kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/18/11 - 9/25/11

Thursday, September 22, 2011

E.D. Hirsch explains cause of decline in SAT scores is content-light instruction

Average SAT scores fell this year, with critical reading results declining to the lowest on record.  E.D. Hirsch writes that the main cause is a move away from content-rich instruction in the elementary grades.
The decline has led some commentators to embrace demographic determinism — the idea that the verbal scores of disadvantaged students will not significantly rise until we overcome poverty. But that explanation does not account for the huge drop in verbal scores across socioeconomic groups in the 1970s.

The most credible analyses have shown that the chief causes were not demographics or TV watching, but vast curricular changes, especially in the critical early grades. In the decades before the Great Verbal Decline, a content-rich elementary school experience evolved into a content-light, skills-based, test-centered approach.

Daniel Willingham on this subject:

More: How Knowledge Helps - It Speeds and Strengthens Reading Comprehension, Learning—and Thinking (Cross-posted at Cost of College)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In a van down by the river

I had to go to the high school with my son last night for a mandatory program for everyone involved with athletics and extracurricular activities. A parent had to attend with a student. It was on "chemical health" and it included a motivational speaker - a basketball coach. At the end, everyone had to sign a "contract". I assumed that the message was going to be more sophisticated than when I had to watch "Refer Madness" in 1969. Only a little. All I could think of was Chris Farley and the SNL skit. A large part of the talk was to emphasize Determination, Respect, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Motivation, and S for something. All of that is fine, but he made a big pitch for how college is now mandatory for success. He gave the usual statistics, except for the ones which show increased college loan defaults because the degree hasn't helped. He made it seem that not going to college was two steps away from living in a van down by the river.

Monday, September 19, 2011

the Oxford comma

For years I have resisted dropping the final comma in a series.

E.g.: lions, tigers, and bears versus lions, tigers and bears

If there are three things, I use two commas. I don't know why.

Now I do.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Sorry to be -- fall now involves three treks to the Open and the start of my composition class, and I'm just beginning to get my bearings.

I am in the process of officially transferring my allegiance from Roger Federer to Novak Djokovic.

Speaking of Novak Djokovic, I think I need a pressurized egg.