kitchen table math, the sequel: 6/3/07 - 6/10/07

Saturday, June 9, 2007

help desk - grammar

This sounds wrong to me:

Watching the film, the overall impression is of seeing an underwater parade.

English Composition and Grammar
Complete Course
John E. Warriner
p. 158

If you're thinking about buying a Warriner's text, the "complete course" seems like the one to get.

These Amazon reviews are wonderful:

This book was issued to me in my senior year in high school in 1976. I have kept it by my side, has helped me through my college years and then with my children, and now that I have decided to go back to school and am studying translation, I have taken it out of the bookshelf once again because the books we were assigned do not even come close to the perfection (in my idea) of this book. It has traveled with me through the different countries that I have lived in. It is truly a jewel of a book as far as how it is organized, explained and the exercises are very helpful to reinforce what you are trying to learn.


I was issued the 1963 version of this book in high school during the 1970's. I won't let it out of my sight! I brought it to college, and used it to teach my kids what they weren't learning in school. Now my daughter's SAT tutor wants her to have her own copy. I'm sure this updated version will prove invaluable to her as well.

update - from Barry:

Yes, it's grammatically incorrect because after a participial clause ("Watching the film") you want whatever the clause is modifying.

That's what I thought! Does this sentence, as written, mean that the "overall impression" is doing the watching?

Sure wish someone had taught me some grammar way back when...

I've got 3 yummy-looking sentence diagramming books stacked up waiting for my attention, but since I have to teach myself algebra 2, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and physics first - either that or get a second job so I can hire tutors - I don't know when I'm going to learn grammar.

I need to refresh my knowledge of Spanish grammar while I'm at it....

2 weeks off

So the latest around here is that C's math teacher has apparently taken two weeks off to have elective surgery, possibly on her foot.

The 10 days off closely coincide with the final 10 days of actual classroom instruction. When she returns the kids will be doing final assessments - or about to be doing final assessments - which means they only come to school for a test or two, then leave.

In other words: not a real school day, but counts as real under the contract.

I hadn't realized this kind of thing was possible until Math Dad filled me in. C's teacher had been absent most of the week before Christmas, but had come to school quite ill on the last day before break, thoughtfully exposing her students to the flu going into the holidays.

I thought the whole thing was weird. The day before break was a half day and nothing gets done on a half day. Why would you drag yourself into school sick as a dog for half a day of school?

Math Dad explained to me that the reason you drag yourself into school sick as a dog for half a day of school is that you don't have to work but you also don't lose a day of sick leave.


So now we've got a 10-day stretch of math class with no math teacher.

The principal signed off on this plan without bothering to inform anyone else in the district. That's too bad because, as it turns out, when you're looking at an absence as long as two weeks the superintendent can hire a real math teacher to fill in.

But no one knew, so no one was hired.

Instead the Home and Health teacher has taken one class; a succession of other subs has appeared (including the beloved Ms. M - always a silver lining); the kids do worksheets in class but the sub doesn't provide the answers so they can't check their work.

My favorite day so far was the one where the sub gave the kids a sheet of "hard" word problems. Some of you will recall that the kids have never been taught how to do word problems and have seldom been assigned word problems so they could teach themselves or their parents and tutors could step into the breach.

So the sub distributes a worksheet of "hard" word problems and the kids can't do them. Surprise.

The sub takes a look and discovers she can't do them, either. So she gives the kids the answers and tells them to try to figure out how to do the problems based on the answers. (Work backwards!)

That was a revelation: the subs have the answers. I had been by then been emailing futilely for days requesting that the subs give the kids the answers so they could check their work. The math chair and principal had steadfastly refused to respond and the subs had steadfastly not given the kids the answers.

Nor had the subs sent the worksheets home so I could work the problems and give C. the answers. That has been my fallback position. If they weren't going to give the kids the answers, could they just send the worksheets home so I could do the problems and give C. the answers and make him re-do the problems he missed.

Or....if that was too much, how about just telling me what the nature of the problems on that day's worksheet was?

Nope. Radio silence.

$21,000 per pupil spending.

I will add that we finally met the new assistant superintendent for curriculum, who was great, and who was more scandalized than we were by this latest turn of events. In fact, she was aghast.

That was a first.

Pretty great.


I just checked the dates.

Ms. K's first day of absence was Thursday, May 31.

We're told she will be out for 2 weeks.

I assume she will be returning on Thursday, June 14, which is the first day of assessments.

Christopher will be taking his math assessment that day.

The middle school principal approved this.

update update 6-12-2007

the return of Ms. K

2 weeks off
the return of Ms. K
getting better all the time

all the answers are belong to us
email to the math chair
second request
teacher's manual
it would be unusual
more stuff only teachers can buy

Friday, June 8, 2007

Fifth Grade Everyday Math Roundup

The school year is over (private school) and my son brought back the remains of his Study Links and Student Math Journal, Vol 2. Here are my comments.

1. There are a lot pages left undone. In the Math Journal, from page 260 to the end of the book (page 445), they did about ten pages. In the Study Links workbook, 40 percent of the pages aren't done. They ran out of time. The teacher said so, but also told parents that she thought the kids were all developing well with their critical thinking abilities. There is always the problem (with any curriculum) that the schools don't do what they are supposed to do. In my son's class, the teacher had to deal with students who didn't know their basic math facts. However, a good deal of blame can be placed on the lack of practice in Everyday Math. The school likes to put the blame on the kids, especially when they see some kids doing well.

Unfortunately, I can see them screwing up Singapore Math.

2. Singapore 5A and 5B workbooks add up to 208 pages. Everyday Math Study Links is 273 pages which are one-sided so that they can be torn out. This is really 137 pages. Singapore Textbooks total 192 pages. Everyday Math Student Math Journal is 445 pages! How can so much more seem like so much less? Easy. Too much superficial coverage and too little mastery of important skills. To be successful, a curriculum has to be carefully planned out for the 180 day school year. It seems to me that the developers of Everyday Math knew that few schools could ever get through the entire workbooks, but they knew it would look good in the curriculum review process.

In the Math Journal:

Page 265 has 11 questions on multiplying fractions. Not done.
Page 266 and 267 has 8 questions on multiplying fractions. Not done.
Page 269 has 8 questions on multiplying fractions. Not done.
Page 270 has 8 questions on multiplying fractions. Not done.
Page 271 has 10 questions on multiplying fractions. Not done.
Page 275 has 10 questions on multiplying fractions. Not done.
Page 278 has 7 questions on multiplying fractions and mixed numbers. Not done.

You get the idea.

Is this the fault of the school or the curriculum? Both? Plausible denial on both sides? Blame the kids?

It seems to me that it's easier to screw up Everyday Math. They are telling teachers that coverage is more important than mastery. The curriculum advisor talked about a new version of Everyday Math that emphasizes more practice. How do they do this? Do they cut down on the number of topics? Will they tell teachers which sections to skip if they run out of time?
Unfortunately, you can't just do what I suggest and compare workbooks side-by-side. Everyday Math will always look better in theory than in practice. I think they know that.

3. In spite of the many more pages in Everyday Math, they are behind in the important math skills that lead to algebra. Even if you take out all of the less important pages of EM, they are still behind. Perhaps one could take a big red edit pen to Everyday Math and trim it down to something that looks more like Singapore Math, but it would still be less.

4. I see absolutely nothing in Everyday Math that provides more understanding or critical thinking development than Singapore Math. There is nothing special about their explanations. There is little discovery. EM might have kids look for patterns, but this can be a hindrance as much as it can be a help. One could always trade off speed and amount of coverage for more understanding, but that's not possible unless you skip a lot of important material. That's a separate issue.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"Practicing Journalism in Elementary Classrooms"

a fantastic article about a writing program Niki Hayes set up in the elementary school where she was principal (pdf file)


I loved reading this because I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out whether there is a "basic skill" form of writing that underlies, or could be more or less made to underly, all other forms of writing the way arithmetic underlies all other forms of math.

(question: does arithmetic "underly" all other forms of math? no idea!)

What I came up with, pretty quickly, was the conviction that if there is it would have to be workaday journalism.

note: workaday journalism, not personal narratives

more on this anon —

how many personal narratives can dance on the head of a pin?
teaching writing through journalism in K-5 - the Niki Hayes program

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

3rd grade in TERC

large size here

John Fleming - 2007 Baccalaureate address - Princeton University

Ed just sent me this.

a ktm-2 moment:

The word "baccalaureate" of course refers to the bachelor's degree you will receive on front campus two days hence. This will be a sacramental action, a sacrament being the "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." The degree is an inward and spiritual grace conveyed by President Tilghman by the authority granted to her by the trustees. Its outward and visible sign, the diploma, you will pick up on Cannon Green. Don't forget to get yours. Even though it's only outward and visible, it did cost well over a hundred grand. Baccalaureate is a Latin word invented in the Middle Ages by translating the Old French bachelier. A bachelier was an apprentice knight, a warrior of such modest means that he fought beneath the banner of a superior knight. The etymology of bachelier is obscure, but we think it might derive from sub plus chevalier. This would mean "someone beneath a horseman." Being beneath a horseman, though perhaps preferable to being beneath a horse, still strikes me as a less than exalted status. Other associations of the bachelier are suggested by Chaucer's description of his squire, son of the knight, of whom he writes:

With hym ther was his sone a yong SQUIER
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler ...
So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale,
He sleep namore than dooth a nyghtyngale.

As readers of "Romeo and Juliet" will remember, the nightingale is a dirty bird. And you have Chaucer's word for it that bachelors, of whatever gender, are hot.

Within a hundred years of its first appearance in English, its semantic field had expanded to include its academic meaning and its more common and current sociological one — a man as yet unmarried but ripe for the marital state. This suggests, doubtless, that the closest social analogies to medieval warfare must have been undergraduate life and matrimony. But the implication of a preliminary stage, a transition beyond adolescence but not too far beyond it, remains. Hence the perfect fit of Baccalaureate and Commencement itself. In every Commencement address I have ever heard — or given, for that matter — it has been pointed out that the word "commencement" clearly denotes a beginning, not an ending.

Of course there is an ending, and I must warn you about it. Beginning on Tuesday at noon, you are no longer the younger generation — and it's all downhill after that. The plenary valorization of the youthful, the contemporary, the innovative, the preference for 12-year-old violinists and 19-year-old metaphysicians, and the appetite for all the daily Apple updates, these are necessary features of American dynamism; at your age I embraced it completely, but I find I have grown in wisdom wonderfully in the last five decades, and I think you will do so soon. I now realize that at the very least the quintessence of the here-and-now must be tempered with the wisdom of the ancients, meaning something written, thought or said sometime before the day before yesterday.


From this elevated pulpit my view of the class of 2007 is one of extraordinary uniformity — hardly surprising, given the fact that you are all wearing the same uniform, the uniform of a bachelor of arts and sciences. Yet I know for a fact that the black robes are covering a near riot of individuality. You are an allegorical tableau of the philosophical problem of the one and the many, and the social and spiritual challenge of the individual and society — subjects which you have undoubtedly touched upon in your careers here. Neither as a nation nor as a university have we got this one fully worked out yet. It still says on the penny "E pluribus unum" with the emphasis clearly on the unity. For the last 20 years in the academy we have been extolling the "pluribus" part.

The magic word here is "diversity." "Diversity" aspires to the status of a terminal good and therefore a terminal goal. What does it mean, and what does it not mean? Actually academic "diversity" has a quite delimited range having to do with obvious racial, ethnic, sexual and religious distinctions: Some folks are black, some white; some straight, some gay; some are Hispanic, some Asian-Americans, some Methodists, some Muslims. "Diversity" does not mean that at Princeton we have many students of below average intelligence, or many who are illiterate, or quite a few who are dying of AIDS. I will not go on with a list of the underprivileged but very real categories of world diversity, but I will ask you to think, as Princeton graduates, how you are and how you are not like everybody else in the world.

From the 18th century we have inherited in 18th-century language, the doctrine that "all men are created equal," and "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights," then enumerated as including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Incidentally, the feel-good phrase "the pursuit of happiness" was a last-minute substitution for "the possession of property," and it was a mistake. The pursuit of happiness is the stuff of dreamers. The possession of property is the stuff of lawyers.

The stealth appearance of the Deity in our Declaration of Independence has proved something of a political embarrassment, abused by some on the so-called religious right as a charter of theocracy and by others on the so-called secular left as, apparently, a typographical error. As a Christian believer, I am less bothered than some of my colleagues by Jefferson's mixing of genres. Our founders were wise legislators, and one mark of wisdom in a legislator is a healthy appreciation of what law cannot do, no less than of what it can do. Legislation could not make of the whole world a family of brothers and sisters. The recognition of the universal fatherhood of God one day might. Hence the messianic requirement to "respect the dignity of every human being" belongs where it is in the baptismal covenant, but not in the New Jersey statutes. Where do Princetonians stand with regard to the universal equality of all humankind?

I see from U.S. News and World Report that Princeton is an "elite" university. The specter of elitism has haunted all my years here. Who wants to be an elitist? Many of my faculty colleagues are appalled by elitism. They combat it valiantly by wearing blue jeans to work, by sharing first-name terms with their students, and by maintaining rigorous neutrality concerning the competing moral and aesthetic claims of "Paradise Lost" and "Spiderman III."


Not long ago I was on an appointments committee reading the recommendations of job candidates. Concerning a certain candidate one letter said that this person's work was "always exciting and often brilliant." The adverb "often" spelled his doom. What? Only often brilliant? Princeton professors are brilliant 24/7. Reee-jected! These are the professors who moan about the evils of "elitism."

the project method

And you people, you Class of Destiny, you are if anything even worse [more elite] — meaning in this instance, naturally, even better. What it took to get into this institution is exceeded only by what it took you to get out. My career at Princeton was not paralyzed by self-doubt. I modestly considered myself capable of handling not merely my job, but any job in the place. But to one height I knew I could never ascend. I could never, ever have gained admission to the freshman class — yours, or any other Princeton class. I simply don't have what it takes. I had never done any of those things that you wrote about in the autobiographical statement of your admissions packet. I never backpacked through the Carpathians. I never made a papier-mâché model of the New York subway system. Not even with an unrusted nail did I perform an emergency tracheotomy on an asthmatic camel in the Gobi desert, thus saving myself and my companions from certain death. I did not in fact ghostwrite the enabling legislation for the most sweeping program of environmental remediation ever undertaken by the Ohio State legislature. My big "extracurricular" was the 4-H Club.

on gratitude

One mark of the mature elite sensibility is the capacity to experience gratitude and the power to express it generously ˜ in action as well as in word. So I hope even amid so much exuberant emotion you are grateful for this place and, above all to those in many generations whose support, encouragement and not infrequently sacrifice allowed you to be here.

on money and banking

So, Class of Destiny, we must be on our separate ways. As you go, be sure to take with you not merely your diploma but your whole education. I shall hope to see you around. That is a platitude, but then this is a Baccalaureate address. Besides, it's a platitude plus. One of the particular pleasures of long service as a Princeton professor is that just about half the time I am in or on my way to a really interesting place, I am likely to have a chance meeting with an old Princeton student. ....Once, in O'Hare Airport, a man in a business suit practically jumped over the security barrier to accost me. "Professor, uh, Professor!" he screamed. "You changed my life, Professor uh!" he continued, as the crowd formed. "You taught me 'Money and Banking!'" Well, I try to take the larger view. You cannot expect that a fellow who takes a course called "Money and Banking" when he is 19 years old will be particularly sharp when he is 49. Perhaps the firing of the synapses was slightly out of time, but the heart was in the right place. He knew that I was from Princeton, and that someone there had taught him something.

full text here

bonus: Fleming on procrastination

I learned the following things, among others. There are quite a few Princeton students who, six weeks into a course, do not know their preceptor's name. (I take comfort from the fact that only a comparatively small number do not know the name of the course lecturer either, and even those could usually give me a physical description leading to a positive ID.) I learned that it is quite possible for a Princeton undergraduate to take a course, indeed to write a passable paper for a course, without being able to tell an interested bystander (i.e., me) the number of the course, the title of the course or, most amazingly, the general subject matter of the course. Nor was it always possible for the interested bystander to deduce from the title of the paper to be submitted the course — or, sometimes, the department — for which the paper might have been written.

I cannot without hypocrisy impugn the undergraduate propensity for procrastination possibly revealed by this experience. I myself have long taken it as a rule of life that one should not postpone until tomorrow what one can postpone to the next day. Several students stayed on to chat after delivering their papers, and one opined that it was impossible to enjoy the full measure of anxiety offered by the writing experience if you handed the thing in more than five minutes before the final deadline.

Fleming wrote columns for the Daily Princetonian for years, though they're a bit hard to find. Some are here.

how many personal narratives can dance on the head of a pin?

from Vicky S:

The Power of 'I'

how many personal narratives can dance on the head of a pin?
teaching writing through journalism in K-5 - the Niki Hayes program

what's in a name?

from Vicky S:

Hey, I had to make a toga for my 5th grader this year too! Trip to the fabric store, the whole works.

But...actually I had to make a costume for Hippocrates (my son was playing him in a "wax museum" exhibit at school). I thought a toga was in order. Little did I know the GREEKS did not wear togas--it was the ROMANS.

My poor son.

Add to that, for his table cover he brought to school was a wool blanket with an Aztec print.

More project woe

from Anonymous:
LOL about the Greek toga! I can relate. How do they expect us to know everything?

I learned that a stola is more complicated than a toga because for a girl, it's really important you get good coverage once you get that one-bare-arm look, and it requires hardware-like jewelry as well. And it requires sewing.

So in addition to a ton of time, it cost a lot too.

No one could have made one of those without sewing skills. I shudder to think how I would have done it without a sewing machine and sewing skills.

I later learned that some of the moms spent a bundle of money on buying a stola costume, even though we were instructed to make one ourselves.

I don't know if it hurt their grades.

The whole thing is still so ugly because she's now had this Latin teacher for three years, and the Latin teacher is by far her favorite teacher.

I'm glad I never ended up speaking to the Latin teacher.

But what gets me is the disregard for the needs of parents, their free time, and the fact that they have lives.

I was once told by a teacher that I must buy and send in a grab bag prize THE NEXT DAY.

Tough love isn't the answer, though. It doesn't hurt the teacher. It only hurts the kid.

A friend told me this morning her entire family had a meltdown this weekend over their son's project - a meltdown at the level of the kid having to get out of the car and walk because he was so mad and/or because the parents were yelling (the details are hazy, but I've got the bit about the kid having to get out and walk right...)

They got where they were going an hour late & my friend burst into tears shortly after they walked in the door. Then, as they were trying not to go into the gory details, my friend finally said, "X had a project to finish this weekend."

The other dad said, "A project! Say no more."

BOE Vice President comments

From Ridgewood NJ, "Nowthatshockey" has posted a new video from their BOE.

Out of the mouths of (fill in blank). This guy states he doesn't want parents coming to meetings telling the Board what are the problems with TERC. He just wants to know what are the problems with TERC. He acknowledges there has been documentation of what's going on in a 3rd grade classroom. But that's a 3rd grade classroom. No one has told him how these students will be unprepared when they leave the school in fifth or sixth grade. Uh, what'm I missing here? Didn't they quote Wilfried Schmidt at one point, and Jim Milgram, and get testimony from parents who are engineers, talking about how TERC does not provide proper background for advancement and learning in math? No amount of evidence short of removing him from the board will convince him of anything he doesn't want to be convinced of. Even removing him from the Board will not do it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Animal House

from Doug Sundseth:

25-year old childless female teachers spend 30 minutes a day screaming at the kids....

And we have bomb threats.

Cause, meet effect.

When you set up an adversarial relationship between students and staff, especially if the students think such a relationship is unjust, the students will retaliate. And smart kids are really good at finding and pushing buttons. If you're lucky, the retaliation will just be crude cartoons. If not, you'll get this sort of silly, umm, stuff.

And if your response is over the top, the result will be contempt, not fear, and more such incidents, not fewer.

I bet when they were in ed school, the staff members didn't see themselves as Vice Principal Rooney or Dean Wormer. Welcome to the other side, folks.

I ROFLed when I read this.

Plus: I'm glad Doug said it, not me.

Of course this is what I think...although I've endeavored to be at least semi-nonjudgmental on the school's handling of the bomb threat situation, because if I tried to run a middle school I'd get EATEN ALIVE.

Still..... Doug hit the nail on the head as far as the kids' attitudes go. They see their treatment as unjust and they're saying so openly; they're prison-marching themselves around the grounds under the eyes of their teacher guards, for god's sake. They're circulating petitions; the student council leaders are pow-wowing with the principal about greater freedoms or some such; supposedly some kid went to the guidance counselor to complain about the lunchtime screaming and the guidance counselor said he/she couldn't do anything about it ---- every day there's some new tale.

It doesn't matter whether the tales are "true" or not; all that matters, in this situation, is the widespread perception that the school is simply out of control and off-topic. (On-topic being serious study in the liberal arts disciplines.)

Even the parents are in a state of open rebellion, just about.

Plus these kids are smart. The Board president likes to say that "In Irvington everyone is above average" - well guess what?

Everyone is above average.

If some kid wants to make a bomb threat he or she will figure it out.

I don't see any way to stop the threats at the middle school short of installing video cameras and banks of monitors everywhere, and I don't see that working, either. Someone's going to hack them.

It seems to me we're going to have bomb threats no matter what anyone does, and the more crazed the reaction, the more threats - isn't that the way it works?


Of course the other issue is: Everyone said don't build a middle school attached to a high school.

Everyone said don't attach a middle school to a high school back when the middle school was being planned, but did the district listen?

HECK no.

So a kid who wants to make a bomb threat can empty out two schools with one threat.

It's crossed my mind that we may not even be having more bomb threats than other schools; we may just be having the regular 3 bomb threats a high school would have + the regular 3 bomb threats a middle school would have, but it adds up to 6 for both schools because they're attached & they both have to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, what possibilities does the physical fact of a high school and a middle school being physically attached suggest to you?

Does it suggest the possibility of a mathematically gifted middle-schooler being able to take a high school math class without having to be bused across town?

If so, that just goes to show how much you know.

We can't have gifted middle school kids take advanced classes at the high school.

That would violate the middle school model.

Seriously. The principal actually told us so last December when we were bugging him about teaching Earth Science to all the 8th graders instead of just the select few. He said he couldn't do that because we don't have enough certified Earth Science teachers. We said couldn't the high school Earth Science teacher teach it, seeing as how it's a high school course. He said, yes, the high school teacher could just walk over to the middle school and teach it, but "that would violate the middle school model."

In conclusion.....I have no idea what's going on with the bomb threats.

But Doug's take is sure the way I feel.

bomb threat number 6

This morning.

Kids were out from 8:30-ish to noon. Can't tell if it was just the high school kids or the middle school kids, too. update: it was both

This would be a good time to make my Forum post about collective punishment.

talk with your student

Here's the letter they sent home after the last bomb threat:

May 14, 2007

Dear Parent/Guardian:

This morning we received notification that a note containing an implied threat had been placed in the CMS (Cafeteria/Music/Science wing) girls’ restroom—the same restroom in which a note was found last Friday. Superintendent Dr. M. and the Irvington Police Department were immediately contacted and high school and middle school students were evacuated to Main Street School.

When police officials arrived, they performed a cursory check of the premises and requested that the Westchester County Bomb Squad be called in to conduct a more thorough search. No incendiary device was found and students were permitted to return to class. Since the note was found in an area shared by both middle and high school students, each building is involved in the investigation. Part of that investigation includes an analysis of the handwriting used in the notes.

We are deeply troubled by the number of occurrences (this is the fifth threat this year and the second in a week) and are exploring various options to address them in a positive and productive manner. This afternoon, district personnel and the Irvington Police Department convened to identifying possible initiatives to address the problem. As a result of that meeting, the following measures are being put into place immediately:

The CMS restrooms will be locked for the remainder of the school year.
All students will be required to sign in and out of class any time they leave the room.

Staff will monitor the bathrooms, stairwells, and other areas deemed as high priority in between classes.

We will meet with each class to review our policies and to ask for their help in apprehending the responsible party.

In addition, the district is offering a substantial monetary reward to any individual who provides information that leads to the conviction of the perpetrator. Long-term, we are also investigating the installation of a campus-wide security system involving video cameras.

As always, please feel free to contact us should you have any questions or concerns. Indeed, we hope you discuss this incident with your student to impress upon him/her the seriousness of these threats and the possible consequences (expulsion up to one year) if found guilty. Finally, please encourage him/her to come forward with any relevant information. We would obviously keep his/her identity confidential.

Your continued support and patience are greatly appreciated.



How do you read this?

I read this to suggest that we parents are asked to assume that "our student" may be the perpetrator — either that or he/she knows who the perpetrator is — and to read him the riot act viz.: seriousness of the offense.

There's certainly no suggestion here about what to say in the event that "our student" has nothing to do with bomb threats and no clue who does and is maybe getting a little freaked out by the whole thing.

During one of the last bomb threats the whole middle school was made to sit down together in a tight bunch outdoors, arms held to their sides, without talking, for the 80 or so minutes it took to search the school.

collective punishment: proscribed under the Geneva Convention but standard fare here in Irvington.

Thinking Out Loud on group punishment and the law:

The problem with group punishment is that it violates the students' due process rights. Basic due process for student discipline requires that the student be told what they are accused of doing and the evidence against them described, and then they are given an opportunity to tell his side of the story. Goss v. Lopez. Manifestly, this is not and cannot be done in a whole school or whole class situation. Also, the student handbook is usually the "cookbook" for student discipline, and is an expression of school board policy in this area. I'm willing to bet that if you combed that, you would NOT find "group punishment" anywhere in it as a possible punishment, for excellent reasons. .... If the principal doesn't "get" the concept of violating the Constitutional rights of an entire middle school student population, it is possible that the Superintendent or the school district's attorney would. You may want to take this to a higher level. The good news about being "out there" with the administration over "math wars" is that you have nothing further to lose by making waves. So, make nice big ones.

Why is group punishment so popular if it is so obviously illegal? I think it is probably because teachers have zero training in basic school law as part of a typical teacher preparation degree, and most administrators have one or two classes in it at most, as part of the degree program that leads to certification as a school administrator, which is usually taught by retired school administrators, not lawyers. Talk about triple hearsay!

I'd say it's time for me to get this opinion to the school board and the community. Ed stopped me the last time, on grounds that "they've got to be incredibly upset."

I'm sure he's right, but otoh as usual we parents have had no "input" into the situation whatsoever. (That may not be accurate; the PTSA held a Forum for the administration last week to discuss the threats. I was too sick to go, and there've been no reports as to what was said.)

Last fall Ed and I met with the principal and asked him not to impose collective punishments on the kids. We pointed out that collective punishment is unethical; we also told him that his predecessor had not allowed teachers to impose collective punishments.

He said he wouldn't be imposing collective punishment; then he proceeded to impose collective punishments for the entire school year, over littering as well as bomb threats. In February the kids had to do a whole long character ed "problem-solving" assignment on the threats.

The principal also said - and this was back in September - that he would ask parents to volunteer to man the bathrooms, collect hallway passes, etc. "When you keep parents at arms length," he said, "you breed mistrust."

THEN: he didn't invite parents into the school, didn't ask parents to collect hallway passes, etc. I assume the teachers didn't want parents hanging around the school, but I don't know. I assume this because we are reliably told the teachers "like" the principal because he "leaves them alone."

So parents have spent the year complaining about the way the kids are treated. Apparently the teachers scream and yell at the kids every single lunch break. All the kids say so. I first heard about it from a parent at a "Coffee with the Principal" event; the other parents present confirmed her account and complained strongly.

Nothing changed.

I asked C. about it & he said the same thing. The teachers scream at the kids every day. That's lunch.

Then, of course, there was the freedom petition the kids all signed.

So basically the situation is that parents are locked out, kids are locked in, and 25-year old childless female teachers spend 30 minutes a day screaming at the kids.

And we have bomb threats.

And we have the administration putting a price on a kid's head.

Monday, June 4, 2007

trying again


The worksheet post I put up awhile ago seems to want to stay hidden behind the aforementioned grey box.

So here's the link: arithmetic - calculus


just trying to see




moves down

with each new


(do I

sound like


Vlorbik with



big grey blob?

Are any of you seeing a large gray box on the front page of the blog?

I am. I see it on Firefox, but not on Safari.

It's horrible.

At the moment the bottom of the grey box sits just above the words "Redeeming Daisy."

Not very creative

Christopher reports that his friends have deemed his project not very creative.

Also not very colorful.

This is true.

It's not very colorful because our inkjet printer died and we haven't bought a new one. And it's not very creative because.... it's not very creative.

It is reasonably educational, however. I was actually feeling proud of the thing once I realized that if I were a person who was educated by wolves,* I would learn a great deal about the Battle of Gettysburg just from reading the thing.

"The project method": child-centeredness in progressive education
do not press send
The project method, or life without Quark
business opportunity
the project method

toga party
not very creative
top-down teaching

* which I am

Toga party

From Anonymous:
My favorite time was when my kid needed to make her own stola (toga for females) for a Latin project. They were to be graded on it. Of course no 11 year old could do such a thing.

We were about to leave on a week-long vacation to Disneyland, I was packing, I had arranged for this rare event of taking our kids out of school for a family vacation, and I find out that when we get back from vacation, my kid has to have this blasted stola done.

Worse, the instructions were on smeary, blurry, many-times-over-fotocopied paper.

In the presence of my 6th grader, I cried, and railed and screamed and declared I wasn't making this stupid stola.

Poor kid. It's not her fault. So after I calmed down, I ceased packing, had 3 people try and read the directions, and drove to the nearest sewing store, twenty minutes each waqy. The whole project was a nightmare start to finish.

The stola came out pretty nice, and my kid knew enough to say so. But at what cost?

Had I been able to muster a better attitude, my kid might have been able to enjoy the project. Instead, it left a bad taste in both our mouths for school projects.

I believe the kids are the biggest losers in this.

But I was a loser too. I ended up feeling guilty for blowing up.
This is the worst story I've heard so far.

"The project method": child-centeredness in progressive education
do not press send
The project method, or life without Quark
business opportunity
the project method

toga party
not very creative
top-down teaching

mother lode

worksheets: arithmetic through calculus


Now I can spend the rest of the night downloading stuff onto my desktop instead of revising my chapter.

two birds, one stone

Redeeming Daisy

I thought some folks who visit KTMII might be interested in a virtual collaboration experiment going on between myself and another blogger at our new blog, Redeeming Daisy.

Two teachers. Two different states. One united snarl of discontent over lack of collaboration and acadmic vision in the English department. We are collaborating over high school English III: American Literature. We've just begun posting today, so you can find out the story behind the title and catch up quickly. We encourage participation and comments.

how many words do Eskimos have for snow?

from the Week in Review:

PERHAPS no fact is more revealing about Iraq’s history than this: The Iraqis have a word that means to utterly defeat and humiliate someone by dragging his corpse through the streets.

Iraq's Curse: A Thirst for Final, Crushing Victory ($)

Up until the moment I read this observation I would have said PERHAPS no fact is more revealing about Iraq's history than this: The Iraqis do not have any songs about Iraq.

When I first read the song factoid - apparently the Iraqis have never written or sung songs about Iraq - I thought: hoo boy. Keeping Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis together in one country is not going to be easy.

But I think having a word for defeating and humiliating an enemy by dragging his body through the streets probably trumps not having a national anthem.

The word is sahel, btw.


Has "Eskimo" fallen out of favor?

Are we supposed to say "Inuit"?

update from Andy Lange:

This is cool: Languages of Iraq

If there's one thing I've learned from reading Language Log, it is to be suspicious of language-related claims, especially from sources such as the NY Times.

For example, saying "the Iraqis have a word" is somewhere between meaningless and outright misdirection, as there are three primary languages spoken in Iraq:
  • Kurdish
  • Mesopotamian Spoken Arabic
  • Standard Arabic

and, from Vlorbik:

what andy said.

geoffrey pullum, a founder of langlog,
wrote _the_great_eskimo_vocabulary_hoax_
in the days before blogs.
(usually does the best entries
in langlog, too.)

NCTM standards of your very own

I'm so glad I finally made contact with Niki Hayes.

She just sent an Amazon link for the original NCTM standards!

from Niki:

You can get a 1991 reprint of the Standards. My copy is 1989, but it is the same as the 1991 book.

My copy is on its way.

ISBN lollapalooza

In case any of you were wondering what structured procrastination looks like, this is it:

finding used texts: (ISBN search)
and: Google the ISBN number without dashes


Pre-Algebra: An Accelerated Course
Mary P. Dolciani, Robert H. Sorgenfrey, John A. Graham
Student Edition:
ISBN: 0-395-59123-6
Teacher’s Edition
ISBN: 0-395-43051-8

algebra 1

Algebra 1 Expressions, Equations, and Applications
(now being republished in Prentice Hall Classics Edition – fantastic text)
Paul A. Foerster
Teacher’s Edition
ISBN 0-201-86095-3
Also see:
TE - 0201860953
solution manual - 0201861003

Algebra Structure and Method Book 1
Richard G. Brown, Mary P. Dolciani, Robert H. Sorgenfrey, William L. Cole 1994
ISBN: 0-395-67608-8
Solution Key:
ISBN: 0-395-67764-5

Basic Algebra
Richard G. Brown
Geraldine D. Smith
Mary P. Dolciani
Basic Algebra Teacher’s Edition
ISBN: 0-395-63747-3
Student edition:
ISBN: 0-395-98002-X

Elementary Algebra
Harold Jacobs
Student edition
ISBN: 0-7167-1047-1
A Teacher’s Guide to Elementary Algebra
(my edition doesn’t have an ISBN number)
ISBN-10: 0716710757
ISBN-13: 978-0716710752

algebra 2 & trigonometry

Algebra and Trigonometry
Structure and Method Book 2
Richard G. Brown, Mary P. Dolciani, Robert H. Sorgenfrey, Robert B. Kane
ISBN: 0-395-97725-8
Solution Key
ISBN-13: 978-0-395-67765-0
ISBN-10: 0-395-67765-3

Algebra and Trigonometry: Functions and Applications
Prentice Hall Classics
Paul A. Foerster
Teacher’s Edition
ISBN: 0-13-165711-9


Geometry by Moise & Downs 1971, 1975
ISBN 0-201-04783-7
Solution Key by Gerhard Wichura 1964 Addison-Wesley (no ISBN number)
(This is the original SMSG book – the “New Math” of the 1960s – people love this book)

Modern School Mathematics: Geometry by Jurgensen, Donnelly, Dolciani
Houghton Mifflin
Student’s Edition ISBN: 0-395-13102-2
Teacher’s Edition ISBN: 0-395-13103-0
Purchased 4-23-2007
Solution Key, Modern School Mathematics Geometry
Donnelly, Dolciani, Jurgensen
Houghton Mifflin 1969

I think this is the updated version of Jurgensen; I have a dim memory Barry told me this book is good, too (must check):
Ray Jurgensen
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000
ISBN-10: 0395977274
ISBN-13: 978-0395977279

Geometry: Seeing, Doing, Understanding
Third Edition
Harold R. Jacobs
ISBN: 0-7167-4361-2
Enhanced Teacher’s Guide for Geometry Seeing, Doing, Understanding
Third Edition
ISBN: 0-7167-5607-2


Pre-calculus 7th edition
(in its 8th edition now – 2007)
Michael Sullivan
Instructor’s Edition
ISBN: 0-13-143133-1
Student Edition:
ISBN 0-13-143120-X

Amsco books

Amsco books (geared to New York state Regents)
(note: Florida School Book Depository carries these
Integrated Mathematics Third Edition Course 1
Isidore Dressler & Edward P. Keenan
ISBN 0-87720-228-1 softcover
ISBN 0-87720-230-3 hardbound
Teacher’s Manual Third Edition
ISBN: 0-87720-222-2

Mathematics A
Isidore Dressler & Edward P. Keenan
ISBN 1-56765-545-9/NYC Item 56756-545-8 softbound
ISBN 1-56765-546-7/NYC Item 56765-546-6 hardbound
Teacher’s Manual w/answers Math Course A
ISBN: 1567655475

Mathematics B
Isidore Dressler, Edward P. Keenan, Ann X. Gantert
ISBN: 1567655505 hardcover
ISBN: 1567655513 softcover
Teacher’s Manual w/answers Math B
ISBN: 1567655521

The Tiger Shark project

I think our schools are trying to move away from letter and number grades, as it moves further and further into extreme cosntructivism.

At least that's how it appeared last week.

My third grader had worked long and hard on his ocean animal project. He was assigned the tiger shark. He wrote a terrific report, and brought in a small model of the tiger shark. He was so proud.

Then he brought home the report, and I found out it wasn't graded. Just a "nicely done" kind of comment written on it by the teacher.

No grade? Even getting a C would have told us that the teacher expects more of my son. Even a grade of C would have been better than no grade at all.

We were both disappointed. Poor kid. He's only 8 years old.

The project method, or life without Quark

from anonymous:
I've been down that road with the wrapping paper. LOL

I have a history with those school projects. I get dragged into them kicking and screaming. I hate it that my kid's grade depends on how well I do the project--on whose mom is the most savvy and ambitious.

But in the end, after kicking, screaming and sometimes crying (I mean me doing all this acting out, not my kid) I like having done the project.

Also in the end I'm left with resentment over being told how to spend my quality time with my kid. And lastly, I'm left feeling like what was the big deal, did it really take that much time?

Very mixed feelings, as you can see.
Ed saw a dad carrying a huge, detailed, & perfect battlefield replica into the middle school this morning.

Naturally that struck guilt into the heart of us both.

We are lousy project-makers. You should see Christopher's timeline.

The desktop publishing part is fine, because, as I say, I became obsessed with graphic design a couple of years ago and I taught myself how to do a reasonably good knock-off of professional graphic design on Word. (The Non-Designer's Design Book, by Robin Williams, is essential reading here. A fantastic book.)

news flash: Robin Williams' website is back. (Seemed to be gone for awhile there.)

Anyway, the timeline itself is fine. It's not Quark, but it's fine.

The cardboard box we taped it to is appalling. We cut off the box flaps with cheapo scissors from Staples, and we didn't fold the butcher paper over the top, so there are carboard shreds sticking up all along the edge. I scotch-taped the butcher paper to the cardboard when I should have probably....driven to A.I. Friedman's and purchased some white tempera paint or something....the butcher paper is pooched out in places & looks ridiculous.

Plus there was zero quality time happening yesterday, since everyone was having a recurrence of the stomach flu we thought was a last-week thing, not a this-week thing, too. So Christopher was living in the bathroom while I was fooling around with text boxes.

Quality moment: I had Christopher read the timeline text out loud to me so I could type faster.

As to time costs, it really is staggering. One scruffy stand-up timeline ate up hours of my life.

From Lynn G:
Something must be wrong with me.

I simply hate these projects.

Never have a moment when I can stand back proudly and say, that was cool.

I am not artsy. My daughter is not artsy.

The whole thing is incredibly stressful.

We built the most unlivable African hut and our pilgrim boat would have never sailed had it ever hit water.

I don't care if they get a poor grade in elementary school on this nonsense. I make sure they know content.
Ditto that, too

the brilliant Ms. Duque

All of this is causing me to reminisce about Ms. Duque, C's brilliant 5th grade teacher.

She had the kids write a pretty long, complex paper; she slaved over that paper with them.

Then she taught the kids to give a presentation based on the paper. She invited parents in to listen to their talks, dividing us up into two groups so we'd fit in the classroom. The kids were all so proud, and no one drew, glue-sticked, or scotch-taped a damn thing.

That is a project.

"The project method": child-centeredness in progressive education
do not press send
The project method, or life without Quark
business opportunity
the project method

toga party
not very creative
top-down teaching

More project woe

Business opportunity

Remember back when housewives were setting up home businesses making gift baskets?

I do.

I have a new home business idea.

Some enterprising arts-and-craftsy-type mom should set up a home business making projects for kids' schools.

You could have two tiers of service:
  • you make the project
  • you make the project with the kid
Speaking of which, after spending several weeks refusing to do a project for the Civil War Museum — and getting the assistant superintendent to back us — we caved to nonexistent peer pressure and spent most of yesterday making a Civil War Museum exhibit. Ed was actually threatening to drive to A.I. Friedman's to buy modeling clay, for god's sake. (He never quite let go of his dream of fashioning the two bullets that crashed into each other at Gettysburg.)

I said absolutely not.

So we made a Battle of Gettysburg timeline.

It's a good thing I spent a couple of years obsessed with desktop publishing and graphic design.

Another piece of good fortune: a couple of years ago I hatched a scheme to make my own wrapping paper out of butcher paper and potato prints. As a direct result, I had a roll of butcher paper lying around, so we managed to produce a stand-up Battle of Gettysburg timeline without making a single trip to A.I. Friedman's, Michael's, or Staples.

do not press sendbusiness opportunity
the project method
toga party
not very creative

help desk - posting comments & writing blog posts

Are people still having trouble posting comments?

Also: any advice for how to write blog posts? I'm trying to get someone set up to be able to do so.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

worse than you think

in today's TIMES ($):

SALARIES for school superintendents rose at a rate well above inflation in Westchester last year, according to new state figures. School board officials attribute the increase to the difficulty of finding candidates capable of meeting the high expectations of suburban parents and homeowners.


For 2007-8, the median pay package for the top job in the county’s 39 districts is $288,400, including salary and benefits — an increase of 7.1 percent from 2006-7, according to data the districts reported to the state. Thirteen superintendents will make more than $300,000 in total compensation next school year; seven did so in 2006-7.

Robert J. Roelle, the Ossining superintendent, is the highest paid public school executive in Westchester, with salary and benefits worth more than $345,000 in 2007-8.

Superintendents’ pay has been rising about 6 percent to 7 percent a year for the last three years, mirroring other costs in school districts, which have also been rising more sharply than the inflation rate of 3 percent.

The median pay package for assistant superintendents rose 5.1 percent, to $208,250. And teachers’ salaries rise about 5 percent to 6 percent a year, district officials say.

Westchester’s administrators are the best paid in the state, by a wide margin. The median salary for superintendents is 16 percent higher than on Long Island, and 66 percent higher than the state median of $173,400.

At a time when residents are complaining about high property taxes, and the state is sending millions of new dollars to suburban school districts, Westchester districts now pay about $10.8 million, an increase of 18 percent since 2004-5, for the superintendents who oversee the education of 122,000 students.

School board officials say they see little alternative to the continued increase in salaries, but also say they have little difficulty justifying the cost to voters.


Voters, who can reject school budgets in public elections, have been willing to put up with large increases in property taxes in recent years. “I guess most people believe in the public school system,” said Ms. McBride of Mount Vernon, where voters approved a 6.5 percent increase in the tax levy on May 15 for a budget that contained the big increase in superintendent salary and benefits. “They’re grateful we are trying to keep the taxes as low as we can.”


Census figures released last week show that Westchester and Long Island rank at the top among more than 10,000 school districts across the country in spending per pupil, except for a few in sparsely populated areas that must hire more teachers to reach far-flung students. Among districts with more than 250 students, 13 of the top 24 were on Long Island or in Westchester, with the rest in Alaska and Wyoming.

So..... how much money would you say the Irvington Strategic Plan is worth?

I personally would pay money to have every single item on that plan rolled back, except for number 5, which is athletic fields. (I'll be voting for a compromise fields bond.)

Of course, that's the one element of the Strategic Plan our superintendent has failed to make happen. Everything else has gone sailing through - technology! vendors! portfolio assessments! differentiated instruction! character ed 24/7!

If we had an administrator who was focused like a laser on academic achievement and the liberal arts I would favor a writing program.

Since we don't have an administrator who appears to be even remotely interested in the liberal arts disciplines —
and since we do have administrators who make disparaging remarks about disciplinary specialists we are now being Lucy Calkinsized.

That will cost countless thousands of dollars, too.

Did we talk to real writers in town (amongst whom we number one Pulitzer Prizewinner as well as the former head of Time/Life books) before hiring a Lucy Calkins camp follower to professionally develop our teachers?


Why consult a Pulitzer Prizewinner for free when you can pay good money to hire a consultant?

summer reruns

I was looking for the old Lucy Calkins posts on ktm-1, and I found this post on character education in Irvington.

You must read it!

Especially the comments thread.

one comment: Doug Sundseth wins the award for highest degree of arcane yet serviceable knowledge.

Unfortunately the whole thing ends with a splat (goofy speculation on evolutionary history as it pertains to enrichment in an affluent suburb).

Stop reading after the medieval peasant costume and you'll be smiling.

more charters, please

a note from Cassy T:

I teach 3rd grade. I sit down and grade 90% of the math homework that is turned in, including showing the correct bars and method of working out the word problems.

Our school uses Singapore Math and we ability group at 4 levels. This year, I taught the highest ability group and last week had to choose who goes on to the competitive math group for fourth grade. Homework was a big factor in selecting those students.

Lest you think we are too hard on 3rd graders, I should point out that homework counts only toward a student's "effort" grade on our report cards and classwork and testing makes up the "achievement" portion.

from concernedparent:

Okay Cassy, I'm sending my kids to your school! Singapore Math, grouping by ability and graded homework. Oh my! It's amzing that such a place actually exists.

from Steve H:

"Okay Cassy, I'm sending my kids to your school!"

We're on our way too.

There was a lot of self-correcting in my son's Everyday Math class. I think the teacher only graded the tests.

from Catherine:


from Cassy:

Before anyone starts checking with movers - I should let you know that my charter school has a wait list 60+ students long through 4th grade. We had parents lining up 5 days before registration. And yet, many parents complain when we assign ANY homework!

I'm off to Singapore next month on a math summer program with our school math coach who trains teachers across the world on using the Singapore curriculum. We're visiting elementary & secondary schools and the National Institute of Education. I'll ask those teachers how they handle homework and let you know.

from Vicky S:

We have a charter school like that in my neck of the woods, too. It's a math and science school, and in addition to the great math, the science is taught using the approach Exo described (given/equation/solution/answer).

It has a waiting list of over 120 kids for the 50 spots in the entering class (6th grade)...

Rudbeckia Hirta on teacher education

from the comments thread to Singapore Math in Israel:

My understanding is that under NCLB that people who want to become teachers need to major in an academic discipline (an "arts and sciences" field -- not business or architecture or some other professional field). Their education training is typically a minor in education followed by a "professional year" in which they do coursework as well as their student teaching / internship.

Thus, a future teacher's math courses are determined by his or her undergraduate major. If someone majors in chemistry in preparation for becoming a high school science teacher, then he or she will have taken calculus and more from the math department.

However, if a potential elementary school teacher chooses to major in psychology (one of the most common majors at my institution) or English or some other field that is not particularly quantitative at the undergraduate level, then the only math that he or she might take would be the intro-level gen-ed courses required for the bachelor's degree. These courses are often taught by the lowest rank instructors in the math department.

At some universities, the pre-service elemenary school teachers are funneled into a "math for elementary ed" course. Depending on the university, this might be taught by either the math department or by the education department. At my own institution, for many years it was primarily taught by an education grad student.

I have also taught this course. The experience made it clear to me that many of the people who wish to teach elementary school do not have the necessary math background to do an excellent job at it unless they have a lot of support and well-written instructor's guides.

I'll repeat my question here.

"Math dad" tells me that in the state of NY all teachers 6-12 must have majors in liberal arts disciplines.

Are there special math majors for people planning to go into teaching?

I remember a few years back I was thinking about becoming a science teacher in the middle grades. I'm a science writer; I figured I can teach science.

It turned out that I would have to go back to college for a full major in a science. I remember figuring that if I took one course each semester and in the summer I would be certified by the age of 60, at which time I would become the most employable 60 year old on the planet.

I met with the head of the Science Education program at NYU who told me that this requirement was going to be impossible to meet, and that she anticipated colleges & universities would create special science majors for future teachers.