kitchen table math, the sequel: 3/18/07 - 3/25/07

Saturday, March 24, 2007

voice! not tense!

I consider myself to be appallingly undereducated.

The more time I spend figuring out what a sound education is, the more appalled I am.

Thus it gave me great pleasure to discover, tonight, that other people, including other people who write for The Economist, don't know what the passive voice is.*

And that I, apparently, do.

For instance, I have no difficulty identifying the first two clauses as passive and the third as active:

  • Prisoners were forced
  • A prisoner was shot
  • MI has instructed us to

I'm feeling better.

With that, I think I'll go learn some more algebra.

I'm on Lesson 69, Saxon Algebra 2.

update: department of corrections

Passive VOICE

Not passive TENSE

informal assessment: I can distinguish passive from active but I cannot read a Language Log post.

* gross exaggeration alert: this writer knows what passive tense is. but he's calling it passive voice. that's bad.

testing, testing

from Independent George:

I completely disagree with the first statement:

The tacit assumption is that if our students score higher on standardized tests that they will be better prepared for life.

No, the tacit assumption is the converse: if students are better prepared for life, they will score higher on the standardized tests. In other words, if students are able to read and count, then they should have no problems with tests on reading and math.

I don't know any supporters of standardized testing who think that the tests themselves are what's important. The only subset of people I've ever encountered who actually believe that are testing opponents, who think that the tests themselves are causing poor performance by students.

math story

from Karen A:

M, our 8th grader, is in Algebra this year. M tends to get math conceptually. However, we have noticed several problems, which can sometimes be the difference between an A and a B for her.

One, she doesn't always know the material as well as she thinks she does. Two, she doesn't always pay close enough attention to detail. As a result, on quizzes and tests, those factors can mean the difference between an A and a B.

Let me note that her teacher is doing a nice job of teaching and the text itself is fine. Plus, there are online practice quizzes available (in addition to the daily homework, which the teacher goes over every day in class).

M had a test this week on Factoring and she needed to get an A on the test in order to get an A for the quarter. So, she was motivated! She started preparing for the test several days ahead of schedule by taking online quizzes.

The night before the test she worked all of the problems on the Review sheet. She had several equations to memorize and she came up with the following poem as a memory device:

"When factoring the difference of squares, write the answer in plus or minus pairs."

Her older sister coached her on paying attention to detail; especially in noting plusses and minuses within the equations.

M then came up with a list of five things that she absolutely needed to remember; she wrote them down and then memorized them. One of these was a reminder to be sure and read the question carefully, so that she knew what the question was asking for.

In short, she was well-prepared and as a result, she was the first one finished. Instead of handing in her paper, she went back through each problem, carefully checking for possible errors (and she caught several minor mistakes). She was the last person to hand in her test.

The result? She scored 100% on the test. Afterwards, she said, "I like math; I enjoy solving equations."

What is the takeaway? There are several, at least in my mind. First, I think she is finally starting to understand that having a conceptual understanding is not enough; she has to know the material thoroughly (and this requires hard work and practice). Two, she has to pay attention to detail (the old pencil and paper thing). Three, "rote" knowledge of arithmetic is essential so that the brain is freed up to do the next level of skills required.

Fourth, there is a tremendous amount of memory work required and that is essential (at least in my mind) for success in Algebra.

mnemonic device

I'm going to remember this one:

"When factoring the difference of squares, write the answer in plus or minus pairs."

Karen A's 8th grade daughter came up with that!


Exhibit A
Former School Administrator/Associate Professor
03/24/2007 5:40AM
The tacit assumption is that if our students score higher on standardized tests that they will be better prepared for life. [ed.: in the case of reading comprehension scores, this assumption happens to be correct] As such, the question, according to James Popham, has shifted from "How can we improve student learning?" to "How can we raise test scores?" Albert Einstein perhaps said it best, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." AND "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

Exhibit B
from State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward:
Adelman asked Cody, a husky 1972 West Point graduate and master aviator with 5,000 hours of flight time, what they were measuring to see how the war was going. "What are the metrics coming back that you would say were needed to identify so we know if we're winning or losing?"

"I'd say three," Cody replied. "Number one is the number of Iraqi civilians that are killed by these insurgent attacks. Number two is the number of usable, important bits of information we get from the iraqi people--the actionable intelligence. And number three is the number of competent Irai police and military." ...

Shortly after, Rumsfeld entered. "Let's take some questions," he said.

Adelman asked him the same question he'd asked Cody. "What metrics would you use for success in Iraq? You know, for winning the war?"

"Oh, there are hundreds," Rumsfeld replied. "It's just so complicated that there are hundreds."


"Wait a minute," Adelman insisted. "A former boss of mine always said identify three or four things, then always ask about, get measurements and you'll get progress or else you'll never get any progress." The former boss was Rumsfeld himself, who had driven the point home to Adelman 35 years before, when he worked for Rumsfeld at the Office of Economic Opportnity. What are they? Adelman insisted.

Rumsfeld said it was so complicated that he could not give a list.

Adelman believed that meant there was a total lack of accountability. If Rumsfeld didn't agree to any criteria, he couldn't be said to have failed on any critieria.

"Hundreds," Rumsfeld insisted.

"Then you don't have anything," Adelman said.

Exhibit C
from Joanne Jacobs & The Gadfly, Head Start to stop testing children:
This tug of war over the direction of Head Start [academic preparation for Kindergarten versus "child development"] has been going on for years. It's the main reason the 109th Congress failed to reauthorize the program. Now the establishment is winning and the 110th Congress will be able to say that it actually did something, albeit something dumb. The cognizant House committee voted last week to kill the National Reporting System, substituting happy talk about "strengthening school readiness by re-evaluating and updating current standards and assessments based on the best science...and improving professional development related to supporting children's cognitive, social and emotional development."

What's on the test?
  • picture/word vocabulary assessment
  • letter naming assessment involving all the letters of the alphabet in upper and lower case
  • short test on early math skills covering simple addition and subtraction, reading of numbers, relative size judgments, and the ability to make use of graphic and pictorial information involving representation of quantities

Instead of assessing Head Start kids to see if they know the alphabet, we'll be re-evaluating and updating current standards and assessments based on the best science.

I'm sure that will work.

A sociologist friend who's working on an assessment project sent me a link to Counting and Recounting: Assessment and the Quest for Accountability awhile back.

Haven't read it yet, but the opening paragraphs are arresting:

When my daughter Dina returned from her first class in managerial accounting early in her MBA program, I innocently asked how it had gone. I fully expected her to describe her boredom with the rigors of accounting, since pursuing an MBA was decidedly an afterthought for my iconoclastic daughter, who already held degrees in theatre and social work.

Imagine my surprise when Dina responded that accounting was unexpectedly interesting because, she now realized, it should be understood as a form of narrative, a kind of drama. Within the ethical and technical rules of the field, the task of the accountant is to figure out which of the stories of the company should be told through the medium of its "books." Accounting is basically about creating the plot, characters, and setting of the story. As the instructor explained to the class, "Your task is to render an account: to tell the facts of the case, the story of the condition of a company in an accurate and yet ultimately persuasive way."


Indeed, historian of science Mary Poovey argues in A History of the Modern Fact that a significant source for the modern conception of a scientific fact—that which is measurable, replicable, visible, quantitative, and credible—is the invention of double-entry bookkeeping in late-16th century England. Thus accounting was a source for modern scientific conceptions of evidence; then, in full-circle fashion, scientific doctrines became the basis for our contemporary conceptions of account-ability in education.

I love that.

The very concept of a scientific fact grew out of double-entry bookkeeping in late-16th century England!

Well, I say let's have more of it.

More double-entry bookkeeping. More tests, more scores, more entries in the book. (With parent opt-in, of course!)

More low-stakes assessment, please. More value-added.

The assertion that "not everything that counts can be counted" is self-serving claptrap, beginning to end. As is the observation that Iraq is complex.

Yes, some good things can't be counted & Iraq is complex. I don't need John N. Colantoni and Don Rumsfeld to tell me that.

I'd like to know what my child has learned in school -- in school, not at home -- and where he stands in relation to his peers here and abroad.

And I'd like my school to be able to tell me.

That's going to require numbers.

off-topic: State of Denial

It's a tour de force.

I'm pretty sure this is a book both supporters and opponents of the Iraq War find riveting, for all of the reasons Peggy Noonan did:

Thirty-two years into his career as a writer of books, Bob Woodward has won a reputation as slipshod ("Wired"), slippery ("All the President's Men," "The Final Days"), opportunistic ("Veil"; everything) and generally unaware of the implications even of those facts he's offered that have gone unchallenged. As a reporter he's been compared to a great dumb shark, remorselessly moving toward hunks of information he can swallow but not digest.


Now he has thwarted me. I bought "State of Denial" thinking I might have a merry time bashing it and a satisfying time defending the innocent injured.

But it is a good book. It may be a great one. It is serious, densely, even exhaustively, reported, and a real contribution to history in that it gives history what it most requires, first-person testimony. (It is well documented, with copious notes.) What is most striking is that Mr. Woodward seems to try very hard to be fair, not in a phony "Armitage, however, denies it" way, but in a way that--it will seem too much to say this--reminded me of Jean Renoir: "The real hell of life is that everyone has his reasons."

I may finally have lost my mind, but not infrequently, reading about the interagency process and bureaucratic infighting and the utter inability of the govt to get anything done months after presidential directives have been issued, reissued, and re-reissued.....our public schools kept springing to mind.

My favorite moment, second only to the scene in which Rumsfeld says there are hundreds of metrics, is a passage in which Rumsfeld reacts to "The Revolt of the Generals."

Why are the generals so ticked off? he's asked.

His answer?

Change is hard!

"But I think it's important that we recognize that there's a lot of change going on, it's challenging for people, it's difficult for people."


In other words it was very hard to be defense secretary with so many backward-looking forces arrayed against him.

I experienced a moment of extreme irony, reading this passage.

I'm used to educators calling parents out of date and afraid of change, but the "SecDef" telling reporters that Generals are out of date?

I'm adding "Change is hard" to my list of banned expressions.

Rand Statistics Group

Trust in Numbers by Theodore Porter

boiling it down

re the Ed Week comments thread, Instructivist nails it:

What is sorely missing is critical thinking about "critical thinking."

Friday, March 23, 2007

middle school math teacher

Debbie Sheffield
03/21/2007 12:42PM

I am a middle school teacher with a major in math. I see a complete shift to constructivist thinking in all areas of academics that is having a very negative impact on most of my students. Educators must find a middle ground with traditional skill practice as well as creative thinking projects. Why would anyone think one approach is best?

Money is the answer and NCLB. Since the National Science Foundation will pay for the materials for this new approach, most schools hop on the band wagon. I have witnessed the anger and frustration of parents trying to understand their own child's lack of confidence in math and their inability to do the most basic operation. Forget critical thinking for these students, they are so upset about their inabilities that they are unable to come up with an idea how to even start a problem.

Most of my district's parents have no idea what our secondary schools are doing in the future with their child's curriculum. I see a backlash of anger and frustration in the horizon. Already, professors are telling me students have to take remedial college math classes to even get into a degree program and the student may have to attend a junior college first (if they offer the class) to get into a state or private college/university. I have seen a distinct drop in ability levels from all of my students from the most basic to the gifted in my basic math classes and Pre-Algebra classes. My students mix up all the different methods they have seen because they did not practice a way that worked for them enough to keep it stored for future use. Why not give every student an IEP, individual goals and instruction, and chart their progress yearly? We cannot do this because of the political game we play directing every school to jump through hoops proving accountability in high stakes testing for funding. I am sick of it and the endless paperwork that keep teachers from teaching.

Whether you chose Standards Based or Creative Thinking, you must use a combination of both. To me math is sequential, a building block like a foundation for a house. Next year's curriculum will not do any building of skills for my students that are not ready for random problem solving.
Standardized Expectations vs. Creative Thinking

I've read Debbie's writing before. She's fantastic.

cruising Edweek

Dona/Parent Involvement Specialist/Early Reading First
03/21/2007 9:32AM

The problems our children will have to solve in the 21st century are, for the most part, problems we have not anticipated in the same way that the problems we encountered were not the ones our parents and teachers had solved in their pasts. Teaching children that there are RIGHT and WRONG answers, with such high stakes that entire school districts and most parents are seized with the outcomes of testing, does not give our children the skills and self-confidence they need to solve the unique problems they will encounter in their futures.
Standardized Expectations vs. Creative Thinking

I don't think I have the energy to respond.

blatant bias

How is this for bias in Educations Weeks Talkback section:
What do you think? Does the current approach to school reform favor the regurgitation of random facts over the development of critical and creative thinking?
Interesting terminology... 'regurgitation of random facts'... no prejudice here.

I suppose I could ask...

Does the current approach to education reform favor the the lowering of standards over the mastery of subject matter domain knowledge over ?

This is the kind of thing that makes it hard to take the education establishment seriously.

how to play

Last week, New York State revised its list of schools under registration review, the so-called SURR list. These are schools that are performing so badly that they are being considered for closing.

The idea of closing schools departs a bit from reality. Demolition crews do not come in and level the building. Usually "closing the school" means changing the name and number of the school, removing the principal and some, if not all, of the teaching staff. Most importantly for educrats, the school is now considered new, not failing, so it is removed from the SURR list.

I know of some schools that have had three different numbers in recent years. But changing the number doesn't change much. Five of the nine new schools just added to the SURR list have been there before under a different number. This is the strategy of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, a sad reality for the children.

The city's Department of Education has found a brilliant way to reduce the total number of schools on the SURR list and make itself look better in the public eye. The education bureaucrats do a preemptive strike and "close" schools before the state designates them as SURR. Thus the department can boast of a decline in the number of SURR schools and give the "new" school a free pass for a number of years.

The Numbers Game ($)
Andrew Wolf

I almost have to admire the resourcefulness here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cathy's World

In hospital

lucky find

I love free stuff... here is a with a lot of "di" stuff, including training videos. I think it's directed at HS level teachers, but work won't let me view the videos to confirm.

There are even some sample lesson plans for various subjects including 7th grade geometry.

SUHSD - Explicit Direct Instruction


Via Dickey45:

Tulsa Schools SRA Direct Instruction Site

Lots of links and materials... very good videos.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

today's factoid

In grades 4 and 8, students from homes with more than 100 books averaged almost 20 percent higher reading scores than students from homes with 10 or fewer books.

Notably, the question was not about book buying, but the mere presence of books in the home. Though a family’s income may limit the number of books that can be bought, virtually every Colorado household has access to a public library.

Facts & Figures from the Colorado Literacy Research Initiative

The number of books in the household is a useful proxy for the home environment’s contribution to academic success. Adjusting the test-score data for this factor reduces the gap even more [after reducing the gap by adjusting for socioeconomic status]. On average, black students in the sample had 39 children’s books in their home, compared with an average of 93 books among white students. Taking this difference into account cuts the black-white test-score gap to less than a fourth of a standard deviation in math and completely eliminates the gap in reading.

Falling Behind
Steven D. Levitt & Roland G. Fryer

6th meeting of NMP coming up on April 20 in Aurora IL

Just received notice that the 6th meeting of NMP is April 20 in Aurora IL. To our IL constituents on KTM II, if you are interested in making a public statement, please sign up now. Here is the notice and instructions for signing up:

The Sixth Meeting of the National Math Panel April 20, 2007 Hosted by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) Aurora, IL

Registration (first-come, first-served basis) We are now taking registration for: 1- guests who would like to attend the meeting during the open session time and 2- individuals/organizations who would like to make public comments on the Executive Order and/or the Panel's work.

You are welcome to attend just one or both of the following sessions.

On Friday, April 20th, there is a one-hour open session for public comments and two hours for the public to observe the task groups’ progress reports and discussions on their work to date.
Location: Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) 1500 W Sullivan Road, Aurora, Illinois 60506-1067

8:45 - 9:00 AM Welcome and Opening Remarks 9:00 - 10:00 AM Public Comments 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM Task Group Reports and Discussion

If you wish to provide public comments on the Executive Order and/or the Panel's work, please note that there are limited time slots available, and individual commentators or those representing an organization will be allotted 3-5 minutes to speak.

If space is not available or you cannot attend and would still like to provide comments to the National Math Panel, please email written comments, including your contact information to <> by Thursday, April 12, 2007.

To pre-register, please provide the following information to Jennifer Graban at <> or 202-260-1491:

· Are you interested in providing public comment on April 20th?
· If you would like to make public comments, please provide a brief description of the issue you would like to present as related to the Executive Order,
· Name
· Title
· Organization you represent
· Address
· Phone Number
· Email Address

You will be receiving a confirmation email with more information before the meeting.
Pre-registration will close at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, 2007; however, onsite walk-in registration will be available at the meeting. Please note: Those pre-registered for the public comments session have priority over walk-in registrants. Walk-in registrants will be given an opportunity to register for any remaining timeslots.

What DI Looks Like In Print

If you are embarking on the exploration of Direct Instruction like I have been recently (or following my exploration of it), you might be interested in this. I finally received the DI books I ordered from Amazon. I bought "Spelling Through Morphographs" (Dixon and Englemann) in a nice little deal, and received the Teacher's Presentation Book 1 and the Blackline Masters (student workbook, unused). I was not able to get the Teacher's Guide, so know I'm working with less than the full arsenal of material here.

I'm going to make a couple of posts about these books, and some other info I'm in the process of gathering. I'm going to begin by simply describing what the lessons look like. I think one of the frustrating aspects of being so interested in something like DI is that there is little easy access to an actual lesson (does this element of mysteriousness negatively affect teacher's opinion of it?), or the actual books to be used. Maybe folks in other areas have had an opportunity to get professional development in it, or see it in action, but I have had no such luck or opportunity in any of the schools I've worked in, and little luck online except for descriptions of what a lesson plan should look like. So, if you're unfamiliar with it, and worried about what it may look like, here's a good start. Everything here is meant to be informative, not critical or otherwise evaluative.

The teacher's book is divided into 70 lessons. Each lesson is divided into 7-10 exercises, labeled by number. The student workbook corresponds to the lesson, but each part is labeled by letter. So, where in the teacher book you may have Exercise 3, it may actually be Part B on the student worksheet. This is because not every exercise is a written exercise - some of them are verbal. The teacher's guide Contents page does not have any description about what the particular lesson is about - just lesson number and page number. This is interesting to me - it definitely keeps one from skipping around in the lessons, or targeting them by topic. The teacher script is written in a light blue in my book, and my only commentary about that is that it is a little faint, and I'd be afraid I might miss a line if I wasn't careful. However, each line is numbered in black, and all cues for signaling and pausing are written in black, as well as the expected responses. The teacher's book is spiral bound.

I've only looked at a few of the beginning lessons so far. I'll talk about lessons 1-4.
Lesson 1 and 2 each begin with a Word Rule (Exercise 1) and a Morphograph Rule (Exercise 2). They are verbal activities, read-and-repeat (teacher reads rule, students repeat, teacher asks question about the rule, students answer question - level: knowledge, skill: recall for those of you following along on your taxonomy scales). They are approximately a paragraph long, and I estimate would take 1-3 minutes. Exercise 3 is done on the board by the teacher. S/he writes words, points, and has students answer. These are longer exercises, probably 7-10 minutes or slightly more. By the time Exercises 1-3 are complete, the students have received all the information and rules they need to complete the written portion.

This is how Lesson 1 and 2 continue (for the most part identical). Part A: students count morphographs in words written on the page; words have 1 or 2 morphographs. Part B: students look at and spell new words; each word has only 1 morphograph. Part C: students look at and spell new words with 2-3 morphographs. Part D: looks like a math problem with ______ + _____ = [word]. Students count morphographs, and write each individual morphograph in the space.

At the bottom of their page, students add up how many they missed in a handy little chart labeled with the parts of the lesson. There's also something about worksheet points and oral points, but it looks as though that's explained in the missing teacher's guide. (Though it seems self-explanatory.)

Lessons 3-4 change a bit. They begin with reviewing how to count morphographs, and students do this on their worksheet (Exercise 1, Part A). They then move into an Affix Introduction, in which students learn some new morphographs. Similar activities include writing new words again (2-3 morphographs) and another activity spelling new words with 3-4 morphographs. New activities in lessons 3-4 are circling words in a line (example below) and matching (draw a line from each morphograph to its meaning).

Example Directions: Circle the words in the lines.

Word given is (example): space

Line looks like: spacespecesacespacespocespacaspacespeca

So, you can see that the lessons move at a steady pace, only change slightly in format from lesson to lesson (and that so that a routine is developed), and quickly increase in content while building on pre-learned skills.

As I glance through more of the book I see there are more activities like word finds, crossword puzzles, bingo, make words from a selection of morphographs, adding morphographs together (in which case students must use spelling rules, such as changing y to i). The student worksheets grow more lengthy, and later involve independent activities as well. Any questions or info you'd like to see from me? Let me know. Ms. Teacher also did a post about this a while back which may supplement your reading.

Scenes From The Battleground - Getting “Terrored”

A few days I posted about how I would never send my two kids to english schools. This is why.

Scenes From The Battleground - Getting “Terrored”
At the Metropolitan School “terror” is a verb, not a noun. “To terror a teacher” means to subject a teacher to a continual stream of intimidation and abuse with the intention of causing the maximum amount of stress. The main purpose of this is to intimidate the teacher into giving up on any attempt to enforce the rules. Also it can also be used to attempt to drive the teacher out of the school, or as a way for students to assert their status or authority with their peers. Consequently it is aimed largely at teachers who are new to the school, or at least new to the class, although if a class is arrogant enough it will be aimed at any teacher who expects them to behave.

Terroring begins with low level disruption. Admittedly everything at the Metropolitan school begins with low level disruption. However, if you are getting terrored then any effort to prevent the disruption or enforce the school rules will lead to escalation through the following stages:

I lived in England for three years, and english children are the most obnoxious, bratty, smartass kids I have ever seen.

There is a culture of hooliganism that pervades the almost the entire country. I would rather work in the worst urban school in American than work in a middle class school there.

Hat Tip: Education Wonks Carnival of Education

school raises IQ

This bears repeating.

School raises IQ.

It does.

There's no question about this. (Or rather, a scientific consensus exists on this question.)

"Substantial evidence of the effects of school attendance on the development of IQ has existed for some time. A detailed review of over 50 studies using naturalistic observation, post-hoc statistical comparisons, and cohort-sequential analysis concludes that there is an association between enhancement of cognitive skills related to IQ and schooling (Ceci, 1991). These studies, conducted throughout the 20th century, comparing schooled and non-schooled populations, have estimated that the enhancement of IQ by schooling ranges from 0.3 to 0.6 of an IQ point for every year of school competed. Importantly, the association between IQ and exposure to formal education is not only due to children with higher measured IQ staying in school longer." (Blair et al)

Rising mean IQ: Cognitive demand of mathematics education
for young children, population exposure to formal schooling,
and the neurobiology of the prefrontal cortex
(pdf file)

And here's Engelmann:

We had shown, however, that all the disadvantaged black kids we worked with could learn to read and perform basic arithmetic operations in the preschool and that the average IQ gain of these kids was 24 points.

War Against the Child's Academic Abuse of Children
Siegfried Engelman

Note: Engelmann raised these children's IQs 24 points in the preschool years alone.

By the same token, bad schools lower IQ.

Poor schooling lowers intelligence and handicaps children intellectually for life.... their intelligence is steadily eroded because the synapses in their brain are inadequately tuned and shaped by the planned structured experience that good teachers provide.

This is precisely what happened in some rural school systems in the southern states of America during the 1970s. Education was so poor in some of these systems that intelligence was more badly eroded the longer children stayed in the system. As a result, the IQs of the older children in a family who had been in the school system longer were routinely lower than those of their younger brothers and sisters whose brains had not yet suffered the great synaptic hunger which comes from poor education.


In one study, black children who had moved from the south to Philadelphia had their IQ scores raised more than half a point for every year they spent in this better school system.
Mind Sculpture
by Ian Robertson

nature, nurture and gene expression

None of this means that IQ is "environmental" as opposed to "genetic."

Back when I was on the board of NAAR, geneticists were constantly telling us that there was no such thing as a nature/nurture split. To ask whether a phenomenon was "genetic" or "environmental" was wrong.

I found that a difficult concept to absorb, but I think I've got a handle on it these days.

The concept that finally helped me "get it" -- assuming that I do get it -- was the concept of gene expression.

Genes have to be expressed; they have to "speak."

A gene can be silent, as it is when one identical twin has schizophrenia while the other twin does not.

Both twins have vulnerability genes for schizophrenia.

But the genes are expressed in one twin, silent in the other.

Moreover, when a gene is expressed it can be expressed weakly or strongly.

Obviously IQ is "genetic."

But the genes that affect IQ have to be expressed to do what they do, and it is the environment -- which includes other genes! -- that determines whether and how they'll be expressed.

Good schools raise IQ.

Bad schools lower IQ.

I assume college raises IQ, too.

Don't know it -- assume it!

gene expression

good schools raise IQ, bad schools lower IQ, part 1
good schools raise IQ, bad schools lower IQ, part 2
good schools raise IQ, bad schools lower IQ, part 3
Seth Roberts on IQ

fuzzy math makes you smarter
IQ quiz
school raises IQ
intelligence is verbal, perceptual, and image rotation
math isn't English

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

from Carolyn

IMing with Carolyn, who sent me to this site, which she says is unbelievably cool.

But it doesn't work on my Mac!


how I used my college education

Joanne Jacobs links to a post from Bryan Caplan on the uselessness of education.

We've talked about this before, but I think I'll re-post my Comment on Joanne's blog here:

...the idea that college graduates “don’t use” their education is true only in the superficial sense of the term.

If you read Dan Willingham & E.D. Hirsch you realize that a liberal arts education gives you a large practical advantage in the world of work. A broad liberal arts education turns you into a faster learner (and reader) than you would have been otherwise.

Knowledge begets knowledge. That’s a familiar idea.

What I didn’t realize until I read more cognitive science is that knowledge also begets speed. At a certain point in your learning of any subject you suddenly become able to learn knew facts, skills, procedures, and concepts in that subject much more rapidly than when you were starting out.

I suspect that this speed-up point occurs when you acquire a basic “schema” of the knowledge domain. And I’m positive that a good college gives you the most sophisticated schema for each knowledge domain possible.

My own career is an illustration of this.

As a non-fiction writer I have to tackle fields I know virtually nothing about. I have to be able to get my arms around these fields very quickly.

I can do it because of my education at Wellesley and Dartmouth. All these years later, I’m still “trading on” those four years.

I “use” my liberal arts education to earn a living, but I’m not earning a living teaching the subjects I studied. I’m earning a living being able to pick up new knowledge about the subjects I studied rapidly — and being able to make sense of new knowledge in terms of what I learned in college.

I divided by zero


Can't remember how I found this; otherwise I'd give credit where credit is due.

update from Google Master

more photos

Artleague Houston

The WWC is slipping

I think I've caught a blind spot of the WWC: they've been failing to weed out the more devious methodologically flawed research conducted by sponsors of educational programs.

First they let a flawed study slip by when they evaluated Everyday Math.

Now, they've let three studies slip by when they evaluated Reading Recovery.

I discuss this flaw and a few more in this post at D-Ed Reckoning.

When independent researchers note serious methodological flaws in research conducted by potentially biased researchers, it is incumbent upon the WWC to investigate these allegations and/or at least note them before giving these flawed studies their seal of approval.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mastery Math

I’m currently in an insomnia-induced state of mental wandering so it would seem unwise to post at this time, but what the heck.

I have been thinking about labels like traditional math, constructivist math, discovery math and fuzzy math. I’ve read discussions about how anti-fuzzy advocates are accused of wanting to go back to “parrot math”. I’ve never totally loved using the term “traditional” to describe what many of us believe to be the best way to teach math. And I can’t remember hearing of a better name.

And I just read this from a March 7 NCTM live chat:

Question fromSalem, Oregon: I am unclear as to how focal points are related to expectations of mastery (understanding) at a grade level. Is mastery (understanding) the goal at the grade level of the focal point?
Skip Fennell:A focal point is a topic or area of emphasis. Teachers will spend time on developing particular curricular focal points at a given grade level. That would then, for many topics, be extended the next year or so, but wouldn’t just be a grade level focus at that or those grades. As teachers know, the variable here is time. Some students need more or less time on a particular topic. Our concern is deep understanding. To get there will just require more time for some students than others.

After considering all this, I came up with a name that I’m going to start using and see if it works to help some people better understand these math wars.

Mastery Math!

Mastery math vs. focal points math.
Mastery math vs. exposure math, fuzzy math, constructivist math, discovery math, group math, spiraling math.

Mastery math, I like the sound of it. I think parents may like the sound of it. (On the other hand, maybe in the morning I’ll think differently. But, as I said, what the heck.)

And now I’ll try to get some sleep.

I frickin hate whole language!

Today, one of my 1st graders homework assignments was to write her spelling words four times each.

Before she writes them, I insist that she reads them to me first, so I know that she can read them, and isn't just memorizing letter combinations.

I point to the first word [say].

"say", she repeats back to me

Great, I think. She has it.

I point to the next word [pay], thinking it should be easy as well.

"near" she says.

I realize that she is going from memory by now, since the word "near" is word number 3 on her list.

"near??? try again" I say, "sound it out this time."

"pppppppp ...... aaaaaaaaa ....... yyyyyyyy(not the vowel sound)... near."

"Skye, the word is not near... sound it out again, and this time put the sounds together"

"OK, daddy. ppppppppp... aaaaaaaaaa... yyyyyyyyyy........ ppppp... aaaaaa... yyyyy... pair."

After a few seconds of this, I start to feel sorry for her, as well as feel a little frustrated, so I decide to help her out a bit.

"'ay', makes an "ay" sound... like in the word 'say'. What sound does an 'a' 'y' make?"

"ay" she yells.


I point to the "p" while covering up the "ay".

"pppppp" she says hesitantly.

I point to the "ay"

"ay" she says.

"OK, put them together this time."

She tries again... "pppppp ay... p ay... pay"

"Awesome!" I exclaim, "lets do another one."

I decide to skip the word [near] and point to word #4 [May].

"Number three is near" she says with confidence and a big smile on her cute little face.

Did I mention how much I frickin hate sight reading and whole language?

From the Trenches of Public Ed.: Anonymous on TIME's "How To Build a Student For the 21st Century"

From the Trenches of Public Ed.: Anonymous on TIME's "How To Build a Student For the 21st Century":

"The premise of the recent Time Magazine article, 'How To Build a Student For The 21st Century,' (December 18) is largely false, and frankly, sickening.
And what are the wares of education schools? Theories. Of course educrats will say that knowledge is not important because content - history, math, science, literature etcera - is outside their area of theories. More often than not, student-centered, group work is inefficient and less effective in helping students attain the kind of education that is going to help them succeed. Constructivist education is in the end absurd. There has been a proliforation of Kaplan study centers and the like, because the recent upsurge of progressive education practices over the last 15 years has forced students to get direct, teacher-centered instruction elsewhere."(sic)

Go read the rest.

Asians seeking creativity

We've heard this story before!

Students in a Loudoun County laboratory studied tiny, genetically altered plants one recent afternoon, drawing leaves and jotting data in logbooks. Meanwhile, visiting scientists studied the students.

In spiral notebooks, the visitors recorded how long the teacher waited for students to answer questions, how often the teenagers spoke up and how strongly they held to their views.

The scientists had come thousands of miles from the island nation of Singapore to the Academy of Science in Sterling in search of ways to improve their teaching. This could be considered surprising, given that Singapore's eighth-graders rank No. 1 in science and math globally and those in the United States rank ninth in science and 15th in math, according to the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

But rankings aren't everything -- how America teaches is admired.

In a 21st-century economy that rewards quick thinking and problem solving, many educators in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia worry they are creating a generation of scientists who can memorize facts but can't keep up. These educators want to go beyond teaching facts and concepts that appear on tests and start teaching skills that are harder to gauge.

Hungry for new scientific and technological breakthroughs, Singapore's government has been asking this question. And it is rethinking lesson plans in a public school system for a country of about 4.3 million. In an initiative known as "Teach Less, Learn More," Singapore has trimmed its curriculum in recent years to focus on quality of instruction rather than quantity and to give students more time to think. And its educators are circling the globe to hunt for new methods.

Loudoun's Academy of Science weaves together math and science concepts and stresses hands-on learning through real-world applications. Teachers use the "inquiry approach" to education, giving students tools and guidance rather than step-by-step instructions. The goal is to have more " 'Gee whiz!' and 'Holy mackerel!' " moments and "to inject a love of science in addition to the facts," Wolfe said.

"How do you measure excitement? How do you measure creativity?" asked George Wolfe, director of the two-year-old public magnet school in Loudoun. "There's so much publicity about Americans not scoring well on tests, but few people ask the question: Then why are we producing so much innovation from our scientists?"

Asian Educators Looking to Loudon for an Edge

I have the answer to that question.

Number one: We're manic depressive.

Number two: Our scientists are from Asia.*

here's the real answer

In 2005, a report commissioned by the U.S. Education Department compared math teaching in the United States and Singapore. It found that U.S. texts place less emphasis on understanding math concepts in depth and that U.S. teachers are less likely to clearly understand the subject. William Schmidt, a Michigan State University education professor, said the United States could learn a lot from Singapore. He said the success of scientists here owes more to a business and cultural environment that rewards risk-taking than to the U.S. education system.
Actually, risk-taking is hypomanic behavior.

I have no idea how much the genetics of temperament has to do with it, but I do think it has an effect, and I think we know that Americans have higher rates of hypomania and bipolar disorder.

Or not.

A Hypomanic Nation?

Energy, drive, cockeyed optimism, entrepreneurial and religious zeal, Yankee ingenuity, messianism, and arrogance—these traits have long been attributed to an “American character.” But given how closely they overlap with the hypomanic profile, they might be better understood as expressions of an American temperament, shaped in large part by our rich concentration of hypomanic genes.

If a scientist wanted to design a giant petri dish with all the right nutrients to make hypomanic genius flourish, he would be hard-pressed to imagine a better natural experiment than America. A “nation of immigrants” represents a highly skewed and unusual “self-selected” population. Do men and women who risk everything to leap into a new world differ temperamentally from those who stay home? It would be surprising if they didn’t. “Immigrants are unusual people,” wrote James Jaspers in Restless Nation. Only one out of a hundred people emigrate, and they tend to be imbued “with special drive, ambition and talent.”

A small empirical literature suggests that there are elevated rates of manic-depressive disorder among immigrants, regardless of what country they are moving from or to.17 America, a nation of immigrants, has higher rates of mania than every other country studied (with the possible exception of New Zealand, which topped the United States in one study). In fact, the top three countries with the most manics—America, New Zealand, and Canada—are all nations of immigrants. Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, which have absorbed very few immigrants, have the lowest rates of bipolar disorder. Europe is in the middle, in both its rate of immigrant absorption and its rate of mania.18 As expected, the percentage of immigrants in a population correlates with the percentage of manics in their gene pool.

While we have no cross-cultural studies of hypomania, we can infer that we would find increased levels of hypomania among immigrant-rich nations like America, since mania and hypomania run together in the same families. Hypomanics are ideally suited by temperament to become immigrants. If you are an impulsive, optimistic, high-energy risk taker, you are more likely to undertake a project that requires a lot of energy, entails a lot of risk, and might seem daunting if you thought about it too much. America has drawn hypomanics like a magnet. This wide-open land with seemingly infinite horizons has been a giant Rorschach on which they could project their oversized fantasies of success, an irresistible attraction for restless, ambitious people feeling hemmed in by native lands with comparatively fewer opportunities.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who traveled throughout America in the 1830s, was among the first to define the American character. He found us to be “restless in the midst of abundance,” and the proof was that we were always moving. Tocqueville was astonished to meet people moving from east to west and west to east. That so many people would surrender the comfort and safety of their home in pursuit of an “ideal” struck him as odd. And we are still the most voluntarily mobile people on Earth. The average American changes residences every five years—more often than the inhabitants of any other nation. We change jobs more frequently, too.19 Tocqueville “found an entire people racing full speed ahead, and we’ve kept on racing for more than three hundred years,” wrote Michael Ledeen in Tocqueville on American Character.

update from Paula

Yes, Loudoun County is on the cutting edge or so the newspapers continue to write. One of my son's former teachers said, "Loudoun County has really ramped up its way of doing things. This is no place for the average student."

I wanted to laugh. My third grader's KUMON center is packed with kids. Asian kids. There are a few white children attending the center. I think I've seen two black kids. That is it.

Yet, Loudoun County boasts about all of its students being above average. Really?

Before enrolling my son at KUMON, I emailed Bill Quirk and he said do not tell the school I am placing my son in KUMON. Let the teachers think it is their teaching that is enhancing my son's education. Perhaps other parents as well have heeded this advice.

Singapore Math comes to Abington

* I have no idea what I'm talking about. I do know that when you look at graduate programs in math & the sciences you see a lot of foreign students. A whole lot.

Walt Gardner

Walt Gardner is back.

In the Sun.

March 19, 2007

‘The End of Mayoral Control'

It was always a comforting delusion that the mayor possessed the wherewithal somehow lacking in the members of the Board of Education [Oped, "The End of Mayoral Control," March 2, 2007].

But New Yorkers had to learn their lesson the hard way that the ills afflicting the nation's largest school district can only begin to be addressed through a democratic — not autocratic — process.

Even then, however, the huge disparity in income between residents that was documented in a news article in the same issue as Andrew Wolf's column serves as a stark reminder of the task ahead.

Socioeconomic factors play too important of a role in student performance to be overcome by the best teachers working under the most enlightened board.

Los Angeles, Calif.

For some reason this is reminding me of the poem my mom used to recite when we were kids:

I met a man upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish that man would go away!

I don't know why.

from the department of silver linings

I'm back in assigned reading hell, albeit assigned reading 3rd or 4th circle of hell as opposed to assigned reading 7th or 8th, where I was last week. (Does hell have circles? I think I read that somewhere. And if so, how many?)

So I was tracking down cited articles on OCD and cognitive deficits (the cognitive deficits of OCD being working memory & attentional deficits, it appears) when I found this:

Possible protective value of severe psychopathology against lethal effects of an unfavourable milieu

Reading this I get a Jeez, I don't even want to know kind of feeling.

speaking of attentional deficits

How happy am I that automated calling ($) has swept the town of Irvington at the exact moment I'm trying to plough through Stereotypic Animal Behaviour?

The mayoral election is coming up; plus the school has now got automated calling, a fact I discovered on the same day I read "Schools Discover Automated Calling And Go Wild" in the WSJ. Synchronicity alert!

Do you get the feeling that the WSJ is written by people who have kids in the public schools? I do.

Every time I think I almost have a handle on the difference between recurrent perseveration and continual perseveration, and stereotypies versus ARBs ("abnormal repetitive behaviors"), and CSS versus SAS (don't ask), the phone rings, the answering machine picks up, and it's a recorded message from the folks running for office, the same recorded message I tried not to listen to a couple of hours ago. The candidates all sound like very nice people.

I am becoming terminally distracted.

At least I'm not dithering.*

* ...stuck-in-set perseveration is the failure of the SS to shift cognitive attentional set; distractibility is it failure to maintain the activation of a response in the face of competing stimuli, while dithering is its failure to select between two equally cued responses (Frith and Grasby, 1995).

Perseveration and Stereotypy -- Systems-level Insights from Clinical Psychology
J. Garner
Stereotypic Animal Behaviour

why we need parent choice

The fourth comment in this thread tells you everything you need to know:

It is telling the Street, Lyon, and Moats don't identify their own bias for phonemic awareness instruction nor their full corporate embrace of publishing phonics-based materials. In essence, these individuals deny that the National Reading Panel was packed with advocates who believe that phonemic awareness, an oral language skill, must be mastered before children can learn to read.


After the National Reading Panel was packed and the desired results published, the committees for adoption, and the Reading First program officials acted in collusion to exclude any program that did not fit the original prestidigitation of the NRP results.


Lastly, you see Louisa Moats accusing Richard Allington of not being a scholar or a scientist. Anyone who knows Allington's publishing record in peer-reviewed journals and his success in textbook publishing is aware of Moat's dishonesty on this issue. However, the casual reader may not know of her affiliation with corporations that sell phonics-based and phoneme-based reading programs. She has a distinct bias that includes a failure to admit that the National Reading Panel research has been thoroughly repudiated. It was neither scientific nor scholarly.

This conflict will never be resolved, because we have no source of authority with the legitimacy to persuade whole language advocates they've lost.

The same could be said for advocates of SBRR reading programs (scientifically based reading research).

I'm strongly inclined to defer to scientific consensus, with the proviso that because scientific consensus changes with new discoveries I don't absolutely have to accept the prevailing wisdom if I think it's wrong. Occasionally, over the years, I haven't. And occasionally, over the years, I've been right and the consensus has been wrong. Once in awhile.

So I could question the importance of teaching phonics and phonemic awareness if the right person suggested that perhaps I should. As a matter of fact, the right person did suggest such a thing a few years back. When I met Thomas Zeffiro at a NAAR SAB meeting, he told me that in fact dyslexia can involve the visual system as well as the auditory system.

That was interesting, and I assume -- provisionally -- that he's probably right. So perhaps there's some kind of visual approach to teaching reading that the Reid Lyons and the Louisa Moats have missed.

The truth is, though, that while I recognize that the scientific consensus represented by Reid Lyon and Louisa Moats may one day change, there is no one in the world of education schools & NGOs who would cause me to doubt that consensus today.

So my mind is not open to education school evidence and argument, either -- not when it conflicts with NIH-funded, peer-reviewed scientific research. (I am open to, and interested in, personal accounts of experience inside the classroom from anyone, regardless of ideology.)

They can't persuade me, and I can't persuade them.

I remember reading a very nice Michael Barone article explaining why it was that the South abandoned racial segregation so rapidly in the wake of the Civil Rights Act:

In the meantime, Congress had acted. Chief Justice Warren had hoped that the unanimous support on the Court for Brown would move white Southerners to change their ways, but that didn't happen. In contrast, the long deliberative process between President Kennedy's June 1963 endorsement of the Civil Rights Act and President Johnson's signing of the bill more than a year later seems to have changed minds.

The nation watched on television as senators slept on cots during the Southerners' filibuster in the Senate. Opponents of the bill were given every chance to obstruct, but they could not prevent an overwhelming majority of the House from voting for the bill and a two-thirds majority in the Senate breaking the filibuster. Support was broad and bipartisan; contrary to what is often assumed today, a higher proportion of Republicans than of Democrats supported the bill. Its leading advocates included not only Democrats like Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Congressman Emanuel Celler but also Republicans like Sen. Jacob Javits and Congressman William McCulloch.

It was widely expected that there would be massive resistance to the Act, as there had been to school desegregation. But that proved not to be the case. Within a few years, public accommodations were largely integrated in the South and workplace discrimination, widespread throughout the nation, was vastly diminished. I remember traveling in the South not long after the Civil Rights Act was passed and noticing that black diners were treated with courtesy by white waitresses: an astonishing contrast with the anger and violence that greeted the lunch-counter sit-ins and freedom rides only a few years before. The law was the law, and Southern manners took over. Integration was achieved about as rapidly as it had been in the 1950s in the military, where it was based on the president's command authority.

I ran this past Ed, who thought it made sense. (He's not an American historian, but I've found that the perceptions of historians about history, including history outside their own periods, are almost always better than the perceptions of journalists about history.)

The United States Congress had legitimacy in the eyes of citizens in the North and in the South. Once it spoke, the issue was resolved. We are all Americans.

I find that moving.

Nothing of the sort can occur with the reading wars or the math wars or any other war that rages in the realm of public schools.

Congress can't deliberate and declare phonics to be scientifically valid and supported by consensus.

At least, I don't think Congress can do such a thing.

Whether it can or can't, I'm certain that it won't.

Peer-reviewed, NIH-funded science simply does not hold the authority for most professors in schools of education that it does for the rest of us. That's why we see attacks on controlled research as "right wing;"* that's why we have edu-websites devoted to action research; that's why the NCTM advocates a "variety of research methods." (pdf file)

We are simply going to have to agree to disagree.

Which means parents must have the power to choose for their children.

If I want my child taught basic skills via direct instruction, that has to be my call.


* The author says that he uses the terms left and right "in their spatial and not necessarily their political senses."

what Rory said

In a comment on another thread, Rory observed that there are two education systems in England: one for the well-off and one for the poor.

Apparently the UK isn't teaching disadvantaged kids any better than we are (I'm making that observation sans statistical tests, obviously):

Millions of pounds worth of government money has failed to stop a new generation of teenagers from the poorest homes leaving school with nothing to show for 11 years of compulsory schooling.

A damning report obtained by The Independent newspaper shows that Britain's most deprived boroughs are still failing to make inroads into the number of youngsters quitting with no GCSE passes.


The lack of progress comes despite millions being pumped into these areas to improve standards. The Excellence in Cities programme has spent at least £800m over four years on providing mentors for struggling pupils and master-classes for the brightest pupils trapped in deprived communities.


The report is blunt about the job prospects for the unqualified: "Forty-four per cent of men who leave school with no qualifications fail to acquire any qualification later in life," it says.

"Men with no qualifications have a 68 per cent employment rate compared with a 75 per cent rate for those with a basic level-one vocational qualification [the lowest form of qualification].

teens in "top private schools" - UK

Another interesting article on the Basic Writing Skills site: Spelling it out for them:

A lot of teachers were astonished when, a few weeks after arriving as headmaster of Brighton college, a top private school, I decided to bring in compulsory spelling, grammar and punctuation classes for all 13-year-olds.

Why did I take such a radical step? Well, unusually for a head, I still teach every day so I regularly had the opportunity to inspect the written work of our youngest pupils. What I saw startled me.

In the school's year 9 classes some children had clearly never been taught how to punctuate properly, paragraph or spell. Bright children, particularly some of those who had joined our college from state primary schools, were making worrying howlers.

What sort of howlers? I am a history teacher so the howler that leapt out at me when I inspected year 9 books was children's tendency to add a totally unnecessary apostrophe to dates — as in the “1920's”. Then there was the almost daily confusion between “their” and “there”, an apparent inability to understand the difference between the colon and the semi-colon and passages that suggested that the writer had no clue what the subjunctive does.

I also noticed an endearing but baffling tendency to start a new paragraph almost at random. Some of the younger teenagers tended to start paragraphs every nine lines, presumably when they thought it was time for a break, instead of to introduce a new idea or theme.

When I asked my head of English to note errors from a set of marking he came up with (among other offerings): “I got sent out of class for yorning”; “potatoe's” and “this is the man which I saw”.

Around one in three 13-year-olds made mistakes — although I should make it clear that children who attended our prep school were not among them. Rather, it is some children from the state sector who have been let down and this is in spite of the government's much-vaunted literacy strategy.


Thirty years ago people understood how English grammar worked but we have lost this knowledge since the demise of Latin in schools.

Is this true?

Is it easier to learn English grammar taking Latin than to learn English grammar studying the English language?

lexical nullity and syntactical bankruptcy

In universities writing fellows are now having to give one-to-one tuition to students who struggle to compose extended sentences, never mind essays. As one of the fellows — who was quoted in an article in this paper last week — put it, these students suffer from “lexical nullity and syntactical bankruptcy”.

There is a lost generation who have never been taught grammar, punctuation or spelling. Even some of the teachers around have not been taught these skills and so they do not spot pupils' errors — something I noticed in one of my early jobs when I spotted incorrect apostrophes on report records. You cannot teach children if you don't have the skills yourself.

Education investment fails poorest UK pupils

That's my problem.

I was never taught grammar and, as a direct result, I can't teach grammar to my child.

I'm looking forward to learning grammar, but I'm not seeing when, where, or how that's going to happen given everything else that's going on.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

writing test - UK

Ed and I are constantly marveling over how good the writing instruction in Britain is. Not only are well-educated Brits very good writers, they're fast and their output can be immense.

One of the teachers on recommends Basic Writing Skills. I'm not sure what Basic Writing Skills is, but I did find a British program by the title.

It has a writing test (mostly usage & grammar) I may give to C. later on. I liked it.

I missed number 10.

school decline in UK, too

School leavers lack 'basic' skills

I love the teacher's photo.

powerful learnings

Francis Bacon said knowledge is power.

There are KIPP schools, widely admired.

But Michel Foucault asserted a different model of the relationship between knowledge and power: Because human understanding exists in social discourse, having knowledge is the same as having the privilege of making a statement pass among other statements as true in social discourse.

An economy of knowledge uses statements as currency and dialogues as monetary exchange. Power relationships are implemented in the “production, accumulation, circulation, and functioning” of discourse.

In short, being able to pass off statements as true is power.

Is this what educators think of when they talk about a "knowledge-based economy"? Shouldn't there be schools based on this model? Or maybe we already have them. Is Foucault the reason why we hear educators go on and on about “powerful” learnings and “powerful” meanings and “powerful” understandings? Is he the one to blame?

And so, who is a discourse capitalist in this economic model?

Who is the proletariat and who is the comfortable bourgeoisie?

Who considers herself in the vanguard of the revolution? If we're talking economics, there's got to be a revolution in here somewhere. Somebody's applecart has got to be upset.

I must be a member of the lumpenproletariat because I can’t seem to pass off anything I say as true in the educational discourse. Teachers don’t buy the statements I’m selling when I talk with them about direct methods of teaching mathematics to children. Teachers are about as excited to listen to me as if I had fished my statements out of a dumpster on a rainy day. I'm only a parent: a reactionary. I am only ever thought to be speaking about the unique circumstances surrounding one child: my own.

Constructivism, on the other hand, sells like hotcakes. I should sell more of that to teachers and purchase IEPs for my child with the proceeds.

Lucy Calkins, Lucy Calkins

Teachers talking about Lucy Calkins' writer's workshop model.

This passage brought home to me, for the first time, the possibility that "different styles of learning" actually means "different levels of ability" and/or "different levels in the curriculum."

This teacher obviously has students at all levels of ability and achievement, but she attributes their differences to "learning style":

In my classroom, it takes me on average between 20-25 minutes to do my mini lesson, sometimes more. Why? My kids don’t all process information the same way. For some of them, spending more time "trying it out" helps them to really understand what I taught them during the mini lesson. For others, I have to be there at their table, showing them how to do it step by step. Still others don’t process it at all and I have to show them how to do it during reading or writing workshop.

Various teacher comments here, too.

Workshop Model ("group work is essential"!) Group work and self motivation!

Group work is, as one can argue, the heart of the lesson. It is here that teachers observe their students carrying out what they have learned during the mini lesson. Student participation during this time is crucial. If a peer starts to analyze a certain topic, and the other adds to his/her statement and then a third or fourth or possibly fifth, etc., what we have here is a large variation of ideas being exposed to each individual. If there were a situation where a lack of participation surfaced, neither the teacher nor the students would have the certainty that what was taught in the mini lesson was actually understood. Make sure you take full advantage of the time alloted for group work.

Another key element in student success would be self motivation. Self- driven students tend to do better because their vision for the future is clear and their priorities are set. Taking the initiative to participate during class and ask questions or help peers is a great pathway towards reaching one's academic goal, to learn and help others learn as much as possible. Giving every student equal opportunities will most definitely have positive results under the Workshop Model program. You have to do your best to determine where you can improve and where you can help others, and act upon that information.

One thing I see happening in constructivist ELA classrooms is a huge amount of very small group or even one-to-one instruction.

The rest of the class is on its own. In every realm and in every way, constructivism moves the responsibility for teaching from the teacher to the student.


These students seem to agree. (click on "results of 34 votes")

They're not huge fans of the workshop model, either, it appears.


I was thinking the edwize post sounded familiar.

Then I found this Comment from "redhog":

Lucy Calkins is an educational war criminal.


Read it before.

Who could forget educational war criminal?

Becky does Cargo Cult Lucy


posted to the Irvington Parents Forum:

This is a fine kettle of fish.

Here we have the Board threatening to “consider” legal action against parents who use the Top Secret Board email list to contact other parents, and encouraging us all to call up each other’s Internet Service Providers to lodge complaints.

First take: I will not be spending hours of my life attempting to cut off other parents’ internet service.

I like hearing from other parents.

That’s why the Forum is here. Anyone can join; anyone can comment; parents and members of the community can use their own names, a pseudonym, or both.

This is a free speech zone!

Forum is here
Links here
Free email addresses available here

As to the Board and its threats, I was pretty sure parents and residents were within their legal rights to use the list to communicate with other parents and residents on matters of importance to our schools.

I’ll add that I don’t intend to use it myself, entirely because members of the list haven’t had an opt-out. That’s why I didn’t take part in the discussion of the fields vote that occurred last December on the Board list. I appreciated receiving the posts myself, and welcomed the first open, district-wide internet discussion of an important issue. But I understood why some parents would prefer not to have a sometimes-heated exchange suddenly drop into their email queues uninvited.

Friday night, after reading the Board’s email, I asked an attorney friend for his opinion of the Board’s threat to pursue legal action against parents.

This is his response (scroll down).

email from the Board
Tex weighs in

Barry on Math Panel statement

from the preliminary report:

Of course, teaching in very few classrooms would be characterized by the extremes of these philosophies. In reality, there is a mixing of approaches to instruction in the classroom, perhaps with one predominating.

Barry's comment:

I found the passage that Instructivist quoted rather jarring and wrote the following comment to Tyrrel Flawn, the Exec. Dir of the National Math Panel. The comment is now part of the public comments:

I am concerned with the last two sentences of the second paragraph. The statement that extremes of either type of these philosophies are not used exclusively in classrooms and that actually both types are mixed implies that there is no problem. To suggest that the inquiry-based philosophy has had no effect because it has not been used in its pure form, or because it is mixed with direct instruction is a specious argument and conveniently sidesteps an extremely significant issue.

The problem is more complex than characterized by these last two sentences. First of all, there are degrees of discovery or inquiry-based learning. There is general agreement within the psychological community that knowledge is ultimately constructed by the learner in order to be absorbed. But such construction can occur with passive type learning (i.e., direct instruction) just as it can with hands-on activities (discovery learning). Thus all types of learning is discovery oriented, and one has to look at the gradations of discovery learning. Some types have minimal guidance, and other types rely on structured guidance such as that found in textbooks such as Singapore, Saxon, or Dolciani.

There are a host of math programs being used, however, that are informed by constructivist theory of the minimal guidance variety, such as Investigations in Number, Data and Space; Everyday Math, Connected Math, IMP, Core Plus, and Math Trailblazers. Some of these programs such as Investigations, Trailblazers and Everyday Math, do not have textbooks. Teachers who must teach from such programs are unwittingly conducted discovery-based classes by virtue of how the program is put together. Students are often not given enough prior information before being presented with a problem that they must solve in group work, leading to inefficient solutions.

Furthermore such programs typically do not teach to mastery since students will be exposed again next year to the same topic through “spiraling.” The "spiraling" concept is picked up by other texts and programs, which then engenders the use of discovery in classrooms, since mastery is no longer as pertinent as it once was. The last two sentences would seem to ignore the highjacking of math programs going on because of the increasing pervasiveness of the inquiry-based philosophy.

I would hope that consideration is given to better characterizing the discussion of inquiry-based learning versus direct instruction.

why we need statistics

from rightwingprof, one of the most succinct & clear statements I've seen:

Before I go on, let me quickly address why we must analyze the data statistically, and cannot just report means. If we gave the same kids the same proficiency exams on two different days, say only a week apart, their scores would be different. Anytime we see a difference between scores, without statistics, we do not know if those differences are due to random variation or not. We cannot without statistics point to two different scores or means and say, "See? The scores increased!"

Also, let me mention a few crucial points.

  • The more data we have, the more reliable our statistical analysis will be (this will become an issue later on).
  • Means (averages) alone do not give us a complete picture, particularly when they are means of aggregated data, as these are (this is why I look at other descriptive statistics).
  • Statistics always deals with probability (uncertainty), and we calculate our statistics to a specific probability, 95% here (sometimes statistics are calculated to a 99% probability). This is the level of sensitivity (alpha), here, 0.05.
  • We are assuming here either that the proficiency exam standards did not change between the two years or that the proficiency reports for the two years are comparable (if they are not, then Wisconsin cannot make any statement about their proficiency levels over time).

The Klein Four - Finite Simple Group

Via A Difference, a new math blog I found this morning, I came across this video by the Klein Four, a cappella group from the Northwestern University math department.
Catchy, isn't it.
Not exactly kitchen table math, but it's math!