Saturday, February 28, 2015

Legal marijuana in Washington DC?

Washington DC, the nation's capital, has less local government than most jurisdictions in the U.S., since it isn't a state or part of one. So it is subject to direct federal control, which now pits the Democratic city government against the Republican congress on the matter of marijuana:
Republicans Warn Washington to Think Twice About Legalizing Marijuana

"Some Congressional Republicans said Thursday that they would increase their efforts to prevent residents here from possessing small amounts of marijuana, which became legal in Washington at midnight, and warned that the city would face numerous investigations and hearings should the mayor continue her practice of telling them to please find something else to worry about."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Adultery is no longer illegal in S. Korea--and share price of condom maker soars

The Guardian has the story just before the court decision...: South Korean court to rule on making adultery legal

"South Korea’s Constitutional Court is set to rule on a motion to strike down a controversial law that outlaws adultery and threatens violators with jail time.

It marks the fifth time in 25 years that the apex court has considered the constitutional legality of a 1953 statute which makes South Korea one of the few non-Muslim countries to regard marital infidelity a criminal act.

And the statute isn’t a historical quirk that simply gathers legislative dust.

In the past six years, close to 5,500 people have been formerly arraigned on adultery charges - including nearly 900 in 2014."


...and just after:
Condom maker's shares surge after South Korea legalises adultery
Unidus, the country’s largest contraceptive manufacturer, saw a 15% spike in the value of its stock on same day law banning extramarital sex was repealed

"In South Korea, extramarital sex just got a whole lot safer, after the country’s highest court overturned a law banning adultery.

The abolition of the 62-year-old law on Thursday saw the share price of the country’s biggest condom maker, Unidus, surge 15% – the daily limit on the country’s Kosdaq market. "

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kuznets' Nobel Prize medal auction

The auction of the medal that Simon Kuznets received with his Nobel Prize in Economics in 1971 ended this evening.

The auction had a minimum bid of $150,000, and a soft close, i.e. the closing time was extended for 30 minutes (I think) beyond the last bid. All the bids were made on the last day, and the auction was extended for several bids before reaching the final price of $385,848.

Doctor-assisted dying in Canada

The Globe and Mail has the story:

Supreme Court rules Canadians have right to doctor-assisted suicide

"Canadian adults in grievous, unending pain have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.


The unanimous ruling, by establishing that the “sanctity of life” also includes the “passage into death,” extends constitutional rights into a new realm. The courts have used the 1982 Charter of Rights to establish gay marriage and to strike down a federal abortion law. The new ruling will change the way some Canadians are permitted to die.
In a brief, powerful opening paragraph, the court explained why it was creating a new constitutional right to autonomy over one’s death in some circumstances: Those who are severely and irremediably suffering, whether physically or psychologically, “may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering” by the government’s absolute ban on assisted dying. “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”
The decision was signed by The Court, which happens occasionally when the justices wish to lend their decisions extra weight. The nine judges, who range in age from mid-50s to 74, dismissed the notion that competent adults cannot consent to their death. “We do not agree that the existential formulation of the right to life requiresan absolute prohibition on assistance in dying, or that individuals cannot ‘waive’ their right to life. This would create a ‘duty to live,’” the ruling says.
The court decision puts Canada in the company of a small group of countries such as Belgium – and U.S. states Washington and Oregon – that permit doctor-assisted death. And it gives the Conservative government difficult choices as it heads toward an election expected in the fall. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months to allow for new rules and laws to be drafted, but Ottawa could choose to do nothing, and allow provinces and medical regulatory bodies to create the ground rules for assisted death. Or it could do what it did when the Supreme Court struck down prostitution laws 14 months ago: study international models and then create a uniquely Canadian version that may or may not respect the principles established by the court."


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is it (always) repugnant for professors to date students?

Some recent policy decisions at Harvard and Arizona State clarify their position on romantic relationships between professors and students.

At Arizona State they've rejected a measure that would condemn all relationships between any professor and any student, and confined the ban to professors and students who they "teach, supervise, or evaluate."

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the story:

 by 

Faculty members at Arizona State University voted on Monday to broaden the institution’s prohibition on dating between professors and students, reports The Arizona Republic.
The University Senate voted, 76 to 11, to ban professors from dating students over whom the professors can “reasonably be expected” to have authority. The current policy forbids relationships between professors and the students they teach, supervise, or evaluate.
Last fall the faculty body rejected a measure that would have banned all relationships between professors and students, save exemptions granted by the provost. The new policy still requires approval from the administration to take effect."  
******************

The Harvard policy forbids all relationships between professors and undergraduates, but forbids relationships with graduate students only if the professor is teaching or supervising them.

"FAS Policy on Relationships between People of Different University Status:
•     The FAS policy prohibits romantic or sexual relationships between its faculty and any undergraduate student at Harvard College, regardless of whether the instructor is currently supervising or teaching that student. The FAS Policy also prohibits romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and graduate students or Division of Continuing Education students whom the faculty member is teaching or supervising.
•     The FAS policy does not expressly forbid other kinds of romantic or sexual relationships, but it does describe the expectations for relationships between people of different university status."
(see http://www.fas.harvard.edu/files/fas/files/sexual_and_gender-based_harassment_policy_and_procedures_for_the_fas_.pdf)
***********




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tomas Sjostrom on the Nobel Economics Prize committee

The Daily Targum, the student newspaper of Rutgers university, talks to Tomas Sjostrom about his work as a member of the committee that selects the recipients for the Nobel Economics Prize.
Professor details dual role as Nobel Prize Committee member

"in February, Sjostrom and his colleague on the committee will start to go through the extensive list of promising candidates.
“After reducing the list to reasonable nominations, we discuss the candidates [for] meetings after meetings as the spring goes on,” Sjostrom said. "

Monday, February 23, 2015

"three parent babies" to cure mitochondrial disease

The BBC has the story: MPs say yes to three-person babies (not without controversy):

"MPs have voted in favour of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man, in an historic move.

"The UK is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people.

"In a free vote in the Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child.

"During the debate, ministers said the technique was "light at the end of a dark tunnel" for families.

"A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year.

"Proponents said the backing was "good news for progressive medicine" but critics say they will continue to fight against the technique that they say raises too many ethical and safety concerns.

"Estimates suggest 150 three-person babies could be born each year.

"Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We're not playing god here, we're just making sure that two parents who want a healthy baby can have one."
...
"Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. They have their own DNA, which does not affect characteristics such as appearance.

"Defective mitochondria are passed down only from the mother. They can lead to brain damage, muscle wasting, heart failure and blindness.

"The technique uses a modified version of IVF to combine the DNA of the two parents with the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman.

"It results in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman and is a permanent change that would be passed down through the generations.
...
"Last week the Catholic and Anglican Churches in England said the idea was not safe or ethical, not least because it involved the destruction of embryos.

"Other groups, including Human Genetics Alert, say the move would open the door to further genetic modification of children in the future - so-called designer babies, genetically modified for beauty, intelligence or to be free of disease."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2014 CME Group - MSRI Prize to Jose Sheinkman

Congratulations (a bit belated) to Jose Sheinkman

The 9th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications will be awarded to JOSÉ A. SCHEINKMANthe Edwin W. Rickert Professor of Economics at Columbia University, Theodore A. Wells ‘29 Professor of Economics (emeritus) at Princeton University and a Research Associate at the NBER at a luncheon in Chicago on February 9.  By invitation only.



Prior to the lunch and award presentation, a panel discussion on "Bubbles in the market: Why do they form, when do they pop?" will be held with Gadi Barlevy (Senior Economist and Research Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago), Lars Hansen (David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, Statistics & the College, University of Chicago), Harrison Hong (John Scully 1966 Professor of Economics and Finance, Department of Economics, Princeton University), Leonid Kogan (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management), Pietro Veronesi (Roman Family Professor of Finance, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago), and Wei Xiong (Hugh Leander and Mary Trumbull Adams Professor in Finance and Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Bendheim Center for Finance, Princeton University).  The panel will be moderated by David Eisenbud (Director, MSRI and Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley)
The annual CME Group-MSRI Prize is awarded to an individual or a group, to recognize originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Comments on the FCC incentive auction

Peter Cramton writes:

Dear Al,

Yesterday, I filed at the FCC some research that my team has been working on for some time. It is a good example of market design in action, combining economics, computer science, and operations research to design better markets. I am sending this to you because I thought that you may be interested and the market design community more broadly. I paste below the link and the abstract.

All the best,
Peter

“Design of the Reverse Auction in the FCC Incentive Auction” (with Hector Lopez, David Malec and Pacharasut Sujarittanonta), Working Paper, University of Maryland, 19 February 2015. [See also FCC Comment Public NoticeEOBC CommentKagan Comment]

We consider important design issues of the reverse auction, a key and innovative part of the FCC’s Incentive Auction. In the reverse auction, broadcasters compete to repurpose television broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband use. The Comment Public Notice (FCC 14-191) outlined the basic structure of the reverse auction. We take that basic structure as given and then examine critical elements of the design to maximize the FCC’s objectives of efficiency, simplicity, transparency, and fairness. Based on extensive simulation analysis of the FCC’s basic design, we identify important enhancements to the design that maintain its basic structure, yet improve the chance of a successful auction. This is accomplished by strengthening incentives for broadcaster participation and relying on competitive forces to determine auction clearing prices. Our analysis is based on a carefully-crafted reservation price model for broadcasters together with inevitable uncertainties of these reservation prices. In our simulations, we are able to clear 126 MHz of spectrum at a cost that is well within plausible revenues from the forward auction. This is accomplished with an improved scoring rule and replacing Dynamic Reserve Prices (DRP) with a much simpler Round Zero Reserve (RZR, pronounced “razor”) to promote objectives of transparency and simplicity. We also propose a much simplified method of setting the clearing target and an information policy that allows for important outcome discovery. Relative to the FCC’s proposal outlined in the Comment PN, our enhanced proposal is more robust, more efficient, simpler, more transparent, and fairer.
****************

Here is the FCC's request for comments

Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures for Broadcast Incentive Auction 1000, Including 1001 and 1002

Friday, February 20, 2015

Tinder and the new dating game

Profiles are as old hat as email; the new dating game is about swiping pictures left and right:the NY Times has the story... Led by Tinder, the Mobile Dating Game Surges

"Online dating, long dominated by big outfits like Match.com and eHarmony, has in the last two years been transformed by the rise of Tinder, the mobile phone app that lets its users scan photos and short profiles of potential dates.
Then, as easy as a swipe of a finger, you can decide if you want to chat or pass on a prospect.
But Tinder’s free app isn’t the only mobile dating game in town. Many app makers are trying to capitalize on the Tinder method of simple, smartphone-based dating. Of course, they add a twist to the swipe.
An app called Hinge sifts only through your Facebook connections for friends of friends. Clover offers Tinder-like features but with an added, if dubious, bonus called “On-Demand Dating.” Think Uber for dating — you pick a location and a date, and Clover sends someone to meet you.


“Because there’s such an increase in smartphone usage, it directly relates to the increase in dating app usage,” said Julie Spira, an online dating guru who runs a site called Cyber-Dating Expert. “People are dating on the fly, they’re dating in real time, they’re hooking up or meeting for dates, they’re doing both. Same day, same hour.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

School choice, and the information needed to make good choices

In Education Week, Arianna Prothero writes about school choice and the difficulties parents may have in evaluating schools in cities including New Orleans, Denver, and the District of Columbia, three cities in which IIPSC has helped role out school choice.

Parents Confront Obstacles as School Choice Expands

"Research shows that an abundance of school choice doesn't guarantee access, and many parents in high-choice cities struggle to find adequate information, transportation, and, ultimately, the right school for their children.
...
"But parents, especially those with less education or with children who have special needs, face multiple barriers when choosing a school, according to an ongoing series of reports from the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education.
This issue has long raised questions among advocates inside and outside the school choice movement about how much of the burden of quality assurance should rest with parents, and what role local governments or other entities should play in regulating the school choice marketplace.
...
"Excellent Schools Detroit has been trying to fill that need by grading schools in the city using a common set of metrics. Parents, teachers, and outside education experts help evaluate school performance and culture, and the results are published in an annual score card.
Having comparable information across sectors is a major step toward removing the information barrier for families, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education. In some cities, the effort is taken on by an organization like Excellent Schools Detroit; elsewhere, districts and charter schools collaborate to create common performance measures.
Several cities also hold fairs or expos where families can get information on different schools and the application process all in one place.
But Mr. Varner said the efforts can't stop there. "If it's going to be a market, it has to be regulated properly," he said of school choice."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Grants are scarce for young scientists: Mike Malone in the WSJ


He suggests it's time we consider alternatives to the traditional ways of funding science.

"So let’s consider some plausible alternatives. One possibility was on display in November at the annual meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, Inc., a national nonprofit of women volunteers that delivers grants to U.S. scholars in science, engineering and medical research.
Since its founding in 1958, ARCS has awarded nearly $90 million to some 9,000 ARCS Scholars in more than 50 U.S. universities. This year’s recipients are researching everything from ways to store and process the variations in the genomes of thousands of people to discovering how algae does a better job than land plants at fixing carbon to improve farm yields. It was a reminder that young scientists, seeing with fresh eyes, are more likely to make the truly great discoveries.
At the awards ceremony, 63 fellows from the Bay Area marched into the ballroom to the applause of donors, including San Francisco civic leaders, Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists. For those few minutes, one could feel hopeful about the future of U.S. science.
The financial need is far greater than any foundation could meet, yet organizations such as ARCS may offer at least a temporary solution until robust economic growth returns. The foundation’s work shows there is a widespread interest, particularly among the wealthy, in supporting science—especially research that may one day save lives or lead to a new technology around which they might build a business.
But these individuals are also faced with a wide range of worthy choices for their money. The key is to encourage them to support scientific research. ARCS does it by connecting individual donors to the young scientists they support. Why can’t this matchmaking be done on a national scale through the creation of an exchange? Mr. Levitt’s fellow Nobelist at Stanford, markets guru Al Roth, could help design it.
Moreover, given the importance of this research to the nation’s long-term economic health, why would even fiscal conservatives object to giving special tax breaks to private citizens who support scientific research at a national laboratory or their alma mater?
Finally, why not encourage young scientists to reach out to everyone interested in supporting scientific research? If Hollywood can crowdfund indie movies, surely a doctoral candidate could raise money for cutting-edge research. Let the market decide whether investors get a piece of any resulting patents, or public credit or just the satisfaction of being able to help. When it comes to crowdfunding, younger scientists may have an advantage over the veterans."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Aaron Roth on differential privacy

Penn News covers a recent presentation:
An Introduction to ‘Differential Privacy,’ from Penn Professor Aaron Roth

The ability to amass, store, manipulate and analyze information from millions of people at once has opened a vast frontier of new research methods. But, whether these methods are used in the service of new business models or new scientific findings, they also raise questions for the individuals whose information comprises these “big data” sets. Can anyone really guarantee that these individuals’ information will remain private?
Aaron Roth, assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, is trying to answer that question.
Along with colleagues from Harvard University, Microsoft Research, Pennsylvania State University and IBM Research, he presented some of his ongoing research on “differentially private” algorithms at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in San Jose, Calif.
The differential privacy approach ensures that people querying big databases see only representative trends and can’t game their searches to reveal information about specific individuals in the set.
This technique has implications for companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon, businesses which depend on gleaning insights from trends in users’ behavior while maintaining their trust that their personal data is not being exploited or compromised.  But it could extend beyond the tech giants and into the world of scientific publishing by addressing the so-called “false discovery” problem, where some scientific findings seem valid but cannot be reproduced. Such false discoveries stem from “overfitting” hypotheses to outlying individuals in a dataset, rather than generalizable trends that apply the population at large.        
“There’s this idea where the more privacy you have the less useful the data is,” Roth says. “There’s some truth to that, but it’s not quite so simple. Privacy can also increase the usefulness of data by preventing this kind of overfitting”
The “different” in its name is a reference to the guarantee a differentially private algorithm makes. Its analyses should remain functionally identical when applied to two different datasets: one with and one without the data from any single individual.
“The math behind differentially private algorithms gives you a provable guarantee that, even if you know everything else about the dataset, you can’t learn anything new about my data in particular,” Roth says. “The algorithm essentially can’t tell whether my data is in the set in the first place.”      
The very nature of large data sets makes privacy a dicey proposition. Stripping those records of common identifiers, such as names or email addresses, still leaves a trove of information that could, with some effort, be used to pinpoint data from a specific individual. Such “ad hoc” methods of protecting privacy in a data set are ultimately doomed in that the set’s owner can never predict what outside information would-be attackers might use to reverse-engineer the hidden data. 
“For example, at one point, it was shown that an attack on Amazon’s recommendation algorithm was possible,” Roth says, “If I knew five or six things you bought on Amazon, I could buy those same things, and all of a sudden, we’re now the two most similar customers in Amazon's recommendation algorithm. I could then start seeing what else you were buying, as whatever you bought would then be recommended to me.”
A differentially private recommendation algorithm would defend against such an attack because it would discount idiosyncratic trends as being just that: only representing an individual’s data rather than something that is statistically valid for the entire set.
Beyond protecting customers’ private information, such an algorithm would also be better at its job. 
“You don’t actually want something that is good at predicting what people have bought historically; that may just be an example of you overfitting the data,” Roth says. “You want something that predicts what they are going buy tomorrow — things that are not in the set yet, and the same applies to scientific findings.”
Generating and collecting data is often the most expensive and time-consuming part of a scientific study, so datasets are often shared among scientists. This altruism has a hidden downside, however, as it disrupts the scientific publishing system’s standard method of ascribing significance to a particular finding.      
“The way you normally determine if a finding is significant is by computing its ‘p-value,’” Roth says. “This tells you the probability that the correlation you observe would appear just as significant if it occurred by random chance. The standard level for significance is .05, but that also means that if you test 100 hypotheses, even if they’re all wrong, you’d expect five of them would appear significant.
“There are ways to correct for the fact that you test many hypotheses, but the existing methods only work if you came up with all of your hypotheses before anyone ever looked at the data. If scientists re-use the same datasets, these guarantees disappear.”
If rather than accessing raw data, scientists share access to a dataset but only allow it to be queried through a differentially private algorithm, then they recover the ability to protect against “false discoveries” that come from over-fitting the data. Roth and his colleagues Cynthia Dwork, Vitaly Feldman, Moritz Hardt, Toniann Pitassi and Omer Reingold have theory proving the effectiveness of this approach, which will be presented this summer at the ACM Symposium on the Theory of Computing.
“You always want to have the conclusions you draw to be based on true statistical patterns in the data, rather than the idiosyncrasies of a single individual in the set,” Roth says. “This is the same thing you want in private data analysis, and this why differential privacy can also prevent false discoveries.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

Could peeing standing up become repugnant?

Not yet in Europe, but the question has come up. The BBC has the story:

German court rules that men can urinate while standing

"A court in Germany has ruled in favour of a man's right to urinate while standing up after his landlord demanded money for damage to the bathroom floor.

The landlord, who was seeking €1,900 (£1400; $2,200), claimed the marble floor had been damaged by urine.

But the Duesseldorf judge ruled that the man's method was within cultural norms, saying "urinating standing up is still common practice".

There is some debate in Germany about whether men should sit or stand to pee.

Some toilets have red traffic-style signs forbidding the standing position - but those who choose to sit are often referred to as a "Sitzpinkler", implying it is not masculine behaviour.

Judge Stefan Hank agreed with an expert's report that uric acid had caused some damage to the bathroom's floor.

But concluding, he said men who insist on standing "must expect occasional rows with housemates, especially women" but cannot be held to account for collateral damage.

"Despite growing domestication of men in this matter, urinating while standing up is still common practice," he added."


HT: anonymous, to avoid incriminating the guilty

School choice in Detroit?

The Detroit Free Press has a story on the current debate: Common enrollment: Lessons for Detroit

When preparing to move to Washington, D.C., in 2012, Erika and Lamont Harrell spent so much time applying to charter schools that it felt like a full-time job.
They filled out 24 applications — a dozen for each of their two sons — and juggled different school websites and deadlines.
That was before My School DC, a common enrollment and lottery system that has one application and the same deadline schedule for most of the city's publicly funded schools, including charters. A week-long task one year turned into 20 minutes the next.
"The process is just so much easier, and it's less stressful," said Erika Harrell, 33.
More than 200 miles away, in Newark, N.J., the first days of the school year in September were marked by student and parent protests of a similar reform effort called One Newark. Some parents complained that their children were matched to far-away schools that they didn't put on their list.
Common enrollment — in which a computer algorithm tries to match kids to their top-ranked schools — is one of the main reform ideas bubbling out of the discussions around reshaping public education in Detroit.
Changing how kids enroll won't improve academics — a significant issue in a city where more than 80% of ranked schools in Detroit Public Schools are in the bottom quarter statewide. But supporters say it would give all families an equal shot at seats in sought-after schools, bring order to what is now a chaotic enrollment process and stabilize school rosters earlier in the year. The data gleaned from it could inform decisions on which schools should close.
Common enrollment can be tough to sell to parents, at least initially.
The cities that have common enrollment — such as Denver, Newark, New Orleans and Washington — offer lessons for Detroit.
Officials there say they have had significant successes in getting kids matched with their top-choice schools.
But no system is perfect. In Denver, for example, researchers say common enrollment has been stable and successful, but lingering gaps remain in terms of participation by minority, special-ed and low-income students. They also said the city needs more seats in high-performing schools to meet demand.
Improving choice for all students
Common enrollment works best when all or most schools are involved, experts say. The systems have centralized management.
In Denver, where common enrollment launched in 2012, 100% of public schools participate, including charters.
Denver officials say they're happy with how it's working. In the system's first three years, between 76% and 89% of all students were matched with one of their choices, and between 64% and 72% got their first choice school, according to a recent study by the Seattle-based Center on Reinventing Public Education.
"Previously ... we had over 60 application processes and time lines, so only the savviest of parents were able to take advantage of school choice," said Roberta Walker, manager of choice and enrollment for Denver Public Schools.
The school district was an early supporter. A promise of transparency (the system is audited annually) and some pressure from foundations that fund charter schools helped bring charters on board, said Mike Kromrey, executive director of the community group Together Colorado.
Denver Public Schools runs the system, called SchoolChoice.
Getting everybody on board could be stickier in Detroit. The city has a decentralized education system with roughly 100 schools within Detroit Public Schools, 64 charter school districts (made up of 98 schools) and a 15-school reform district for the state's worst schools.
And with a dozen charter authorizers, Detroit has far more than the other cities. In Denver, for example, the public school district is the only charter authorizer.
The charter sector has exploded in Detroit in recent years, leading to fierce competition for students.
"It takes a great deal of trust across schools for everybody to commit to a centralized process," said Betheny Gross, senior analyst for the Center on Reinventing Public Education.
"A charter school is not naturally going to be inclined to hand over their enrollment process. ... Each child comes with a bundle of resources that funds their school."
In New Orleans, the common enrollment system called OneApp brought order and transparency to a chaotic process. But in a city where about 95% of students attend charters, some of the highest-performing schools have opted out.
"If every school isn't going to be in it, it doesn't resolve the problem that it was created to resolve. It doesn't give you access to every school," said Karran Harper Royal, a New Orleans resident and outspoken critic of OneApp.
Supporters say common enrollment has made it hard for schools to "cream" students — using back-door methods to selectively admit children or push others out. A principal couldn't specifically seek out students with good test scores, for example.
"In the absence of any meaningful regulation, this stuff can happen all the time," said Neil Dorosin, executive director of the New York-based Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice. The group helps build common enrollment systems.
In Newark, common enrollment was attacked by some families who complained siblings were split up. Mayor Ras Baraka publicly blasted what he called superintendent Cami Anderson's "secret" algorithm. Anderson has argued that, despite some initial bugs, the system has improved school access.
Newark officials have since added a feature that will allow families to move all of their children to the same school, Dorosin said.
Centralized authority
In cities with common enrollment, one authority oversees the systems.
Whereas the public school system runs common enrollment in Denver, in Washington, D.C., it falls under the deputy mayor for education. New Orleans' system is run by the state reform Recovery School District, with input from the local Orleans Parish School Board. The state-operated Newark Public Schools district handles enrollment there.
The applications that parents fill out are processed by a central clearinghouse.
In contrast, a Detroit parent who wants to sign up their kid for a DPS school today has to make an in-person visit. Three schools require an entrance exam, and one a performing arts audition. About two dozen DPS schools require an application.
The city's charter schools have their own applications, due dates and lotteries.
"There's no coordination now. A kid can get into Cass Tech High School and four different charters. The schools often don't know if they're actually going to get that kid" until well after the school year starts, Dorosin said. "It makes it difficult (for schools) to plan."
Districts don't get the full amount of state funding for students who enroll after the fall count day.
The nonprofit education group Excellent Schools Detroit is pushing for a new commission to oversee school openings and closings, transportation and enrollment across the city. The proposal comes as the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren is facing a March 31 deadline to come up with proposed school reforms.
...
Implementing full common enrollment in Detroit would likely require legislative changes, experts say. But lawmakers might balk.
"The expansion of school choice and putting parents in the driver's seat has been the general path the government has been on. If recommendations were to come ... that restricted choice and artificially managed or regulated choice, I would ... think that many in the Legislature" would have serious questions, said Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a charter lobbying group.
Naeyaert said he believes "managed and regulated choice is not free and full choice."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

First kidney exchange chain in Mexico

I believe that this recent exchange chain in Guadalajara is also the first kidney exchange of any kind in Mexico: Hospital Civil logra primer trasplante renal secuencial del país

"El trasplante se logró gracias a un donador altruista espontáneo; involucrados se encuentran en buen estado de salud

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO (07/FEB/2015).- El Antiguo Hospital Civil de Guadalajara "Fray Antonio Alcalde" realizó dos trasplantes renales secuenciales "en dominó", primer caso en México, de que se tenga registro, informó el nosocomio en un comunicado."

Google translate says:
"The transplant was achieved thanks to a spontaneous altruistic donor; involved are in good health

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO (07 / FEB / 2015) .- The Old Civil Hospital of Guadalajara "Fray Antonio Alcalde" performed two sequential kidney transplants "in domino" first case in Mexico, that we have registered, the hospital said in a statement ."


HT: Alberto Yarza

Saturday, February 14, 2015

School choice in Denver: how do schools communicate with parents?

The Denver Post reports on developments in the school choice system there, as parents and schools gain experience: Marketing, a need and benefit for Denver schools

"As the novelty wears off for a process that reformed the way Denver parents pick a school for their kids, school leaders are becoming more sophisticated in their marketing, trying to find students who are the right fit.


"The change comes even as participation is decreasing in the three-year-old SchoolChoice application process, which allows parents to fill out only one form to go to any district school. Options, meanwhile, increase each year, and by August, Denver Public Schools will have 200 schools, including 53 charters."
...
"According to data in a report published by A-Plus Denver, 73 percent of new kindergartner families picked a school through the district's SchoolChoice process in 2014, down from 80 percent in 2012.

"Eighth-graders picking a high school have the lowest participation of students in transition grades, with 55 percent filling out a form in 2014, down from 60 percent in 2012.
**************
My understanding is that students not filling out a form are opting in to their local school.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Differential privacy and the market for data, at the AAAS meeting tomorrow

If you are at the AAAS meetings in San Jose tomorrow, and interested in how the new data environment interacts with privacy concerns, you might want to check out this session::

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room LL21C (San Jose Convention Center)
To realize the full potential of big data for societal benefit, we must also find solutions to the privacy problems raised by the collection, analysis, and sharing of vast amounts of data about people. As discussed in the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting session "Re-Identification Risk of De-Identified Data Sets in the Era of Big Data," the traditional approach of anonymizing data by removing identifiers does not provide adequate privacy protection, since it is often possible to re-identify individuals using the seemingly innocuous data that remains in the dataset together with auxiliary information known to an attacker and/or present in publicly available datasets. Differential privacy offers the possibility of avoiding such vulnerabilities. It provides a mathematically rigorous formalization of the requirement that a datasharing or analysis system should not leak individual-specific information, regardless of what auxiliary information is available to an attacker. A rich body of work over the past decade has shown that a wide variety of common data analysis tasks are compatible with the strong protections of differential privacy, and a number of promising efforts are underway to bring these methods to practice. In addition, differential privacy has turned out to have powerful implications for questions outside of privacy, in areas such as economics and statistics. This symposium will discuss these facets of differential privacy.
Organizer:
Salil Vadhan, Harvard University 
Co-Organizer:
Cynthia Dwork, Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley 
Speakers:
Aaron RothUniversity of Pennsylvania 
An Introduction to Differential Privacy
Sofya RaskhodnikovaPennsylvania State University 
Differentially Private Analysis of Graphs and Social Networks
Moritz HardtIBM Almaden Research Center 
Guilt-Free Interactive Data Analysis

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Unraveling and exploding offers in the market for new private equity analysts

The unraveling in this market (which is also highly competitive in salaries) continues. That is, vigorous competition by the timing of (early, exploding) offers coexists with vigorous salary competition.  The NY Times Dealbook has the story.

Private Equity Firms in a Frenzied Race to Hire Young Investment Bankers
By WILLIAM ALDEN and SYDNEY EMBER  FEBRUARY 10, 2015

"Junior investment bankers who graduated from college only last year are being madly courted by private equity firms like Apollo Global Management, the Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and the Carlyle Group in a scramble that kicked off last weekend. 6.After back-to-back interviews, many are now fielding offers for jobs that won’t start until the summer of 2016.

"This process has become an annual rite by private equity firms, which raise money from investors (like pension funds) to buy entire companies. But it has grown more frenzied since the financial crisis, and it started this year weeks earlier than many in the industry had expected. Fearful of missing the best talent being developed at investment banks, the giants of private equity have turned Wall Street’s white-collar entry-level workers into a hot commodity.

“It’s as if these were star athletes,” said Adam Zoia, chief executive of the recruiting firm Glocap Search, who helps private equity firms hire young workers. “The irony is they are professionals six, seven months out of undergrad. It’s hard to imagine you can tell if someone’s a star or not.”
...
"Private equity’s recruiters, trying to secure the best workers for their clients, have helped accelerate the interview timeline, so that it is now the norm to interview workers about 18 months before their jobs will actually start. Some private equity executives say this means the candidates, who have barely encountered their first Wall Street deals, are performing more poorly in interviews.

Participants liken the situation to what is known in game theory as the “prisoner’s dilemma,” in which a lack of information causes private equity firms to act according to their own self-interest rather than find a solution that would be mutually beneficial to all parties. Last year, the process started in late February — weeks earlier than the cycle in 2013.

“There’s essentially always a handful of firms that are the catalysts, and that creates this huge domino effect across the industry,” said Morgan Halberg, a partner at the recruiting firm Dynamics Search Partners. “Every other firm essentially mobilizes and has to be reactive.”

"Many participants traced the beginning of this year’s process to a move by a midsize private equity firm in San Francisco. The firm, Golden Gate Capital, extended a handful of offers to young consulting firm employees on Thursday, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

"This alone was not enough for the rest of the industry to spring into action. Golden Gate, which has a close relationship with the consulting firm Bain & Company, was not drawing from the investment bank pool where the big private equity firms fish. What’s more, Golden Gate’s internal rationale was that it was responding to moves by other private equity firms to hire consultants. At first, rival private equity firms and their recruiters decided to stand down.

"But on Friday, an email circulated through the industry from a Boston-based private equity firm, Advent International, which said it would begin interviewing candidates from investment banks, people briefed on the matter said. The biggest firms knew they could not afford to wait. Recruiters contacted young bankers Friday night, instructing them to show up for interviews on Saturday and Sunday.

"That led to a weekend of sleepless nights and back-to-back interviews for the would-be hires. In a reflection of how early the cycle began, the Blackstone Group, which had started some interviews on Sunday, was in the middle of recruiting interns for this summer. Golden Gate, now feeling pressure from other firms, told at least one candidate to respond to a job offer by Sunday, shortening the deadline from this Wednesday.

"Many had expected this process to start in early March, or late February at the earliest. But by the beginning of this week, some of the biggest firms had already extended offers for the summer of 2016."

HT: Eric Budish

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

School Choice Index from Brookings

The Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings has published
The 2014 Education Choice and Competition Index

Here is their list of school districts that are "leaders in choice"

The report says in part:

"The Recovery School District in New Orleans scores well on nearly all of the components of the ECCI. In particular, there is high availability of choice, with nearly 80% of schools being charters, a supply of affordable private schools, vouchers for private school attendance available from the state, and virtual education provided through Supplemental Course Academy/Course Choice. The school assignment process maximizes the match between parental preference and school assignment through an ideal computer matching algorithm. There is no default school assignment (everyone must choose), a common application for traditional public schools and charters, and information on school performance that includes test results for children attending private schools. Information on school performance is clearly presented with support for parents in understanding and navigating the choice process. Transportation expenses to schools of choice are covered through free public transportation tokens or yellow bus service.

"New York City (NYC) also repeats its position in second place overall and in first place among the 100 largest school districts.2 NYC scores particularly well with respect to its choice process, policies for closing unpopular schools, and information provision to parents and students.

"New Orleans, NYC, Denver, and new to our list of top performers this year, Newark, standout in their use of a centralized computer-based algorithm to assign public high school students to schools in such a way as to maximize the match between student preferences and school assignment, conditional on any admission requirements exercised by the school. Students apply once and receive one offer, assuming they can match with one of the schools they have listed among their choices. New Orleans, Denver, and Newark include charter schools in their single application process, whereas NYC does not."
***********


Although the report doesn't mention The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice (IIPSC), this is quite a complement to IIPSC, since, of those top-10 cities, New Orleans, Newark, Washington DC, and Denver are among the cities in which IIPSC has helped design Uniform Enrollment school choice systems. And New York and Boston are the school districts which initiated the market design contribution to school choice, and in which the IIPSC principals got our start, before IIPSC was formed.