kitchen table math, the sequel: 2/28/10 - 3/7/10

Saturday, March 6, 2010

testable hypothesis

Elizabeth wrote:
Here is a quote from Sally Shaywitz's "Overcoming Dyslexia, A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level" p. 261:

"In one Tallahassee, Florida, elementary school where such a program [scientifically proven prevention and early intervention programs] was implemented, the percentage of struggling readers dropped eightfold--from 31.8 percent to 3.7 percent."

I would guess 1% using Webster's Speller and teaching both spelling and phonics at the same time, its focus on spelling and syllables is very helpful for my struggling students.

BTW, that's a great motto, "Education not remediation." Every smart students learn more when taught explicitly.

palisadesk answered:
The Shaywitz example that Elizabeth quotes is a fairly representative one. Schools that use effective instructional methods and materials significantly reduce their "struggling reader" populations, usually to a 1-digit %ile. There are many examples; most however are school-based. We don't see scaled-up replications of this type of success on a district basis.

The 1% that Elizabeth cites is reasonably the percent of children who would still flounder even after intensive 1:1 teaching with effective methods and materials over a significant period of time. However, it would not be likely to represent what could be achieved in general education classrooms at our current level of knowledge and operational constraints.

Students with severe disabilities must be taken on a case-by-case basis, as their learning needs are highly specific; in other cases, important variables are not always under school control -- for instance, students with high levels of absenteeism and/or frequent changes of residence. You can have the best-ever teaching, but the student has to actually be there and participate in order to benefit.

So hard data on what is the lowest percentage of students who we can expect will still lag *far* behind despite our best efforts is not available. What we do know is that the number of "struggling" students is far too high.

From intensive work with students at all ability levels, I believe it's a testable hypothesis that 99% could be taught foundation skills in reading, writing and math that are commensurate with their level of receptive language comprehension and cognitive functioning. Some cases would be extremely labor-intensive, and this becomes a time and resources issue. Public schools realistically do not have enough instructional time to be as successful with some high-needs cases as private services can be. I can think of cases where children have needed 4-6 hours a day of intensive therapy in several areas to make significant progress. Schools are not set up to provide this, and perhaps it's a separate question: should allowances be provided to parents of such children to purchase the needed services using special education funding? Should the school district contract these out?

We are talking about a small number (percentage-wise) of students, but their needs are real and not easily met.

Getting all students reading at the K-2 level is realistic for most schools. It is, however, only a step in the process. Children who master decoding and spelling early on may be strugglers later. That is why careful progress monitoring of all students is needed.

my 2 cents

on Response to Intervention

Linda on Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention, when done correctly, begins by addressing all students receiving excellent instruction in the classroom (Level 1). Even with excellent instruction, there are a number of students who may need either more time or more intensity of instruction to achieve grade level.

That is what the level 2, small group, interventions are for-- additional time and attention. I do level 2 math interventions, but my school does not use an artificial 20% cut-off. I only work with students who are not progressing at level 1, which in our school, is probably 5% of the population. In my experience, the level 2 kids often are ones who have behavior that keeps them from focusing their attention in large groups, have low intelligence (not PC to point out- but some kids just take a LOT of repetition to learn), or will eventually be diagnosed with a learning disability. If level 2 interventions don't work, then kids often are tested for learning disabilities and go on to level 3 interventions, one-on-one. [Level 3 is typically going to be classification for special education, as I understand it (but please correct me if I'm wrong) - cj]

It is actually a fantastic model that can save districts a lot of money by preventing kids from being diagnosed with disabilities that they do not have. The problem comes in when you don't have excellent level 1 programs and/or you arbitrarily decide that a certain percentage of students needs to be at level 2 regardless of whether or not they could learn in a whole group situation with excellent instruction.

It is too bad that RTI done poorly is probably going to doom this as another failed waste of money, when done well it would be exactly the opposite and really does help kids who are struggling for legitimate reasons.

Robin on the Seattle ruling

School administrators who omit public testimony and duly submitted evidence when there are hearings on textbook adoptions from the record provided to the final elected decision makers can now get in trouble. The resulting decision can be subject to judicial challenge.

It's that omission of public information that was contrary to the story they wanted told and might have prevented the textbook decision they wanted reached that set up the "arbitrary and capricious" ruling.

Especially given the State "mathematically unsound" ruling on top of the omissions.

If the Seattle administrators had submitted everything in the public record to the school board, we would likely have a different decision.

New Standard: If you change the public record to influence how the school board sees the evidence, you are setting the board up that its decision will be subject to an arbitrary and capricious challenge.

How is that open-ended? Administrators should not be doctoring the public record to present a one-sided story to the public decision-makers.


I have read all the briefs and corresponded with some of the principals and those omissions were key to the court's ultimate finding.

To insulate themselves School Boards could simply decree that they will accept no public input on textbook decisions but as Barry Garelick notes, that attitude will likely not get them reelected.

I see less downstream craziness but I'm a lawyer so I tend to see the safety devices in place if an informed citizenry knows they exist, how to use them, and appropriately asserts the relevant facts to trigger them.

I think that is in fact what occurred in Seattle.

A chilling effect on wanton disregard of troubling facts and duly submitted evidence by school administrators and elected public officials involved with education is healthy for better decision making.

I think this is an especially important time to be having this discussion because I think we are moving away from any evidence based criteria limiting instructional materials or techniques in the US K-12 classrooms. I see that in every piece of federal legislation or regulations concerning education currently being enacted or discussed.
I'm hoping Robin will fill us in on what she's seeing in federal legislation and regs ----

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chicago Tribune endorses vouchers


New York, New York

How did this happen?

New York’s placement among the finalists had been anything but certain, even though Mr. Duncan has frequently praised New York City’s school improvement efforts under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. But the competition barred states with laws that prohibit the use of student achievement data to evaluate teachers, and New York has a law that seemed to fit that criteria. But the state argued that the law banned the use of such data only in making teacher tenure decisions. The law sunsets at the end of June.

Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, said Thursday that she believed the Legislature needed to pass a law raising the state’s cap on charter schools before New York could be awarded money.

New York Is Among Finalists for U.S. School Grants by Sam Dillon - March 4, 2010

Here was Joe Williams, in August:

In my home state (New York) we’ve got big problems with a law on the books that prevents student performance from being used in making teacher tenure decisions. The law is so bad, that when reporters wrote about it last year, not even the teachers union would claim credit for having pushed it through the legislature. So yeah, New York should have to adios this law before it can apply for Race To The Top funding, especially since nobody seems to want to defend it anyway. If New York doesn’t lift a finger and it gets funding in the Race, Obama and Duncan will essentially be lifting a finger (you know which one) to all of the other states that are doing everything they can to show they are ready for change and reform.


So... the state of Wisconsin mentioned "professional development" 217 times in its Race to the Top application and still didn't make the final 16.


update: uh-oh

from Fred Hess:

New York's 908-page application included some choice phrases. It promises, "An intense focus on curriculum and meaningful professional development based on student performance; data-drive instruction where teams develop individual student action plans based on data from formative and interim assessments; differentiated professional development and coaching based on data" (page 6).

It also declares that it will create "clear, content-rich, sequenced, spiraled, detailed curricular frameworks" (yes, five adjectives) for new assessments (page 10).

And, impressive for the sheer amount of jargon that could be wedged into a single sentence, New York's app promises "to support differentiated professional development closely linked to student growth data, identify coaches and mentors using effectiveness ratings closely tied to student growth data, and build data-driven feedback loops between professional development, coaching/mentoring activities, and teacher effectiveness" (page 144).

Spiraled frameworks, differentiated professional development, and coaching ----


I have to move.

Possibly to Wisconsin.

Or Guam.

Basically, any place not in danger of winning Race to the Top.

dodged a bullet

For a while there it seemed as if everyone was talking about Lengthening the School Year and/or Lengthening the School Day - yikes. More time in school: when will parents & tutors teach math?

And then, the taxes.


Looks like that one's not getting off the ground.

bonus: Maybe people will stop saying KIPP gets its results from all the extra time. (Maybe KIPP doesn't need all the extra time?)

that was quick

Elsewhere in the edu-world, the town of Avon, CT hired a new superintendent last fall, only to discover, via a story in the newspaper, that as of March 4 the new superintendent of Avon has signed a contract to become the new superintendent of Berlin, CT.

The reader comments are priceless.

Berlin introduces David B. Erwin as superintendent

education, not remediation

With my tiny district's per pupil spending now somewhere north of $30K and rising, and a new law requiring Response to Intervention, I'm getting desperate.

So this morning I wrote this plea for adopting programs that work and unadopting programs that don't work:

Response to Intervention wouldn't break the bank if we used evidence-based decision making: if we rigorously evaluated curricula and teaching methods for evidence of effectiveness -- and had a Plan B in place for abandoning curricula and teaching methods that aren't working sooner rather than later.

Example: we use 'balanced literacy' to teach reading.

Scientists who study reading instruction, and the National Reading Panel of 2000, tell us that children should be taught to read using "systematic synthetic phonics instruction." Balanced literacy is far less effective than phonics.

Exactly as the science predicts, here in Irvington we have a very large number of struggling readers. I believe the number is currently 18 or 19%, but I will check my notes. We currently have 5.5 "literacy specialists" remediating all of our struggling readers K-8, and after Response to Intervention kicks in I assume we'll have to hire more.

If we were using the program "Jolly Phonics," a field-tested British (pdf file) synthetic phonics curriculum, we would have only 5% of our students struggling to read. That 5% would include kids like my two children with autism.

We can easily afford to teach the 'bottom' 5% of our students in a 1:5 or 1:3 ratio. We're pretty much doing it now.

Moreover, because fluent reading is the core skill underlying all future academic achievement, we would likely have fewer special education students. That is the goal of Response to Intervention law: to reduce the number of students needing special education.

For me, the most important path out of our financial crisis is to ardently embrace evidence-based decision making: do what works, stop doing what doesn't.

In the run-up to the first fields vote, when people were putting up hand-lettered signs overnight, someone put up a sign that said:


That should be our principle. Remediation is fantastically expensive: it costs the taxpayer who must fund remedial teachers, and, more importantly, it costs the child who is struggling to learn.

Our district-wide goal should be to reduce to the absolute minimum the number of children needing remediation. We should adopt curricula and teaching methods that give our kids success.


I can no longer locate the Johnston & Watson PowerPoint that gave the 5% figure (I can email a copy if you'd like to see it). Palisadesk cites 10%.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

more is more

anonymous says:
The Common Core national assessment being developed right now will apparently require teachers to grade it as it will have open-ended, critical thinking questions to which their is no specific right answer.

(per Linda Darling-Hammond's presentation to NGA where she said teachers would be the graders)

Apart from the difficulty of knowing where our kids really stand, this will mean employing more salaried human beings with benefits rather than that disinterested computer scantron without union representation.

Hadn't thought of that.

So we've got, coming down the pike, 4 new categories of public school employment:
  • teachers to provide "Tier 2" intervention
  • instructional coaches in math & ELA (& other - ?)
  • curriculum specialists to 'develop' curriculum
  • stipends for teachers scoring the groovy new Common Core assessments, should such occur
Have I left anything out?

fyi: our Director of Pupil Personnel says that "Response to Intervention" is starting with reading instruction but will then be expanded to include all of the other subjects (and ages) as well. If that is the case, we are looking at paying teachers to teach up to 15% of the K-12 student population in tiny groups of 3 to 5 students. (I think our administrator said 18%, but I'll check.)

Laura on executive function in 2nd grade

I'm finding myself in a position where I'm wondering if I can leverage the district's fear of being sued to try to get them to put together a more academically focused class for my son.

He's hitting the second grade wall (I spoke with a mom yesterday who pulled her kid out and is sending him to Eagle Hill in Greenwich, where he's now thriving, and she said second grade is when it really starts)--absurdly high demands for executive function are being pushed ever higher and higher (pick out your own book, monitor your own reading for 30-40 minutes, remember whatever little reading activity of the day you're supposed to apply to what you read), and focused academic instruction is plummeting ever lower.

They are talking about the possibility of putting my above average IQ kid in a segregated special education class.

I'm starting to wonder if the threat of being sued to pay for an out-of-district placement might motivate my school system to do something more creative.

Two years running, now, the principal of our K-3 school has told the school board that her goal is to 'create a safe environment where children can take risks.'

She's talking about 5 year olds.

Taking risks.

That's her goal.

Constructivism means transferring responsibility from the grown-ups to the children.

Seattle school district appeals


thanks to Cassy T

insider baseball

from Steve H:
At one underperforming high school in our state, the administration got to the point where they fired all of the high school teachers. (They wanted more money.) It recently made national news and even Obama commented on it. Only 7% of the 11th graders met minimal proficiency on the state math test. (Just today, it appears that this leverage has worked and they will come to some sort of agreement with the union.) Ironically, the superintendent of this school system was the one in charge of bringing MathLand to our schools (a different town) years ago. She left to go to this job when my son was in first grade. My son left for a private school after that year and the school started the process of switching to Everyday Math.

I feel that many of us parents are over on the sidelines with our hands raised and asking "Can we say something here?"

At a recent board meeting, when the topic of whether our teachers could 'handle' Singapore Math came up, I raised my hand and asked whether I could say something.

The Interim Director for Curriculum and Instruction said, "No!" Teachers and building principals sitting in the audience were invited to speak; parents had to follow the rules and wait until the end of the very long presentation to make 3-minute comments.

The Interim Director also told us she is recommending that we soldier on with Trailblazers because "there is no perfect curriculum." She said that several times over the course of the evening, with an air of gravitas: There is no perfect curriculum.

Also, we need a math coach, to complement the ELA "teaching learning facilitator" we have now. Plus we need to hire back the teaching-learning facilitator whose position was eliminated last year during the budget fracas.

coming soon to a school district near you

To those of you living in affluent suburban towns: this is the future. Public schools are committed to hiring tenured teachers to teach tenured teachers, and tenured curriculum specialists to "develop" curriculum. Absent tax revolts, there is no conceivable limit to the number of instructional coaches and curriculum specialists affluent schools will attempt to hire in the coming years, because there is no conceivable limit to the amount of "in-house professional development" classroom teachers require and no conceivable limit to the amount of "curriculum development" imperfect curricula require. A whole new tier of administration has been invented and is now in the process of being hired.

This story about Seattle administration tells you where we're headed. Here's Meg Diaz' report. (pdf file)

Do our policy elites have any idea this is going on? Do our newspapers and media outlets?

palisadesk on 'standards'

It's all relative, though. As Elizabeth pointed out, in a low-performing school 60% (or more) of first-third graders will be non-readers or close to it. RTI will not single out 60% of the population for Tier 2; only the most extreme cases will get that specialist help. For others it will be business as usual. Everything depends on local school conditions and populations.

We occasionally get a student transferring in who has been classified LD, mild cognitive delay, or some other exceptionality. In some cases these students perform above average for our non-classified, general ed students. They get As and Bs without modifications or accommodations.

It serves as a reminder that "standards" are very flexible things and what is "low" or "high" depends on the school context.
Right you are.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

lgm on Tier 2

re: Response to Intervention
Tier 2 reading intervention is done as a pull-out. The student still participates in the daily whole class lesson, but goes to a reading specialist or sped teacher for the intervention with a small group composed of eight or less students who have the same lacking skill that will be the topic of the lesson.

Haven't seen any data yet as to its effectiveness compared to the old style of leveled reading groups of 6-8 students.


anonymous says:
RightStart is, indeed, an Asian mental abacus program--but it's actually more. I can say, hands down, that RightStart is superior in every way to Singapore in the first grade level. And that's saying a LOT because Singapore is amazing!

Want to get the worst kid in the class adding two-digit numbers with regrouping in first grade? And adding four-digit numbers on paper with PERFECT understanding? RightStart does it. RightStart takes the very best of Asian mathematics programs and distills it down into it essence. It uses a very few select manipulatives extremely well--as conceptual connectors, not crutches--which echoes the author's original background in Montessori education.

AND it's scripted, so it helps teach the educator even as it teaches the student, even it the educator isn't a naturally mathy person.

If you want your child to score in the 90th percentile, I will guarantee that RightStart can do it with any kid of AVERAGE intelligence. The most that it requires from the instructor is to pay attention to any stumbling place and to further break down and clarify any points of confusion that might arise rather than doing sheer repetition--solve the problem rather than waiting for it to resolve itself by using the approach that YOU'VE learnt from RightStart and apply it to the lesson at hand to chop it into smaller bits.

My son had intuitive mathematical power, but with his language processing problems, communicating anything he couldn't instantly intuit was very, very hard--until I found RightStart. It was amazing. We did the entire series because he needed to make stronger connections between language and concept, and I've never been so impressed with a math program. Ever.

Now, Singapore does have one powerful tool that RS lacks--it has the model method of problem solving, and the word problems are more sophisticated and also much more frequent. RS also weirdly peters out before really giving much work on multiplying and dividing fractions using the standard algorithm, having covered it EXCELLENTLY conceptually but not having practiced it as it does other things.

Anyhow, my very mathy kid is using the sequence RightStart/Singapore Primary to NEM 1-3/Additional Mathematics/IMACS Elements of Mathematics. His personality is such that getting him to do any practice not on the Flashmaster is WWIII, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (which has already added some 6 months to his journey, though daily battles and sheer cussedness...)

My next door neighbor is very, very UN-mathy (failed algebra II), and her kid would be thrilled to step through algorithms without understanding a thing, if he can. After Calvert failed him (letting him get away with zero comprehension), she's now doing RightStart with great results. His sequence will likely be Right Start to Life of Fred/VideoText to either community college or ChalkDust or EPGY for calc.

In short, it works great for very different kids.

"The Joy of X"


Speaking of joy, I finally got back to my ALEKS geometry course,* which I abandoned last August after my mother fell.

My mother is continuing to improve, by the way. Which means the four death talks -- four -- that various doctors initiated with me and my siblings were premature.

Actually, the four death talks appear to have been not only premature but wrong in every respect. Take, for instance, the observation, made by my mom's intensivist in ICU, that: "Your mother has tiny little lungs and an enormously enlarged heart. Her only hope of survival would be a heart-lung transplant."

That appears to be codswallop, according to my mom's new cardiologist. "Heart function is good." "Heart muscle is strong." "Ejection fraction is normal." "Pulmonary hypertension has resolved." And so on.

Also, the diagnosis of congestive heart failure: wrong, it seems. My mom tells me she was given a brochure on congestive heart failure sometime after her heart attack 5 years ago, which informed her that a person in her situation had 5 years to live, max. Also wrong. Unless, of course, she doesn't have congestive heart failure (confusion reigns amongst us family members), in which case the brochure is possibly right but irrelevant.

Meanwhile, the physicians associated with the nursing home where my mom is recuperating have been operating under the assumption that my mother's diagnosis is congestive heart failure so they are now trying to nail that down. Congestive heart failure: yes or no? That is the question. The nephrologist (my mother does have kidney failure; of that we are sure) says she is going to read the entire history.

oh, man

My life goal: vegan my way to a healthy old age and die in my sleep. By then I will have spent a good 30 years dealing with the public schools; I don't want to spend the last 20 wrangling with hospital intensivists and hospice-touting PCPs. Noooooooooo.

That said, I will also point out that modern medicine is a miracle. Wow. My mom is alive and recovering because emergency rooms do what they do and dialysis machines & nephrologists do what they do and a good nursing home does what it does - because they all do what they do. Modern medicine keeps desperately sick and dying people alive and then some.

true story: in February I flew back to Chicago and went with my mom to an appointment with her new cardiologist. We're sitting together in his tiny office, my mother is back from the grave and getting around by wheelchair and medi-van...... and the doctor tells her to "lose weight and exercise." In 6 months we have gone from "tiny little lungs and an enormously enlarged heart" to "lose weight and exercise."

Alright, then!

Seriously, though, I don't know what to make of our experience thus far, and I have made a conscious decision not to delve into the literature on US medicine. (Also banned: the literature on US food industry.) I've read just enough to see that some of the institutional problems besetting health care are similar to institutional problems besetting public education, and that is helpful and intellectually stimulating to know. But that's enough. If I start finding out what goes on in your basic American hospital, my head will explode. Ditto for factory farming and the USDA.

The one tentative conclusion I hold at the moment: doctors aren't particularly expert at making predictions about an individual patient's immediate future. That's fine with me. I want doctors to save my mother's life, not ship her off to hospice because things look bad. And save her life is what they did.

My advice, which I realize is not original but bears repeating: when you're dealing with major medical, keep your wits about you and take things with a grain of salt.

And: if different doctors are telling you different things, pay attention to that fact. In our case, we were getting so much bad news about our mother, doctors were so insistent the jig was up, that we discounted the observations of doctors who weren't telling us that death was imminent. Not long after the intensivist told us my mom's only hope was a heart-lung transplant, another doctor told us, "She's doing well. This is what we do in ICU. We support a patient's organs and bodily systems while the patient recovers to the point that they can function on their own."

Hearing this, my sister and I thought, in so many words: this guy is nuts.

Then, during my mom's third hospitalization, when I received two hospice-promoting telephone calls from two of her PCPs, the hospital cardiologist told my sister that my mom's heart was strong and we weren't anywhere near hospice decisions. The nurse said the same thing. Another glaring contradiction.

That go-round we reached the reductio ad absurdum of having the hospital social worker apparently develop a suspicion that we children were trying to usher our mother out the door, seeing as how we kept bringing up hospice. The social worker actually interviewed my mother on the subject. What is your relationship with your children, she asked.


Next time, Ms. Hospital Social Worker, try asking: What is your relationship with your PCP and why does he keep calling your kids up long-distance to bend their ear about how their mother can have a "peaceful, quiet death" if they talk her into going to hospice sooner rather than later?

My other provisional conclusion: more specialists. Fewer PCPs. (Just kidding.)

In any event, my siblings and I needed to attend to the fact that we were getting wildly different opinions from different physicians, and we needed to find out why that was happening and insist that everyone get on the same page if possible. Instead, we assumed the worst and we grieved. Grieving before the fact clouds your reasoning. I don't think there's any way not to grieve before the fact, but from now on I am going to know that's what I'm doing and try to reason my way around it.

But back to ALEKS. I've got 3 more topics to master, then I return to Algebra 1, which I was working on before I decided to sign up for geometry last June because I was forcing C. to sign up for geometry. During the 9 months I've been away, ALEKS Algebra 1 seems to have grown from 288 topics to 333. Oy. When I switched to Geometry last June, ALEKS erased my Algebra 1 records, but my screen grab says I had mastered 270 topics.

Will I ever get to calculus?

* Now I just have to get back to Fluenz Spanish and life will be good.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Artsy math; what about mathy art?

Yet another breathless newspaper report of a hands-on, student-centered math class, this one out of North Penn, Pennsylvania. It begins with a typical math diss:
If you think geometry is a bit boring, well, you may be right.
Geometry was one of my favorite math classes--and my favorite class at the time. I especially loved the abstract proofs, and the elegant, infinite world you could construct out of a handful of axioms. This class took me places I'd never been before, and, I think, took my thinking to a whole new level. Writing about it makes me smile.

The article continues:
But for one Pennridge 10th-grade geometry class, a hands-on architecture project has made geometry exciting.

Geometry teacher JoAnn Rubin uses a creative architecture project that teaches her students to use the precision of geometry and architecture as well as the freedom of artistic expression to help all types of students succeed in her math course.

"Not everyone is good at math," Rubin said about the project. "Some kids are really artistic."

The project asks students to create a representation of a building that they think is interesting or original.

They can make a model or a poster or any kind of representation of the building using their geometry skills. There is really only one thing curtailing the student's creativity on the project.

"The only restriction was that the buildings couldn't be rectangular," Rubin said with a smile.
This one restriction led students in many different directions and had them recreating all different kinds of buildings, from architectural classics to the downright bizarre.
Rubin's assignment appears to have fulfilled her goals--with flying colors:
Although the project results were all over the spectrum, students of all mathematical abilities consistently succeeded.

"It's about recognizing that we all have our talents and interests," Rubin said about the project that allowed every student to explore their abilities beyond the chalkboard. "I wanted them to look at the geometry of the actual buildings."
Equality of outcome; celebration of multiple intelligences; real-life examples; it's all there.

But I can't help feeling concerned for one of Rubin's thriving students:
One of the more creative projects was built by Brett Saddington, who turned the parameters for the project completely upside-down.

"I just looked up the world's strangest buildings," Saddington said about the Google search that led him to an upside-down house built in Szymbark, Poland.

He said that he one day hopes to be an architect or an engineer, and he showed off his talent with his topsy-turvy creation.
His teacher is hopeful, too:
Most of Rubin's students will not become architects or engineers, but by giving her students a look at the practical and creative side of geometry, she has given them an appreciation that could take them anywhere.

"They really don't know what direction they may be heading," Rubin said. "But who knows? They may become architects or engineers."
But I'm worried that, in this topsy turvy world of math education, where art is math and appreciation is learning, Brett's high school teachers may never teach him the math he needs to pursue an architecture or engineering degree in college and beyond.

Unless, of course, the art teacher is having Brett and his classmates spend the same amount of time doing math problems about the geometry of perspective drawing and optical wave forms.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

yes! (summer plans)

I'm apparently working with the Department of Energy's Ames Lab over the summer under chemist Ning Fang (the guy whose research is on the front page of the web site). While I'm really excited to be investigating the in vivo rotational dynamics of biomolecules by getting cells to "swallow" gold nanoparticle probes, it's also a little out in the middle of nowhere. (Ames, Iowa...)

What do NSF kids do for fun when they're not in the lab? Especially when the lab is out in the Midwest?

The internship also runs from Jun 1 to Aug 6, I also need to figure out what I'm doing between May 15 - May 30 and Aug 7 -- Aug 23 (the days of summer that aren't being used for research). I do not have my own car. In fact I don't yet know how to drive so maybe this would be a good opportunity to take a crash course (literally).

My home is about 700 miles away from my school ... so I don't know if it's worth it go home. My family is a single-parent household and we live on the humble income side so I don't know if it's worth it to go back home to stay cooped in a small apartment for two weeks! (Though the NSF will only pay for transport to and from your home/school, and not say, your uncle's place in NYC. I think. Maybe I can check if they'll be a bit flexible.) Actually I have not yet been to my mother's place ... it's in a totally different city since I moved to college (it's smaller and closer to her work) -- so none of my high school friends are there. So I kind of feel semi-nomadic!

The NSF will also be making me $4250 richer. OK, deduct $300-400 for groceries and the occasional eating out (do people even eat out in Iowa??) ... but I don't know if that affects my EFC (expected family contribution) on my FAFSA, especially if it's government-funded? I know I have to pay tax on it. Should it go to a car... or a med school / grad school fund? My undergrad debt will be about $8k ... assuming my FAFSA EFC doesn't go up. My earnings this year (excluding work-study) are about $1.5k, and AFAIK student doesn't start affecting EFC until it's over $3k. Do NSF stipends count as student income on the FAFSA?

go to video

Dr. M,

In regard to your request for Dempsey & McLaren to define themselves. For the purposes of this discussion we can do a reasonable job in 6 minutes:

Seattle excluded all evidence provided by the public in making the decision to adopt "Discovering" for HS math on May 6, 2009

This was a virtual replay of May 30, 2007 when directors decided to trust their hired professionals instead of using evidence in adopting Everyday Math.

The six minutes is our response to the SPS board on May 20th to their decision to adopt "Discovering" on May 6th.

Let this play past the 4 second intro. Then move the slider to find us from minute 22:15 to minute 28:30

SPS Board meeting video of May 20, 2009 part I:

Now please define traditionalist.



Dan Dempsey on the Seattle case

The SPS responded in court that "Discovering" was not an inquiry program but a "Balanced" Program. The Judge noticed that all the texts had "Discovering" in the title and on page four the publisher claimed this was an investigative approach to mathematics. She also noticed that every lesson began with an investigation.

Numbers Wars
by Linda Baker

pop quiz, part 3

A Parent’s Guide to Education Reform (pdf file)
By Dan Lips, Jennifer Marshall, and Lindsey Burke
Heritage Foundation
p. 10

How much do American public schools spend per pupil?
American public schools spent an average of $9,266 per pupil during the 2004–2005 school year.19

How much does the U.S. Spend on K–12 education as a nation?
The United States spent $600 billion on K–12 education in 2006—about 4.5 percent of our gross domestic product.20

How many students are in K–12 public schools?
About 50 million students attend American public schools.21

What is the average public school teacher salary?
In 2004, the average public school teacher’s salary was $44,400.22

Who earns a higher hourly wage—public school teachers or mechanical engineers?
Public school teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005. BLS estimates that mechanical engineers earn $31.93 per hour.23

What percentage of public education funding is spent on classroom expenditures?
61 cents out of every dollar currently spent in American public schools is for instruction.24

What is the average class size in American public schools?
There are 16 students for each teacher in the average public school.25

What percentage of all public school staff are non-teaching employees or administrators?
Non-teaching employees and administrators account for 49 percent of all public school staff.26

What percentage of government funding for education comes from the state, federal, and local governments?
46.9 percent of public school revenue comes from state government. 44 percent of funding comes from local government. Only 9.2 percent comes from the federal government.27

What percentage of American 8th graders cannot read?
26 percent of 8th grade students scored “below basic” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading exam.28

What is the percentage of American adults who are illiterate?
The U.S. Department of Education’s 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that 14 percent of American adults scored “below basic” in literacy, meaning that they could not perform simple everyday tasks that required reading or writing.29


19 U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics: 2007, Table 171, at
20 Ibid., Table 25, at
21 Ibid., Table 33, at
22 Ibid., Table 72, at
23 Jay P. Greene and Marcus Winters, “How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?” Manhattan Institute Civic Report No. 50, January 2007, at
24 Author calculations based on average spending on instruction divided by total current expenditures. U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics: 2007, Table 172, at
25 Ibid., Table 60, at
26 Ibid., Table 80 at
27 Ibid., Table 162, at
28 U.S. Department of Education, Reading Report Card, 2005.
29 U.S. Department of Education, NCES, “2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy,” at