sunday, but the best time to see it in the New York City area will be Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The super moon occurs when a full moon coincides with its closest approach to the Earth in its orbit.

It won’t be this close again until August 2014.


Protesters in Chicago Want Funding for Public Schools Not For DePaul University Basketball Arena!

Chicago Teaches Protest June 2013

Dear Commons Community,

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent proposal to fund an arena for DePaul University incurred the ire of more than 150 parents, teachers and students who marched in protest in downtown Chicago.  As reported in DNAinfo Chicago and other media:

“We have a system that’s failing in many directions … and $55 million is going to fund a stadium at a private, religious university?” said Wendy Katten, the Raise Your Hand director who helped organize Friday’s protest.

“The audacity of the city to announce [this] as they’re closing schools and slashing school budgets — we need to change the priorities of this city,” Katten said.

Protestors met at the James Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., for a brief rally before marching to CPS Headquarters, 125 S. Clark St., and on to the DePaul student center, 1 E. Jackson Blvd.

Demonstrators flooded the first floor of the university center and were quickly asked to leave for trespassing on private property.

“Arrest me. Arrest me,” Katten said, as two police officers escorted her from the building.

No arrests were made. Several DePaul alumni among the protestors were allowed to re-enter the building and present the university with a basketball, which had the names of 50 closing schools scribbled across it.

“These school closings destabilize the community, and the mayor doesn’t seem to care,” said Sonia Ott, a 25-year teaching veteran who joined the protest. “I don’t trust the government right now.”

Students from Whitney Young, the Near West Side school that recently proposed charging students $500 to make up for the nearly $1 million in proposed cuts, stormed the Thompson Center plaza with homemade signs.

“I think that’s absolutely crazy,” Natalie Woods, 15, said of the proposal. “A public education is supposed to be free. We have a right to a free education. Not everyone can afford $500.”

Crazy indeed!   Priorities are being set at all levels of our government (federal, state and city) that can only be characterized as an assault on public education.



Paul Krugman Explains the American Dilemma: Profits without Production!

Dear Commons Communiity

Paul Krugman has a column today in which he explains that the American economy has evolved into one that increasingly is able to earn huge profits without necessarily investing in production including workers.  He provides the following examples of General Motors and Apple Corporation.

“…consider the differences between the iconic companies of two different eras: General Motors in the 1950s and 1960s, and Apple today.

Obviously, G.M. in its heyday had a lot of market power. Nonetheless, the company’s value came largely from its productive capacity: it owned hundreds of factories and employed around 1 percent of the total nonfarm work force.

Apple, by contrast, seems barely tethered to the material world. Depending on the vagaries of its stock price, it’s either the highest-valued or the second-highest-valued company in America, but it employs less than 0.05 percent of our workers. To some extent, that’s because it has outsourced almost all its production overseas. But the truth is that the Chinese aren’t making that much money from Apple sales either. To a large extent, the price you pay for an iWhatever is disconnected from the cost of producing the gadget. Apple simply charges what the traffic will bear, and given the strength of its market position, the traffic will bear a lot.

Again, I’m not making a moral judgment here. You can argue that Apple earned its special position —when profits increasingly reflect market power rather than production.”

Krugman goes on to comment:

“… As many economists have lately been pointing out, these days the old story about rising inequality, in which it was driven by a growing premium on skill, has lost whatever relevance it may have had. Since around 2000, the big story has, instead, been one of a sharp shift in the distribution of income away from wages in general, and toward profits. But here’s the puzzle: Since profits are high while borrowing costs are low, why aren’t we seeing a boom in business investment? And, no, investment isn’t depressed because President Obama has hurt the feelings of business leaders or because they’re terrified by the prospect of universal health insurance.

Well, there’s no puzzle … A monopolist can, after all, be highly profitable yet see no good reason to expand its productive capacity. And Apple again provides a case in point: It is hugely profitable, yet it’s sitting on a giant pile of cash, which it evidently sees no need to reinvest in its business.”

Or its workforce!


MOOCs and Online Classes Fuel Campus Debates: Recap of the Issues!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has a good recap of the current debates on MOOCs that are going on at college campuses.  Many of the issues reviewed such as shared governance, tiering of higher education, intellectual property, and corporate influences have been posted on this blog and elsewhere but if you want to catch up on the discussion, this article identifies several important developments.    For me the most important point in the article was the conclusion:

“All three of the leading MOOC providers — Coursera, edX and Udacity, another Stanford spinoff — started by offering courses free but with no credit, attracting millions of learners around the world. But all three are now adapting those courses, often in blended form, for use in public universities that will offer students credit and extra support — and bring the MOOC providers a steady revenue stream.”

My opinion early on has been that the only way MOOCs could be implemented into the mainstream of higher education was by adopting the blended model.


United Federation of Teachers Endorses Bill Thompson for Mayor!

Dear Commons Community,

The United Federation of Teachers on Wednesday endorsed William C. Thompson Jr. in the race for mayor of New York. The endorsement from the teachers’ union, one of the most prized of the campaign, could help jump-start the candidacy of Mr. Thompson, a former city comptroller, as he seeks to extend his support ahead of a Democratic primary in September.  As reported in the New York Times:

“Union leaders described Mr. Thompson as a longtime advocate for students who would work to address the concerns of teachers, including reducing standardized testing and ending the city’s practice of closing low-performing schools.

Standing with Mr. Thompson at a news conference, Michael Mulgrew, the union president, said, “We need to make sure that this entire city school system is about helping teachers help children, and we now have a candidate we know will do that.”

In accepting the endorsement, Mr. Thompson said he could sympathize with the difficulties teachers face. He recalled his mother, a former teacher in Brooklyn, falling asleep shortly after coming home from work each day.

“When I’m mayor, I’m going to fight day and night to help the teachers of New York,” he said.

The endorsement was something of a risk for the union, which has not aligned itself with a successful candidate for mayor since 1989, when it supported David N. Dinkins. The union has avoided many races since then; it last made an endorsement in 2001. It passed over Mr. Thompson in 2009, when he was the Democratic nominee running against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a political independent.

The strength of the teachers’ union imprimatur in this election remains to be seen, even though it has at its disposal a treasury of at least $2.5 million, a large base of members to volunteer in get-out-the-vote efforts and a sophisticated trove of data to help it go after likely voters.

The union — which counts about 200,000 teachers, retirees and other school employees as members — finds itself at the center of a deep division among labor groups.

The city’s largest union, 1199 S.E.I.U. United Healthcare Workers East, which represents health care workers, is supporting another Democrat, Bill de Blasio, the public advocate. And District Council 37, a large union representing municipal workers, has endorsed John C. Liu, the city comptroller.”

Good luck Mr. Thompson and congratulations on securing the U.F.T. endorsement.