kitchen table math, the sequel: 5/10/09 - 5/17/09

Friday, May 15, 2009

at last it can be told

I am going to say something scandalous: Just because we went to school for teaching doesn't mean that we come out of school as master teachers.

Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching
by Robyn R. Jackson

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Long term debt unsustainable

Alert, alert. Common sense moment just occurred for President Obama.

So why is the government being positioned as the solution to so many of our problems? Inquiring minds would like to know.

am I hearing things?

Click on this link.

Then tell me if the web site is talking to you.

The answer better be 'yes.'

The market steps in

As the parent of children in the public school system, I receive many solicitations for tutoring services. This pitch for a summer school session, in particular, caught my eye.

Math Facts Boot Camp
Algebra I
Algebra II
With the new emphasis on “real world” or “integrated” math, many educators agree that the skills that go into solving math problems, pure and simple, are being lost. Chyten’s math Facts Boot Camps are comprehensive and intensive courses in which the ability to solve equations is brought back to its rightful position, front and center in a student’s math mind.
Five 2-hour session

Although many of our government schools seem to be more focused on making sure students are “engaged” and “love learning” rather than on actually teaching vital skills and concepts, at least it’s reassuring to know that the private market has stepped in to help. Well, it can help those families that can afford to pay $550 [edited to correct price] for this “boot camp” class.

I notice that these boot camps are targeted to middle- and high-school students. For many, this is when the sh*t hits the fan, and parents may be ready to part with their hard earned money as they come to realize what vital skills their children have not yet learned (were not taught, perhaps?) in school.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the experts, such as they are

I think I've mentioned before that Irvington is now so roiled by dissatisfaction with district leadership that each of the various letter-to-the-editor writer-dissenters have acquired a fan base.

I am an avid follower of David K:
...whatever their own views might be, the current board members have utterly deferred to the super, unfortunately so. The current board is intimidated by the "veil of expertise," be it the lawyer's or the super's or the facilities guy, which means we're back to the "structural" problem.

And of Les J's:
I have not understood why salaries and increases for the administrative staff have not been reported out as a matter of course. I work for a public institution and all of our salaries, all of our raises, and, for those few eligible for bonuses, bonuses are a matter of public record and are published in paper and electronic formats. Why is this not the case for Irvington ???
David K.:
It's b/c the Board either doesn't share that philosophy, hasn't thought about having a philosophy on such matters to begin with, or is held captive by counsel whose view presumably is "nothing more than the law dictates." I'm trained as a lawyer -- I get it -- but our school district is supposed to be run by us, not by the "experts," such as they are.

Have I mentioned I've become a community organizer?

Well, I have.

a school district not my own

more fun with nominally high performing schools

Atoning Slavery With Calculators

Brown donates 12,000 graphing calculators to Providence’s middle, high school students

In an ironc twist of fate, Brown University and its African American president, Ruth Simmons, attempt to atone for the university's links to slavery by keeping all kids down on the mathematical plantation.

Rather than work backwards to quantitatively define what knowledge and skills (and GPA and SAT scores) are needed to be accepted into Brown University, they decide to throw some calculators at the problem and see what sticks to the wall. The biggest winner? TI.

"The calculators, which cost a total of $118,000, represent the first step toward fulfilling the university’s pledge to improve public education in the city’s schools."

"Simmons said that Supt. Tom Brady suggested the graphing calculators because they fit nicely with new math and science curricula that will be introduced this fall. "

"Two years ago, Simmons made a personal donation of $25,000 to help buy graphing calculators for the entire freshman class at Hope High School."

“At Brown, Ph.D. students have to teach college,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be great if they taught in public schools? We say, ‘We are the elite. We are professors.’ Well, that doesn’t serve us well. We have to get universities back into every level of education.”

They will have to get education credentials first!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


The quality of patient care when focused on the patient, the unresponsive school district, Precision Teaching, business acumen, and Don't Shoot the Dog. The connection is

Incentives Matter.

We need to Incentivize the behaviors we want to see more of.

Behavioral Science has shown us that We Improve What We Measure. Positive Reinforcement works best by measuring successes and rewarding them. But even just charting the results with no other reward improves the outcome for what's measured.

So we better measure the right things.

What outcomes do we want to incent?

Often, we're talking about this at the student level. But what if we turned it around, and instead of using e.g. Precision Teaching just on students, we did it to the teachers? The principal? The School Board?

Seriously, if we want transparency from the school board, can we chart it? What if we kept a celeration chart on the web showing the District' Response Time to a parent's request for data? Just KNOWING the chart is publicly available should have an effect.

Or how about keeping a chart showing number of conversations board members have per week with non ed-speak people? ie.e parents or students?

Or a chart showing the number of conversations had without a lawyer present in the room?

Or a chart showing how many parent suggested curricula/materials/ideas were adopted?

Any other suggestions for what behaviors we want to incentivize? Any suggestions for the metrics to do it?

How about in the classroom, by the teacher? How about at the principal level?

Any chance we could get a school board to adopt putting the celeration chart for their principals/teachers/etc on their web site? That would really make a difference.

pass fail

Live from New York

Happy Mother's Day

source: Simply Art

Or, if you're not in a Mary Cassat frame of mind, there's always the Mothers from Hell 2.

I was a charter member of Mothers from Hell 1.