kitchen table math, the sequel: 4/5/09 - 4/12/09

Thursday, April 9, 2009

SAT scores & retention: UC Irvine

Second-Year Freshman Retention Rates by Mean SAT Composite Score (pdf file)

Have just begun looking into this.

fun with blogs

Commoner Captures Princess, Blog Version

How did I miss all this?!


Well, nothing quite that fun is going on around here, and nothing that fun will be going on around here because I have discovered, just this week, that if I'm going to meet kitchen table math people in person (a good idea), I might want to meet their kids most of all.

I discovered this after spending Tuesday afternoon with Allison and her two children ----- oh. my. gosh. They are so dear, so smart, and soooooo new.

I had no idea how much I missed little ones.

up, up, and away part 2

I have been attending budget forums.

Another revelation:

In 2000-2001 Irvington had 46 teams & 58 coaches. (district size: roughly 1900)

In 2008-2009, with declining enrollments, we have 64 teams & 77 coaches.

64 teams, 77 coaches, and no intramural sports to speak of.*

I wonder how Catholic schools manage to provide intramural athletics for all their kids on those shoestring budgets they've got?

Someone should look into it.

* I'm pretty sure we have no intramural sports at the high school at all. The PTSA is funding a new intramural program at the middle school. I love our PTSA. I've rejoined.

up, up, and away

I've been attending budget forums.

Last week I learned that Irvington, with approximately 1900 students (& falling), used to have 5 administrators in total. That was it, the sum total. Five. This was a little over 10 years ago.

Today we have 14 administrators plus another 3 tenured teachers, who, technically speaking, are not administrators but perform the functions of administrators:
  • 2 "Teaching-Learning Facilitators" (aka instructional coaches)
  • 1 Chief Information Officer/Technology Coordinator.

Number one: who has a tenured Information Officer?

Number two: does the title "Chief Information Officer" suggest to you that are missing an Assistant Information Officer or two?

Number three: in a district where parents are FOILing information right and left,* what exactly is the Chief Information officer actually doing?

Bonus Points: I would trade a Chief Information Officer for a search engine on edline.

* 3 FOIL requests this school year that I know of

I love the internet

Tex sent me a comment that appeared on the Journal News web site today:
what a load of crap- Look to Ed House in any district in Westchester and you will see the real pork. District after district has Superintendent and as't Superintendents making $150,000 to $350,000 per year. They then have the nerve to bring in outside experts to train the teachers in program after program that do not work. In fact they are pre-packaged frfom the last guru that was going to save public education. Go to any district and ask to see how many are hired to teacher instruction
4/9/2009 7:29:15 AM
Then there's this.
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.

Independent George boils it down

Is it me, or can the entire philosophy of K-6 education be summarized as:

1. It's not our fault.
2. It's not our problem.
3. We're underfunded.

I'm thinking we should make this our default kitchen table math post on days when everyone's too busy to write something new.

Then there's this:

If kids don't learn math, it's because they're not capable of learning it. And if they enter high school five years behind grade level, then it's up to the parents and the high schools to catch them up. Either way, they need more money so that they can facilitate kids learning on their own.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

one more reason I will be voting 'no'

Tri-State Consortium Districts Online Database


Tri-State Consortium Fee Structure 2008-2009

Interesting that Irvington reports "Math Trailblazers" as the "Elementary Math Program" for K-5, but then, under "Middle School Math Program," says "No specific program is used, however we follow the NY State curriculum."

Number one: last fall, at a school board meeting, our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology told the assembled 2 or 3 parents seated in the audience that: "People say Trailblazers is our curriculum. Trailblazers isn't our curriculum. We write our own curriculum."

She rolled her eyes when she said "People say Trailblazers is our curriculum."

Number two: The middle school uses traditional math textbooks: Prentice Hall Pre-Algebra, Glencoe Algebra 1, Glencoe Geometry (for the accelerated kids in 8th grade). I've forgotten the others but, as I recall, they're not fuzzy.

Apparently to the Tri-State way of thinking, "not fuzzy" translates to "no specific program" and "Math Trailblazers," while not a curriculum, is a program.

Needless to say, I have suggested to the school board, the administration, and the PTSA that we save money in these uncertain times by declining to renew our membership in the Consortium.

Thus far my pleas have fallen upon deaf ears.

Monday, April 6, 2009

case study

The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of "Writer's Block" (pdf file)
Dennis Upper
Veterans Administration Hospital, Brockton, Massachusetts
Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 1974, 7, 497 NUMBER 3 (FALL 1974)

paging Dr. Willingham

We need Daniel Willingham to break this down:

Study gives more proof that intelligence is largely inherited
UCLA researchers find that genes determine brain's processing speed

Because unfortunately that headline has quickly turned into this one:

Bad at Math? Blame It on Your Parents
And if your kids aren't good at math, blame yourself

Just imagine the kind of damage this kind of headline can do.

We've been talking about cultural attitudes towards ability and this absolutely sends the wrong message that effort doesn't count for much. If you're not good at something, blame it on your gene pool and get on with it.

We already have a serious problem with believing that we're either good at math or we aren't. This just adds fuel to the fire.

In Why Don't Students Like School? Daniel Willingham asserts, "Our genetic inheritance does impact our intelligence, but it seems to do so mostly through the environment. There is no doubt that intelligence can be changed."

Children need to know that it is within their power to increase their intelligence. That ability can be improved with effort. If parents and educators buy into the you're-either-born-smart-or-you're-not mindset, we're doomed to continue declining on all internationally benchmarked assessments of academic ability.

We need Dr. Willingham to counteract this spin and control it with headlines that make sense. Changing cultural perceptions about learning needs to happen now.

I blogged more about it here .

Sunday, April 5, 2009

type accents online


I've been looking for a site like this.

Rich Getzel on U.S. education

Guess what? Merit pay is not the answer to to all the ills of the American educational system. Even more investment will barely make a dent as far as our world rankings. The United States needs a complete overhaul of education, or it is doomed to fail, our kids that is.

Spiraling curricula, constructivist programs like balanced literacy and fuzzy math, piss poor education schools, the lack of content-rich national standards, and yes, a short school year with a short school day that condenses lessons into 45 minutes. The former are what holding us back.

And yes, a cultural problem, which is not easily remedied. Some people favor an argument based on culture when they attempt to explain why minorities in the United States lag behind others in academic performance. The fact is, we have a generalized culture problem, one which does not put a premium on work ethic, parental involvement in their child's education.

We have far too many distractions, and you know what they are. As Americans, we also work more hours than any other industrialized economy, leaving less time for parents to involve themselves in their child's education, so I don't believe it's entirely our fault, but also the way our economy is arranged.

One can obviously write a dissertation on this topic, and I wish I had more time to elaborate on all my points, but these are my feelings.

This is something I've thought about a bit: the cultural question.

It's absolutely the case that Americans are hyper, distracted, and prone to sports mania, which makes it hard to stick to the Kumon regimen.

I for one think these qualities are built in to the population.

The question I always ask myself is whether there's a "teaching" work-around. That is, suppose we developed a science of teaching, as Vicki Snider urges. Or suppose we just handed the system over to Siegfried Engelmann and/or the precision teaching folks.

Could people learn math really, really well in between all the distractions (or along with all the distractions...)?

Could we create a highly efficient form of teaching and learning that compensated, to a significant degree, for our distractibility?

btw, the parents-working-too-many-hours aspect of the problem is part and parcel of the distractibility issue. To the extent that we Americans, being an immigrant population, are simply more hyperactive than Asians (way more), we suffer from distractibility and from "hyperfocus." Which leads directly to over-work when people hyperfocus on work.

Hyperfocus is pretty much the secret of my success, such as it is. (My success, I mean.) When I was in graduate school my then-boyfriend once told me I was like a dog with a stick. Can't remember what sparked that observation, possibly a non-lethal argument.

In any event, he was obviously correct.

the golden age 1956-1970

A woman here in town gave me permission to post this account of her experience teaching in Manhattan public schools between the years 1956-1970:
As a retired teacher, my experience was in Manhattan elementary schools in the NYC school system. This was a challenging teaching environment since the children ranged from the economically advantaged to the very economically disadvantaged. I taught in East Harlem and later in P.S. 9 on West End Avenue/84th St., two extremes.

We teachers were not indoctrinated in, and certainly didn't teach, the "whole method" system of reading. Most of us went to the City Colleges--City College, Hunter College, Brooklyn, Queens-- and learned teaching methods, materials, and philosophy. Most of my peers had a Masters degree in Education.

We could not qualify to teach in the NYC school system merely by sending for a certificate to show that we went to college. We had to be licensed by NYC, thoroughly tested in knowledge in every area of teaching before going into the classroom. This included a speech test. Any student teacher with an accent, speech impediment or related problem, especially with s, t, d, r, or l, was to be helped by a speech pathologist. FREE! I remember going to Professor Davidson, a leading speech therapist and being drilled with the poem "Jenny Kissed Me" on many 8AM mornings.

The NYC Board of Education issued curriculum bulletins for every grade and in every subject area. These bulletins were uniform for all the boroughs and indicated what was to be taught. I never experienced any teacher who thought they or the students were being stifled. On the contrary, we teachers were as creative as was necessary to do our jobs. I, being a budding artist then, always found creative ways to engage the students in learning.

We were required to make lesson plans for approval. Our lesson plan book was collected every week by our assistant principal. Each lesson had to have a stated goal, a provision for review and reinforcement, procedures or methods, and a conclusion. It wasn't fun making lesson plans, but it made us more efficient, focused, and better teachers.

Why should anyone need "Field Tested" curricula if teachers are properly trained and supervised?

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A quick explanation of that last observation: the writer of this account was responding to my assertion that Irvington should adopt only field-tested curricula.

I read her narrative & marvel. She is talking about the public schools of Goldin & Katz's America:
At the dawn of the twentieth century the United States became the richest nation in the world. Its people had a higher average standard of living than those in Britain, the previous leader. America was poised to ascend further. The gap between it and other front-runners would widen and the standard of living of its residents would cotinue to grow, even when its doors were open to the world's poor. American economic supremacy would be maintained to the end of the century, and beyond. In economic terms, the twentieth century fully merits the title "The American Century."

The twentieth century could also be titled the "Human Capital Century." By the end of the twentieth century all nations, even the poorest, provided elementary schooling and beyond to most of their citizens. At the start of the century and even by its midpoint many nations, including relatively rich ones, educated only those who could personally afford to attend school. The United States was different. Its educational system had always been less elite than those of European countries. By 900, if not before, it had begun to educate its masses at the secondary level not just in primary schools, at which it had remarkable success in the nineteenth century.

That the twentieth century was both the American Century and the Human Capital Century is no historical accident. Economic growth in the more modern period requires educated workers, managers, entrepreneurs, and citizens. Modern technologies must be invented, innovated, put in place, and maintained. They must have capable workers at the helm. Rapid technological advance, measured in various ways, has characterized the twentieth century. Because the American people were the most educated in the world, they were in the best position to invent, be entrepreneurial, and produce goods and services using advanced techologies.

The Race Between Education and Technology
by Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz
p. 1-2
That was then.
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.

by Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz
p. 87

Are teachers today required to include "provisions for reinforcement and review" in their lesson plans? (Come to think of it, what is the status of lesson plans nowadays, anyway?)

My own school district appears to be almost exclusively concerned with understanding. Not just understanding: Enduring Understanding. Enduring Understanding and Essential Questions. It's in the Plan.*

Actual learning, in the sense of content making it into a child's long-term memory, is assumed.

When, lo and behold, a child fails to recall on tests the material he has "understood" in class, that is a problem for parents to fix.

That's not the way it was when American schools were great.

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
the golden age: a NYC teacher remembers
the White House cites Goldin & Katz

* the newly approved 21-page Strategic Plan, the one that includes 21st century skills but does not include college preparation

opportunity cost

According to one recent analysis, if the United States had managed to improve students’ science and math skills during the 1990s—enough to match top-performing countries on the 2006 PISA assessment—then the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would have increased by 4.5 percent by 2015, a dollar amount equal to what the U.S. federal government currently spends per year on K–12 education. Even if the United States takes twenty years to reform and become globally competitive, its GDP could eventually realize an increase by a substantial 36 percent.

Source: E.A. Hanushek, D.T. Jamison, E. A. Jamison, and L. Woessman, ―Education and Economic Growth, Education Next 8, no. 2 (2008): 62–70.

Short Sighted

uninformed and unconcerned

In addition to its lack of participation, the United States also suffers from a lack of attention to the international data that are available. In America, the release of PISA results and other outcome indicators is more likely to be met with indifference than with shock.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond:

"If you visit Spain or Belgium or Germany or Japan, you can almost go and ask people on the street, and they will know about PISA and international benchmarking," [Schleicher] said. That phenomenon has gone hand-in-hand with increasing interest among national leaders. "We survey the member countries on their education policy priorities [ ] and in the last few years, student performance and international benchmarking has consistently come out at the top."

- Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division, Directorate for Education, OECD.

Alliance for Excellent Education