kitchen table math, the sequel: 7/11/10 - 7/18/10

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"awful to be 18 and not have choices"

I was already a devoted fan of David Steiner before he was appointed New York state's Commissioner of Education. I'm rapidly becoming a devoted fan of Meryl Tisch, too.

In today's Wall Street Journal:
Acknowledging that a New York state high-school diploma doesn't mean a student is necessarily ready for college, the chancellor of the Board of Regents said she envisions the state providing two types of diplomas in the near future: one that is marked "college-ready," and one that is not.

There is no formal proposal yet to do so, but Merryl Tisch, the chancellor, said the move would be a natural extension of a broad effort by the Regents to toughen up academic standards. Those efforts are fueled by increasing evidence that even while New York students have been showing marked progress on state tests, their performance on national tests has stagnated.

"It's awful to be 18 and not have choices," Ms. Tisch said.

Nearly a quarter of students in all New York state two- and four-year colleges need to take remedial course work, according to John King, the state education department's deputy commissioner. Students taking remedial courses in their first year of college are less likely to graduate, he said.

According to research by the Department of Education, students who scored below an 80 on their math Regents exam have a much higher likelihood of being placed in remedial college courses. Students only need a 65 to pass the math Regents test in New York.

Regent Eyes New Diploma
JULY 17, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

college students studying less

Interesting story in the Globe:
According to time-use surveys analyzed by professors Philip Babcock, at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California Riverside, the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied about 24 hours a week. Today’s average student hits the books for just 14 hours.

The decline, Babcock and Marks found, infects students of all demographics. No matter the student’s major, gender, or race, no matter the size of the school or the quality of the

SAT scores of the people enrolled there, the results are the same: Students of all ability levels are studying less.

“It’s not just limited to bad schools,” Babcock said. “We’re seeing it at liberal arts colleges, doctoral research colleges, masters colleges. Every different type, every different size. It’s just across the spectrum. It’s very robust. This is just a huge change in every category.”


One problem is that they’re arriving in college with increasingly troubled study habits. According to survey data gathered by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, or CIRP, the largest and longest-running study of higher education in the United States, incoming college freshmen have reported declining study habits for at least two decades. By 2009, nearly two-thirds of them failed to study even six hours a week while seniors in high school — a figure that has risen steadily since 1987.

Once they get to college, the figure improves, but there are many students today who appear to be doing very little whatsoever. In one CIRP survey subset last year, analyzing predominantly private institutions considered to be mid-level or high-achieving colleges, some 32 percent of college freshmen somehow managed to study less than six hours a week — not even an hour a day. Seniors studied only slightly more, with nearly 28 percent studying less than six hours a week. And other surveys of today’s students report similarly alarming results. The National Survey of Student Engagement found in 2009 that 62 percent of college students studied 15 hours a week or less — even as they took home primarily As and Bs on their report cards.


[A]ccording to their research, the greatest decline in student studying took place before computers swept through colleges: Between 1961 and 1981, study times fell from 24.4 to 16.8 hours per week (and then, ultimately, to 14). Nor do they believe student employment or changing demographics to be the root cause.... study times are dropping for everyone regardless of employment or personal characteristics.


One theory, offered by Babcock and Marks, suggests that the cause, or at least one of them, is a breakdown in the professor-student relationship. Instead of a dynamic where a professor sets standards and students try to meet them, the more common scenario these days, they suggest, is one in which both sides hope to do as little as possible.

“No one really has an incentive to make a demanding class,” Marks said. “To make a tough assignment, you have to write it, grade it. Kids come into office hours and want help on it. If you make it too hard, they complain. Other than the sheer love for knowledge and the desire to pass it on to the next generation, there is no incentive in the system to encourage effort.”

What happened to studying?
By Keith O’Brien
July 4, 2010

I wonder if there's been an upsurge in poster assignments. A friend of mine says he's pretty sure there has been ---

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

more fun than running a marathon

The SATs & Me (or Is it Me and the SATs)?


more from New York

A new report is spurring New York state to overhaul the way it defines academic proficiency for public-school students -- a massive change that could suddenly label tens of thousands of kids as being below grade level.


Among older kids, the study found that those who did just well enough on their high-school math Regents to graduate -- scoring at or slightly above the passing grade of 65 -- had a less than 5 percent chance of getting placed in the easiest for-credit math course offered to CUNY freshmen.

Hiking class standards
By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter
New York Post
Posted: 4:39 AM, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quinni Diagnostic Grammar Test

Professor Susan Daily
Quinnipiac University School of Law

I missed one and learned something I didn't know.

stop the madness

Terrific article on educational technology in the business section of the Sunday Times:
MIDDLE SCHOOL students are champion time-wasters. And the personal computer may be the ultimate time-wasting appliance. Put the two together at home, without hovering supervision, and logic suggests that you won’t witness a miraculous educational transformation.

Still, wherever there is a low-income household unboxing the family’s very first personal computer, there is an automatic inclination to think of the machine in its most idealized form, as the Great Equalizer. In developing countries, computers are outfitted with grand educational hopes, like those that animate the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which was examined in this space in April. The same is true of computers that go to poor households in the United States.

Economists are trying to measure a home computer’s educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts.

Ofer Malamud, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago, is the co-author of a study that investigated educational outcomes after low-income families received vouchers to help them buy computers.

“We found a negative effect on academic achievement,” he said. “I was surprised, but as we presented our findings at various seminars, people in the audience said they weren’t surprised, given their own experiences with their school-age children.”

Why is it parents know these things and schools don't?

My own district now has a plan in place to wire the entire high school (& middle school? - I've forgotten) for internet access. I didn't pay close attention to the various presentations and pitches on the subject, but the idea seems to be that kids will never, ever get onto porn sites at school because we'll be buying some kind of super-duper firewall that cannot be beaten. Plus we'll have, as I recall, a central Screen of some sort that allows a central Employee of some sort to monitor every single site every single person in the building(s) is currently logged onto. ( this a full-time employee? With tenure? And step increases?)

We "need" this new technology because high school students need to bring their laptops to school to do online research during school hours.

The school will deal with the problem of students surfing the web in class by not allowing students to use their laptops in class. At least, I think that's the idea.

But of course some of the 504C kids have accommodations that specifically allow them to use a laptop to take notes, so how does the school prevent those kids from surfing the internet during class?

digital divide redux
In the United States, Jacob L. Vigdor and Helen F. Ladd, professors of public policy at Duke University, reported similar findings. Their National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, “Scaling the Digital Divide,” published last month, looks at the arrival of broadband service in North Carolina between 2000 and 2005 and its effect on middle school test scores during that period. Students posted significantly lower math test scores after the first broadband service provider showed up in their neighborhood, and significantly lower reading scores as well when the number of broadband providers passed four.

The Duke paper reports that the negative effect on test scores was not universal, but was largely confined to lower-income households...

technology immersion redux

The state of Texas recently completed a four-year experiment in “technology immersion.” The project spent $20 million in federal money on laptops distributed to 21 middle schools whose students were permitted to take the machines home. Another 21 schools that did not receive funds for laptops were designated as control schools.


At the conclusion, a report prepared by the Texas Center for Educational Research tried to make the case that test scores in some academic subjects improved slightly at participating schools over those of the control schools. But the differences were mixed and included lower scores for writing among the students at schools “immersed” in technology. 


Catherine Maloney, director of the Texas center, said the schools did their best to mandate that the computers would be used strictly for educational purposes. Most schools configured the machines to block e-mail, chat, games and Web sites reached by searching on objectionable key words. The key-word blocks worked fine for English-language sites but not for Spanish ones. “Kids were adept at getting around the blocks,” she said.

How disappointing to read in the Texas study that “there was no evidence linking technology immersion with student self-directed learning or their general satisfaction with schoolwork.”

When devising ways to beat school policing software, students showed an exemplary capacity for self-directed learning. Too bad that capacity didn’t expand in academic directions, too.
Technology immersion has nothing to do with self-directed learning. Seriously.

Monday, July 12, 2010

time with children

Don't ask me how it happened, but recently, in my travels, I came across the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. To analyze American Time Use, the Bureau uses an Activity Lexicon (pdf file), a 39-page list of things people do. 

Under sleeping, for example, the Bureau includes the following options:

waking up
falling asleep
dozing off
cat napping
getting some shut-eye
getting up

Not sleeping is also a possibility:

lying awake
tossing and turning
counting sheep

Two and a half pages are devoted to subcategory 01: Caring For and Helping HH Children.* Reading the list gave me a happy feeling:

01 Physical care for hh children
02 Reading to / with hh children
03 Playing with hh children, not sports
04 Arts and crafts with hh children
05 Playing sports with hh children
06 Talking with/listening to hh children

And so on. Time with children.

Subcategory 02 -- Activities Related to HH Children's Education -- brought me up short:

01 Homework (hh children)
helping hh child with homework
signing hh child's homework log
reviewing hh child's homework
checking hh child's homework for completion
helping hh child with a school project
picking up hh child's books/assignments
quizzing hh child before a test


02 Meetings and school conferences (hh children)
observing hh child's class
meeting with guidance counselor of hh child
attending hh child's parent-teacher conference
meeting with principal of hh child
attending hh child's back-to-school night
talking to / with hh child's tutor
meeting w/school psychologist of hh child
meeting with hh child's tutor
talking with teachers of hh child
attending hh child's school open house
attending a PTA meeting
meeting w/school speech pathologist of hh child


04 Waiting associated with hh children's education
waiting to meet with hh child's teacher

And that's it, the entire list apart from a one-line subcategory dedicated to home schooling of HH children. Six categories for helping with HH child's homework, 2 categories for dealing with HH child's tutor, another 4 categories for spending time on HH child's other school-related challenges and traumas (meeting with principal of hh child; meeting with school psychologist of hh child; meeting w/school speech pathologist of hh child...) Plus an entire category consecrated to time spent waiting to meet with hh child's teacher. Talk about fresh hell.

Where are the good parts?

Where is the "hh children's education" equivalent of "listening to hh child sing/recite" and "hearing about hh child's day," both of which appear under the heading "Caring For and Helping HH Children"?

Where is subcategory 05: discussing school's program to accelerate hh child's learning with school personnel?

Or subcategory 06: vetting hh child's merit aid award offers with admissions officers?

Tutors come up elsewhere in the lexicon as well. Under "Telephone calls to / from paid child or adult care providers," the Bureau lists three activities:

talking on phone to day care provider
talking on phone to a tutor
talking on phone to a babysitter

Tutors crop up again under Childcare Services:

01 Using paid childcare services
hiring a nanny or babysitter paying for lessons, instructions
paying for daycare
paying for tutorial services
checking out daycare facility
hiring a tutor
paying for summer camp
paying for after school care program
talking to / with the daycare provider
meeting with daycare providers
talking to / with the camp counselor
talking to / with babysitter

Finally - and this took me by surprise - tutors appear in Category 04, Subcategory 02: Activities Related to Nonhh Children's Education. In Category 04 we find the American people engaging in all of the aforementioned parental Activities on behalf of other people's children:**

observing nonhh child's class
meeting w/school speech pathologist of nonhh child
observing nonhh child's class
meeting with guidance counselor of nonhh child
attending non-hh child's parent-teacher conference
meeting with principal of nonhh child
attending non-hh child's back-to-school night
talking to / with nonhh child's tutor
meeting w/school psychologist of nonhh child
meeting with nonhh child's tutor
talking with teachers of nonhh child
attending nonhh child's school open house
attending PTA meeting

I wonder what Activities Related to HH Children's Education will look like in 2020?

I'd like to see a new activity on the list: visiting private, parochial, charter, and public schools to decide where to spend your child's tuition vouchers.

* HH = household

**see Anonymous for an explanation