“Judge rules in favor of charter taking over two L.A. schools.” No by-line. Los Angeles Times. September 19, 2011. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the city school district can allow an outside group to run two long-struggling campuses. The teachers union had sued to stop the Los Angeles Unified School District from letting Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school organization, take over all of Clay Middle School in Athens and half of Jordan High in Watts. The other half of Jordan is operated by a nonprofit group backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Classes have started at both campuses. Teachers union officials had claimed that the district needed the approval of the majority of permanent teachers at the two schools before giving Green Dot control, but the judge ruled that the district was “obligated” to take action under federal and state law. Teachers union officials said they planned to appeal the decision.
FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS & COLLEGES
“For-Profit Colleges Reaping Benefits From Veterans.” By Chris Kirkham. Huffington Post. September 22, 2011. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan use billions of dollars in federal benefits to pay for higher education, for-profit colleges are capturing more than a third of the money — about $1.6 billion — despite educating only a quarter of the veterans, according to a report released Thursday by a Senate committee. The analysis of the $4.4 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill money doled out in the 2010-2011 school year shows that the largest for-profit college corporations were also among the largest recipients of veterans benefit money, raising questions about the ways veterans are actively recruited by institutions with poor graduation rates and high price tags. Eight of the 10 largest recipients of GI Bill money disbursed last school year were for-profit college corporations, including the parent companies for the University of Phoenix and ITT Technical Institute, dwarfing the amounts going to large state university systems such as the University of Maryland and the University of Texas. The amount of GI Bill money going to those eight companies surged between the 2009 and 2010 school years, jumping from $393 million to more than $1 billion. Veterans are attractive recruits for for-profit colleges because of the way GI Bill benefits are accounted for under federal law. Under a provision known as the 90/10 rule, the government requires that schools derive no more than 90 percent of revenues from federal financial aid dollars — a challenging requirement for some for-profit colleges that rely on federal student aid for a vast majority of revenues. GI Bill money from the Department of Veterans Affairs technically doesn’t count under the 90 percent category, allowing schools to count the money toward the non-federal 10 percent of revenues. As the amount of money allotted to veterans for college has drastically increased after the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008, many for-profit colleges have directed substantial resources toward recruiting veterans. Many of the large schools, including University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, have created separate recruiting divisions to seek out veterans and active-duty military personnel.
“Too Much GI Bill Money Going To For-Profit Schools?” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. September 22, 2011.
“For-Profit Colleges, Vulnerable G.I.’s.” New York Times. September 21, 2011.
“Buying Local, Feeding Needy, Till Fordham Calls a Halt.” By Matt Flegenheimer. New York Times. September 18, 2011. The project seemed tailor-made for a university brochure: Students promoting locally grown food. A soup kitchen taking in the leftovers. An aspiring lawyer, from bucolic Essex, Vt., making Manhattan feel closer to some green space. For more than 18 months, the farm-share program at Fordham University School of Law appeared to be fulfilling its mission: Students, as well as faculty and staff members, paid about $150 per semester to buy a share of a harvest from a farm in central New York. Yet despite its success, the group, Farm to Fordham, was officially shuttered last week — the culmination of a convoluted process that began in April, when security personnel refused to open the gate for a vegetable delivery. Over the next few months, the group’s founder, Michael Zimmerman, a third-year law student, tried to satisfy Fordham’s requests so it could reopen, but to no avail: on Wednesday, he was forwarded an e-mail from the university’s legal counsel, indicating that it would no longer allow the initiative. “Fordham cannot be placed in a position to break the law,” the message read, in part. Months earlier, the university had told Mr. Zimmerman that to maintain the program, he would need to secure a one-day catering permit each time the farm made a delivery. But the program was not a catering service; it was a community-supported agriculture network. And neither the State Department of Agriculture and Markets nor the city’s health department issues or requires permits for such networks. Bob Howe, Fordham’s director of communications, acknowledged that the permit requirement from the university amounted to “a Catch-22.” But the decision, he said, incorporated a host of other factors: the specter of infestation, concerns about honoring the university’s food service contracts, and the program’s potential interference with construction at the law school.
“University celebrates successful campaign; Yale Tomorrow, the Yale Corporation’s five-year fundraising drive, contributed $3.885 billion to the University’s endowment.” By Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. September 19, 2011. The Yale Tomorrow conclusion celebration, held this past Saturday, gave donors the opportunity to visualize the impact their gifts will have on the University. As part of a presentation about Yale’s plans for the future, donors seated in Sprague Memorial Hall watched a video in which the camera flew through detailed mock-ups of Yale’s two new residential colleges, to be constructed in the upcoming years with funds contributed in part from the campaign. Yale Tomorrow’s most prominent volunteers and donors — those who contributed over $100,000 during the campaign — returned to campus Friday and Saturday for presentations and events designed to thank them for their support and give them a preview of its uses. The five-year fundraising drive brought in $3.885 billion in gifts to the endowment, money for construction projects and current-year funding for scholarships and student activities.
“Yale’s endowment ‘on track’.” Yale Daily News. September 22, 2011.
“Stanford Bid Intensifies.” By Jacob Gershman and Joseph De Avila. Wall Street Journal. September 20, 2011. Stanford University, which is aggressively pursuing a chance to win city land and money from the Bloomberg administration, is in talks with City University of New York officials about teaming up on a bid to construct an engineering and applied-sciences campus on Roosevelt Island, people familiar with the matter said. Officials at Stanford, the out-of-town favorite in a city-sponsored competition for academic land and as much as $100 million in city support, met with CUNY officials last week at the Grove School of Engineering at City College in Manhattan to discuss a potential partnership, these people said. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signaled interest in wooing Stanford, the school is confronting some competitive push-back, particularly from rival universities in the area. “It strengthens their position to have local partners,” said one official involved in the process. Stanford is looking at a 10-acre strip of Roosevelt Island for a campus—one of several sites offered by the city—envisioning a faculty of 100 and a graduate-student body of 2,200. The school has pitched itself as a world-renowned incubator of venture capital and jobs that helped spawn one of America’s greatest tech clusters, Silicon Valley. It has an endowment larger than that of Columbia and New York University combined.
“California: Tiny All-Male College Will Admit Women.” By Tamar Lewin. New York Times. September 19, 2011. Resolving decades of debate, the trustees of Deep Springs College, a tiny, free, all-male college in an isolated eastern California valley, voted over the weekend to admit women. In a Sunday e-mail to alumni, David Hitz, the president of the board, said the “earliest conceivable date” women might be admitted to the two-year liberal arts college is the summer of 2013, but added that it was too early to know whether that would be possible. The 26 students at Deep Springs, in Big Pine, have had unusual control over the college’s admission, hiring and curriculum since its founding in 1917. They are required to work at least 20 hours a week on the college’s farm or cattle ranch. Most graduates complete their bachelor’s degrees at Ivy League colleges.
“Universities Seeking Out Students of Means.” By Tamar Lewin. New York Times. September 21, 2011. Money is talking a bit louder in college admissions these days, according to a survey to be released Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for higher education professionals. More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September. Similarly, 22 percent of the admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn had led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants’ ability to pay. “As institutional pressures mount, between the decreased state funding, the pressure to raise a college’s profile, and the pressure to admit certain students, we’re seeing a fundamental change in the admissions process,” said David A. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “Where many of the older admissions professionals came in through the institution and saw it as an ethically centered counseling role, there’s now a different dynamic that places a lot more emphasis on marketing.” In the survey, 10 percent of the admissions directors at four-year colleges — and almost 20 percent at private liberal-arts schools — said that the full-pay students they were admitting, on average, had lower grades and test scores than other admitted applicants.
“A $42 Million Gift Aims at Improving Bedside Manner.” By Dirk Johnson. New York Times. September 22, 2011. Carolyn Bucksbaum still bristles about an arrogant physician who brusquely dismissed her intuition about her ailment decades ago. It turned out she was right. The physician was wrong. Years later, Ms. Bucksbaum and her husband, Matthew, would come under the care of Dr. Mark Siegler at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a doctor they found compassionate and humble. “He goes by Mark,” Ms. Bucksbaum noted approvingly, “not ‘Doctor.’ ” Medical students, they thought, could do well to emulate him. Now, the Bucksbaums are donating $42 million to the university to create an institute devoted to improving medical students’ handling of the doctor-patient relationship. The Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence, to be announced Thursday, will be led by Dr. Siegler. If it seems like a lot of money for teaching good bedside manners, researchers point to many studies that indicate a good rapport between doctors and patients strongly correlates with favorable health outcomes. Nearly all medical schools teach the importance of listening to patients and showing empathy. But the Bucksbaum Institute is an ambitious effort to put compassion and empathy, as Dr. Siegler puts it, “on the same pedestal as science and technology.”
“Harvard Endowment Jumps 21.4 Percent; Value Rises to $32 Billion, But Returns Underperform S&P 500.” By Gautam S. Kumar and Zoe A. Y. Weinberg. Harvard Crimson. September 22, 2011. Harvard’s endowment posted a 21.4 percent gain for fiscal year 2011, bringing the endowment’s value up to $32 billion, the University announced Thursday in the annual report of the Harvard Management Company. The gains are about 1.2 percent above HMC’s policy portfolio benchmark—the goals that the company’s investment managers set for themselves—for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011. The increase from $27.4 billion at the close of the 2010 fiscal year is also nearly double the 11 percent rate of growth that HMC posted that year. But the returns fell 1.3 percent short of the returns of the S&P 500 Index, a standard used by many in the private sector, though HMC President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo noted that the S&P 500 Index might not be the most appropriate metric to judge HMC’s performance. “We don’t measure our portfolio return against the S&P—our goal is to add value over our benchmarks,” Mendillo said of outperforming the S&P 500 in an interview on Thursday. “Our priority is strong and stable long term returns rather than individual year performance.” Mendillo said that HMC’s board develops a comprehensive set of benchmarks for each of the asset classes through rigorous analysis and research of market conditions. The new value of the endowment brings the fund’s value closer to its pre-financial crisis levels, when it reached an all-time high of $36.9 billion. It also exceeds the growth benchmark of 8.25 percent that HMC seeks to maintain each year to provide funding for the University’s schools.
“Gallaudet University adjusts to a culture that includes more hearing students.” By Daniel de Vise. Washington Post. September 24, 2011. The quiet campus of Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington was always a place where students could speak the unspoken language of deaf America and be understood. That is no longer so true. For the first time in living memory, significant numbers of freshmen at the nation’s premiere university for the deaf and hard of hearing arrive lacking proficiency in American Sign Language and experience with deaf culture. Rising numbers of Gallaudet students are products of a hearing world. The share of undergraduates who come from mainstream public schools rather than residential schools for the deaf has grown from 33 percent to 44 percent in four years. The number of students with cochlear implants, which stimulate the auditory nerve to create a sense of sound, has doubled to 102 since 2005. Gallaudet is also enrolling more hearing students in programs to train sign-language interpreters and teachers. Together, the changes are redefining a school that sits at the very epicenter of American deaf society. A new generation of deaf and hard-of-hearing children can study where they please. Changes in federal law have rerouted deaf students from residential deaf schools to mainstream public campuses, which are now obliged to serve them. Cochlear implants are gaining acceptance and changing the nature of deafness, although the deaf community remains divided on their use. The influx of “non-signers,” who can hear and speak or who read lips or text, may be necessary for Gallaudet’s survival. Yet it has sparked passionate debate on whether the university is becoming “hearing-ized” and whether deaf culture is slipping away.
“An Improbable Unifier Presides Over Baylor.” By Reeve Hamilton. New York Times. September 24, 2011. Based solely on his brief tenure, Ken Starr might reasonably conclude that one of the annual summer duties of a Baylor University president is scrambling to preserve the Big 12 Conference. On May 31, 2010, Mr. Starr, the former federal judge and Clinton antagonist, pulled into the driveway of the Allbritton House, the official president’s residence of the roughly 15,000-student, private Baptist-affiliated institution here. He took office on June 1. The next day, he found himself in Kansas City, Mo., negotiating the preservation of the conference as two universities, Nebraska and Colorado, broke away. If that was a 400-meter dash, Mr. Starr said, this summer had been a marathon. Texas A&M’s effort to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference threw the future of the region’s major athletic conference — which also includes the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma and Texas Tech University — in turmoil, and century-old rivalries in doubt. While the larger universities would be picked up quickly by other major conferences if it came to that, Baylor would risk getting left behind — a potentially devastating blow to its prominence and prestige. In the last major conference shake-up, in the mid-1990s, Baylor’s interests were protected by powerful alumni: Gov. Ann Richards and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock. That luxury no longer exists. Athletic conference instability has easily been the most significant struggle of his first year, Mr. Starr said. Otherwise, the unlikely Baylor president has thrived beyond expectations — something that even those who opposed his appointment happily concede.
PRIVATE & PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS
“St. Francis Center an oasis near Redwood City.” By Carolyn Jones. San Francisco Chronicle. September 22, 2011. One of the Peninsula’s top-performing schools is also among the most selective. But it’s not money, good grades and alumni connections that get you in to the St. Francis Center. “We choose the poorest. The poorest of the poor. That’s it. That’s the only criteria,” said Sister Christina Heltsley, executive director of the center in the mostly Latino North Fair Oaks neighborhood near Redwood City. Every six years, the St. Francis Center selects 12 students – most recently from a pool of 52 applicants – to study together from kindergarten through fifth grade. While the students are taught, the center helps their parents with English and job skills. Along with the other services the center provides, such as food donations, the school has transformed one of the most forlorn areas in the Bay Area into a bastion of hope. St. Francis Center is about to expand. On Nov. 19, the center plans to open a $4 million gymnasium and study hall for teens, in hopes of providing a healthier lure than the local gang culture. When the gym is complete, the center’s empire will include, in addition to the school, 28 units of low-income housing, a food pantry, day care center, community garden, clothing shop, immigration services and classrooms for clients to learn English and study for the Graduation Equivalency Exam. All the services are free. The only restriction is that families cannot accept food or clothing more than once a month, to discourage dependency. The center’s $350,000 annual budget comes from private donations and grants. Nothing from the government, nothing from the archdiocese.
“Detractors: Ind. Voucher System Promotes Religion.” By Kyle Stokes. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. September 23, 2011. Indiana’s new voucher program allows families with incomes up to $62,000 to take a portion of the funds that would have gone to a public school and convert it into a scholarship that can be used at a private school. The program has brought an enrollment rush at Catholic schools. Opponents fear the vouchers could siphon money away from public schools, and uses state funds to offer religious education.
“New Head at Fieldston School Is an Unconventional Choice.” By Rachel Ohm and Jenny Anderson. New York Times. September 22, 2011. Sitting amid unpacked boxes in his office overlooking Central Park this month, Damian J. Fernandez, the new head at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, took a moment to reflect on Felix Adler, the educator and social reformer who founded Fieldston in 1878 as a tuition-free school for workingmen’s children. “My job is about delivering the promise of Adler in the 21st century,” Dr. Fernandez said. “I’m Adler with an iPhone, iPad and Latino accent.” After an unsettling and prolonged period without a permanent leader, the school has made a somewhat unconventional choice. If Adler had an innovative approach to education in the late 19th century — he believed that diversity enhanced education, that ethics should be taught alongside academics and that children learned by doing, not listening — then Dr. Fernandez may be a logical successor. His pedigree is distinctly not East Coast elite. Dr. Fernandez, 54, was born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico. He has never run a secondary school, and he last taught high school students more than 30 years ago, at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. His most recent job was provost at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York system. He plans to spend a year getting to know the faculty, parents and students, facilitating discussions rather than imposing his ideas (“They’d shoot me,” he joked, referring to the faculty). But he has clear plans and goals. Academically, he hopes to strengthen the foreign-language program, to start students earlier and require fluency. He wants to strengthen the high school science and math programs, he said, “in a way that enhances creativity and problem solving,” and bring ethics — a core Fieldston subject — “back to its right fullness.”
PUBLIC SCHOOL PHILANTHROPY
“A material loss for schools; Safety fears spur eviction of vaunted supply source.” By Geoff Edgers. Boston Globe. September 19, 2011. At ExCL, as it’s known, this is a familiar scene, as teachers, therapists, and others have stopped by for things they couldn’t afford to buy at standard art and office supply stores. For $40, ExCL members can haul off eight carloads of material a year. But as Schmidt explained to this teacher, this would be his last visit to the Latin Academy space. In August, the Boston Fire Department ordered ExCL out of the basement, citing a series of code violations and other issues that make the space a fire hazard. After a frenzied final week of sales, ExCL closed as a business on Sept. 2. Schmidt, one of the two full-time staffers, has been packing up felt, bottle tops, empty lemon juice containers, and other assorted objects ever since. The organization has to be out of the basement Sept. 23. They’re going to keep in storage as much as they can box up. The closing has upset many of ExCL’s 750 members, sparking letters and e-mails to school officials and Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office. “I can’t believe they’re going to let this place go,’’ said Theresa Price-Frank, a retired teacher in Boston who had continued to pick up art supplies at ExCL and stopped by to help s taffers pack. “They have supplies that don’t come with the regular school budget. It saved me thousands of dollars over the years.’’ Founded in 1981, ExCL gets art and office supplies from businesses and offers them to members at cut rates. Since 1998, the organization – which also holds workshops for teachers and students on subjects ranging from bookmaking to origami – has been housed in the almost-8,000-square-foot basement of Latin Academy, a musty room that used to be a swimming pool. That rent-free space has been the subject of concern for the Boston Fire Department, which has cited ExCL for a variety of issues over the years.
“Facebook Funds Go to Teachers.” By Lisa Fleisher. Wall Street Journal. September 21, 2011. Some of Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark school system will be given directly to public schoo lteachers, one year after the Facebook founder announced the donation, said three people familiar with the plans. The foundation that manages the gift will announce Wednesday a two-year, $600,000 program that provides $10,000 grants to teachers or groups of teachers who come up with innovative classroom programs, these people said. It’s one of the few programs so far to come out of the high-profile donation, which was announced on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” last year by Mr. Zuckerberg, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Mr. Zuckerberg’s gift has drawn scrutiny from some Newark residents who are skeptical of outside direction after years of state control for the city’s school system has done little to alleviate its problems. City and state officials will begin promoting the program at a news conference on Wednesday, including Mr. Booker, acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the new Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson and Greg Taylor, the new CEO of the Foundation for Newark’s Future, which is managing the gift. They will review the $6.4 million in grants the foundation has allocated so far—including the new teacher grants—and talk about the future of Mr. Zuckerberg’s gift. Some of the funding has gone toward opening new schools, extending school days and recruiting teachers.
“Parents aren’t ready to quit on L.A. Unified; They vow to raise funds to pay for library aides whose jobs are on the line.” By Steve Lopez. Los Angeles Times. September 21, 2011. Lay off 227 elementary school library aides? Whack the hours of another 190 aides in half and eliminate their healthcare benefits? Lock up libraries in a school district desperate to lift literacy rates? Sounds like either a bad joke or a satirical take on the decline of civilization. But no: It’s the working plan for how to save money in Los Angeles Unified, as I laid out last week. The fight isn’t quite over, though. Some folks, who consider the library-demolition idea one of the dumbest things they’ve ever heard, are firing off letters of protest and working to derail the plan before cutbacks go into effect next week. “It’s just deeply, deeply wrong,” said Shelli-Anne Couch, who is scrambling to collect private donations and save her children’s library at Atwater Elementary School. “It’s just unfathomable, and where do you turn your firepower? Do I go hat in hand trying to raise money, or find some politicians whose heads I can bang together?” For now, she’s chosen the former. Couch, president of her school’s parent group, has launched an online campaign to raise $15,000, hoping to save the job of a library aide who works three hours a day. But as of Tuesday, Couch and Friends of Atwater Elementary School had only come up with $2,600. And it gets even more maddening: Last year, parents at the school raised $20,000 in grants and private donations to build a reading garden outside the library, an inviting little oasis with benches, redwood planters, an arbor, native plants and vegetables. Nice place to read a book, except that now the library may be closed. They’ve seen their library aide of eight years go from a six-hour daily schedule to a three-hour daily schedule to a layoff notice. Now it looks as if Mia Buis, who is much beloved by parents and students, judging by tributes to her, will be out of work after Friday, even though parents raised money specifically to pay her salary of about $12,000. The principal, Julia Charles, is just as frustrated as the parents. Because of union and district policies, she said, parents are sometimes allowed to fund a position, but not to designate a specific person for the job. That means that, despite the parents’ efforts, Buis won’t be allowed to fill the job because she has less seniority than some other aides. And Charles will have to petition the district to see if she can even get a replacement.