kitchen table math, the sequel: 6/8/08 - 6/15/08

Saturday, June 14, 2008

what do parents want?

In my district, the administration is constantly buying stuff nobody in particular actually wants.

Next year, for instance, taxpayers will be picking up the tab for new K-5 report cards with a compressed scale (4 points instead of 5), a new middle school math teacher so we have enough math teachers to put one on each of the interdisciplinary teams, and Project Lead the Way.

I imagine there are plenty of parents who think these things are perfectly fine acquisitions. (What people who don't have kids currently enrolled in the schools are thinking by now, I hate to imagine.) But if you'd asked parents to email future spending suggestions to the school board, I doubt that extra math teacher to even up the interdisciplinary teams would have appeared on anyone's list.

For a couple of years now, I've been trying to suss out what parents want; Parents with a capital P, I mean. What do surveys and parent behavior suggest is the number of parents who would freely choose Everyday Math, for instance? (I've come to think this figure is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%, but that's another story.)

New data came my way today in the form of an Economist article on for-profit schools in Sweden ($):

BIG-STATE, social-democratic Sweden seems an odd place to look for a free-market revolution. Yet that is what is under way in the country's schools. Reforms that came into force in 1994 allow pretty much anyone who satisfies basic standards to open a new school and take in children at the state's expense. The local municipality must pay the school what it would have spent educating each child itself—a sum of SKr48,000-70,000 ($8,000-12,000) a year, depending on the child's age and the school's location. Children must be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis—there must be no religious requirements or entrance exams. Nothing extra can be charged for, but making a profit is fine.

The reforms were controversial, especially within the Social Democratic Party, then in one of its rare spells in opposition. They would have been even more controversial had it been realised just how popular they would prove. In just 14 years the share of Swedish children educated privately has risen from a fraction of a percent to more than 10%.

At the time, it was assumed that most “free” schools would be foreign-language (English, Finnish or Estonian) or religious, or perhaps run by groups of parents in rural areas clubbing together to keep a local school alive. What no one predicted was the emergence of chains of schools. Yet that is where much of the growth in independent education has come from. Sweden's Independent Schools Association has ten members that run more than six schools, and five that run ten or more.

The biggest, Kunskapsskolan (“Knowledge Schools”) opened its first six schools in 2000. Four more opened last autumn, bringing the total to 30. It now has 700 employees and teaches nearly 10,000 pupils, with an operating profit of SKr62m last year on a turnover of SKr655m.

Like IKEA, a giant Swedish furniture-maker, Kunskapsskolan gets its customers to do much of the work themselves. The vital tool, though, is not an Allen key but the Kunskapsporten (“Knowledge Portal”), a website containing the entire syllabus. Youngsters spend 15 minutes each week with a tutor, reviewing the past week's progress and agreeing on goals and a timetable for the next one. This will include classes and lectures, but also a great deal of independent or small-group study. The Kunskapsporten allows each student to work at his own level, and spend less or more time on each subject, depending on his strengths and weakness. Each subject is divided into 35 steps. Students who reach step 25 graduate with a pass; those who make it to step 30 or 35 gain, respectively, a merit or distinction.

Again like IKEA, no money is wasted on fancy surroundings. Kunskapsskolan Enskede, a school for 11- to 16-year-olds in a suburb of Stockholm, is a former office block into which classrooms, open-study spaces and two small lecture-theatres have been squeezed (pictured). It is pleasant, but basic and rather bare. It rents fields nearby for football and basketball, and, like other schools in the chain, sends pupils away to one of two specially built facilities for a week each term for home economics, woodwork and art, rather than providing costly, little-used facilities in the school.

Teachers update and add new material to the website during school holidays and get just seven weeks off each year, roughly the same as the average Swedish office worker. “We don't want teachers preparing lessons during term-time,” says Per Ledin, the company's boss. “Instead we steal that preparation time, and use it so they can spend more time with students.”

Many schools would be horrified to be likened to IKEA, but Mr Ledin goes one better. “We do not mind being compared to McDonald's,” he says. “If we're religious about anything, it's standardisation. We tell our teachers it is more important to do things the same way than to do them well.” He then broadens the analogy to hotels and airlines, which make money only if they are popular enough to maintain high occupancy rates.

One selling point that any parent of a monosyllabic teenager will appreciate is the amount of information they will receive. Each child's progress is reported each week in a logbook, and parents can follow what is being studied on the website. And the braver among them will be keen on the expectation that the children take responsibility for their own progress. “Our aim is that by the time students finish school, they can set their own learning goals,” says Christian Wetell, head teacher at Kunskapsskolan Enskede. “Three or four students in each year may not manage this, but most will.”

Performance monitoring is also important within the company: it tracks the performance of individual teachers to see which ones do best as personal tutors or as subject teachers. It offers bonuses to particularly successful teachers and is considering paying extra to good ones from successful schools who are willing to move to underperforming ones.

The Swedish Model
THE ECONOMIST
June 12, 2008


Knowledge School!

yowza

You can't get much further afield from the middle school model than that.

Here's the school's description of its educational concept:

Goal-oriented education

As a pupil at Kunskapsskolan you will be setting long-term learning and attainment goals. At the start of school you, together with your teacher and parents, set and agree on the learning and attainment goals you will work to meet at the end of your final year.

This means that at the end of your last year, your grades will not come as a surprise, and it is our aim that you meet or exceed the attainment goals we have agreed on. The long-term goals will be broken down into a plan with termly goals and weekly goals, and these are followed up week by week in individual tutorial discussions.

Part of this process also includes finding the learning style that best suits your needs, enabling you to develop learning strategies to meet or exceed your goals. It may be a question of finding out where you learn best, or which study techniques will better help you to understand.


Personal supervision for support and control

At Kunskapsskolan, you will have a teacher as a personal tutor who will follow you through your school years, help you and train you in planning and developing your learning strategies, follow up your school work and be available for support and control. As you learn to set your goals yourself and to plan your own time, you will be allowed to take a greater responsibility for your own studies. Thus, our method of working will teach you to take personal responsibility and to become independent - this is not something which you need to know how to do when you begin with us, but something which you will learn step by step.


Unique opportunities for parents to follow the school work

Your parents will have a unique opportunity to follow your studies in your logbook and via the web-portal Kunskapsporten (The Knowledge Portal), where the planning and material for the steps and courses are available. In addition, the teachers will enter all your results, remaining tasks, comments etc in the school´s Pupil Documentation System which is accessible via the Internet.


This reminds me of the Keller Plan, a terrific teaching technology that disappeared shortly after students and instructors alike applauded its effectiveness. I took two courses on the Keller Plan at college, one at Wellesley & the other at Dartmouth. The Dartmouth class was a required statistics course, the only statistics course I ever took, and I still remember a great deal of the content. (fyi: Teachers can use a lecture format with the Keller Plan.)

I assume something's been lost in translation with the "better to do things the same way than to do them well" line ?

This is droll:

Mr Hultin is unapologetic about any problems the school choice system may have caused to state schools.

In some urban neighbourhoods, 10-20% of students now use the voucher scheme to attend private schools - leaving empty spaces at state schools.

"Of course there are losers", says Mr Hultin, "because schools which do not attract parents lose out and they should be losers."

Swedish parents enjoy school choice


Teachers' union supports the system.


Landmark Method for Teaching Arithmetic?

The Landmark Method for Teaching Arithmetic (by Christopher L. Woodin)

Amazon's write-up about this book mentions "Woodin Ladders" as a teaching tool which is used at the Landmark School.

Does anyone know what the "Woodin Ladders" are?

The book description mentions both "Woodin Ladders" and "Landmark Icons" as being useful in teaching math to students in the Landmark School who are struggling.

Barry on "real world math"

comment left by Lauren:

I'm not a fuzzy math advocate by any means and I agree with most of the warning signs on this list. However, I do not understand why connecting math concepts to real world situations is an indication of a fuzzy math program. My algebra students came alive this year when I showed them how the distance formula is used in programming video games. When I taught middle school, I connected everything from percentages to coordinate pairs to real world examples. Math doesn't have to be abstract and irrelevant. Making real world connections can increase student interest in math which may lead to lower drop out/failure rates.


from Barry:

It depends on how one defines "real world". Those who rail against the so-called rote-ridden, formulaic traditional math, point to problems such as work, distance, and mixture problems as irrelevant to students' interests. Other criticism includes that such problems contain all the information that the student needs, they work out neatly, they don't represent the messiness of problems one encounters in the "real world". The solution, in the reformists' mind, is to present students with assignments requiring them to collect data, come to conclusions about such data that they may or may not be prepared to do.

For example, in one assignment I saw, students were to throw various types of paper airplanes, measure how far they traveled, how long they were in the air, and other parameters. These data were then given to another group of students who then were to come up with a scheme for rating which plane flew "the best."

In the documentation of this assignment, it was evident the students were not familiar with the distance = rate · time formula, though some of the brighter kids seem to stumble on it. The whole assignment was one of stumbling and fumbling, which passes for discovery and further passes for learning. It is neither. That they were engaged is irrelevant. The assignment had no value because they were unable to make connections to previous learned and (hopefully) mastered material.

What you have done in your algebra class does relate to previous learned and mastered material. And the students enjoyed being able to put what they've learned into practice.

But many of these so-called real world assignments are nothing more than data collection and data mongering with some statistics thrown in. Not much application of previously learned material takes place. Nor discovery. Nor learning. But onlookers ooh and ahh when they see how "engaged" the students are.

white board


As host of Meet the Press since 1991, Russert interviewed the major figures in American politics. He was a fixture on election nights. In a high-tech age, what many remember from Election Night 2000 is Russert writing on a whiteboard, "Florida Florida Florida." He turned out to be so right that TV Guide eventually picked that as one of the "100 Most Memorable TV Moments" in TV history. He also originated the "red-state, blue-state" description of the nation's partisan divide, according to The Washington Post.

NBC's Tim Russert Dead at 58

This reminds me of one of the Catholic high schools we visited. They had built a beautiful new biology lab with a wall-mounted, full-size SMART Board in place of the blackboard.

The teacher didn't like it and made them take the SMART Board down & put the blackboard back up. The student guides taking the parents around all loved that story.

In the lobby of the school I debriefed the math chair (yes, they collect and correct homework) while Ed talked to the chair of the history department. The history chair, it turned out, had a Ph.D. in history from NYU. He told Ed the school doesn't do discovery learning.

"We tried that in the 1980s," he said. "We didn't like it."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Washington DC educational success story

Who knew there was such a thing? Katie over at A Constrained Vision writes about "The Washington Math Science Public Charter Technology High School".

Mr. Boykie calls the school the “best kept secret in DC” because it has never received much publicity, despite its tremendous academic successes with a student population that is 100 percent low-income: a rigorous curriculum, including AP courses; an extraordinarily high graduation rate, with nearly all graduates receiving scholarships to attend college; and the rare achievement of adequate yearly progress. In addition to their success on standardized tests, WMST students have racked up top honors at math, science, and JROTC competitions. Giant trophies, as well as college acceptance letters, pack the display cases in the front lobby.

Read the whole thing.

Perhaps Joanne Jacobs should write about this school next?

Harry Potter & the classics

J.K. Rowling majored in Classics:

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents' car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination
Harvard University Commencement Address
on video

C. is to read books 1-12 of The Odyssey this summer.

I've started the book.

The language is not easy.

Tim Russert, RIP

We were all pretty stunned this afternoon when news of Tim Russert's death arrived.

Reading some of the coverage I discovered numerous references to Russert's "Jesuit education"
As host of Meet the Press, Russert established himself as the consummate Washington insider, but he drew much of his knowledge and authority from his roots outside the Beltway. He was born in 1950 in Buffalo, N.Y., and his Rust Belt, Catholic roots constantly and conspicuously informed his work. He wrote memorably about his Buffalo upbringing and his father's influence on him in his memoir Big Russ and Me. As one of his NBC colleagues, Lisa Myers, once said of him, "Buffalo is a critical secret to understanding him," and he himself cited his Jesuit education as critically formative.

The Jesuits are inextricably linked to questioning, and so was Russert.

Appreciation: Tim Russert, 1950-2008

Russert grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his father worked as a truck driver and sanitation worker. He said he was the first person in his family to have a chance to attend college. He went to a small Jesuit university, John Carroll, in suburban Cleveland.

"For me my life is now complete. I have a Jesuit education and a Notre Dame diploma," he said near the end of his talk, referring to the honorary doctor of laws he had received earlier in the ceremony.

Russert feels right at home at Commencement
Notre Dame, 2002

It was a Jesuit homecoming for "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert at Boston College's 128th Commencement Exercises on May 24.

The Jesuit-educated NBC newsman, a BC parent-to-be who closed his address to some 3,000 graduates by donning a Maroon and Gold ball cap and exclaiming "Go Eagles!" had the crowd in Conte Forum on its feet with a speech that mixed humorous anecdotes from sports and politics with a call to service delivered from the heart of Catholic social teaching.

"Please do this world one small favor - remember the people struggling alongside you and below you," Russert urged the Class of 2004 at ceremonies moved indoors by rain.

"No matter what profession you choose, you must try, even in the smallest ways, to improve the quality of life of children in this country," Russert said.

"The best commencement speech I ever heard was all of 16 words: 'No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another person.'"

Russert, a product of Jesuit schooling at Canisius High School in Buffalo and John Carroll University in Cleveland, and whose son Luke will be a BC freshman this fall, was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Laws.

[snip]

Russert's address was an ode to blue-collar democratic values and Jesuit education.

The author of the best-selling book Big Russ & Me recalled the "true lessons of life" he had learned from the "quiet eloquence" and decency of his World War II veteran father, a truck driver and sanitation man who worked two jobs for 30 years and "never complained."

Russert became the first in his family to go to college when he went to John Carroll, where, he said, he received a "superb education.

"And so, too, with you," he said. "You chose a school that was different and you made the choice deliberately...

"You've been given an education that says it's not enough to have a skill. Not enough to have read all the books or know all the facts. Values really do matter.

"Boston College...a Catholic university founded by the Jesuits: Its only justification for existing is because it has a special mission - training young men and women to help shape and influence the moral tone and fiber of our nation and our society. And that means now you have a special obligation and responsibility...

"You have something others would give almost anything for! You believe in your God, in your country, in your family, in your school, in yourself, in your values...

"The values you have been taught, the struggles you have survived and the diploma you are about to receive, have prepared you to compete with anybody, anywhere.

"People with backgrounds like yours and mine can and have made a difference.

"In Poland, it was a young electrician named Lech Walesa, the son of a carpenter, who transformed a nation from communism to democracy.

"In South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who became President Nelson Mandela, a brave black man who worked his way through law school as a police office, spent 28 years in prison to make one central point - we indeed are all created equal.

"And on Sept. 11, at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in the fields of Pennsylvania, it was our brother and sister police, fire and rescue workers who properly redefined modern-day heroism.

"All these men and women have one thing in common with you: Like the past, the future leaders of this country and this world will be born not to the blood of kings and queens, but to the blood of immigrants and pioneers."

Russert, speaking two weeks before the 60th anniversary of D-Day, urged graduates to "remember it is your grandparents, and your parents, who defended this country, who built this country, who brought you into this world and a chance to live the American dream.

"Will your generation do as much for your children?" he asked. "You know you must. Every generation is tested. Every generation is given the opportunity to be the 'Greatest Generation.'"

He hailed the "generous spirit of service" shown by the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and the Boston College Appalachia Volunteers.

And he cited BC tutors at the West End House, in Allston, "where the community room is now called the Boston College Room [see page 6], and where a young nine-year-old girl named Adrienne Andry was mentored for 16 years by BC students. She is now attending BC herself, saying simply, 'I feel like I want to give back because I've been helped so much by BC students.'

[snip]

Russert left the crowd laughing with anecdotes from the worlds of sports, journalism and politics.

"In preparing for today, I had thought about presenting a scholarly treatise on the Bush-Kerry presidential race, but I thought better of it," he said. "I guess I'm like that noted philosopher, Yogi Berra: I get it eventually. After Yogi had flunked [an] exam, his teacher came down the aisle, shook him and said, 'You don't know anything.' Yogi looked up and said, 'I don't even suspect anything.'"

Russert Talk Stresses Values, Jesuit Education

Is Your Student Being Taught "Fuzzy" Math

Parents may wonder if their student's math curriculum is "fuzzy" math. Here are some general identifying marks of "fuzzy" math:

1. Very little practice (You might have someone tell you that new studies show that too much drill kills interest in math. That is not true -- it makes students efficient and confident.) Lack of pencil and paper work -- in the "fuzzies' minds it's bad to do a lot of pencil and paper work.
2. Individual problems on the homework are not actually graded. Students are given credit if they show that they "tried" to do it. It doesn't even matter if they successfully solved the problem.
3. Calculators are used to do what children should be learning to do mentally. Some people may even be so bold as to claim that there are students who will never learn all of these math facts anyway. Calculators are said to be sufficient.
4. (Almost exclusively) student-centered activities. Students work in groups to figure out something, and the teacher may not even be involved at all.
5. There will be little or no instructions, certainly no explicit instructions. Activities are student directed and teacher input is lacking. Students are sent home to figure it out by themselves and the next day the class is asked by the teacher if there were any questions.
6. "Real world math" is what it's all about. It's one of the buzz words. After all, who doesn't want students prepared for the "real world".
7. Students are told to write paragraphs explaining all of the steps that are used to solve the problem. Or students are expected to write about how they feel about math. Or as Walter Willaims referenced, students write on such topics as "If Math were a color, what what that be?" In other words, students are writing their math. So much for the benefit of symbols and digits to help solve a problem efficiently, in the least amount of time.
7. Math books are huge, thick books, and pages are filled with visual "clutter" which distracts students' thoughts. (For some "adhd" or "add" students, these pages can be a disaster. It is no wonder it takes them 50 minutes to do a 15 minute assignment.) There is a lot of "non-math" content such as photographs in color and motivational stories which are meant to "inspire" kids to greatness, I suppose, but which have no place in the middle of a math assignment.
8. Patterns, patterns, patterns. Looking for patterns, drawing patterns. Probability will be prevalent by 4th or 5th grade. And much time spent on data analysis projects (finding the mode, the mean, the median) starting in elementary school. What is appropriate for a high school course is inappropriate for elementary children. The time spent on one "projects" may be days and will indeed use lots of pencil and paper. Notice here: It's OK for them to do pencil and paper work. It's just not OK for me or you to do pencil and paper work on traditional math practice.
9. And here's one dead give-away that the curriculum takes a "fuzzy" math approach:
Students are given problems in one lesson, for which they are not at all prepared. Students spend much, much time on these problems, only to discover that the concept is taught a lesson or two later So if your student has no idea what is being asked, look ahead and you'll probably find that the concept is coming up. This is called "discovery learning" because students have a wonderful opportunity to "discover" the concept on their own. Imagine your 4th grader being forced to "discover" how to do long division with no input from anyone else!!

I'm sure there are more I've overlooked. One more that is obvious. Your student is (perhaps suddenlyl) discouraged, thinks he/she is not smart, gives up trying. I know one student who had been in my 5th grade class and was an excellent and a very diligent student. What didn't come naturally, she learned by shear determination and perseverance. How sad I was to hear that she was threatening to kill herself because her high school math was so hard for her and she didn't think she was ever going to get it. Her teacher's approach was to assign the algebra/geometry lesson, forcing the students to teach themselves, and then ask if any of the stusdents had any questions or problems. If there were no questions, they proceeded on to the next lesson.)

So, do any of these ring a bell to you? Well, if so, you must rescue your student as fast as possible. Go to Kitchen Table Math for insights into two parents who faced similar situations and successfully helped their students.

the new math in Germany

Wonderful comment left on Gadfly:

Back in 1974 my family spent nine months in a Munich suburb while I was on sabbatical there. Our two youngest children attended the local elementary school. Early on, big news was a report of a formal action by the German equivalent of the American Medical Association proclaiming that the "New Mathematics" (which was then also the fashion in the U.S.) caused serious damage to the human brain. My wife (who has a PhD in mathematics) cleared up my puzzlement about this as follows: German children (and ours) went to school very early in the morning and returned home after the end of the school day about 1:00 pm. The afternoon was devoted to music lessons, athletics, and homework. In the households of German physicians, they were supervised by very competent well educated mothers. (Then, and perhaps now, German women remained more domestic than those in other countries.) This gave the children of physicians an intellectual advantage, and they moved on to universities in higher proportions than children of lesser parents. The problem with the "New Math" was that the physicians and their wives had no clue about it, so their relative advantage was obliterated. Hence the action of the German AMA.

In my experience, parent teaching (and hiring of tutors) is an unacknowledged source of a great deal of within-group inequality in high-performing districts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

why aren't more people going to college?

Let's ask Tyler Cowan.

I can only conclude that Altonji, Bharadwaj, and Lange have never taught Introduction to Composition to a large group of freshman in a public university in the United States. Anyone who has taught such a class -- or for that matter talked to anyone who has -- will have some inkling why more people are not going to college. Herein lie the roots of growing inequality -- on the bottom side at least -- and don't let anyone induce you to take your eye off the ball by playing switcheroo and bringing up the (separate) topic of the growing wealth of the top one percent.

factoid: I myself have taught such classes.

Clicking around the web, reading posts about The Race Between Education and Technology, I fear we are in danger of embarking upon yet another round of research papers and newspaper op-eddery finding that parent education predicts, causes, and fully accounts for the educational attainment of children:

Research summarized in Cunha and Heckman (2007) suggests that part of the explanation [for why the supply of skills is inelastic] might be that parental investment during early childhood shapes the potential to acquire additional skills later in life.

The anemic response of skill investment to skill premium growth

That's the kind of thing that will lead directly to Universal Pre-K, if the edu-world has its way.

Which it will:

It is well documented that people are diverse on a vast array of abilities, that these abilities account for a substantial portion of the variation found across people in their socioeconomic success, and that persistent ability gaps across children from various socioeconomic groups open up at early ages before children enter school. The family plays a powerful role in shaping these abilities through genetics, parental investments and through choice of child environments. From a variety of intervention studies, it is known that ability gaps in children from different socioeconomic groups can be reduced if remediation is attempted at early enough ages. The remediation efforts that appear to be most effective are those that supplement family environments for disadvantaged children. Cunha et al. (2006a), henceforth CHLM, present a comprehensive survey and discussion of this literature.
Cunha, Flavio and James J. Heckman, “The Technology of Skill Formation”, IZA DP No. 2550 (pdf file)

Once we've got 3 year olds constructing meaning in public pre-schools staffed by accredited teachers, we can wave good-bye to the skills gap.

Glancing through the Heckman paper, I can see the shape of things to come. Declining high school graduation rates will be viewed as a species of disability, the prescribed treatment being early intervention: universal pre-K.

School has no effect on children born to uneducated parents, but pre-school will.

Because it's early.

I wonder what Heckman thinks of Levitt and Fryer....

Compared with the results of previous studies, our findings provide reason for optimism. We find smaller achievement gaps, in both the raw and the adjusted scores, for children born in the early 1990s than others had found for earlier birth cohorts. It could well be that, as compared with earlier generations of students, the current cohort of blacks has made real gains relative to whites. Indeed, recent cohorts show smaller raw black-white gaps across multiple data sets—a truly promising sign.

Once students enter school, however, the gap between white and black children grows, even after controlling for observable influences. We speculate that blacks are losing ground relative to whites because they attend lower-quality schools that are less well maintained and managed as indicated by signs of social discord. Though we recognize that we have not provided definitive proof, this is the only hypothesis that receives any empirical support.

Falling Behind
Steven Levitt & Roland Fryer

Heckman doesn't seem too crazy about Levitt. So perhaps he disagrees with Levitt's & Fryer's paper.

Be that as it may, I despair.

Has none of these people had a child in public school recently?

Or spoken to a person who does?

Has none of them thought about the implications of rising within-group inequality?

[E]ven within groups with the same level of education, the gap between high and low earners has widened, too. Indeed, the more advanced the degree, the wider the gap becomes. A satisfactory theory must therefore explain not only why the demand for college educated workers has risen but also why "residual" inequality has increased, that is, the part that is unexplained by education and other observable factors.

Economic Inequality in the United States

The "powerful role" I personally have played in my typical child's educational attainment did not begin at birth and end at age 3. Those were the easy years.

Within-group inequality is not a mystery to me.


Steve Levitt summarizes The Race in 2 sentences
Jimmy graduates

The anemic response of skill investment to skill premium growth
The declining American high school graduation rate: Evidence, sources, and consequences
Pushy parents raise more successful kids

The Race Between Education and Technology book review
The Race Between Ed & Tech: excerpt & TOC & SAT scores & public loss of confidence in the schools
The Race Between Ed & Tech: the Great Compression
the Great Compression, part 2
ED in '08: America's schools
comments on Knowledge Schools
the future
the stick kids from mud island
educated workers and technology diffusion
declining value of college degree
Goldin, Katz and fans
best article thus far: Chronicle of Higher Education on The Race
Tyler Cowan on The Race (NY Times)
happiness inequality down...
an example of lagging technology diffusion in the U.S.

the Times reviews The Race, finally
IQ, college, and 2008 election
Bloomington High School & "path dependency"
the election debate that should have been

pushy parents and the real world

The Race Between Education and Technology by Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz is one of the most important books ever written about U.S. education.

Two Tales of the Twentieth Century: A Summary

The history of inequality during the twentieth century is a tale in two parts. The first was punctuated by episodes of declining inequality, some quite sudden and rapid. Stable or slowly rising inequality marked other parts of the period. On the whole, the first three-quarters of the century were years of greatly diminished inequality and lowered returns to education. Americans grew together as economic growth was shared throughout the income distribution during much of the period.

Everything came to a halt in the 1970s. America started to grow more slowly and Americans began to grow apart. The last quarter of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century have been distinguished by exploding inequality, chiefly at the upper end of the income distribution. Returns to education, particularly college, markedly increased. Economic growth slowed or was stagnant until the mid-1990s. Whatever growth occurred was unequally shared. With low or no growth and soaring inequality, the lower end often lost out altogether while the economic elites prospered.

We saw in Chapter 1 that the history of educational attainment in the United States is also a tale in two parts. For a long time cohorts of the American population an workforce increased their educational attainment rapidly relative to previous cohorts. But that trend halted and has remained on hold with the entering labor force cohorts of the late 1970s.

We are left with several questions. What accounts for narrowing inequality trends during the first part of the twentieth century and what could explain the possible failure of these trends during the second part. Did technology change accelerate between the first and the second parts of the twentieth century? Was the culprit the computer revolution? Alternatively, or in conjunction, did the supply of educated and skilled workers change? We turn to these issues in Chapter 3.


Chapter 3 Skill-Biased Technological Change

Economic inequality since 1980 increased greatly, as we have just seen. The earnings of college graduates rose at a far greater clip than did the earnings of those who stopped at high school graduation. The incomes of top managers and professionals increased at a much faster rate than did those of ordinary workers.

The increase in inequality was more all-encompassing than a widening between different education levels or occupational groups. The expanding gap also occurred within groups, even within educational levels. Among college graduates, for example, those with degrees from institutions with higher standards for admissions earned relatively more over time. Those who went to more prestigious law schools did better relative to other law school graduates. The widening occurred within virtually all groups in a manner that is not easily explained by the usual observable factors such as years of schooling. At almost all educational and experience levels, for example, the earnings for those near the top of the distribution increased considerably relative to those near the bottom.

The point that we made in the previous chapter was that widening inequality during the past 25 years has affected practically all Americans. Few groups, by education, occupation, geography, and so forth, have been untouched. Some have gained, relatively, but far more have lost, at times in absolute terms. Widening inequality has been pervasive as well as rapid.

The Race Between Education and Technology by Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz
pp. 87-90

The thesis of the book is that education is the engine. I haven't finished reading, but I assume that the explanation for rising within-group inequality is going to be rising within-group inequality in education.

This is precisely the understanding of the world that drives "pushy parents." At least, it is the understanding of the world that drives me. We parents live in the real world, most of the time; we notice that the returns to education are high. We notice, too, or we suspect, that the returns to a superb education are higher than the returns to a good education, the returns to a good education higher than those to an education that is only so-so. Which is the best our schools of education have to offer these days.

I would profoundly value a superb liberal education regardless of the economic returns.

Nevertheless, given the fact that my lone typical child will have two autistic siblings to look after when he is grown, I want his chances of earning a very good living to be high.


Steve Levitt summarizes The Race in 2 sentences
Jimmy graduates

The anemic response of skill investment to skill premium growth
The declining American high school graduation rate: Evidence, sources, and consequences
Pushy parents raise more successful kids

The Race Between Education and Technology book review
The Race Between Ed & Tech: excerpt & TOC & SAT scores & public loss of confidence in the schools
The Race Between Ed & Tech: the Great Compression
the Great Compression, part 2
ED in '08: America's schools
comments on Knowledge Schools
the future
the stick kids from mud island
educated workers and technology diffusion
declining value of college degree
Goldin, Katz and fans
best article thus far: Chronicle of Higher Education on The Race
Tyler Cowan on The Race (NY Times)
happiness inequality down...
an example of lagging technology diffusion in the U.S.

the Times reviews The Race, finally
IQ, college, and 2008 election
Bloomington High School & "path dependency"
the election debate that should have been

For you, or for them?

Cross-posted at The DeHavilland Blog

I've been working a lot with value-added assessment in Tennessee over the past couple of years. One of the things I've learned is that there are some schools that really understand the link between assessment and performance: continual assessment is part of the culture, driving instructional decisions and focusing the entire staff on a goal of 100% mastery. Everything they do is focused on the kids, giving them the skills and knowledge they'll need to succeed in life. (See here for more on the common practices of effective schools.)

But I've always wondered - why is this not the standard? Why doesn't everyone focus so heavily on measuring and advancing student outcomes?

With that question in mind, I came across something that stopped me dead in my tracks. In a post on his summer reading list, the author of The Tempered Radical blog writes the following:

What I Haven't (Regretfully) Been Able to Finish Yet:

Classroom Assessment for Student Learning by Rick Stiggins and Friends: I gotta tell ya, no single task drives me crazier than trying to assess my students. Embarrassing, huh? How can an award winning teacher openly admit to not having a clue whether or not the work that he is doing is making a difference. That's why I picked up this title--and it's amazing. Almost every page includes ideas about what high quality assessment looks like in the classroom, and my practices are slowly changing for the better.

The only problem: This sucker's almost 500 pages long! I think I've made it to chapter 4 so far. I figure by the time I retire, I'll hit the back cover.

Does he realize what he's saying?

His blog focuses on incorporating new technology (wikis, Twitter, etc.) into instruction, and he argues forcefully for the use of these tools. But you have to ask the question - to what end? Why would you advocate so strongly for the use of technology - or the use of any other instructional tool - when you admit up front that you have no idea whatsoever whether it helps students learn?

And of course, it's one thing to admit that you don't know how to assess student learning; it's another to make clear that it's not a priority. "I'll finish the book by the time I retire" - which will do all your students a load of good in the meantime.

And this from the 2005-06 Teacher of the Year in his (rather large) district!

So clearly, at least for this teacher, the answer to my question is clear: he doesn't assess student learning because it's not about the students, it's about him. He's incorporating technology because he likes it; there's no other explanation. If he cared whether students were learning, he'd make an effort to learn how to assess that learning, and tailor his instruction based on their progress. Clearly that's not going to happen - not, at least, until he retires.

And the kicker? Unlike most teachers in the country, he has access to some of the most powerful data available on student performance. North Carolina has its own value-added assessment system - EVAAS - built by Dr. Bill Sanders, architect of Tennessee's groundbreaking system. The Tempered Radical teaches 6th grade, which means he has access to tons of current value-added data on his students. But I think he's made it pretty clear that he's not going to avail himself.

I'm not going to attempt to draw universal lessons from this; I can't say whether most teachers are like this, or whether most teachers would be as appalled as I am right now. But I do think this provides at least one possible answer as to why some teachers don't focus on student outcomes: because it might limit the time they spend on the "fun stuff" like instant messaging and virtual worlds.

But the rest of us know: it's not about us. It's not about what we enjoy, what we're interested in, or what we think will be fun in the classroom. It's about the kids - making sure they actually learn, so they'll be prepared to survive in the world into which they'll graduate.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"The Puzzzle of Gender Differences"

Abstract

This paper explores differences between men and women in educational outcomes and responsiveness to educational interventions. Male education levels have stagnated for decades, while female education levels have risen steadily. Women now outnumber men in college, with especially large sex differentials among Blacks and Hispanics. Existing evidence shows that females respond more strongly to intensive preschool interventions and incentives to perform in college; I provide new evidence that females are also more sensitive to college costs. To shed light on this pattern of results, I trace the development of gender differences in educational attainment from primary school through college. I show that boys now start school at a later age than girls and are more likely to be retained in grade. In a historical reversal, boys are less likely than girls to be enrolled in school at age 16. Fewer men than women men now graduate high school; among those who do graduate, men are more likely than women to hold a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). About a fifth of today's gender gap in college attainment is explained by sex differences in the probability of graduating with a high school diploma or a GED. Controlling for these factors halves the gender gap in college attainment for cohorts entering high school in the 1980s. Among those born in the early Eighties, racial and ethnic differences in the gender gap in college entry are completely explained by differential rates of high school graduation and GED receipt.

excerpts:
I provide new evidence on sex differences in the impact of tuition prices on college choice, entry and completion. The new evidence presented in this paper suggests that lowering college costs will not close the gender gap in college attainment. A drastic reduction in the cost of college substantially increases the college enrollment and completion rates of women, but has no impact upon men. The divergence in impacts by sex is especially stark among nonwhites, among whom gender gap in educational attainment is largest. I conclude that policies that make college less expensive will increase education levels, but widen the gender gap, since more women are on the margin of entering and completing college.

[snip]

My findings complement existing evidence that girls are increasingly better prepared than boys to enter college (Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko, 2006). I show that boys now enter elementary school at a later age than girls and are more likely to be retained in grade; both of these differences have increased over time. Over the lifecycle, sex differences in academic performance cumulate; boys fall further behind girls as they age. Among cohorts entering high school in the Seventies, 25 percent of boys were below their expected grade by age 12, compared to 17 percent for girls. Among those in high school during the Nineties the rates were a stunning 36 percent for boys and 24 percent for girls.

[snip]

Several facts are clear ... First, age at school entry is rising. The share of six-year-olds enrolled in first grade or above drops sharply between the 1962 and 1998 birth cohorts. The drop is sharper for boys, from 95 percent for the 1962 cohort to 80 percent for the 1998 cohort. Among girls, the drop is from 96 percent to 84 percent. Boys are getting a later start in elementary school, relative to girls, than they once did. The gap is especially large for cohorts born in the early Eighties, when kindergarten retention was a popular policy.

Second, boys fall further behind girls as they age. In the 1962 birth cohort, 25 percent of boys born were enrolled below their expected grade at age 12, compared to 17 percent for girls. The gender gap in retention peaked among the cohorts born in the mid-Eighties: 36 percent of 12-year-old boys and 24 percent of girls were behind grade. For the most recent cohorts, 32 percent of 12-year-old boys and 25 percent of girls are below grade. These statistics imply that, starting early in school, boys are older than their female classmates, and that this difference is growing. These substantial shifts in the relative age composition of boys and girls in elementary and middle school grades are as yet unexamined by economists. A growing age gap between girls and boys could alter classroom dynamics in unexpected ways, as well as alter social relationships between boys and girls.

A further implication is that boys now reach the minimum age of school-leaving at a lower level of educational attainment than girls. To the extent that compulsory-schooling laws bind, boys will drop out of school at a lower level of educational attainment than girls. Even if boys were to drop out of school at the same age as girls, they would do so with lower levels of completed schooling. However, boys now leave school at a younger age than girls, a reversal of the historical pattern.

[snip]

[T]he enrollment rate is identical and equal to one for girls and boys in primary school and middle school. After age 15, in all three cohorts, the two sexes begin to diverge in their enrollment rates. But where girls once fell behind boys in their school enrollment starting at age 16 (Figure 6, gray line for 1962-63 birth cohorts), girls now they pull ahead of boys at the same age (dashed line for 1982-83 birth cohorts). The differences intensify with age. At age 21, boys from the cohort born in the Sixties were 4.2 percentage points more likely than girls to be enrolled in school. Boys from the cohort born in the Eighties are 4.7 percentage points less likely than girls to be enrolled in school.

Cradle to College: The Puzzle of Gender Differences in Educational Outcome (pdf file)
Susan Dynarski
Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government & National Bureau of Economic Research
May 2007

My findings complement existing evidence that girls are increasingly better prepared than boys to enter college (Goldin, Katz and Kuziemko, 2006).


teachers and schools...


Skimming the surface of this article, I was wondering whether sex differences in educational attainment might be the one phenomenon schools & pundits decide not to blame on parents, seeing as how we're talking about two populations of students -- boys and girls -- but just one population of parents.

Then I came to this passage:

Where in the lifecycle does the gender gap in schooling emerge?

Tracing the arc of educational production through the lifecycle provides suggestive evidence on the degree to which gender gaps in education among young adults are a function of biological differences, the choices of parents, the actions of schools and their own choices.

The answer will help us to rule out some existing hypotheses about its sources, and perhaps generate some new ones. If the gender gap first appears during high school, then we would focus on boys and girls as the decision-makers weighing the costs and benefits of educational investments. By contrast, if the gender gap first appears in first grade, we would tend to discount theoretical explanations that treat boys and girls as the decision-makers. We would instead focus on the actions of parents, teachers and schools.3 Changes in teaching methods, the composition of the teaching force, and the organization of schools would all be plausible culprits.

Existing research suggests that teachers and schools do play a role in generating sex differences in educational outcomes. Dee shows that girls and boys both learn more when being taught by a teacher of the same sex. Anderson (2006), in a reanalysis of data from the Perry Preschool, Abcederian and Early Training Projects, shows that the effects of these programs were large for girls and nonexistent for boys. Malamud and Schanzenbach (2007) show that female teachers rate the performance of boys more harshly than that of girls.

I must say, the puzzle of gender differences in educational attainment is not much of a puzzle to me. Getting a boy through public school in one piece -- especially a middle school --- isn't easy.

Public schools are utterly feminized. It's not just that women make up the majority of the teaching staff and, in my district, nearly all of the administration. The ideology of public schools is "feminine" regardless of the sex of whichever educator happens to be taking your son to task for poor character or inadequate school spirit at any given moment.

The language is feminine.

I recall a time when the only people using the word "enhance" were the folks writing up the bride's wedding gown for the women's pages.

Seed pearls. Weren't seed pearls always a big enhancement?

Not any more.


grade deflation for boys?
Harris School Assistant Professors Ofer Malamud and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, for example, wondered whether their (very preliminary) finding that teachers rate boys more harshly in reading and science than suggested by standardized tests may perhaps explain boys’ detachment from school early on.

Mind the Gap: Gender and Schools

I hadn't intended to get into this yet, but..... bingo.

This is exactly what's been happening around here: grades in school much lower than standardized test scores, a gap not explained by emotional or behavioral problems.

That is to say, C. does all of his homework (the bulk of it on time), is reasonably engaged in school, likes his teachers, likes his friends, wants to do well, has a record of 2 detentions in 3 years (one for an unauthorized lunchtime trip to the library where he attempted to print out his Earth Science homework before the librarian had him arrested and clapped in irons) ... and yet his grades are so-so while his standardized test scores are high. Extremely high in the case of reading.

I've mentioned the fact that, come fall, C. will attend a different school.

The new school is selective; they take no one scoring below the 75th percentile on the entrance exam. Thus, a few weeks ago, we were stunned to receive a letter from the new school informing us that C. had placed into "Advanced Honors Algebra 2."

When I say "stunned," I mean really, really stunned. Stunned as in speechless.

Here in Irvington, C. has had the computer-generated comment "Finds subject matter difficult" printed on his math report card, and that's pretty much been the message we've been given about C's capabilities any time we've raised any issue in any class.*

During our course placement meeting at the high school, the guidance counselor told C. repeatedly that, "Math is a challenge for you." She said Math is a challenge for you so many times that I finally said, "Math isn't a challenge for C. when I teach it," which should give you some idea of how many times the words Math is a challenge for you were uttered: enough times that I actually said "Not when I teach it" out loud, instead of just wanting to say it and wishing later on that I had.

C. was not placed in Honors math for high school here. Next year he would have taken regular geometry along with the rest of the sophomore class. He would have been accelerated by a year because he's completed Math A, but he'd be back in the regular math track with all the kids who have been finding regular math to be -- wait for it! -- a challenge (as well as with the regular-track kids who haven't found regular math to be a challenge, of course).

The funny thing about the "Advanced Honors Algebra 2" placement was that math was the only Honors course C. got into at his new school. No Honors bio, no Honors English, no Honors social studies, even.

Naturally, we were downcast. It just didn't seem right that C. could suddenly be an Honors math kid and not be an Honors history kid. So we were back to brainstorming the edu-situation, trying to figure out what had happened, speculating about the best approach to take to change their minds, etc. Very discouraging. The one thing in life we do not want to be doing ever again is wrangling with our kid's school about anything.

Ed called the school & spoke to the assistant principal, who said she'd get back to him.

When she called a few days later, I answered the phone and the AP said the computer had made a mistake. C. was in Honors everything. English, bio, math, history.

I'm so trained to the idea that school is a challenge for my kid that I panicked -- Honors everything?? We hadn't remotely been thinking about Honors everything. We'd been going back and forth between asking the school to put C. in Honors history, too, versus asking them to swap Honors math for Honors history so he'd still have one Honors course but it would be in his best subject.

I started stuttering and stammering, and finally said, "Honors Bio? Can he handle Honors Bio?"

"He'll do fine," the AP said. Her tone was short; she was ending the conversation. Clearly, she had no idea what I was talking about. The way things work for incoming freshmen at the new school is: the kids take an admissions test and a placement test, the computer assigns them to Honors or regular track courses, and the school sends a letter to the parents inviting their child to take whichever Honors courses he's tested into.

Then the parents send a letter back saying their child accepts the honors invitation.

And that's it.

A week later Ed spoke to her and asked, "Do you recommend that he take all Honors courses?"

The AP said, "Yes."

That was all. "Yes." The word "yes" sums up the school's entire position on whether a kid who's been placed in an Honors course should take an Honors course.

We're entering a completely different world.

Have I mentioned the fact that the new school is a boys' school?






The Why Chromosome: How a Teacher's Gender Affects Boys and Girls
by Thomas Dee



* If I get around to it, I'll exercise my FERPA rights to have C's school record corrected. Knowing me, I probably will get around to it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

end whole childism



from the ASCD:

The Whole Child: Healthy. Safe. Engaged. Supported. Challenged.

Notice: not taught, not instructed, not successful.

We urge public officials to pass resolutions to support the whole child.

Expect more. Get more.

That last sentiment is certainly true. Public education in the U.S. is a half-trillion dollar enterprise. That's half-trillion dollars in public funding. If "we" decide to educate the whole child at every level, not just in middle school, "we" could maybe double that.

I believe the term for this kind of thing is empire-building.

Here we go: A Whole Child Resolution Toolkit complete with sample Letters to the Editor.

I'm going to have to start writing and posting sample letters to the editor. The sample letter tactic works, by the way. Ed and I wrote and posted letters to the NIMH concerning autism research a few years ago. It was tremendously effective. Parents flooded the NIMH with variants of the letter Ed wrote; sometimes they simply signed the letter with their own names and sent it verbatim. We were told later on that the NIMH was so panicked that people were "running through the halls." I always got a kick out of that image -- why exactly would a person employed by the NIMH run through the halls under any circumstances short of a terrorist attack?*

OK, that's going on the to do list. Tex has a couple of great letters; Barry's written some terrific ones; Vicky just copied me on a letter to her school....

golly

A whole new project!

Just what I was needing.....

Still, I think it's a good idea. We can put together a collection of Letters to the Editor & Emails to the School Board/Principal/Superintendent etc.

My email: cijohn @ verizon.net

We can construct a Liberal Education Toolkit!


extra credit

Share your story here.

I think I'm going to do that.


* For the record, I'm not "anti-NIMH." Not remotely. I was, however, extremely distressed by the NIMH's record of de-funding behavioral research in autism in favor of strictly biological research. Bad idea.

Monday, June 9, 2008

the Great Compression, part 2

the Great Compression, part 1:
[I]nequality decreased in the 1940s and the reductions were substantial. The narrowing of the wage structure during the 1940s has been termed the "Great Compression." It involved a world war, inflation, tight labor markets, rising union strength, and substantial government intervention in the labor market.
p. 54

Apparently, the "Great Compression" is famous amongst economists and economic historians; it has been studied extensively.

As it turns out, the "Great Compression" was not a post-Depression phenomenon. It went on for many decades, and it preceded the Depression. The argument of The Race Between Education and Technology, assuming I have this right, is that education was the most important cause of three quarters of a century of declining inequality -- as well as the most important cause of the steadily rising inequality that commenced in the late 1970s:

The data series we unearthed and compiled revealed that the wage structure and the returns to education and skill all moved in the direction of greater equality decades before the better known Great Compression of the 1940s. The wage structure narrowed, skill differentials were reduced, and the return to education decreased sometime between 1890 and 1940, most likely in the late 1910s. The entire compression of the wage structure across the twentieth century, therefore, was larger in magnitude, lengthier in duration, and more complicated in its reasons than has been previously recognized.”
The Race Between Education and Technology, p. 57

The book is revolutionary.

Thus far it confirms everything many of us have assumed -- felt, in my case -- to be true.

Steve Levitt summarizes The Race in 2 sentences
Jimmy graduates

The anemic response of skill investment to skill premium growth
The declining American high school graduation rate: Evidence, sources, and consequences
Pushy parents raise more successful kids

The Race Between Education and Technology book review
The Race Between Ed & Tech: excerpt & TOC & SAT scores & public loss of confidence in the schools
The Race Between Ed & Tech: the Great Compression
the Great Compression, part 2
ED in '08: America's schools
comments on Knowledge Schools
the future
the stick kids from mud island
educated workers and technology diffusion
declining value of college degree
Goldin, Katz and fans
best article thus far: Chronicle of Higher Education on The Race
Tyler Cowan on The Race (NY Times)
happiness inequality down...
an example of lagging technology diffusion in the U.S.

the Times reviews The Race, finally
IQ, college, and 2008 election
Bloomington High School & "path dependency"
the election debate that should have been

Loomis Chafee summer reading list

Just heard from one of the ktm regulars whose son attends Loomis Chaffee -- Animals in Translation is on the summer reading list! (pdf file)

Of course, they left my name off the "Author" citation....

sigh

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Girl Scouts hate group projects

As part of earning their career badges, my daughter’s troop participated in a discussion about how to prepare for the workplace. One of the topics the troop leader brought up was how doing school group projects can teach them how to work effectively in groups.

Wowee! These girls had nothing good to say about group projects.

“Since I’m the smart one, the other kids take advantage and let me do the work.”

“Johnny kept telling us he didn't have time to get together because he had ‘soccer practice’ or ‘family events’ on the weekend.” (She kept making the “air quotes” gestures with her hands.)

“Since the other kids wouldn't do the work, I had to do most of it. Well, I mean my mom had to do most of it.”

“I told the teacher about Sarah not doing her part, but it didn't help.”

“I didn't want to tell the teacher about the problems, because that would be snitching.”

“I kept telling her that she had to do her part, but she wouldn't listen.” (This after receiving advice to gently confront her recalcitrant classmate.)

I listened quietly to the animated comments of these fourth and fifth graders, and bit my tongue.

It has been argued that there are lessons about succeeding in the workplace to be learned from school group projects. However, as I grow older my focus increasingly becomes how best to use our limited time most efficiently. From that perspective, I would say spare my child the group projects in favor of more time spent on direct instruction of fundamental skills and content.

Additionally, these group projects often impart damaging lessons. Such as, don’t work so hard because you’ll not receive credit anyway. Or, let others (including mom) do your work. Or, the teacher doesn't care that the other kids are taking advantage of me. Or, these school assignments are a lot of BS so why should I care about them.