kitchen table math, the sequel: 4/8/12 - 4/15/12

Saturday, April 14, 2012

David Brooks has a really bad idea, part 2

Ed is reading David Brooks has a really bad idea, part 1, and has just come to this part:
...Waronker says the academy has learned to get better control over students, and, on the day I visited, the school was well disciplined through the use of a bunch of subtle tricks.

For example, even though students move from one open area to the next, they line up single file, walk through an imaginary doorway, and greet the teacher before entering her domain.
Ed: The children need walls, so why not give them real walls?



I hadn't quite thought of it that way!

These kids need walls, but the Harvard-ed-school / Columbia Teachers College / UFT grownups, in their collective wisdom, have declined to provide them with walls. And David Brooks approves!

Does David Brooks live in a house without walls?

Work in an office without walls?

I bet he doesn't!

Why do we have walls, anyway? Why were walls invented? Does David Brooks ask himself these questions before he writes a column extolling giant classrooms with no walls? If rooms with no walls are such an all-fire great idea, how come nobody lives in geodesic domes? Answer me that, David Brooks!

And while we're on the subject of making disadvantaged children imagine the walls they need but don't have, how about imaginary books?

Imaginary teachers?

Imaginary learning?

They've probably got all those things at the New American Academy. I wouldn't be surprised.

Ed says he visited an open classroom in California years ago. It was chaos, a din. No one could learn anything in that environment.

Of course, they hadn't hit on the idea of training the kids to pretend they were inside a room with walls.

P.S. I do like this column by David Brooks very much.

and see:
the founder, chair, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea
Larry Summers has a really bad idea
Wash U professor on Reed Hastings' really bad idea

David Brooks has a really bad idea
David Brooks has a really bad idea, part 2
David Brooks has a really good idea

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eastchester School District protests special education mandates

Letter to Representatives Regarding Mandate Relief

4000 signatures, I'm told.

Our schools, having grown the numbers of children who 'qualify' for 'services,' now complain that these kids cost too much.

Well, yes. Bad education costs more. Hiring "literacy specialists" to provide Tier 2 intervention to 20% of your grade school population is more expensive than hiring one special education teacher to teach the 5% (or so) who would be struggling if the school used a valid "Scientifically Based Reading Research" program.

But no one's ever worried about that in the past, not that I've heard, and no one's bringing it up today, either. The problem is the mandates, not the teaching, not the curriculum, not the ideology.

Eastchester has misdiagnosed its budget problem, in any event. Eastchester's budget problem is the same as Irvington's budget problem is the same as every other NY school district's budget problem: thanks to the Triborough Amendment, our union contracts oblige us to pay an annual rate of increase in compensation that exceeds the two percent tax cap. The contracts break the tax cap before we even get to budget season, and all the rest is sidebar. But nobody seems to understand this as yet.

Here in Irvington, although some of us do realize that the contract violates the tax cap (a friend laid it out for me), nobody knows by how much the contract exceeds the tax cap. The Chair of the Budget Task Force has asked the question, but no one has answered the question, or even acknowledged the question. What is our projected rate of increase? That is what we need to know.

But instead of being apprised of what our situation actually is, we're told that the new contract is "fair and equitable" for the union and "fiscally responsible" for the taxpayers, with 1.75% "increments" and two new "half-steps" and a limit on "column movement" and the like, and these are all good things. But what it all adds up to, no one is saying. There is an elephant in the room.

The problem is the contract, and the contract is the union, and nobody wants to say boo to the union.

So Eastchester has decided to say boo to the parents of children with special needs instead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rote Reading Skills

Reading is an old-fashioned rote skill. With 21st century technology, we can scan in text and immediately convert it to audio. As with the calculator in math, there is no need for drill and kill when it comes to reading. Soon, all books will be on your portable Kindle, Nook, or iPad. They can read to you via headphones. Menus in restaurants can include chips (like greeting cards) that read the choices. All you would have to do is press the picture. Think of how fun it would be with Hoops & Yoyo talking to you. This would allow schools to focus immediately on comprehension and interpretation, not rote reading skills. Some kids may learn to read early, but the lack of rote reading skills won't slow down the learning process. In most cases, kids will learn to read when they are ready.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Teaching/Learning STEM Fields

From Becoming an Expert Statistician (or Mathematician or Programmer):

First, it kicks off with a quote from Douglas Kranch ("Teaching Novices Online: Does Presentation Order Matter?"):

“Expertise develops in three stages. In the first stage, novices focus on the superficial and knowledge is poorly organized. During the end of the second stage, students mimic the instructor’s mastery of the domain. In the final stage, true experts make the domain their own by reworking their knowledge to meet the personal demands that the domain makes of them.”

And later ends with:

If you want to learn programming, statistics, chemistry then DO that. Don’t just read about how to do it and for the love of God, don’t do something else, like stupid charts of TV shows or biographies of women mathematicians and pretend you’re doing STEM education.