kitchen table math, the sequel: 7/25/10 - 8/1/10

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RttT Finalists announced yesterday

A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied for either the first or second rounds – or both. The 19 finalists are: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

AND an interesting post from Jay P. Greene on Checker Finn's change of mind...
Checker made an excellent case against national standards… in 1997.

The current national standards and assessment craze has similarly not been authorized by Congress and is being spear-headed by the very same Council of Chief State School Officers that Checker denounced as “one of the establishment’s most change-averse crews.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

crimson wife on the MBA degree

re: a national baccalaureate
In article a year or two ago in the alumni magazine for the Ivy League business school my DH attended, one recruiter was quotes saying that if her company could recruit off of the school's list of admitted students, she would prefer that to hiring the newly minted MBA's. She felt the entire value of the program (which cost $100k + 2 years' foregone wages) lay in the prescreening.

When my DH was looking for a job, most position decriptions he saw stated MBA or CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). The CFA requires passing 3 extremely challenging all-day exams (pass rate ~40% on each). He has told me he learned way more about finance in studying for the CFA exams than he did in business school.

trigonometry will cost you extra

more from lgm:
Freedom of choice though, means that families could afford accredited correspondence or on-line classes, as they have to do in areas like mine where the district charges extra for classes such as trigonometry.
from Bostonian:
Really, trigonometry is not one of the standard offerings in high school? Parents must pay extra for trig -- how does that work?
from lgm:
The student has his choice of dual enrolling with the community college or using a provider of his choice or independent study. If there are enough interested students and an available room, the community college class will be held at the high school during normal school hours. Should the student take a course independent study, the district will pay a teacher a stipend to supervise...[the] grapevine is saying $5K per student, but I need to confirm that officially. The supervisor only proctors tests. If the student takes the course from an accredited provider, he pays the provider and the credit will transfer into his transcript provided he hasn't gone over the 6.5 transfer-in credits allowed by the state AND the principal approves the transfer.

Note: the only way to take high school math courses at the honors level is through an outside provider as the district offers no honors math courses.

As the high school principal here pointed out to me last year, "We're not required to offer Honors courses."

lawyers without law school

A friend just got in touch with me about Walter Russell Mead's idea for a national baccalaureate:
a federally recognized national baccalaureate (or 'national bac') degree that students could earn by demonstrating competence and knowledge
Her email:
You may know this already, but this system was used for lawyers, and the first woman partner at Cravath never went to law school. So there is precedent.

proposal for a national baccalaureate

Offhand, I like this idea -- what do you think?
Paying for college education is one of the biggest financial worries facing middle class and working families. Fancy liberal arts schools that let your kids live in essentially unsupervised coed dorms while majoring in such helpful subjects as deconstructionist literary theory and Why America Sucks now cost north of $40,000 per year, and even less-prestigious schools that teach more useful subjects can cost as much per year as a round-the-world cruise. Some kids come out burdened with insane levels of debt; others are frozen out of the market.


There is no reason the government should try to prevent American families who value the traditional college experience from paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, but perhaps it could offer an alternative: a federally recognized national baccalaureate (or 'national bac') degree that students could earn by demonstrating competence and knowledge.

With input from employers, the Department of Education could develop standards in fields like English, the sciences, information technology, mathematics, and so on. Students would get certificates when they passed an exam in a given subject. These certificates could be used, like the Advanced Placement tests of the College Board, to reduce the number of courses students would need to graduate from a traditional college. And colleges that accepted federal funds could be required to award credits for them.

But the certificates would be good for something else as well. With enough certificates in the right subjects, students could get a national bac without going to college. Government agencies would accept the bac as the equivalent of a conventional bachelor's degree; graduate schools and any organization receiving federal funds would also be required to accept it.

Subject exams calibrated to a national standard would give employers something they do not now have: assurance that a student has achieved a certain level of knowledge and skill. It is the easiest thing in the world today to find English majors with BA degrees from accredited colleges who cannot write a standard business letter. If national bac holders could in fact perform this and other specific tasks that employers want their new hires to perform, it is likely that increasing numbers of employers would demand the bac in addition to a college degree. Students who attended traditional colleges would increasingly need to pass these exams to obtain the full benefits of their degree.

For students from modest or low-income homes, as well as for part-time students trying to earn degrees while they work full time jobs or raise families, the standards would offer a cheaper, more efficient way to focus their education. Students could take prep courses that focused on the skills they actually needed to do the jobs they sought. Parents could teach their kids at home. Schools and institutes could offer focused programs. Public records could show how well students performed on the exams, offering students and parents far more accountability and information than they now get.

Such programs would be both cheaper and more flexible than conventional college degree programs. The contemporary American college is solidly grounded in the tradition of the medieval guilds. These guilds deliberately limited competition to keep fees high. In the best of cases, guild regulation also protected consumers by imposing quality and fairness standards on guild members. Few observers of American education today would argue with straight faces that the quality of undergraduate education is a major concern of contemporary guilds like the American Association of University Professors. Colleges today provide no real accounting to students, parents, or anybody else about the quality of the education they provide. No other market forces consumers to make choices on so little information.

One consequence of this poorly functioning market is to grossly exaggerate the value of "prestige" degrees. Especially these days, a lot of kids work very hard in Ivy League colleges, but others still major in booze and other diversions. Meanwhile, there are plenty of kids studying at, say, Regular State University, where they work very hard at demanding courses under tough professors. A national bac exam would allow these kids to compete on a level playing field against the Harvard and Yale grads; employers could look at the scores and see for themselves which kids knew more.

Less unearned privilege for Harvard, more opportunity for Regular State. That, once again, is what the ice cream truck brings.


By setting open standards for the national bac, and by allowing anybody to offer the service of preparing students to take the exams, Congress could break the guilds' monopoly on education. A century ago higher education was still a luxury, and it scarcely mattered that it was offered only by arcane guilds in a system that took shape in the Middle Ages. But today many people of very modest means need a BA-equivalent degree to succeed in the workplace.

The power of the guilds in the goods-producing industries had to be broken before the factory system could provide the cheaper goods of the industrial revolution. The service and information revolutions require the breakup of the knowledge guilds: The professoriat is a good place to start.

The Ice Cream Party and the Spinach Party
BY Walter Russell Mead
February 6, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 20

Monday, July 26, 2010

David Steiner on the state tests

This past week I presented research to the Board of Regents that clearly suggests the need to adjust the "cut scores" on the state's grade 3-8 English and math exams to more accurately indicate student proficiency on those exams. The Board endorsed the rationale I presented and I will adjust those scores accordingly.


If our tests are to be a useful tool, they have to give us meaningful information — not only about a student's current level of proficiency, but also about that student's future prospects. So we looked at linkages and connections, to better understand the signals that indicate whether a student is on track to pass Regents exams and to go on to higher education prepared to do college-level work.

The research told us many things. Most significantly, it revealed that some students who have scored "proficient" on state exams were unprepared, without remediation, to do the work required of them when they reached college. That must change.

"Proficiency" on our exams has to mean something real; no good purpose is served when we say that a child is proficient when that child simply is not.

a sequenced curriculum

But more rigorous exams are only one piece of the Regents' broader reform vision — a vision that includes a more challenging, sequenced curriculum, stronger preparation for teachers and principals, and a world-class data system.


We are embarking on a new era of reform, and the goal is clear: to provide all students with a world-class education that prepares them for college, work, citizenship and lifelong learning.

Changes will make New York's standardized tests more meaningful
by David Steiner
July 25, 2010

blue collar

from The Race between Education and Technology:
We found that wide differences existed among blue-collar manufacturing workers in their educational attainment and that these differences were directly related to industry characteristics and thus to the technologies employed and the skills demanded of workers.


...[T]o understand the role of education in the pre-1940 period, we generally use the completion of high school as the definition of more-educated, whereas for more recent times we use graduation from college (either four-year or a combination of two- and four-year). The reason for the different standard concerns changes in the average level of education across the century. In 1940, 34 percent of the U.S. male labor force 25 to 34 years old had 12 or more years of schooling whereas in 2000 about the same fraction had a post-secondary degree.


The industries clearly divide into two groups. At the low end of the education spectrum are the products of the first industrial revolution (cotton, woolen, and sil textiles; boots and shoes) and many that have been the mainstay of construction for centuries (lumber, stone, clay, and cement). At the high end are various products of the second industrial revolution (e.g., chemicals, petroleum), many in the machine-producing group, and some crafted in settings similar to that found in a traditional artisanal shop (i.e., clocks, watches, jewelry, and even aircraft.) Finally, there is a perennial among high-education industries: printing and publishing.


Drivers for jewelry stores and drug stores were more educated than were drivers who worked in other industries. Blue-collar workers in radio stores, and even gas station attendants, were far more educated than the average blue-collar worker. Our point is that in manufacturing, as well as in many other sectors, blue-collar workers using more advanced technologies and being entrusted with more expensive capital and goods were more educated than were others with similar occupational titles.


[D]ifferences in educational attainment of blue-collar workers across industries are substantial even after adjusting for differences in urbanization, regional location of production, and age structure.


...[T]he fraction employed in the metal trades rose with education, whereas the fraction employed in wood, leather, clothing, and textiles declined with education. The metal trades rose with education, whereas the fraction employed in the metal trades rose with education, whereas the fraction employed in wood, leather, clothing, and textiles declined with education. The metal trades were considered among the more technologically advanced in manufacturing, whereas trades in the other indutriess mentioned were older and less dynamic. Of the young men with 12 years of schooling who were employed in blue-collar jobs, 54.4 percent were in the metal trades. But among those who left school after nine years, 44.4 percent were in the metal trades, and among those who left after six years just 30.3 percent were in the metal trades.


The complementarity between technology and skill existed even earlier in the twentieth century and was associated with the introduction of electricity and the more extensive use of capital per worker.


Rarely is the education of production workers mentioned in the labor history literature. Yet there is ample qualitative evidence, complementing our empirical findings, that certain cognitive skills were highly valued in various trades.

The Race between Education and Technology

what happened to h?

from Practical Math: Success in 20 Minutes a Day, page 2
42. Maria works at a clothing store as a sales associate, making d dollars every hour, plus 20% commission on whatever she sells. If she works h hours and sells a total of s dollars of clothing, what will her pay for that day be?

a. d + 20
b. d + 0.20s
c. ds + 0.20
d. d + 20s

Week #3

This is a lot of fun.

Proposed math standards unteachable

Sacramento Bee
Viewpoints: Proposed math standards unteachable

Algebra I is taught in eighth grade in high-performing foreign countries, and this is also recommended by America's 2008 National Math Panel. California has made immense progress in this direction in the past decade, and we now lead the nation in the percentage of algebra-takers in eighth grade. Regrettably, all these gains are in danger of being reversed because of these ill-advised standards recommendations.

Bill Evers is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and member of the institution's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. He was formerly U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education. Ze'ev Wurman is an executive at a Silicon Valley high-technology company. He was formerly a senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Education.

we're number 12

The United States used to lead the world in the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations.


“We spend a fortune recruiting freshmen but forget to recruit sophomores,” Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation, said at the meeting.


“We led the world in the 1980s, but we didn’t build from there,” he said. “If you look at people 60 and over, about 39-40 percent have college degrees, and if you look at young people, too, about 39-40 percent have college degrees. Meanwhile, other countries have passed us by.”

Canada now leads the world in educational attainment, with about 56 percent of its young adults having earned at least associate’s degrees in 2007, compared with only 40 percent of those in the United States. (The United States’ rate has since risen slightly.)

While almost 70 percent of high school graduates in the United States enroll in college within two years of graduating, only about 57 percent of students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program graduate within six years, and fewer than 25 percent of students who begin at a community college graduate with an associate’s degree within three years.


The problem begins long before college, according to the report released Thursday.

“You can’t address college completion if you don’t do something about K-12 education,” Mr. Kirwan said.

Once a Leader, U.S. Lags in College Degrees
Published: July 23, 2010


The National Honor Society, for top high school students, says that 64 percent of its members are girls. The Center on Education Policy cites data showing that boys lag girls in reading in every American state.


At the very top, boys more than hold their own: 62 percent of kids who earn perfect 2,400 scores on the S.A.T. are boys.

Don’t Write Off Men Just Yet
Published: July 21, 2010