UT – Controversy, Debate, now Tussle – UT Prez, A_M Prof, TPPF

By Reeve Hamilton

At a panel hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation today, Bill Powers, the president of the University of Texas, and Robert Strawser, an accounting professor at Texas A_M University and the speaker of its faculty senate, responded to the conservative think tank’s proposed higher education reforms.

The ongoing debate about TPPF’s “breakthrough solutions” for higher education and the vocal resistance to them by the UT community has been at times very tense. That was reflected in today’s panel discussion, during which a defense of the reforms was mounted by Ronald Trowbridge, a senior fellow at TPPF and a former vice president of Hillsdale College in Michigan. The following is a play-by-play of the discussion.

Powers began his remarks by enumerating the areas in which he and the TPPF agree. “We need to change,” he began. He said that UT talks about productivity on campus a great deal and that the “change needs to be student-focused and student oriented.” He added that many accreditors, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, focus on student success and student outcomes.

“The big bulk of what we do is undergraduate teaching, and that needs to undergo revision and change as well,” Powers said. “If the issue is change, we embrace it and have been doing it for a long time.”

On the subject of accountability in teaching, Powers said, “We absolutely have it.” He said there are professors who don’t get tenure at UT because of their teaching and that student evaluations are used to judge teaching. Powers said they “aren’t perfect, but they are a quite good guide.”

He noted that much of the debate, especially among faculty members, centered on a “red and black report” generated by the Texas A_M University System to track revenue generation. The report drew the ire of the Association of American Universities, of which A_M and UT are members. He said the AAU’s concerns, and his, were that the document did not account for “the societal benefit of the research that’s done and the teaching in that kind of research setting that our students get.”

Powers’ remarks were followed by those of Trowbridge, who said he knows higher education from “every conceivable angle.” Although he is retired from academia, Trowbridge has delved into the current debate — even writing a guest column for The Texas Tribune — because, he said, “if I see an idea that I have to challenge, I will set aside my vodka and my cigar and go after them.”

Trowbridge was especially upset about the treatment of Rick O’Donnell, who received a high level of media scrutiny and was ultimately pushed out of the University of Texas System after a brief tenure as a special adviser. “I want what was done to Rick O’Donnell and the scrutiny there to be put right back on Powers and Strawser and the trustees and the governor and everybody in this state. I want it to be an open act of honesty and debate,” Trowbridge said.

He said he did not disagree or take issue with any of Powers’ remarks to that point but believed the problem was “much wider.”

“Our universities have shifted priorities to research first, students second,” he said.

Parroting his Tribune column, he cited a study showing that, from 1980 to 2006, a total of 21,674 scholarly articles were written about the works of William Shakespeare and asked, “Do we really need the 21,675th?” He noted that many professors are earning salaries higher than that of the governor of Texas.

Changes need to be made, he said, but they cannot be made by the likes of Powers and Strawser. “It has to be done by the regents or trustees.” Their job, he noted, was not to be cheerleaders but to govern.

After Trowbridge concluded, Strawser began his presentation by noting that Trowbridge had observed he was the “moderate” on the panel. And yet, he said, “I agree with almost everything Bill said. I agree with almost nothing Dr. Trowbridge said.”

Strawser congratulated Powers and the UT community for responding to the reforms. “We have not heard as much from A_M, at least not publicly,” he said, noting that he intended to change that.

The problem that needs to be addressed, Strawser asserted, is a lack of understanding about what the goals of Texas’ universities are. “The issue we ought to be debating,” he said, “is, Should these be the goals?”

Strawser said he supports most of the seven “breakthrough solutions” — especially measuring teaching efficiency and effectiveness and publicly recognizing and rewarding teachers. He agreed that evidence of teaching should be required for tenure. But he believes A_M does all of those things already.

What about the idea of separating teaching and research budgets? “I think teaching and research are inseparable,” he said.

What of the proposal to use results-based contracts with students? “I’m not certain what that means,” he said.

He concluded by thanking the TPPF for sparking such an “essential” debate. “It does us no good to write white papers,” he said. “We have to debate. We have to get together.”

During the question-and-answer period from the discussion, Powers said he shares the concerns of alumni who vocally opposed O’Donnell’s employment. Trowbridge wondered why, if everything was so good at A_M, they were so concerned about the “red and black” report. Strawser replied that the notion that faculty at A_M are not evaluated by other measures is “an outright fabrication.”

See Story @ http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/ut-prez-am-prof-tussle-with-tppf/

UT President Powers Addresses Affordable Education

By: Jeff Stensland

As lawmakers consider cuts to higher education, some continue to push for affordable tuition.

As lawmakers consider cuts to higher education, some continue to push for affordable tuition.

 Gov. Rick Perry is challenging Texas colleges and universities to offer a $10,000 degree.

Gov. Rick Perry is challenging Texas colleges and universities to offer a $10,000 degree.

Even with 48,000 students on the Austin campus, University of Texas President Bill Powers says only 15 percent of the school’s budget is covered by tuition. The rest comes from state subsidies and alumni donations.

Powers and several others discussed the future of education in Texas at a forum in Downtown Austin Friday.

“We need to keep that cost to the students as low as we possibly can, while maintaining the kind of quality and excellence in teaching and research that we were talking about before,” he said.

Lisa Strohacker is a senior studying biology at UT.

The Austin native says she chose the attend the school for all four of her years as an undergraduate because of the clout the UT name carries as a top research university.

She said she knows she could save thousands by going to community college first.

ACC has some of the same professors, and if you are not in district, it’s $100 a class,” Strohacker said. “It’s about a tenth of the price.”

Just last month, University of Texas System regents considered raising the cost for medical school students by as much as 16 percent.

They’re considering the move to offset cuts in state funding, which Powers says he will continue to fight.

“I think higher education, public education, are tremendous public goods,” Powers said. “It makes sense to have support for them that does not simply depend on the student and their families to pay for.”

However, without guidance from the governor, Powers says those costs will be hard to cut.

Also during Friday’s forum, the panel discussed the need for transparency between university leaders and the public.

President Powers said Texans need to better know what they are getting for their tax dollars.

See story @ http://austin.ynn.com/content/top_stories/278081/ut-president-addresses-call-for-affordable-education

University Reformers Advancing With Sandefer’s – ‘Seven’

By Melissa Ludwig / mludwig@express-news.net

Effect on research, views on profs questioned.

University professors are: a) Teaching too much b) Not teaching enough c) Wasting time on frivolous research d) Elitist whiners State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, joins a growing chorus choosing all but the first option.

“We have a lot of great professors. But we have a lot of whiners,” Patrick said. “Tenure was never the greatest idea.”

With budget cuts tightening around higher education’s neck, reformers who want to shake up the ivory tower are gaining a foothold with changes that would favor teaching over research, boost productivity and focus more on the needs of the customers, or students, rather than faculty.

In Texas, a wealthy entrepreneur named Jeff Sandefer has sold Gov. Rick Perry and many university regents on his “Seven Breakthrough Solutions,” which urge Texans to spark fundamental change by starting their own accrediting agency and implementing a voucher system for universities. The most palatable solution, awarding professors bonuses for good teaching, has become a reality, and others are a topic of serious conversation among regents.

Many in academia agree with the spirit of reform but say some ideas being tossed around are simplistic and could harm Texas’ mighty research enterprise. Others are troubled by the tenor of the debate, which paints faculty as pompous elites obsessed with esoteric research, grousing about having to teach undergraduates.

“All of a sudden, these shells started getting lobbed from north of the Nueces, and I don’t even know who is doing it,” said James Aldridge, a veteran psychology professor at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg. “It’s like there has been a growing suspicion that we are getting away with something or doing something wrong.” According to Aldridge, he works 50 to 60 hours per week teaching three classes per semester, in addition to reading and doing research, mentoring students and sitting on university committees. Over the years, he has watched his advanced classes triple in size to about 60 students, forcing him to abandon essays for multiple choice tests and to spend less one-onone time with students.

Research expectations have also ratcheted up: Administrators want to see at least one article in a peerreviewed journal each year, and bureaucratic duties such as collecting data for government reports have multiplied.

Technology, which is often anointed the great messiah of higher education reform, has not yet swooped in to save Aldridge, making him skittish about other big ideas percolating in Austin.

Gene Powell, a San Antonio businessman who is chairman of the UT board of regents, has appointed two task forces to study ways to boost productivity and online education.

“They could come up with some really helpful information, or they could be some sort of assault team,” Aldridge said. “The atmosphere is such that I don’t know.”

A price war

From Sandefer’s point of view, change is coming, like it or not.

Traditional higher education can either be ahead of the curve or go the way of U.S. Steel, a behemoth corporation that lost most of its market share to more nimble competitors.

Online education has long suffered from mediocrity and a lack of imagination, but it has gotten a lot better in recent years, allowing entrepreneurs to offer a high-quality educational product at a fraction of the price, Sandefer said.

Expert faculty create curriculum, but the role of mentor is left to $15-anhour coaches, allowing classes to grow exponentially. In Arizona, the model has allowed Arizona State University to add 23,000 students with very little expansion of faculty. Members of a UT task force recently visited Arizona to study that model.

“They are going to start a price war,” Sandefer said of the entrepreneurs. “It is happening all over the country.”

Can Sandefer’s seven solutions help traditional universities  survive?

Sandefer claims he’s not the oracle and has little interest in whether universities follow his advice.

But internal emails at UT and Texas A_M University tell a different story. Contrary to Perry’s public stance that he leaves policymaking to his appointed regents, the emails show his aides were demanding implementation of Sandefer’s plan. They also reveal pressure by Sandefer, a major campaign contributor to Perry, as well as his father, J.D. “Jakie” Sandefer, for A_M System Chancellor Mike McKinney to get cracking on reforms.

The reforms are: Measure the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching, publicly reward good teachers, split research and teaching budgets, require evidence of teaching skill for tenure, use “results-based” contracts between student and teacher, implement a voucher system to stoke competition and create a new accrediting agency that is more focused on outcomes.

At A_M, McKinney jumped on the first two reforms, creating a report that showed the net revenue each professor generated, based on the number of students taught and research dollars brought in. Faculty criticized it as “simplistic and misleading,” punishing junior research faculty and those who taught small classes.

“I agree with total transparency, to everybody’s dismay,” McKinney said.

He also instituted a teaching bonus based on student evaluations, but many professors at the flagship campus in College Station refused to take the money, saying the evaluations are biased by grades. As for splitting teaching and research budgets, some fear that it is a prelude to cutting the heart out of research. Rick O’Donnell, a research assistant hired by UT regents to facilitate Powell’s task forces, wrote a policy paper in 2008 arguing that most academic research is a waste of taxpayer money. But that report, written while O’Donnell was a fellow at a conservative think tank, is now under review after it was shown to have at least two dozen errors.

“The folks at UT are anxious about this, with good cause,” said David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Boulder, Colo., and former assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Education Department. “If you are going to have a research university, you have to be willing to provide for the research  mission.”

McKinney said budget crunchers already split budgets to some extent, but only to capture what part of a professor’s salary is paid by research grant money, not the amount of time each professor spends reading to update knowledge, writing papers for journals and conferences, and working with students on research projects.

“I can’t tell you when you are teaching and doing research; they are exactly the same,” McKinney said. As for requiring evidence of good teaching for tenure, that’s already being done, he said. And the learning “contract” between student and teacher? It’s called a syllabus.

“I don’t agree with a whole bunch of people who say the system is broken,” McKinney said. “Do I think it is perfect? Nope. I want to do different things, but in general, we turn out a good product.”

Doing it the right way

Sandefer took many of the reforms from Acton MBA, a graduate business school he founded after leaving UT, where he taught as an adjunct  professor.

At Acton, teachers use role-playing and the Socratic method to walk students through business case studies. Students come wickedly prepared, and the room buzzes with the energy of debate.

But Acton has 28 handpicked students who pay $49,000 for a yearlong degree.

Traditional institutions are sprawling systems that serve millions of students with a wide array of abilities and needs and are subject to a long list of state and federal regulations. The missions range from teaching remedial education to students who can barely read to training doctoral scientists to make groundbreaking discoveries.

Universities and the faculty who populate them also serve as cultural and economic hubs for the community. They bring in distinguished speakers and offer jazz concerts, art shows and theatrical productions. They house and feed thousands of young adults and run big-league athletics programs.

Like it or not, top-flight institutions such as UT or A_M must be concerned with national rankings and prestige. Any attempt to divert resources from research would impact their standing.

In part, all this has also made them unwieldy and costly, and many are not fulfilling the basic mission of educating students as well as they should. Too few students are coming out with a degree; for those who do, it’s hard to say if they learned anything.

William Powers, president of UT-Austin, said universities must figure out a way to improve — with less money — before it is forced upon  them.

“There is a plate tectonics shift in the funding model,” Powers said. “If we don’t react to it and get ahead of it, we will get left behind.”

Reformers demand that universities find a way to measure teaching effectiveness and productivity, student learning and the value of research. The questions are fair, but good answers are difficult to produce, Powers said.

“No one thought the double helix (of DNA) would have any practical value,” Powers said. “(Research) is a little like your stock portfolio. You don’t know what the winners and losers are going to be.”

And instead of being the enemy, faculty must be valued and included in change, Powers said.

“Faculty are behind our projects of course redesign and using technology to reform courses. We have spent the last seven years reforming our undergraduate experience and curriculum,” Powers said. “Doing that in the right way is what is important.”

Starting a conversation

In Longanecker’s opinion, the main problem with Sandefer’s reforms is that they are not breakthroughs.

If the goal is to improve learning and get more students out of college with a degree, governments must pay universities to do that. He is a fan of so-called “performance funding,” or tying money to graduation rates and degrees awarded. The strategy has been proposed by Texas lawmakers. Accreditation agencies, meant to assure quality, also measure the wrong thing, such as the number of books in the library rather than what students are learning, Longanecker said.

But Sandefer’s solutions do not address performance funding, he said, and the idea that Texas start its own accrediting body would be costly and only add to the bureaucracy.

“I just don’t have a great deal of faith that governments can do a better job,” Longanecker said. “Good quality assurance costs a coin or two.”

As for vouchers — tuition grants that students could spend anywhere, much like those piloted in K-12 schools — Longanecker is not sure that it would drive competition in higher education. Sandefer cites Colorado’s voucher program as an example, but it’s a bad one, he said.

Independent analyses have shown the vouchers had little impact and were so confusing that student enrollment actually dipped in the first couple of years. Even O’Donnell, a Sandefer ally who oversaw the program in Colorado, admits it did not achieve its goals.

But he believes that they deserve a second chance.

“Vouchers done right could be a very powerful thing,” O’Donnell said. Before going to work for UT, he worked for Sandefer at Acton MBA; his eyes light up when he talks about his first trip to Acton to watch good teaching in action.

“It still gives me the goose bumps. It was electrifying,” O’Donnell said.

Their zeal has certainly infected Perry, who organized an entire summit around the seven solutions in 2008 for the state’s university  regents.

The three all say they love research and are not out to destroy it. Nor are they trying to cram Sandefer’s ideas down the regents’ throats. They are just trying to start a debate.

“I don’t think I ever said it is my way or the highway,” Perry said. “These are seven things that look like a conversation.”

But the emails from UT and A_M show that the reforms were more than conversation  starters.

In the words of one Perry staffer in a 2009 email: “The governor is anxious to learn what progress you have made to move these reforms  ahead.”

Technology-Based, Self-Learning Tool Mindspark to Teach Math to Texas Students This Summer

Ahmedabad based, Educational Initiatives (EI) said it has offered the authorities in US a remedial tool for better understanding of the subject Maths – their technology-based self-learning tool, Mindspark. Over 500 students in state of Texas, US will be spending their summer vacation learning Maths through this tool.

EI has bagged the license under the supplemental education services (SES) which is aimed at helping children, who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, by supplementing their learning. The programme will be launched in Texas during the up-coming summer vacation (June to August). EI will help students learn Maths through a blended learning concept which entails personalised learning via Mindspark and on-demand support via certified teachers in an online environment.

Since Mindspark is a self-learning tool, the constant supervision of a teacher is not needed. This will reduce the cost incurred on teachers and will help getting better quality of teachers, mostly from within the local community. EI will not only provide their internet-based tool, but will also give notebook computers to the children who are a part of the summer programme.

EI is also pilot testing for another project in Lansing, Michigan where the students are using Mindspark in an after-school programme. This is a pilot programme being conducted with 57 children in the district of Lansing in Michigan. The current results have shown that some of the Class 8 students are actually at Class 4 or Class 5 level and are picking up from there.
The questions in Mindspark were designed keeping an Indian child as its reference. Before the tool was given for use to children in US, there was a process of contextualisation that had to be done. For instance ‘roti’ had to changed to ‘pizza’ or ‘bread’; ‘taxi’ became ‘cabs’ and Indian names into names in US so that the child can connect with the programme better.
Educational Initiatives was established in 2001 by three graduates of Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad (IIM-A) – Sridhar Rajagopalan, Sudhir Ghodke and Venkat Krishnan. “EI aims at addressing fundamental problems of learning with a competitive team of professionals from the industry and strong trust based relationships that we share with over 2,000 schools in India and abroad over the past 10 years. We believe in ‘learning through understanding’. Through our other interactive tools like Asset, detailed assessment, CCE certificate course, teacher evaluation program, teacher sheets and more, Educational Initiatives assists thousands of teachers in improving their students’ achievements,” Sridhar Rajagopalan said.

Mindspark is also soon going to Singapore, where the tool will be integrated with video games and computer games which will promote the concept of ‘learn-while-you-play’.

See story @ http://indiaeduguide.blogspot.com/2011/04/indian-mindspark-to-teach-maths-to-us.html

The Next Generation of Education

Liam Julian Posted by Liam Julian

Mopati Morake will graduate shortly from Williams College. He was born in Botswana but finished high school in Hong Kong. He has attended schools on three continents, and Justin Snider, writing for the Hechinger Report, thought that sort of wide experience might have given Morake a distinctive perspective on educational matters.

“What,” Snider asks Morake, “do you see in U.S. education that is praiseworthy, and where does the U.S. system fall short?” The young man answers that the capability to explore different areas of knowledge, to enroll not only in required classes but in those classes that interest him, is an admirable facet of American higher education. He also likes that tests are not the sole focus; at his college, the process of learning also has weight. In his native country, Botswana, and in much of Asia, pupils are judged wholly by the scores they receive on several, major tests. Thus, “It’s pretty liberating,” he says, “to come here and find that my future isn’t going to be determined by a grade on a few exams.” Morake finds the inequality in American k-12 education, however, to be singularly distressing—“a travesty,” he calls it—and thinks lessening that inequality should be “a national priority.”

Perhaps most interesting are Morake’s ideas about teaching (the young man plans to teach at a boarding school come fall). “I think teaching is the second most important job, after parenting,” he says. He believes that such importance obliges respect. “But if we value teaching so much, and put our money where our mouths are, it follows that not everyone should be teaching.” Morake continues: “I’ve heard far too many horror stories from friends who went to public schools around the U.S. about how their teachers ‘didn’t do anything’ and simply didn’t care. So there should be a selectivity about who gets to be a teacher, and teachers should always be accountable. But those who are doing their jobs well should be treated as such, and that should be reflected in their pay.”

This is a supremely sensible outlook, and one coming from a young man who, at this point, believes he will dedicate his professional life to “making the world a more equitable and fairer place.” And yet, is this not precisely the view that garners such hot derision from some quarters, that is ascribed to those who “disregard teachers” and would “destroy public education”? No one would accuse Morake of harboring such feelings or intentions.

It seems likely that more and more young liberals like Morake do not share the sentiments of their ideological forebears—that is, they do not see in unions an inherent goodness and in the systems that employ union members unmitigated evil. They are no less concerned than their ancestors with attacking inequality, no less eager to wage battle, and no less certain that the fight can be won. Morake makes this quite clear; he hopes to devote his life to the promotion of equity. But for these youths, solidarity is no longer a sacred word. They seem to understand that power corrupts and that unions, regardless of the virtuous reasons for their original coalescence, can turn as oppressive, or more oppressive, as the forces they originally opposed. This change is heartening and worthy of note. It certainly promises better things to come for public-school pupils.

See story @ http://www.educationgadfly.net/flypaper/

UT Regent Cranberg Stands by Prior Critiques of Higher Education

Cranberg comments on professor evaluation, ‘diversity’ of faculty
By Patrick Brendel Texas Independent

University of Texas System Regent Alex Cranberg is not shying away from previous statements criticizing professor accountability, weighing faculty’s “credentials” versus “achievements,” and praising the Acton School of Business, co-founded by Jeff Sandefer, architect of the controversial seven breakthrough solutions for higher education.

In a 2008 article about Acton that appears on InsiderOnline.org (PDF), Cranberg said, “There’s some accountability in higher education, but for what? … Professors are held accountable for how often they’re cited, or for the amount of research grant money they bring in. But there’s very little accountability for actual student achievement.”

In an email to The Texas Indepedent Thursday morning, Cranberg said, “Since 2008 [the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] has moved to make Student Learning Outcomes more relevant to its accrediting criteria, and accordingly more Universities are gathering this data. I am still learning now how much (or little) this data is used, or how useful the data actually is.”

The point is, Cranberg said in an email Friday, “that since the time of my earlier interview there had been increased emphasis on student learning outcomes within the existing accreditation framework.”

In the 2008 article, Cranberg said, “Higher education’s infatuation with credentials has made it blind to opportunities to use professional people that are equally, or even more, impressive. We should be focusing on teachers with achievements, not just credentials.”

In the email, he said, “I believe excellence is related to diversity: faculty with outstanding credentials from a diverse array of experiences and backgrounds will be stimulating and useful to students, (and also provide important insights in a research setting).”

According to the article, “Cranberg believe[s] that higher education and its donors would be wise to adopt Sandefer’s approach.”

Cranberg also said in the article, “[A]nybody looking to support entrepreneurship would do well to look at traditional programs, understand why the Acton MBA is different, and learn from that comparison.”

In the email, he said, “Entrepreneurship is a unique and challenging discipline to actually teach. We should observe and learn from the best programs around the country, although not just copying anybody.”

(Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11 a.m. Eastern time on April 29 to include a correction to a date in Cranberg’s statement on SACS and Student Learning Outcomes.)

See story @ http://www.americanindependent.com/181386/ut-regent-cranberg-stands-by-prior-critiques-of-higher-education

Senate OKs Teacher Evaluations

By Andrew Weber Texas Tribune

UT – A Conversation with Loftin and Powers – Research, Teaching and Reforms

By Reeve Hamilton Texas Tribune

Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune is sitting down with Texas A_M University President R. Bowen Loftin and University of Texas President William Powers, Jr.

R. Bowen Loftin was named the 24th president of Texas A_M on February 12, 2010. He had served as interim president since June 2009. Prior to that, he spent four years as vice president and chief executive officer of the university’s marine-oriented branch campus, Texas A_M University at Galveston, where he also was professor of maritime systems engineering.

William Powers Jr. is the 28th president of the University of Texas at Austin. Before taking office on February 1, 2006, he served as dean of the university’s School of Law, where he won recognition for recruiting a world-class faculty and attracting diverse and talented students.

In recent months, as the top research universities in Texas, UT and A_M have been at the center of a tense debate about the productivity and accountability of the work done at such institutions.

The Tribune thanks our Supporting Sponsors


7:56 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan is taking the stage, and we’re about to get started.
8:04 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Loftin and Powers are on the stage. We start with a nod to the ongoing controversy surrounding higher ed in Texas. Evan notes, “The gods of timing have smiled on me.”
8:04 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan: Do you dispute the need for reform in higher education?Powers goes first. “Absolutely there’s a need for higher ed reform in Texas,” he says. He says that’s been a priority of his from the get go, and they have been redesigning courses and budgets. The cost and funding structure is not sustainable.

Loftin says he completely agrees.

8:08 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan asks Powers about accusations that UT is overly defensive when it comes to reform. Powers counters that the accusations are that his administration has been suppressing data — which he says is not true.”We are absolutely in favor of reform,” Powers says. And he says they’ve been doing it for the last six years and an accelerated way in the last two.

Powers says the key question is “What are the outputs we’re looking for?”

There’s a certain kind of education that UT and A_M institutions engage in, he says, which integrates research into education. It’s not the only model, he says, but it’s integral to the state.

8:08 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan asks Powers about accusations that UT is overly defensive when it comes to reform. Powers counters that the accusations are that his administration has been suppressing data — which he says is not true.”We are absolutely in favor of reform,” Powers says. And he says they’ve been doing it for the last six years and an accelerated way in the last two.

Powers says the key question is “What are the outputs we’re looking for?”

There’s a certain kind of education that UT and A_M institutions engage in, he says, which integrates research into education. It’s not the only model, he says, but it’s integral to the state.

8:11 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan asks Loftin if, at A_M, they’ve been too compliant when it comes to reform directives coming from Austin.Loftin says, of the reforms proposed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin that has seven proposed “breakthrough solutions” for higher ed, only five can be addressed at the university level.

Many of them are very noble things. Rewarding teaching is a good thing, but the question is, “How do you get there?”

8:13 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Loftin notes that A_M has hundreds of teaching awards that have been refined over the years.Powers says that teaching ought to be a part of the salary structure, but he says, “We are also a research university.” He says the key is getting the right balance in your outputs. He says, research is a critical part of what the university does, including at the teaching level.

8:18 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Regarding teaching and research, Loftin says he and Powers are on the same page. Loftin says that only a very narrow portion of faculty are only good at research or teaching. So, the others should not be made to choose between them.
8:20 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan asks Loftin about A_M System‘s “red and black report.” Read about it by following this link:http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/am-system-examines-professors-revenue-generation/

Bowen says he wouldn’t say it was a good thing in the way it was done. His problems: It was a snapshot in time. Also, there was no indication of the sort of salary, when many professors get funding from multiple places.

8:23 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Powers says his concern about a “red and black report” to determine the revenue generation of faculty is “more fundamental.” In short, it’s an evaluation exercise not just a data exercise.He says the outputs chosen to determine represents “a statement about what our value system is.” What is left out, he says, is the social value of the research.

In such a report, Powers notes, professors would be penalized for teaching small freshman seminars, which at UT they call “signature courses.”

8:24 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Now Evan is asking Loftin about the letter admonishing the A_M System for its red and black report.Read about that here:


8:27 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Loftin notes that “brands matter.” He says their long-term vision is maintained by their membership in AAU, and they’d like to keep it.AAU, by the way, stands for Association of American Universities, an elite group of research universities and the gatekeepers of tier one status.

8:27 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan: Should guns be allowed on campus?Powers: “No.”

Audience: Applause.

8:28 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

“Friday night comes once a week,” Powers says. Young people, alcohol, and guns do not make a good mix, he says.
8:29 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Loftin: “Bill and I agree on this very much.”He says law enforcement have told him that it’s hard to tell who a good person or a bad person is and they don’t want to make a mistake. Loftin also says that most of the students on his campus are against allowing concealed handguns on campus

8:33 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Regarding budget cuts, Powers says that the state appropriations represents the money that’s used to pay the history teachers and physics professors. “It’s the sand being put in the oyster around which the pearl grows.” Even though state money makes up about 14 percent of UT’s budget, Powers says losing a percentage of that percentage will be harmful. “We are already very lean,” he says.
8:34 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Loftin says that professors will become less accessible as budgets shrink and A_M tries to do more with less.
8:36 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Evan: Is it ok that at the best public universities, we only graduate about half of the students in four years?Loftin says that programs are different and take different amounts of time. Also, students change majors. “We are committed to getting more students through quicker,” he says.

8:42 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Regarding $10,000 degrees, Powers says that 23 percent of UT students already pay about $2,500 per year with the help of financial aid, grants, and other savings measures.
8:42 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

The interview is over, but the live-blog is not. Audience Q_A has begun!
8:45 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

The first question is about what guns on campus might mean for expenses at the universities.
Powers and Loftin indicate that it might mean an increase because of increased training for personnel. Loftin says it’s unclear what it would or wouldn’t do to insurance rates.
8:45 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Question 2: What are you trying to do to push students through the university in four years?Powers: “Let me say, we’re trying to pull students through the university in four years.”

8:51 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Powers responding to a question about budget cuts says that the humanities and the social sciences are of particular concern because they don’t have the same funding opportunities. If you look at the data, he says, the choice of major has a “very tiny” determination of a student’s post-grad path.Loftin says they are redoubling their efforts on private funding. The answer “has to be” additional private support.

8:58 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton
Question: What is your assessment of your colleges of education?Loftin says he’s very happy with A_M’s. “We think we do very well,” he says.

Powers says a lot of the research done at the College of Education is critically important. Though, he says, “Teaching is one of those areas, frankly like many areas, where book learning alone isn’t enough.”

9 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

Final question: What other bills are you focusing on this session?Loftin: Legislation that will allow more flexibility, such as those that ease reporting requirements.

Powers agrees. He says principal investigators on National Science Foundation grants — something like 20 or 25 years ago — 10 percent of their time administering regulatory structure. Now it’s up to 40 percent.

9:01 a.m. by Reeve Hamilton

That’s all, folks!

Luna Touts Education Reforms During Twin Falls, ID Visit

By Amy Huddleston – Times-News writer Magicvalley.com

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna fields questions during Thursday’s stop during his post-legislative tour of the state at the Herrett Center for Arts and Science in Twin Falls.  ASHLEY SMITH/Times-News

With the Legislature’s work done, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said Thursday that the work to bring education reform to Idaho now largely rests on individual school districts’ shoulders.

Luna’s 2011 post-legislative tour passed through Twin Falls on Thursday, as the public schools chief and his staff met with local educators to start the implementation process of his “Students Come First” reform package. After attending the daylong meeting, Luna and members of his staff met with the Times-News’ editorial board and a reporter to discuss where Idaho stands as it toes the starting line of school reform.

Initiating change

Luna repeatedly said Thursday that as Idaho voters express disinterest in raising taxes, the Gem State’s education can’t continue to exist in its current form while sustaining the current onslaught of annual budget cuts.

But with Luna’s reform comes a shift of state funding away from teaching positions and toward technology. Luna said the plan leaves many of the decisions on how that shift will take place, along with how an increased emphasis on online classes will come about, up to local school districts. He said school districts may choose to coordinate with each other to review changes and cost-cutting techniques.

Classroom technology

In the fall, school districts will begin to see more technology creeping into their classrooms in the form of handheld clickers that work with computer programs, Smartboards and tech-based professional development.

Over the next five years, students and teachers will receive laptops to provide a more “vibrant and engaged” classroom. Technological support for the mobile computing devices will come from the computer vendors, Luna said, adding that funding for information technology support won’t fall upon individual school districts.

“We’re not creating a program that will shift its burden to local schools,” Luna said. “It’s buying a service rather than a product.”

IEA lawsuit

In response to the lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Idaho Education Association and five other plaintiffs against Senate Bill 1108 — part of his reform package — Luna said the plaintiffs’ challenge against the elimination of teachers’ early retirement bonuses and tenure for new teachers, and changes to contract negotiations, did nothing to put students first.

The future of

Idaho education

Luna said he envisions providing Idaho educators a workplace in which technology helps them create plans to encourage and assess individual students’ growth. An interactive environment with highly effective teachers is part of the vision, and Luna said providing merit-based pay incentives is a new way to reward good teachers when they take on leadership roles or hard-to-fill positions.

“It’s not stale. It’s not stagnant, and kids look forward to going to school every day,” he said.

Amy Huddleston may be reached at ahuddleston@magicvalley.com or 735-3204.

See story @ http://www.magicvalley.com/news/local/education/article_17a49c2a-f5f4-559c-b150-3533e0e3db0f.html

Jeb Bush Vaults to Fore as Unofficial National Education Envoy

By Mike Tighe

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has emerged as a national education ambassador, tutoring governors and lawmakers in nearly a dozen states from Arizona to Utah and Minnesota to Oklahoma on how to employ his “Florida formula” for education. One out of five state school superintendents has joined his group, Chiefs for Change, which pushes for education reform at national, state, and local levels.
Jeb Bush, education, ambassador, Getty, photo

With Bush’s initiatives and other efforts rising to the surface, “2011 is shaping up as one of the most consequential years in memory for changes in the way schools are run,” The New York Times reports.

Bush, who has rejected pleas of some Republicans who would like to see him run for president in 2012, has been engaged otherwise in new education bills and laws in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah, the Times reports.

His forays across the country, such as one to St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, have included campaigning for candidates, speaking to education power brokers, and lobbying for Florida-style changes. The measures include private-school vouchers, online courses, and mandating that third-graders pass reading tests before they move up to fourth grade, instead of being pushed up the chain with their peers in so-called “social promotion.”

“We’re the only state to have eliminated social promotion in the third grade in a robust way,” Bush said Tuesday during at appearance at the Minnesota Capitol, where he encouraged the Legislature’s new Republican majorities to be bold, the Times reported.

Bush traveled to the Gopher State to support measures introduced after 30 Minnesota lawmakers, mostly freshmen Republicans, attended a Washington summit meeting that Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education convened in December.

Education Reform Sparks Questions

By Christina Chapman- Illinois

Education reform bills were unanimously approved last week by the Senate and now go before the House, where some local school officials are hoping details will be ironed out.

“It’s a step in the right direction for kids, school districts and teachers,” said Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg of Coal City Unit 1 School District. “It’s just, how is it going to turn out is what I’m anxious to see.”

The legislation, which includes Senate Bill 7 and Senate Bill 630, take measures to reform elementary and secondary education. The key components include making hiring and layoff decisions on teacher performance rather than seniority, requiring teachers to earn tenure status by more than just years of service, and making the strike process more public.

Passing this legislation through the Senate was a bipartisan effort, said Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris.

“Everybody was at the table with it asking what can we do to improve (education),” she said.
It was lead by Democratic Sen. Kimberly Lightford and included the support of education stakeholders: the Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Chicago Teachers’ Union, Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance, children’s advocacy group Stand for the Children, and others.

“The encouraging part is the reform legislation was a collaborate effort,” said Superintendent Dr. Pat Halloran of Morris Community High School District 101. “The concern back in December was the reform was moving too quickly, so it’s nice they got all the parties together to discuss this impact.”


Perhaps the most significant component of the legislation locally will be the ability to base layoffs and promotions on teacher skill rather than seniority.

Currently, when a school district has to make reduction in force cuts, it is required to cut from the bottom of the totem pole.

But just because a teacher is the newest to the district, does not mean he or she is not more qualified.
Sometimes the newest teachers are the freshest out of college and equipped with the most advanced teaching methods. As opposed to a teacher who may have been teaching for decades and is becoming burned out.

“I see this as a very positive reform in helping us keep our best teachers, not necessarily the teachers with the highest seniority,” Halloran said.

Layoffs would now be based on teacher performance from evaluations. But the question some administrators have is what is that evaluation process going to look like? Some fear it will be based on student scores on state tests.

Basing teacher evaluations on student performance is one thing, but on state test scores is another, Bugg said.

“We need to measure where the kids are when they come in and where they measure at the end of the year,” he said.

For example, he said students should be measured at the beginning and end of their freshman and sophomore years, and then the teacher should be evaluated on the student’s growth, not their score on the Prairie State Exam.

“Some students are ready for school when we get them and some are not,” said Al Gegenheimer, superintendent of Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201. “It’s our responsibility to prepare them. Measuring them all on the same scale is not accurate.”

If an eighth-grader comes in with a third-grade reading level, it is unrealistic to expect him or her to score at an eighth-grade reading level by the end of the year on a state exam, he continued.

“Just because they don’t meet the Prairie State Exam doesn’t mean the teacher failed that child,” Gegenheimer said. “If there are no gains, then we need to be held accountable. But we can make tremendous gains with our children and still are getting told we’re failing our children.”

The evaluation process expected from this legislation has to compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges, administrators agree.

Making evaluations the deciding factor for hiring and firing means administrators need to step up as well. Administrators will have to follow student data to familiarize themselves with what the mosteffective teaching practice are, Halloran said.

“It’s going to cause the evaluation process to be more meaningful than it has been in the past,” Bugg said.


The legislation also allows for a simpler removal process of poor-performing tenured teachers.

Right now teachers earn tenure status after four years with a school district.

Currently, if there is a problem with a tenured teacher, schools cannot just fire the teacher with school board approval. School administrations have to go through a remediation process for a poor-performing tenured teacher, which can be time-consuming and costly.

If the law passes, a tenured teacher with two poor evaluations in seven years could lose their teaching certificate.

“I predict there will be some discussion about this in the House, particularly with state Rep. (Roger) Eddy (who is also a superintendent),” Halloran said. “It may not be as streamlined as intended.”

In addition, tenure status could no longer be given automatically after four years, but rather based on performance ratings. With that, if a teacher is performing well and it’s before their four years, they could be granted tenure status earlier, Rezin said.

This portion of the legislation also makes evaluations even more important and holds accountable the administrators who perform the evaluations.


Teacher union strike proceedings could also be changed.

“It will make it more difficult for teachers to strike,” Rezin said.

Before striking, mediation is required and both parties will have to release to the public their final offers so the public is aware of what both the teachers and administrators are offering. But it does keep collective bargaining rights in tact.

In Morris and Coal City, superintendents agree the relationship between the district and its unions is strong and striking would be the last thing either side wants.

“But I do think anything we can do to avoid the situation is best for kids,” Bugg said.

Also part of the legislation is required training for school board members so they are a part of the accountability.

The House is expected to look at the education reform legislation this week.

See story @ http://www.morrisdailyherald.com/articles/2011/04/27/35923273/index.xml

Woodley Takes Over for O’Donnell to Advise UT Panels

By Mary Lee Grant

The University of Texas System has named Sandra Woodley, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, to replace controversial special adviser Rick O’Donnell, who was fired Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesmanreports. She will assist two panels serving the UT Board of Regents, one studying productivity and excellence, while the other focuses on online and blended learning.

Like O’Donnell, Woodley has experience as a high-ranking university administrator and has her name attached to public writings on university faculty workload and cost efficiencies; though, upon preliminary review, Woodley’s experience and writings probably will not engender the same kind of public scrutiny and outcry as did O’Donnell’s.

O’Donnell, the former head of higher education in Colorado and a former congressional candidate there, lost his job amidst controversy over reforms at the state’s flagship universities. He was hired at a salary of $200,000 during a hiring freeze, and lost his UT job after he wrote a highly critical letter to his bosses at the UT System, accusing them of interfering with his attempts to access data that show how a large share of tuition and taxpayer dollars have been going to administration and faculty who do little teaching, but are instead engaged in research.

Writings by O’Donnell for conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation critical of most university academic research also had become an issue of contention.

Woodley, hired in March 2010 as vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, oversees the UT System offices of Strategic Management and Institutional Studies and Policy Analysis. The offices coordinate system initiatives, streamline reporting requirements and track the progress and impact of the system’s institutional plan, according to the UT System website.

The Texas Tribune‘s government employee database lists Woodley’s salary as $240,000.

Before joining UT, Woodley was the Arizona Board of Regents’ chief financial officer and strategic planner, which made her that state’s top higher education finance official. Previously, she held positions in finance, institutional research and economic forecasting for higher education entities in Alabama and Kentucky.

Woodley has a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Auburn University and a doctoral degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University, a large private research university in Florida. (The Birmingham News (Ala.) posted a copy of Woodley’s resume from September 2009, when she was seeking a position to oversee that state’s community college system.)

In the cover letter accompanying the resume, Woodley says she was the “key professional” in the Arizona System to develop the System’s 2020 long-term vision plan. Some UT Regents have looked toward Arizona State University as inspiration for reforms aimed at productivity, efficiency and online learning.

In her position at UT, Woodley also oversees the annual UT System Accountability and Performance Report. The report measures student outcomes, research collaborations, faculty productivity, clinical care and community impact.

According to reports and policy papers created under Woodley’s supervision, estimated time UT System faculty spend on instruction-related activities range from 29 to 39 hours a week, not including time spent on scholarship and research, according to a report on “Faculty Work.” In fact, faculty exceeded the teaching loads set by UT regents. The report shows that faculty demonstrate a strong commitment to classroom teaching, teaching a high proportion of undergraduate credit hours. Teaching assistants teach about 4 to 11 percent of undergraduate credit hours.

The report states that all UT System institutions are exceeding Board of Regents’ teaching load requirements of at least 27 hours per week on instruction and instruction related activities, or the equivalent of 3 organized classes per semester.

Another report on “Productivity and Efficiency” also showed the administration to be acting efficiently. Although spending per student has increased, the average total spending is barely above the national average. Administrative costs have remained between 7 and 8 percent of total expense over the last 10 years. UT System initiatives earned $1.42 billion in savings, avoided costs, and increased investment earnings over the past five years (including $565 million in 2010 alone) according to the report.

See story @ http://www.americanindependent.com/180331/woodley-takes-over-for-ousted-odonnell-to-advise-ut-panels

Snyder: Change tenure, more charters

Raymund Paredes: $10,000 Degrees “Entirely Feasible”

By Reeve Hamilton Texas Tribune

Armey, FreedomWorks Back Gov. Perry in Higher Ed Reform Controversy

Dick Armey (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/markn3tel)
Dick Armey (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/markn3tel)
Opinion column cites stats from 1996 report

The Texas branch of FreedomWorks has thrust itself into the debate over controversial higher education policies pushed by Gov. Rick Perry and allies. An online petition titled, “Higher Education Reform for Texas NOW!” has drawn about 1,500 signatures so far, on the group’s website..

The petition drive comes on the heels of an opinion column on the topic by FreedomWorks president Dick Armey, the former U.S. House majority leader, that appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

“I applaud Gov. Rick Perry for courageously tackling much needed higher education reform,” Armey said in the column defending the ‘seven breakthrough solutions’ by Texas Public Policy Foundation board member Jeff Sandefer.

Armey, a former economics professor, said, “Eliminating tenure offers an important step toward improving education. My university experience suggests that tenure provides everyone who has it the ability to bully everyone who does not.”

He also blasts professors for focusing too much on research instead of classroom instruction. He wrote:

“A professor’s main goal should be to serve the educational needs of students. Yet in most Texas universities research has displaced teaching. A Texas Performance Review found that the average professor at a research university teaches only 1.9 courses per semester. Roughly 22 percent of faculty members do not teach a single course. We could easily remove administrative bloat and reduce tuition by requiring universities to separate research and teaching budgets.”

The claim that research university professors teach 1.9 courses per semester also appears in a TPPF higher education guide for state legislators. That statistic appears in a 1996 Texas Performance Review report on higher education from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The final TPR report on any topic was published in 2003.

On the contrary, according to University of Texas System reports, UT-Austin faculty teach an average of four courses per semester. UT-Austin tenure/tenure-track faculty spent an average of 36 hours per week on instruction and instruction-related activities — not including research, institutional service or other paid/unpaid service, according to information provided by the UT System Office of Strategic Initiatives, headed up by Sandra Woodley, who has stepped into the role of advising regents after the firing of former UT senior adviser Rick O’Donnell.

The claim that 22 percent of faculty do not teach a single course also appears in the TPPF guide — although that number is qualified as being a national statistic, not a Texas-specific one.

Armey calls for the publicizing of performance metrics similar to the spreadsheet put together on A_M faculty. He said:

“Disclosing the salaries of tenured professors would be another useful reform, along with how many students they teach and how many funded research dollars they bring in. At Texas A_M University, only 49 out of 3,000 faculty members brought in enough money to pay for their salaries and overhead over the past five years.”

According to the initial draft of the A_M spreadsheet that was withdrawn after numerous errors were found, 249 of the roughly 3,300 faculty members listed brought in more than $1 million apiece in grants over the last five years. Of those bringing in more than $1 million in the past five years, 211 were tenured faculty members, 36 were on tenure track, and two were non-tenured.

See story @ http://www.americanindependent.com/181201/armey-freedomworks-back-perry-in-higher-ed-reform-controversy

School Reformer Michelle Rhee Endorses New CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard

By Robin Robinson, FOX Chicago News

Chicago – Nationally recognized school reformer Michelle Rhee was in Chicago on Tuesday, and she offered a strong endorsement of new Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who was disliked by most teachers in his previous district of Rochester.

“I would be very concerned if the mayor had chosen a superintendent who didn’t have any controversy, because when you’re doing the tough things, making the hard decisions, there’s gonna be some controversy,” Rhee said. “If you have everybody loving you that means you’re probably not making the tough decisions.”

Rhee, the former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor, isn’t the sort of person to make nice; if you saw her in the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” you saw her describe the schools there as “crap.”

“Oftentimes, we as the adults are so busy trying to sugarcoat things and make people feel good, that we are ignoring the harsh realities,” she said.

Rhee spoke at a private luncheon sponsored by the Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday. The Merc has donated millions to charter schools. Critics of charter schools say they threaten traditional neighborhood schools, but Rhee and other reformers say they bring competition and choice.

She also said that unionized teachers need to face the changes that are sweeping the country. Rhee’s new group, “Students First,” help lobby for education reform in Florida that goes much father than the bill recently passed the Illinois Senate.

“In Florida, what we were able to do was basically say: `We’re getting rid of tenure and seniority and lockstep pay, and we’re putting in place brand new accountability systems,’” she said.

See story @ http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/education/michelle-rhee-school-reform-jean-claude-brizard-chicago-cps-ceo-20110426

UT Education Reform – The Controversy (and Battle) Has Just Begun

By Reeve Hamilton Texas Tribune

One week ago, Rick O’Donnell’s employment at the University of Texas System came to an abrupt end after 50 days marked by tension and confusion in the higher education community — especially at the University of Texas at Austin.

O’Donnell’s position initially raised questions because of its $200,000-per-year salary and its similarities to the job description of UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa — and the fact that he was to report directly to Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT System Board of Regents. Powell failed in his initial attempts to quell the controversy by having O’Donnell report to administrators under Cigarroa and ending O’Donnell’s employment at the end of August. An email O’Donnell wrote to a sympathetic regent last week criticizing the actions of system and university leaders since his hiring appears to have been the last straw, and O’Donnell was dismissed.

Still, the controversy hasn’t ended with O’Donnell’s departure, largely because the rationale for his appointment in the first place — what is the true purpose of state-supported higher education and who should decide that? — remains and will continue to be debated. O’Donnell’s detractors saw him as the vehicle through which Gov. Rick Perry and his allies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation — including Jeff Sandefer, a generous donor to Perry and a TPPF board member and funder — would be able to implement their controversial set of reforms for Texas higher education. O’Donnell’s supporters point to the vociferous pushback by prominent supporters of UT as evidence that the system is need of significant change to make it more accountable to taxpayers and students.

In 2008, Sandefer, TPPF and Gov. Rick Perry held a summit on higher education for regents from every university system to introduce and encourage what they called “seven breakthrough solutions” for higher education. (Here’s a copy of Perry’s invitation that was faxed to Texas A_M University System regent Morris Foster, apparently from Sandefer’s office; follow links throughout the story for relevant PDFs.) O’Donnell’s writings for the TPPF supported these initiatives, the most discussed of which would separate research and teaching budgets. TPPF representatives argue that this would promote excellence in both, but others worry that the intent is really more to divide and conquer — perhaps because a TPPF recommendation for the current legislative session is to “refrain from giving universities any more tax dollars intended to subsidize research.”

“I think the position of the foundation, to the extent it has been presented at all, has been mischaracterized throughout,” says TPPF spokesman David Guenthner. “People have taken convenient excerpts and extrapolated them out to attacks on the type of scientific research that a lot of the universities are doing. The point of the whole conversation has been that students are being forgotten and that universities were created to teach students.”

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So what happens to them now that O’Donnell is gone? Let’s review:

Does anyone believe the controversy is over?  

Richard Leshin, president of the Texas Exes, the powerful 93,000-member organization of UT alumni that rapidly organized to oppose O’Donnell’s appointment, says, “I don’t think it’s anywhere near being over at all.”

“Absolutely it’s going to continue,” Guenthner agrees.

There are two central reasons why this is the case. First, O’Donnell left with an impactful parting shot. Second, it was never really about him.

O’Donnell was hired to support two newly created task forces, one on blended and online learning and another on university excellence and productivity. While these issues may seem to be mostly about the banal wrangling of a large bureaucracy, they are in fact at the heart of the debate over the mission of public higher education.

Just before he departed, O’Donnell sent a letter to recently appointed regent Wallace Hall speculating as to the reasons for the outcry surrounding his employment. He said that, in his work on behalf of the task forces, he began asking for public data “that would inform the task force members on how student tuition dollars and taxpayer money were being spent” and that the release of that data “was resisted at the highest levels” of UT and the UT System.

“I am concerned,” he wrote, “that data I have reviewed which has not been released to the public shows a growing number of student tuition and taxpayer dollars are being paid to professors and administrators who seem to be doing very little teaching.” He added, “And, let us not forget in a public opinion research study last year, 87 percent of Texans said that the universities’ top priority should be educating students with only 6 percent stating that conducting research should be a top priority.” That study was conducted by the TPPF.

A joint statement released by the administrations of the UT System and the flagship university said that “data on how tuition dollars and taxpayer money are being spent at UT System academic institutions is, indeed, being gathered.” However, they claimed that the data is in a draft format and must be reviewed by multiple officials before it is released to the full board of regents.

The Texas Tribune has requested the data, and other outside groups are putting pressure on the regents to release it. Justin Keener, a former TPPF spokesman who is currently the spokesman with Texas Business for Higher Education, a coalition of business leaders, sent an email to the organization’s members urging them to write Powell “to continue asking tough questions and finding ways to make a quality education more affordable and accessible, while fostering even greater teaching and research.”

The TPPF is hosting a conference on higher education on Friday that Guenthner hopes will “begin to crystallize the discussion on transparency and accountability in higher education.” He adds, “There’s a lot of information that regents have been seeking, if it were out in the open, it would be helpful in informing discussion.”

Issues of affordability, accessibility and tension between teaching and research preceded O’Donnell, as did the “breakthrough solutions,” and will undoubtedly continue despite his absence.

In July 2008, two months after the introduction of the TPPF’s “breakthrough solutions,” Wayne Roberts, the senior adviser for higher education in the office of the governor, made it clear in an email to regents that “the Governor’s intent is that this be a regent driven project.” Senior system and institutional staff, as well as staffers for the governor and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, were not to influence the regents’ policy decisions.

The work of the task forces continues. In lieu of O’Donnell, they are receiving support from Sandra Woodley, the system’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives. Woodley actually earns $240,000 — more than O’Donnell’s position — but hers is not a new post created at a time of shrinking budgets.

According to emails obtained by the Tribune, some UT System staff — particularly executive vice chancellor for academic affairs David Prior — have conveyed skepticism of some of the policy recommendations over the years. In February 2009, Prior wrote to then-regents chairman Scott Caven that some reform-related discussion “verges on being insulting.”

The emails also show that Sandefer, who, despite authoring the “breakthrough solutions,” previously told the Tribune that he no longer has a “dog in that fight” in the ongoing discussions, has been in frequent communication with Alex Cranberg, a recently appointed regent with ties to the reformer camp, mostly passing along articles regarding higher education that he believes are of note (including blog posts critical of the Tribune’s coverage of the controversy).

And the person steering the ship — Powell, who unilaterally hired O’Donnell without consulting his vice chairman or the chancellor — remains the chairman of the board of regents.

“I don’t think the regents have changed their stance at all,” Leshin says. Just this week, student leaders at UT wrote to the regents urging them to be “more transparent” and allow student involvement in discussions regarding basic research and online courses. And on Wednesday, UT President Bill Powers took a strong stance in support of research in an email to university supporters. The institution must address the “need to increase our productivity and effectiveness,” Powers wrote. “But while we introduce change — as one of the world’s great research universities — we must be steadfast in our commitment to teaching and research.”

How much harm has the controversy caused?

There is little disagreement that the state’s premier public university is in a potentially precarious position. But why — and who’s to blame — is a point of contention.

In an email to the Tribune last week, Cranberg wrote, “It is HARMFUL to the University of Texas for a bunch of false hysteria to be whipped up about what the board may or may not do. These irresponsible and false speculations about the Board, the Task Forces and not-yet-formed policies serve only to needlessly undermine confidence in donors and prospective star faculty.”

This echoes the sentiments of O’Donnell, who, in what turned out to be his parting letter, wrote, “If there has been any damage to the reputation of the University of Texas, it has not come from the Regents’ task forces or my work for them. Any damage that has occurred must be lain at the feet of those who have diverted attention to secondary issues and then encouraged the uproar.”

“We don’t see it that way,” responds prominent alumnus Gordon Appleman, who, in a widely circulated letter, warned of potential “degradation” at UT if the regents went ahead with the TPPF-backed recommendations. He says his efforts and those of similar letter-writers have been focused on preserving UT as a “university of the first class.”

Peter Hugill, a Texas A_M geology professor and the president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, when asked about the effects of the implementation of TPPF-proposed reforms, said that budget cuts make it difficult to say for sure but that “if it was a normal market, I’d say it would definitely have a depressing effect on recruitment.”

Meanwhile, House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, says that the debate being waged in the media has held up his reform agenda, particularly House Bill 9, which allow the state to tie a portion of funding for public universities to outcomes such as graduation rates, a move supported by Perry and the TPPF.

“I’m concerned that thoughtful reforms will be hurt by some of this,” Branch says. “It sort of sets back the whole reform movement.”

Are the jobs of top UT administrators at risk?

On April 12, Branch, Senate Higher Education Chairwoman Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and the chancellors and regents chairman of UT and A_M went to dinner to discuss the controversy and the issues behind it. The legislators, according to several sources, told their guests that any attempt to oust Cigarroa or Powers would not be well received within the halls of the Capitol.

One week later, in his final letter, O’Donnell continued to sow the seeds of suspicion when he claimed to be the victim of a “well-orchestrated public relations campaign” and wrote, “Whether university norms were violated with regard to spreading false rumors or if there was the improper use of political influence by university employees, as some have pointed out to me may be the case, I leave other to inquire.

High-level critics of the reformers’ agenda, such as Zaffirini, have said that they fear that once the Legislature is no longer in session and media attention has diminished, an attempt may be made to force out the administrators who are pushing back against proposal changes.

“I’ve heard rumors to that effect, but they’ve all been denied,” says Zaffirini, who has filed extensive open records requests with higher education institutions throughout the state to determine the roles of the governor, Sandefer and the TPPF in pushing reforms.

When asked if the board of regents is considering a resolution to dismiss UT higher ups for insubordination, Powell said, “There is no such resolution, and I am not aware that any resolution of this type has been discussed.”

When asked the same question, Cranberg said, “Who would assert such a thing? As for me, I’m just trying to learn as much as possible as a new regent and working to contribute to help the university address its challenges and opportunities. I am privileged to have met many fine faculty and leaders of the University System in this effort.”

Still, in the days following O’Donnell’s departure, the Texas Exes felt compelled to pass a resolution in support of Powers. Earlier in the month, the Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee issued a similar statement of support for Cigarroa, who was not Perry’s choice for the position (he preferred former state Sen. John Montford).

Asked if the governor believed Powers and Cigarroa could provide the support necessary to help Austin become a technology capitol as the governor has recently been advocating, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said, “The governor is going to continue working with the higher education community to continue moving forward.”

Is this just a UT issue?

The back-and-forth in the last several months has largely been driven by the interaction between UT and the UT System. In fact, the Texas A_M University System has been the most active in implementing the “breakthrough solutions.” When system administrators created a spreadsheet that analyzed revenue generated for the university by individual professors and conveyed money-losers in red and moneymakers in black, it drew the ire of the Association of American Universities, a prestigious organization of research universities of which A_M and UT are members. AAU president Robert Berdahl, a former UT president, warned against following the TPPF-prescribed path.

Members of the UT community are also not the only ones to express concerns about separating teaching and research budgets. In July 2008, months after the initial summit, each institution submitted reports to the governor’s office and the other systems on the status and feasibility of implementing the initiatives.

Administrators at the University of Houston, according to memos obtained by the Tribune, reported, “Separating research from teaching would deprive our students of learning from scholars.”

The findings were similar at the University of North Texas. “The best and most efficient universities,” its report said, “have focused on blending these two parts of academic work life that functions as a synchronistic whole, particularly within a research university.”

Among the most dismissive was the conclusion of the UT System: “The concept of excellence in all UTS academic institutions fundamentally involves the linking of inquiry, discovery and new knowledge as the basis of teaching and learning — this is called research education.”

Guenthner says, “I think anytime you talk about changes to the status quo, the people who are invested in the status quo get nervous. Really, we need to have an honest and open discussion about how we accomplish both objectives in conducting research and educating students.”

So, are the “breakthrough solutions” mandatory?

According to notes taken by UT vice chancellor for governmental relations Barry McBee — Perry’s former chief of staff — Perry closed the 2008 summit by noting that the reforms are “very intriguing” to him, but they do not represent a dictate or one size fits all solution. McBee noted, however, that Perry “did emphasize his belief that regents will be judged by what happens after this event.”

Perry spokesman Mark Miner dismisses the suspicion that Perry is mandating these reforms, saying, “It’s simply not true.”

“There are bits and pieces of all of them that the governor has talked about in the past, but to say that they are packaged and these are the seven points the governor is pushing is not accurate,” Miner says, noting that this has been “grossly mischaracterized” by the media and the higher education community.

In fact, Miner says that Perry now believes one of the reforms, which calls for a change in the accreditation system and would require a fix at the state rather than the system level, is now unnecessary. “The current model seems to be working,” Miner says.

Though, as recently as Sept. 1, 2010,McBee wrote to his colleagues that the governor’s staff had “confirmed that the ‘seven reforms’ are still at the top of their list for consideration.” In January 2009, the governor’s office sent to university systems a document titled “Higher Educations Reforms” that called for specific actions with specific timelines.

In response, David Prior, the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, scoffed to his colleagues in an email obtained by the Tribune, “And some believe that these ‘reforms’ are not mandatory……….!!!”

While they do not line up exactly with the “seven breakthrough solutions,” the “Higher Education Reforms” are similar, calling for the publicizing of faculty evaluations and course syllabi, the use of student evaluations in tenure decisions (which many schools note all ready occurs), and the distribution of financial rewards to top teachers based solely on student evaluations.

Not all Texas A_M faculty support such awards, known as Student Led Awards for Teaching Excellence, which have already been put into effect there. Hugill, who says he understands the desire to refocus on teaching, says of one of the award recipients in his department, “I think he’s one of the worst teachers we’ve got. It’s not like we don’t take teaching seriously. What we don’t take seriously are these SLATE awards.”

Over the last three years, UT System officials have maintained that their method of rewarding teachers, which includes student evaluations but does not rely on them exclusively, is “superior” to those recommended by the governor’s office.

How long is this likely to go on?

Zaffirini, the Legislature’s most vocal critic of the attempts to change the UT System, says, “This is a four- to six-year issue.”

Four years, she says, because that’s how much longer Perry will be in office.

Six, because that’s the length of the terms of the newest batch of Perry-appointed regents: Wallace Hall and Alex Cranberg, both of whom attended the May 21, 2008, summit (nearly three years before they joined the board of regents), and TPPF board member Brenda Pejovich.

Anyway, in slightly less than two years, on Feb. 1, 2013, the terms of three more regents (James Dannenbaum, Printice Gary and Paul Foster) will end, giving Perry three more appointees to the nine-member board — and a potential supermajority to transform the University of Texas System.

See story @ http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/after-rick-odonnell-what-now-for-texas-higher-ed/

Snyder Proposes Sweeping Changes to Boost Michigan Students’, Schools’ Performance

Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled a series of education reforms today that he hopes will transform Michigan's educational system.

 Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled a series of education reforms today that he hopes will transform Michigan‘s educational system. / JARRAD HENDERSON/Detroit Free Press

Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a sweeping agenda of change for Michigan public schools that he said would dramatically improve students’ academic performance, quality of teachers and the choices students and their families have for schools.

At the United Way for Southeastern Michigan headquarters in downtown Detroit, Snyder proposed:

• A new Michigan Office of Great Start-Early Childhood to consolidate early childhood programs and funding. It was the first change Snyder discussed this morning in his special message on education. He said the focus on early childhood programs will result in a greatly improved academic achievement through school and the rest of their lives.

• Removing the cap on the number of charter schools in districts that have at least one academically failing school as determined by the state. He said a dozen or more school districts would likely qualify but he didn’t name them.

School districts that show improved academic improvement would get bonus money on top of their regular state allowance. Snyder has set aside in his proposed budget $300 million for that purpose. School districts also would be required to create an online dashboard for the public to view progress. Those that don’t could be penalized.

• Anti-bullying legislation to improve school safety. The Legislature has balked at new restrictions during recent years.

Teacher tenure would be based on a five-year probationary period with new standards for proficiency drafted by the state Board of Education. Teachers that don’t meet basic proficiency levels for two years could be fired.

• Higher certification standards for teachers and allowing those without teaching backgrounds, such as professional engineers, to be able to teach math and science with an alternative certification. He also said if teachers are laid off seniority should not be the determining factor. Teacher unions are certain to oppose that change.

• Districts should be required to take students from other districts if they have room for the students.

• He wants annual reviews for teachers, with at least 40 percent of each review based on student achievement.

• He said high-performing students should have more opportunities to take college-level classes that would count toward their diplomas and also as college credit.

Today Detroit – Tomorrow, Every City in America

By: Rania Khalek

If Milton Friedman, father of the free market, were alive today, I imagine he would be jumping with joy at the prospect of the abandonment of public education for private, for-profit charter schools.

Back in 2005, following the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Friedman wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal where he said “This is a tragedy.  It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.”  Soon after, Friedmonites rushed into New Orleans for the chance to implement what Friedman had long envisioned. With the help of the Bush administration, they dissolved the public school system and in its place built a network of publicly funded charters run, not by educators, but by private entities that made their own rules.

At the time, New Orleans residents alerted the rest of the country, that what was happening to their city was only the beginning and it wouldn’t be long before it spread to our neighborhoods.  In 2006, Bill Quigley, a local lawyer and activist warned:

We know that what is happening in New Orleans is just a more concentrated, more graphic version of what is going on all over our country. Every city in our country has some serious similarities to New Orleans. Every city has some abandoned neighborhoods. Every city in our country has abandoned some public education, public housing, public healthcare, and criminal justice. Those who do not support public education, healthcare, and housing will continue to turn all of our country into the Lower Ninth Ward unless we stop them. Why do we allow this?

If only we had listened.  Soon after New Orleans came the drastic transformation of the Chicago school system by Obama’s Labor Secretary Arne Duncan, New York City schools by Mayor Bloomberg, and Washington DC schools by Michelle Rhee. Which brings us to Detroit.

Following the passage of Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s “Financial Martial Law,” Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) of Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Robert Bobb is closing 8 schools and selling 45 to charter companies.  DPS is currently preparing a charter school board through training sessions provided by the National Charter Schools Institute, which had more than 70 charter operators and entrepreneurs in attendance just this month.  In addition, DPS has hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) to review applications.  NACSA’s president, Greg Richmond, worked with charter schools set up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and claims “The system opened up to the people of New Orleans in a way it hadn’t before…Now there are dozens of opportunities to get involved.”

In sharp contrast to the lingering unemployment that plagues Detroit, the auctioning off of Detroit’s schools is taking place with breathtaking speed.  Gov. Snyder is on a mission to reinvent public education.  He is calling for more measurements of student and teacher performance, while at the same time proposing deregulation and more teacher autonomy.  He says “We have to put much more emphasis on proficiency, on growth, on measurements and results than we have had in the past” and “Michigan’s public schools need to more rigorously measure students’ academic growth, but with fewer state rules to make that happen.”

Detroit residents have already started protesting.  Just last week, eight students, along with their children and some faculty members of the Catherine Ferguson Academy of Detroit, began a sit-in at the end of the school day in protest of EFM Robert Bobb’s announcement to close the school.  About a dozen or so were arrested by Detroit police for refusing to leave.  The school is specifically designed for pregnant and teen parents and their children, and has a 90% graduation rate and 100% college and higher education acceptance upon graduation.

Gov. Snyder recently said his focus is a holistic approach to education from pre-natal to life-long learning.  He says early childhood education is important and should involve “a public and private partnership.”  If shutting down an award-winning school and arresting, rather than listening to the students he claims to care so much about, is his idea of a holistic approach, then Detroit is in for a treat.

Shanta Driver, National Chairperson of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), in an interview with Voice of Detroit at the sit-in, said it best:

The massive school closures that have been carried out in DPS since 2004 have led to the depopulation of Detroit and to the deepening financial crisis of the district. Public schools are being closed to make way for charters and are part of the national attack on public education. Today Detroit – tomorrow, every city in America. The parents and students of Catherine Ferguson are fighting to maintain the right of every student in our nation to a free, quality public education. Every supporter of public education should do everything possible to support their fight and make sure they succeed

Driver is warning us, as did the people of New Orleans in 2006.  This corporately funded education reform movement that praises standardised tests, non-union teachers, and private management as the solution to the budget woes of Detroit’s education system is a threat to us all.

See story @ http://my.firedoglake.com/raniakhalek/2011/04/25/today-detroit-%E2%80%93-tomorrow-every-city-in-america/

Possibilities, Negative or Positive, of Blended (Internet _ F2F ) Classes on the Secondary level?

Technology Crossover Ventures to Invest $125M in K12 Inc. to Accelerate Expansion

HERNDON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–K12 Inc. (NYSE: LRN), the nation’s largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online school programs for students in kindergarten through high school, today announced that Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), a leading provider of growth capital to late-stage private and public companies, has agreed to purchase a minority stake in K12 to support the company’s accelerated expansion strategy. The investment of $125 million was structured as a private placement of 4 million shares of common stock at a price of $31.46 per share. The transaction will close promptly upon obtaining clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

“K12 is an innovative education technology company with tremendous growth potential that exemplifies the leadership we look for in our portfolio companies”

K12’s growth strategy builds on its $200 million investment in online curriculum and its proprietary technology platform. Healthy organic growth of its core online individualized learning programs has been further enhanced by development of new sales channels, alliances with leading educational institutions, targeted acquisitions, strategic investments and international expansion. TCV’s investment will provide K12 with the financial resources and expertise to accelerate its growth. Jake Reynolds, a general partner of TCV, will join K12’s board. Mr. Reynolds has extensive strategy, technology, acquisition and investment expertise that will complement an already strong board and benefit K12 management as the Company executes its mission of providing any child with a quality education, regardless of geographic, financial or demographic circumstance.

“As one of the largest private equity and venture capital firms, TCV brings both established expertise in the online education market and a strong track record of success,” said Ron Packard, CEO and Founder of K12. “The confidence TCV has shown in our current and future business models is a firm endorsement of K12’s strategy. Our alignment with TCV is a clear indicator of our intention to move forward aggressively with our expansion plans as a leading player in the online education sector, and I look forward to working with TCV on our future strategy.”

K12 provides its curriculum and academic services to public and private online schools, traditional classrooms, blended school programs, and directly to families. With its acquisition of KC Distance Learning in 2010, the Company now provides the educational products and services of Aventa LearningTM, the KeystoneTM School and iQ Academies®. It also has become a leading provider of instructional and assessment software for kindergarten through adult learners through its acquisition of The American Education Corporation. Students graduating from K12® virtual schools have been accepted to hundreds of higher education institutions including many of the nation’s top-ranked colleges and universities.

For the 2010-2011 school year, K12 serves online public schools in 27 states. K12 also operates online private schools including the accredited K12 International AcademyTM, the KeystoneTM School, and the recently launched the George Washington University Online High School. K12 also partnered with Middlebury College in a joint venture called Middlebury Interactive Languages to create and distribute innovative online language courses for pre-college students. Most recently, K12 entered into a strategic investment to acquire a minority interest in Web International English, a leader in English language training for thousands of students in China.

“K12 is an innovative education technology company with tremendous growth potential that exemplifies the leadership we look for in our portfolio companies,” said Jake Reynolds. “We believe K12 is now well positioned to build on its proven success in expanding the global markets for its popular online education solutions. I look forward to working with Ron, the K12 Board and management in helping K12 to achieve its full potential.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Talks Education Reform With Minnesota Lawmakers

Associated Press.

ST. PAUL, Minn. —

Jeb Bush

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is telling Minnesota lawmakers about education reforms he says have driven up test scores in his state’s schools.

Bush walked legislators through several policies that he says increased both scores and graduation rates, particularly for minority students.

Bush says schools were given letter grades from A to F, third-graders who couldn’t read weren’t promoted and parents were given more school choices.

Bush was invited to speak by Republican legislative leaders.

See story @ http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/3e64e05654e641c499a43bb1b1db0657/MN–Education-Bush/

The Words That Could Unlock Your Child

Girl revising
As children face their final month of revision before the exam season starts, many parents are looking for the words to motivate their offspring. But could they be mistakenly praising the value of ability over effort, asks Matthew Syed.

Take a glance at these expressions of encouragement:

“You learned that so quickly, you’re so smart!”

“Look at that drawing. Are you the next Picasso or what?”

“You’re so brilliant – you passed that exam without really studying!”

They come across as precisely the kind of confidence-boosting statements that should be given to children or, indeed, anyone else. Such phrases are used in homes and classrooms every day, particularly with exams looming.

But are they benign? Or could they unlock the reason why so many children are failing at school and elsewhere?

“Intelligence-based praise orients the receiver towards the fixed mindset – it suggests to them that intelligence is of primary importance rather than the effort through which intelligence can be transformed”

To find out we need to take a quick detour into the science of expertise, and ask a question. Where does excellence come from? For a long time, it was thought the answer to this hinged, to a large degree, on genetic inheritance. Or, to put it another way, it is all about talent.

It turns out that this is mistaken. Dozens of studies have found that top performers – whether in maths, music or whatever – learn no faster than those who reach lower levels of attainment – hour after hour, they improve at almost identical rates.

The difference is simply that high achievers practise for more hours. Further research has shown that when students seem to possess a particular gift, it is often because they have been given extra tuition at home by their parents.

This is not to deny that some kids start out better than others – it is merely to suggest that the starting point we have in life is not particularly relevant.

Why? Because, over time, with the right kind of practice, we change so dramatically. It is not just the body that changes, but the anatomy of the brain.

A study of pianists, for example, showed that the area of the brain governing finger movement is substantially larger than for the rest of us – but it did not start out like this; it grew with practice.

The question of talent versus effort would not matter terribly much if it was merely theoretical. But it is so much more than that. It influences the way we think, feel, and the way we engage with our world.

Continue reading the main story

Mindset experiments

  • Computer studies students received lessons on importance of growth mindset. It resulted in a dramatic improvement in test scores after a six-week intervention
  • Students at Stanford University were encouraged towards the growth mindset in a workshop. At the end of term, these students had earned significantly higher grade point averages than the control group

To see how, consider a youngster who believes excellence is all about talent – labelled the “fixed mindset”. Why would she bother to work hard?

If she has the right genes, won’t she just cruise to the top? And if she lacks talent, well, why bother at all? And who can blame a youngster for this kind of attitude, given the underlying premise?

If, on the other hand, she really believes that effort trumps talent – labelled the “growth mindset” – she will persevere. She will not see failure as an indictment, but as an opportunity to adapt and grow. And, if she is right, she will eventually excel.

What a young person decides about the nature of talent, then, could scarcely be more important.

Think how often you hear children saying “I just lack the brain for numbers” or “I don’t have the coordination for sports”. These are direct manifestations of the fixed mindset, and they destroy motivation.

Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, do not regard their abilities as set in genetic stone. These are the youngsters who approach tasks with gusto. “I may not be good at maths now, but if I work hard, I will be really good in the future!”

Exam room Many schools already praise effort as much as achievement

So, how do we orient our children to the growth mindset? A few years ago, Carol Dweck, a leading psychologist, took 400 students and gave them a simple puzzle.

Afterwards, each of the students were given six words of praise. Half were praised for intelligence: “Wow, you must be really smart!” The other half were praised for effort: “Wow, you must be hard working!”

Dweck was seeking to test whether these simple words, with their subtly different emphases, could make a difference to the student’s mindsets. The results were remarkable.

After the first test, the students were given a choice of whether to take a hard or an easy test.

A full two-thirds of the students praised for intelligence chose the easy task – they did not want to risk losing their “smart” label. But 90% of the effort-praised group chose the tough test – they wanted to prove just how hard working they were.

Then, the experiment came full circle, giving the students a chance to take a test of equal difficulty to the first test.

The group praised for intelligence showed a 20% decline in performance compared with the first test, even though it was no harder. But the effort-praised group increased their score by 30%. Failure had actually spurred them on.

Boy looking at laptop Many people believe that talent is a fixed quality

And all these differences turned on the difference in six simple words spoken after the very first test.

“These were some of the clearest findings I’ve seen,” Dweck said. “Praising children’s intelligence harms motivation and it harms performance.”

Intelligence-based praise orients the receiver towards the fixed mindset – it suggests to them that intelligence is of primary importance rather than the effort through which intelligence can be transformed.

And this takes us right back to those expressions of praise we started out with. They all sounded like confidence-boosting statements. But now listen to the subliminal messages in the background:

“If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart.”

“I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.”

“I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.”

This reveals a radical new approach to the way we engage with children – that we should praise effort, never talent; that we should teach kids to see challenges as learning opportunities rather than threats; and that we should emphasise how abilities can be transformed.

Experiments from around the world have shown that when parents and teachers adopt this approach, and stick to it, the results are remarkable.

See story @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13128701

Education Reform Realism

Michael Petrelli has ten proposals that he thinks should be part of federal education reform that are worth reading:

Expect states, as a condition of Title I funding, to adopt rigorous (i.e., “college- and career-ready”) academic standards in reading and math (either the Common Core standards or equally rigorous ones).

Likewise, expect states to adopt rigorous “cut scores” on tests aligned with those standards—making sure these cut scores signify true readiness for college and career.

Require states to develop the capacity to measure student growth over time.

Demand regular testing in science and history, not just reading and math, in order to reverse curricular narrowing and foster a more complete education in key subjects.

Eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and instead require states, as a condition of Title I funding, to adopt school-rating systems that provide transparent information to educators, parents, taxpayers, and voters. Such state reporting systems would have to be pegged to college and career readiness and, for high schools, to graduation rates. They would have to rate all schools annually on their effectiveness and include disaggregated data about subgroup performance.

Eliminate all federally mandated interventions in low-performing schools. Allow states to decide when and how to address failing schools—and other schools.

Eliminate the Highly Qualified Teachers mandate.

Rather than demand “comparability” of services across Title I and non-Title I schools, require districts to report detailed school-level spending information (so as to make spending inequities across and within districts more transparent).

Offer states the opportunity to sign flexibility agreements that would give them greater leeway over the use of their federal funds and would enable them to target resources more tightly on the neediest schools.

Turn reform-oriented formula grant programs into competitive ones. Specifically, transform Title II into a series of competitive grant programs, including Race to the Top, i3, charter-school expansion and improvement, a competitive version of School Improvement Grants, and an expanded Teacher Incentive Fund.

See story @ http://modeledbehavior.com/2011/04/25/education-reform-realism/

Michigan – Gov. Snyder Gives Preview Of His Education Reforms

Courtesy photo

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder offered some hints as to what his soon-to-be unveiled education reform plan will look like today in East Lansing at an education conference. He says he wants to empower teachers, and measure the results.

Snyder says student test scores are both “startling and scary,” and that Michigan is falling behind the country and the world in preparing young people for life after school.

“We need to do better and that’s something we need to focus on and we will,” he says.

The governor says he wants to relax school regulations s to give teachers and principals more freedom and responsibility over educational decisions. And then he says the state will measure what happens.

“Think about all the great talent, all the great resources that we have in our system, yet we’re not achieving the results that we have to achieve,” he says. “We need to put much more focus on proficiency, on growth, on measurements and results than we have had in the past.

“It’s about really delivering results for these kids. The whole system has to be geared to say, how do we make sure each and every child in our system gets a good year’s education each and every year.”

The governor also says he wants to do more to keep gifted teachers in classrooms, instead of promoting them into administrative positions. He also says he envisions an education system that starts with pre-school and continues past college.

The governor will announce his education reform plans at a press conference Wednesday in Detroit.

See story @ http://ipr.interlochen.org/ipr-news-features/episode/13215

Education Reform Bill Up For House Vote


Would revamp process for dismissing tenured teachers

If a new bill passes in the House of Representatives, Illinois may be a national trend-setter in educational reforms.

Senate Bill 7, a bill geared toward new performance-based reforms in teaching and tenure, passed unanimously in Senate last week and will be voted on in the House of Representatives soon.

Some of the things proposed in the bill include streamlining the process of dismissing tenured teachers, ensuring that tenure decisions are based on performance and putting safeguards in place so that lay-off decisions in districts are not based on seniority.

Perhaps the most important issue to west-central Illinoisans is a revamping of the process for dismissing tenured teachers.

“It’s so expensive to dismiss a tenured teacher now,” Jessica Handy, policy director for Stand for Children, an education advocacy group made up of parents, teachers and others with the mission of keeping children at the forefront of education policy. “Districts are supposed to put resources into evaluations and are supposed to provide teachers with good critical feedback, but without any practical way to dismiss a tenured teacher, we see it’s affected the way the process works.”

The initiative is not about just being able to dismiss teachers, Handy said, but being able to improve teachers and give them the feedback they need to get better.

Not everybody is cut out to be a teacher, said Les Stevens, superintendent of North Greene School District. If children aren’t learning, there could be something in the classroom going on that shouldn’t be or something not going on that should be.

The bill may have some positive points, but it has some questionable points to it as well, Stevens said.

The way tenure works now, if a teacher stays with a district for four years, tenure is awarded in the fifth year of teaching.

New performance criteria would factor into that tenure process so that a teacher must receive a proficiency or excellency rating in the first three years with a proficiency or excellency rating in the fourth.

High-caliber teachers whot receive excellency ratings the first three years would be eligible for tenure a year early.

But some of the ideas in the bill, such as the issue of portability — that a teacher with a couple years of proficient or excellent ratings can carry those ratings to another district — are questionable, Stevens said.

A teacher that carries those ratings to a new district would give a superintendent a shorter amount of time for evaluation before tenure is granted.

“If I know the teacher and I know the superintendent who gave the excellent rating and that convinces me I can trust them, that’s one thing,” Stevens said. “If they come clear across the state and someone I don’t know gives them an excellent rating, it might prevent me from hiring.”

This is bad for teachers in two ways, Stevens said; it could prevent superintendents from hiring and it could make superintendents hesitant to give out excellent ratings, even if the teacher deserves it.

The initiative is designed to downplay seniority as the deciding factor in layoffs for districts. In the event of a tie-breaker, seniority could come in play.

Other safeguards have been put in place in the bill to ensure that districts don’t target most expensive teachers either, Handy said.

“The point is not to be punitive, but to elevate the profession and build a vibrant school community where performance matters and is the driving force behind decision making,” Handy said.

But with the House of Representatives still having to vote, the bill is apt to change.

“Legislation is made like sausage,” Stevens said. “It has some good stuff and some bad stuff in there. I’m sure it’s pretty unusual to see it passed in either house unanimously, but it’s probably more frequent in the Senate because there are fewer people, so who knows how it may change.”

Sacramento Mayor Speaks on Urban Education Reform

Written by Kobé Armah,
Sacramento Mayor Johnson will speak in Raymond Great Hall on Thursday, April 21


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has made impact by supporting education reform and engaging the regional and national communities.

On Thursday, April 21 at 1 PM, the 55th mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson will speak at Pacific in Raymond Great Hall. Johnson will be speaking to the campus community and members of Political Science 104, Urban Government who have spent the semester discussing mayors and education.

Johnson will speak about the relationships between cities and schools, specifically in Sacramento. Regionally, African-Americans and to a lesser extent, Latino/a Americans have lower graduation rates and as a result, higher crime rates, Johnson has made it a priority to fix the problems surrounding education.

Johnson will also discuss his experiences as a member of the political arena and the impact of his reform initiatives. As an individual, Johnson is responsible for starting the St. HOPE non profit organization which holds public education and local economic development as a priority.

Ethnic studies is a part of upper division courses offered for students in the social sciences.

Johnson holds the distinction of being the first native resident of Sacramento to hold the office of Sacramento Mayor. He also holds the distinction of first African American Mayor of the California State Capital. Johnson joins the ranks of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and former Oakland Mayor Lionel J. Wilson by being the first African American mayor of a major Northern California city. The Sacramento Mayor is a University of California Berkeley Political Science graduate, where he was a star basketball player before continuing on to the NBA and the World Basketball Championships where he received a Gold Medal.

The event is open to the community and attendees will be able to ask questions and discuss topics related to his tenure as Mayor of Sacramento.

See story @ http://www.thepacifican.com/new/index.php?option=com_content_task=view_id=3163_Itemid=100016

Educating Your Child Should Not Be a Crime

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Professor, Syracuse University

When I heard about the case of Tonya McDowell, the homeless mother sent to jail for sending her 5-year-old son to the “wrong” school district, I immediately thought back to the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar not long ago. I wondered how the world has gone mad enough to somehow think that it should be against the law for mothers to find ways to get their children access to a high quality education.

As a result of this homeless single mother having the audacity to get her child into a good school, she is being charged with first-degree theft and also being asked to repay the $15,686 it allegedly cost to educate her child in the Norwalk, Conn. school district. No one cares that this family has no home. No one seems to care about what will happen if this child grows up without the only woman on earth wired to love him unconditionally. No one seems to care about the massive costs to the state of prosecuting this mother and eventually the child, as we deliberately trap them in an intergenerational cycle of poverty and criminal justice. All that seems to matter is that they keep this little boy out of their school.

When we formed our coalition to support Tonya’s situation, we were initially confused about the school predicament in Connecticut. If the schools in Ms. McDowell’s own district had been adequate in the first place, there would be nothing to prosecute (even though she told me that she lived in a van in Norwalk, making it legal for her to educate her child in that area). So, perhaps local officials should also be prosecuted for unconstitutionally denying Ms. McDowell’s child his educational opportunities.

If taking a seat in a public school is worth incarceration and living life as a convicted felon, then stealing a child’s mother and his future should certainly call for an even harsher penalty. So, I’d be remiss not to find the Mayor of Norwalk, Richard Moccia, guilty of abducting the infinite value of this child’s life by perpetuating academic apartheid in the state of Connecticut.

It’s not as if the state of Connecticut can’t afford the cost of helping Ms. McDowell find access to a home and an education. Connecticut is the third wealthiest state in the nation, and full of Wall Street billionaires who got rich by creating the greatest economic crisis in our nation’s history. The least that the state can do is change the laws that keep loving mothers like Tonya McDowell from having the ability to educate their children. We must find ways to rise above the madness and see educational inequality for the civil rights issue that it is. Throwing away our children and their mothers is not good for America.

See story @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-boyce-watkins/tonya-mcdowell-arrest_b_852014.html

Controversy Could Hurt UT in Long Run-UT Regent Cranberg Speaks Out.

By Melissa Ludwig

Recent controversy at the University of Texas System could hamper serious attempts for reform and taint the results of two task forces studying efficiency and online and blended learning, observers say.

“It is harmful for a bunch of false hysteria to be whipped up about what the board may or may not actually do,” said Alex Cranberg, a UT regent appointed in February.

Cranberg did not direct his comments at the task forces, one of which he sits on, but Richard Leshin, president of the Texas Exes, UT Austin‘s alumni association, did.

“The genesis (of the task forces) is tainted, so I think it will continue to be tainted,” Leshin said about the group’s work.

The controversy sparked six weeks ago when UT regents hired Rick O’Donnell, a Colorado native, to staff two UT task forces on distance learning and efficiency. News reports linked O’Donnell to Jeff Sandefer, a wealthy entrepreneur whose “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for higher education reform hold a lot of sway with Gov. Rick Perry, who made them the topic of a summit for university regents in 2008.


Despite a chilly reception to the solutions, Perry continued to push behind the scenes for implementation at Texas A_M University and the University of Texas systems, according to internal emails.

Texas A_M carried out a couple of the solutions, garnering backlash from faculty and the public. UT held back.

Observers speculated O’Donnell was brought in to “bring UT to heel” to the seven solutions, and rumors surfaced that regents tried to fire Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT System, and Bill Powers, president of UT Austin, for “insubordination.”

Cranberg said Friday the rumors are untrue.

“Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed or manipulating,” Cranberg said in an email.

Leshin, whose Texas Exes adopted a resolution this week supporting Powers, said he “has heard from some very good sources that the two were both considered at-risk.”

The Executive Committee of the Chancellor’s Council, which represents more than 300 donors to the UT System, issued a similar statement in support of Cigarroa earlier this month.

In the end, it was O’Donnell who got the pink slip.

His $200,000 a year salary and job description first raised alarms, prompting regents to reassign O’Donnell and made his job temporary. Emails later showed that Gene Powell, chairman of the board of regents, had settled on O’Donnell before even writing a job description.

Powell declined a request for an interview.

When it came out that O’Donnell had written a 2008 policy paper that deemed most academic research a waste of time and money, supporters of UT Austin feared a plot to destroy the flagship’s mighty research enterprise. An Express-News analysis later found two dozen citation and other errors in the paper, written for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

In letters and public statements, alumni, donors, students and lawmakers raised concerns that regents’ reforms were headed in the wrong direction.

On Monday, O’Donnell penned a letter to Regent Wallace Hall complaining that leaders at the system and the flagship campus had resisted his efforts to get data, which he said showed a growing share of tuition and tax dollars going to professors and administrators who did little teaching.

By Tuesday, O’Donnell was out of a job.

Like ‘Coca-Cola

Charles Miller, former chairman of the UT Board of Regents, said he believes Powell fumbled O’Donnell’s hiring, but that UT stakeholders overreacted with their public statements and letter-writing campaigns, damaging the school’s reputation nationally and abroad.

“If you are Coca-Cola, you don’t let your brand be diminished,” Miller said.

The work of the task forces is critically important, he said. Technology, combined with dwindling budgets, is forcing a paradigm shift in higher education. Leaders must find a way to lower the cost of educating while teaching more students. Powell’s instinct to study online education and productivity was right on, he said.

But will the task forces lose credibility in light of recent events?

“That could happen if we don’t tone down the discussion,” Miller said.

Kyle Kalkwarf, UT’s student regent and a medical student at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, disagreed.

“I don’t have a problem with people speaking up because they are interested,” Kalkwarf said. “I think it’s good we are having an open, frank discussion.”

Cranberg, a Coloradoan who has known O’Donnell for years and Sandefer from the oil and gas business, agreed that change is imperative, but denied that he is doing Perry’s bidding by pushing Sandefer’s seven solutions as the answer.

“Gov. Perry is a man whose opinions I respect,” Cranberg said. “However, I am very much my own man. I’m too committed to making a difference based on the principles I believe in to try running my life according to someone else’s belief system.”

Cranberg said excellence comes from “a fearless willingness to ask hard questions, experiment and capacity to make sometimes uncomfortable change.”

“I hope and expect that each campus’ leadership will be fearless in the pursuit of excellence and will follow that trail wherever it leads.”

A Leader Known to Close Low-Performing Schools, Fire Underperforming Principals, Link Teacher Pay to Student Test Scores


CHICAGO—Incoming Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel named a new schools chief Monday, choosing a leader known for his efforts to close low-performing schools, fire underperforming principals and link teacher pay to student test scores.

Jean-Claude Brizard, touring a Rochester school in September, began his career as a teacher in New York City.


Shawn Dowd/Democrat _ Chronicle

Jean-Claude Brizard, superintendent of schools in Rochester, N.Y., will succeed Terry Mazany, who has headed the nation’s third-largest school district since November 2010. Mr. Emanuel, who is scheduled to take office in May, made the announcement at Kelly High School on Chicago’s south side. The appointment must now be approved by the school board.

Mr. Brizard takes over a system that has seen three leaders in as many years. He will face a reported $750 million budget deficit, a looming contract negotiation with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, and a district that has lost its mantle as a national leader in education innovation.

Mr Brizard is the first schools chief plucked from outside Chicago since the mayor won the power to make the appointment in 1995. His appointment means the nation’s three largest school districts-—New York, Los Angeles and Chicago—each have a new leader.

Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Brizard “is not afraid of tough choices and that is what Chicago students need today.”

In Rochester, Mr. Brizard oversaw 32,000 students and 3,500 teachers. The mainly low-income, minority district struggled with achievement. A recent study by the New York Board of Regents found that only 5% of its graduates are prepared for college based on state test scores, compared to 41% statewide.

Write to Douglas Belkin at doug.belkin@wsj.com

See story @ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704004004576270973699315108.html?mod=googlenews_wsj