Grand Pianos, Subway Sandwiches, and Bounce Houses: Are Public Schools Spending Tax Dollars Efficiently?

Photo Courtesy of Images Money Public schools are often accused of wasteful spending. With the abundance of negative media coverage on this issue, it’s no surprise that these accusations are rampant. Last year, for example, a Kansas City high school was in the spotlight for its purchase of a $47,000 grand piano. Chicago Public Schools …

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The Rise and Fall of Common Assessments

In 1984, President Reagan’s Secretary of Education, Terrel Bell, introduced a new innovation at the Department of Education (ED). It was called the “wall chart”, and it ranked all 50 states’ educational systems on the basis of their average SAT scores. It was an admittedly crude measure of educational effectiveness. After all, no school’s curriculum …

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Researchers Revisit TNTP’s “Widget Effect”, Teacher Evaluations

Researchers Matthew A. Kraft and Allison F. Gilmour recently released a working paper which examined if new teacher evaluation systems have made any progress differentiating amongst teacher quality. In short, they find many states now do a better job distinguishing great teachers from good teachers, but states continue to struggle between differentiating good, average, and …

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Independent Streams (Week of March 28th)

This is the first post in our weekly round-up of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research (inspired by John Kingdon’s theory (link is external) of policymaking). Problems: Budget Overlooks Next Community in Crisis (link is external) by Charley Ballard in the Lansing State Journal The Future for Flint’s Children (link is external) by Mona Hanna-Attisha in …

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Jim Harrison Walks On

Here. Harrison was a long time resident of Michigan, including Leelanau County, where he knew many Anishinaabe people. He wrote a compelling introduction to the history of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Mem-ka-Weh: The Dawning of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He also wrote many Indian characters …

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Coin Flipping

I don’t recall the details, but in a group conversation recently someone brought up the fact that if you flip a fair coin repeatedly until you encounter a particular pattern, the expected number of tosses needed to get HH is greater than the expected number to get HT (H and T denoting head and tail …

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SITE 2016 Recap #siteconf #SITE2016

Last week I was honored to attend another SITE conference in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. SITE is always a wonderful opportunity to share work and to connect with colleagues.  This year, I was involved in two presentations – supporting work by the extremely talented Spencer Greenhalgh & Josh Rosenberg and presenting alongside our incredible MSU Urban …

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In the Hunt

The blog is posting a few hours later than usual this week because I’m just back from dinner at my mother-in-law’s after flying in from Houston: ham, peas, scalloped potatoes. It was cooked up special by the kitchen, and the place was buzzing with relatives of other residents visiting for the Easter weekend. Food becomes central …

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Genetic ancestry and brain morphology

Population structure — i.e., distribution of gene variants by ancestral group — is reflected in brain morphology, as measured using MRI. Brain morphology measurements can be used to predict ancestry. Strictly speaking, the data only show correlation, not genetic causation, but the most plausible interpretation is that genetic differences are causing morphological differences. One could …

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$1 Trillion – It’s Your Money

The Ploughshares Fund tracks nuclear weapons production and spending in an effort to reduce and eliminate the ultimate weapons of mass destruction that like the sword of Damocles hangs above our collective heads. They currently estimate there are 15,375 with the vast majority in the hands of the U.S. (6,970) and Russia (7,300) and the …

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Repurposing Your Scholarly Skills

About to start your first stint in academic leadership? Congratulations! Feeling apprehensive? That’s hardly surprising: many challenges are surely in your future. But you are probably more prepared than you think. This essay is aimed at faculty members who are planning to try their hands at academic leadership and are wondering whether they have what …

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Inequitable Teacher Distribution Prompts Urban ‘Grow Your Own’ Programs

Teacher Shortages in High-Need Areas Inequitable teacher distribution has been a problem in the U.S. since the advent of universal education. Because teachers are free to choose where they work, schools in geographical areas that appear less appealing tend to attract fewer potential educators. Areas with higher poverty rates, in particular, are likely to struggle to find great …

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The Silent City Killer

Michigan cities owe a staggering $7 billion (link is external) in unfunded OPEB liabilities. I recently published a study (link is external) which examines liabilities (debt) for cities in Michigan, particularly OPEB liabilities. OPEB stands for Other Post Employment Benefits, i.e. healthcare plans/benefits for retired workers. A large amount of city operating costs are city …

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Crisis

This morning, the following things happened in this order: PEGIDA shared a post by Vera Lengsfeld, CDU politician, which implied that Merkel was responsible for the attacks in Brussels due to her open-door policy. I shared this post, expressing concern for Lengsfeld’s Orbanization – i.e. the process by which those who were involved in the Peaceful …

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Tightrope Walking in Heels

We’ve just finished hosting a Quantitative Biology Workshop at Spelman to attract our Atlanta-area colleagues and bring a few collaborators in town. In about a week, I’ll be at NSF for a panel. Somehow, I’m also moving in the midst of this… In trying to have some strategy so that I’ve got everything I need to …

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EU-Turkey Deal

On March 7, 2016, the EU Heads of State or Government met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss the deal reached with Turkey about ten days later.  The EU Council has published an English press release of the plan here. The initial paragraphs of this plan are already disappointing, and illustrate how shortsighted the …

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Chin Warmers

Adzuki beans and arepas make for a pretty good cold weather supper about this time of year. I know we are supposed to be in the midst of Earth shattering changes that will drive all of us into our backyards during late March to grill out before the seriously hot weather sets in. In total …

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Dialog 2016

Everything at this meeting is off the record, so I can’t say much about it. The one comment I’ll make is that among this group of elites almost no one I’ve spoken to groks Trump or his appeal to a large number of Americans. Dialog is an biannual 2-day thought retreat, gathering 150 global leaders …

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Judge Garland’s Indian Law Record

President Obama is expected to announce D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court. Judge Garland has a very limited record on Indian law issues. He was on the panel that decided Ramapough Mountain Indians v. Norton, an unsigned per curiam decision from 2001, that affirmed the Interior Department’s decision not to acknowledge the Ramapough …

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Trust in Government 1995-2015

Since 1995, Michigan State University’s State of the State Survey has tracked the views of Michigan residents on a wide array of topics. This survey, a part of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, asks questions about trust in government once a year. The data tell some powerful stories about the attitudes of …

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Archaeology 101 Roundup

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled blogs this Thursday.  But first, a big congratulations to CAP Fellow and former Campus Archaeologist Kate Frederick on the birth of her son! In 2010 CAP posted a series of blogs called Archaeology 101 designed to teach readers some fundamental archaeological skills and terminology.  If you haven’t read them …

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Right to Work Effects Overblown

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to pursue a right-to-work law in 2012 drew massive protests to the Michigan Capitol, moving state politics momentarily to the center of national attention. Each side predicted monumental changes stemming from the law, which went into effect in March 2013 and outlawed mandatory payments of union dues as an employment …

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