kitchen table math, the sequel: 8/15/10 - 8/22/10

Saturday, August 21, 2010

learned industriousness

Given the fundamental nature of procrastination, it is curious how such a mechanism could have become prevalent. One would expect that such a disadvantageous characteristic would have long been culled from our gene pool. To address this, George Ainslie argues that people in a hunter/gatherer environment should find that their motivational compulsions fit motivational demands almost perfectly: "As long as they sleep and hoard and mate when the relevant urge arises, they will behave more or less adaptively in the environment in which those urges evolved" (1992, p. 88). Unfortunately, in our civilized circumstances, contingencies are quite different, and it often becomes important to act not as nature intended.

There are some who have likely inherited characteristics that let them deal better with procrastination without any type of self-regulatory assistance. Like the naturally athletic, they don't need a lot of help to stay motivationally fit. Fortunately, there is help for the rest of us. There are many, many ways to reduce procrastination if not effectively eliminate it. Here we review three: Learned Industriousness, Energy Regulation, and Goal Setting. Of note, most procrastinators have a wide streak of impulsiveness in them and likely are looking for the "quick fix." Unfortunately, the more powerful the remedy for procrastination, the longer it takes to work.

Piers Steel at Procrastination Central

I am taking his advice re: learned industriousness to heart.

redkudu on Teach Like a Champion - instant success

School starts Monday, and I'm re-reading it for the umpteenth time this weekend. I got it near the end of last year, started using a few techniques, and saw instant success. I also saw a few techniques that I already use, so that was a nice validation.

One of the most profound lessons I learned from it had to do with re-thinking how I lesson plan. Somewhere in the book the author talks about how teachers need to specify what the students will do at each stage of a lesson. This seems obvious; however a lot of lesson planning training talks about what will be taught, how it will be taught, and what the teacher will do to teach it.

Just changing my thinking after reading that bit changed my lesson planning immensely and also changed how I think about what I will be doing in the classroom. Now my lesson plans include a carefully detailed plan of what I should see the students doing at each stage - creating immediately assessable goals that will guide my next move.

And I'll be honest that just this one thing increased the complexity and difficulty of my planning quite a bit. I struggled to wrap my mind around it for a while in some instances. Then, when the light bulb went off, I realized how much it helped me more effectively scaffold my lessons to meet my students' needs - special ed, 504, ESL, etc.

I have pored over every word of that book, and given the fact that I'm about to teach two English classes at a local college, I'm happy for redkudu's reminder that I need to get the book out and pore over it again.

I've also read part of the 'companion' book: Paul Bambrick-Santoyo's Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction. Not sure whether trying to plow through it in the next two weeks makes sense given the fact that I need to master Whimbey and create two courses. Is Bambrick-Santoyo primarily talking about school-wide use of data?

Or will the book help me?

Another item for the to do list.

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction

Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction

Teaching and Learning Grammar: The Prototype-Construction Approach

Teaching and Learning Grammar: The Prototype-Construction Approach

MathCounts banning homeschool teams

Looks like some public school parents of gifted math students pulled their kids out of school to pool them together and become MathCounts "super teams," so MathCounts decided to ban all homeschool teams, in a unanimous vote. They'll still be able to compete as individuals.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dan Dempsey on professional development


Peter Meyer's palm card for educational excellence

... I’m not so sure we don’t know what works and doesn’t work in education — or, for that matter,  in education reform. Perhaps I am a rube about this, but when I walk into a school — I took the same tour as Brill and it is as startling as he describes it — I know within a few minutes whether the place is working for the kids or not. (It’s a little like the Supreme Court rule on pornography: you know when you see it.) I will soon be trademarking Pete’s Palm Card for Education Excellence: Order. Consistency. Content.
Proof Positive in Harlem
Here is Peter again on the subject of school quality and P.E. ----

a purchase I am reconsidering


thanks to Daniel Ethier
Independent George asks why

faulty watch problem

12. A faulty watch gains 3 minutes per hour. If the watch is set to the correct time at 8:00 a.m., what is the correct time when the faulty watch shows 10:0 p.m. on the same day?

(A) 9:32 p.m.
(B) 9:26 p.m.
(C) 9:24 p.m.
(D) 9:20 p.m.
(E) 9:18 p.m.

Acing the New SAT I Math
p. 30

Acing the New SAT I Math

the big picture

I'm going to try to make a big calendar this weekend. Debbie S. made one for her kitchen and says it's magic. Both of her kids have been studying it and so has she.

I could use some magic where time is concerned, and I've been looking for years. After the Time Timer, I tried PlannerPad, which worked reasonably well until I ordered the "executive size" PlannerPad, which I found awkward to carry about. I've been trying to get back in the habit of using the personal sized PlannerPad for a couple of months now.

Still and all, PlannerPad didn't give me a sense of time beyond the confines of one week.

We'll see.

Debbie Stier's big calendar
the big picture
blank calendar template (pdf file) 
self-charting increases motivation 
what is one year?  

how the unions lost the media, part 2

Union leader calls on L.A. teachers to boycott Times

part 1

Graphing Calculators

My son is required to buy a $100 TI-84+ graphing calculator for his Algebra II class this fall. I'm not thrilled about this; the cost or its use. Does anyone have any comments about these calculators or their use in high school math?

Robin on Teach Like a Champion

I loved this book. It made a difference in my teaching on day 1 when I implemented it. My students are so much more attentive and well behaved AND they learn more. I keep rereading bits of the book for follow-up.
Tell us more!

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College

college composition

I'm going to be teaching two courses in college composition at a local college this fall.

Any thoughts?

I'm midway through Arthur Whimbey & Myra J. Linden's book.  It's terrifically helpful. Will try to find time to post excerpts.

Teaching and Learning Grammar: The Prototype-Construction Approach

sorry, Johnny

Sorry, Johnny. You have to stay in the crumbling, failing, dangerous public school in your neighborhood because your freedom of choice is not statistically justified.

commenter David reacts to freaknomics post on futility of school choice

Very droll.

I keep thinking the politics of choice will be affected by the economy. Charter schools (and vouchers) are cheaper than public schools, and parents are happier (or at least spend fewer years of their lives being unhappy - pdf file).

Same academic outcomes for less money, with less stress on the family: put it that way, some of us are going to take that deal.

LA Times Teacher Rankings

Marginal Revolution has a post about the recent LA Times teacher rankings here.

I'm interested to see what the fallout of this will be. Will other towns crunch the same data?

From Alex Tabarraok's commentary from the link:

I don't blame the unions for being up in arms and I feel for the teachers, for some of them this is going to be a shock and an embarrassment. We cannot simultaneously claim, however, that teachers are vitally important for the future of our children and also that their effectiveness should not be measured. As systems like this become more common students will benefit enormously and so will teachers.

They are already finding a few "Beloved Teacher Mrs. X"s who are ending up in the bottom 10%. But, we're told, that's okay, because they teach valuable "critical thinking" skills that are not measured on the tests.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

LA Times: Excellent and terrible teaching found in the data

The LA Times is beginning another series of articles about LAUSD, this series based on access they've had to LAUSD's longitudinal test data. Prior articles focused on money, with the Times creating an easily readable database listing all LAUSD employees' salaries. This time, they are focused on teaching.

The first article's intro says "A Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back."

To accomplish this,
The Times obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District and used the information to estimate the effectiveness of L.A. teachers — something the district could do but has not.

The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students' progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student's performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.

The article profiles a couple of strong and weak teachers, and apparently, more articles are forthcoming that will do more profiling. It seems that after analyzing the data, the authors went to the classrooms of those in the top decile and bottom decile for student improvement to view the teachers in action.

Miguel Aguilar at Broadous Elementary School is one of the strongest. "On average, his students started the year in the 34th percentile in math compared with all other district fifth-graders. They finished in the 61st."

That's an impressive improvement. I wish I understood enough details of the underlying scoring to know how this relates in standard deviations. Is improving a student one standard deviation when they one below the mean as difficult as improving a student one standard deviation when they are at the mean? Certainly it's not the same effort to move a students from 1 standard dev away from the mean to 2. What assumptions can be made about equal difficulty in movement of scores measured in percentile?

The article repeats what we all know as well: you must raise the bar.

"On visits to the classrooms of more than 50 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles, Times reporters found that the most effective instructors differed widely in style and personality. Perhaps not surprisingly, they shared a tendency to be strict, maintain high standards and encourage critical thinking.

But the surest sign of a teacher's effectiveness was the engagement of his or her students — something that often was obvious from the expressions on their faces."

The article goes on to argue that their analysis shows that excellence in teaching and weakness in teaching matter a great deal.
"Among the findings:

• Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year's end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math."

The LAT is creating a database for release "in the coming months." I can't wait. I wonder if it will shed light on the value of mediocre teaching?

It's great to see this article. With luck, it will propel other journalists to perform similar studies. Perhaps some enterprising ed bloggers can FOI this information for their district, and perform the same analysis.