kitchen table math, the sequel: 7/29/12 - 8/5/12

Saturday, August 4, 2012

10 faulty notions

William L. Heward's list:
  1. Structured curricula impede true learning.
  2. Teaching discrete skills trivializes education and ignores the whole child.
  3. Drill and practice limits students' deep understanding and dulls their creativity.
  4. Teachers do not need to (and/or cannot,should not) measure student performance.
  5. Students must be internally motivated to really learn.
  6. Building students' self-esteem is a teacher's primary goal.
  7. Teaching students with disabilities requires unending patience.
  8. Every child learns differently.
  9. Eclecticism is good.
  10. A good teacher is a creative teacher.
Ten Faulty Notions About Teaching and Learning That Hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education
For what it's worth, and without having actually read the article (!), I agree strongly with Heward that numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 are myths.

I may agree strongly with numbers 5, 6, 7, and 10, too, once I know how Seward defines terms like "motivation" and "creative."

btw, one of my favorite books about education is Vicky Snyder's Myths and Misconceptions about Teaching: What Really Happens in the Classroom.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

onward and upward

from Education Week:
For years, bands of educators have been trying to free history instruction from the mire of memorization and propel it instead with the kinds of inquiry that drive historians themselves. Now, the common-core standards may offer more impetus for districts and schools to adopt that brand of instruction.
Published Online: July 30, 2012
History Lessons Blend Content Knowledge, Literacy
By Catherine Gewertz
I bet Ed's going to be happy to hear that.

For the record, Ed is not keen on memorization in history classes, either, although his views on that score shifted steadily as Chris went through school. I remember Ed once telling a friend of ours, "I used to want schools to drop AP courses. Now I want Chris to take as many AP courses as he can possibly manage."

That was pretty funny.

Have I mentioned that Ed was one of the people who invented the DBQ? He doesn't like my saying that because he thinks it's entirely possible someone else invented the DBQ before his group did, but I don't think that matters. If Ed and his colleagues didn't invent the DBQ, they re-invented it, which is good enough as far as I'm concerned.

Good enough or bad enough. I remember back when Chris was coming home with one DBQ after another ... in 4th or 5th grade ... which was the first time I heard Ed had been involved in inventing the damn things. Thanks, hon!

Hoist by your husband's petard.

wolf dogs at Louisiana State Penitentiary - photos

I don't think you need a subscription to the Wall Street Journal to see these, but let me know if you do.

Pretty sure the article is free, too:

July 31, 2012, 8:09 p.m. ET
Prison's Guards Are Part Wolf, All Business
Bitten by Rising Cost of Human Guards, Louisiana Prison Deploys Canine Hybrids at Night; 'They're Going to Catch You'

down and out in the UK

Erica Meltzer sends a link:
Jane Mitchell was the daughter of a lorry driver. Reflecting on her education during the 1940s, she wrote: "I enjoyed the mental drill and exercise I was put through, even the memorising from our geography book of the principal rivers and promontories of the British Isles . . . It never occurred to me to question the purposes or methods of what we were made to do at school. The stuff was there to be learned, and I enjoyed mopping it up."

Jane went on to become a classics lecturer at Reading University. It is hard to imagine a child of her background taking so academic a career route today. Then again, it is hard to imagine that such a child today would receive the rigorous education she enjoyed.
Child-Centered Learning Has Let My Pupils Down by Matthew Hunter | Standpoint June 2012
Reading the whole thing now.

Independent George reflects

re: sticky wages at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Independent George writes:
You know you've been fully immersed into the canine world when the first thing you think about when reading an econ article on a math blog is how they've gotten the dogs wrong.
I cracked up when I read that.

Since I, too, find dogs majorly fascinating, I'm posting Independent George's second Comment:
The other red flag from your quoted passage is "120 pounds". Wolves don't naturally grow anywhere close to that size, which makes me question how much wolf is actually in those supposed hybrids.

I will say, though, that wolves ARE scary; when you see those yellow eyes staring at you in the yard, I completely understand how that would deter a prisoner escape. True wolfdogs behave very differently from dogs, and we're genetically hardwired to spot the difference. The very thing which causes the intimidation is also what makes them so unruly. And the lesson from the Belyaev experiments is that you can't have both - the behavioral traits are tied too strongly to the physical appearance.
I first grasped the "genetically hardwired" understanding between people and dogs when Christopher was age 7.

Unfortunately, Safari ate my post, so I will have to reconstruct it later.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

in which I am vindicated at last

For years Ed bugged me about exercise and weight loss (he is super-thin and exercises a LOT), and for years I said exercise did not cause weight loss for me and exercising more would not solve the problem.

I was right.


Revised weight loss predictor

sticky wages redux


Having become something of a sticky wage aficionado, I was amused to see this story, which may be the ultimate sticky-wage scenario:
Wolf, a 120-pound canine cross between a wolf and a malamute, paced his pen, staring out with amber eyes. In a few hours, his work shift would begin.

He's part of a squad of wolf dog hybrids working nights at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a local answer to the kinds of budgetary strains felt at many of the nation's prisons.

Nobody yet has tried to overpower or outrun them. Lou Cruz, 55 years old, who's serving life for a murder he committed in Jefferson Parish near Gretna in 1981, said inmates are keenly aware of the four-legged security force prowling the perimeter.

"You might run," he said, "but they're going to catch you."

The wolf dogs, as they are called here, are the brainchild of Warden Burl Cain and his staff, and they were brought in last year in response to a steady decline in the prison's annual budget from $135 million five years ago to $115 million today. The prison, which is known as Angola, has laid off 105 out of 1,200 officers, and 35 of the 42 guard towers now stand empty on the 18,000-acre prison grounds.

The animals regularly guard at least three of the seven camps that make up the complex.

Mr. Cain says the wolf dogs are a strong psychological deterrent. "The wolf ate Grandma," he said.

They also save money. The average correctional officer at Angola earns about $34,000 a year, a prison spokesman said. By comparison, the canine program, which includes about 80 dogs—the wolf hybrids along with other breeds for other tasks— costs about $60,000 annually for medical care, supplies and food.
Prison's Guards Are Part Wolf, All Business By GARY FIELDS
So we have wolf dogs earning $750 a year working side by side with humans earning $34K.* And the warden is collecting his retirement salary along with his regular salary.

Having Googled a bit, I haven't found reports indicating that the prison cut wages or imposed furloughs before laying off people and hiring dogs. But even if they did, sticky wages are in play.

Assuming total compensation is $50K per officer, the prison could hire back all 105 employees if they reduced compensation of the 1095 remaining employees by $4,375. (Somebody check my math, please!)

That never happens.

* I don't know whether $34K includes benefits.

Not your father's bell curve

money-back guarantee at Morningside Academy

Morningside Academy offers a money-back guarantee for progressing two years in one in the skill of greatest deficit. Summed across its 23 years, Morningside Academy has returned less than one percent of school-year tuition. (p. 7)


The summer school program offers a money-back guarantee for progressing 1 year in the skill of greatest deficit. Summed over 23 years, Morningside Academy has returned less than two percent of summer school tuition. (p. 10)

The Morningside Model of Generative Instruction: What It Means to Leave No Child Behind by Kent Johnson & Elizabeth M. Street

money back

from my notes taken during the Summer School Institute at Morningside Academy:
We put our money where our mouth is. [In special education] every year you gain [just] 6 months & get farther and farther behind. Instead of gaining 6 months, we want you to gain 2 years for 1 year in the chair [i.e., one year in Morningside].

The kids gain two years. [They are] not lifers in special ed. We want them to gain a lot and grow a lot.

People say it’s impossible.

If we don’t [produce 2 years gain in 1 year], we give the parents the money back.

There are a couple of riders: students have to attend [school], and parents have to support the program. Parents have to be involved in daily report card.


Parents are required to attend one class a year on how to read and understand the daily support card. The parent has to interact with the Support Card or they lose the guarantee – [and] the parent can’t just give kids money for lots of [As]

[At Morningside, an equal sign on the Daily Support Card is the equivalent of an A.]

The parents do give tangible rewards: you pick dessert, you pick the video. Parents tie rewards to positive interactions in the family.

Or the family could just have a discussion with the child [if grades on the Daily Support Card are not what they should be].

The Support Card is a jumping-off point for parents. The parent can talk about each category, and the categories are very specific.

QUESTION: How do you know the parent has interacted with the Support Card?

If you see the child hasn’t been taking the Support Cards home – if that pattern shows up – or if the kid doesn’t care if he gets a point; that means the parent doesn’t care. Then [we] call the parent in for a conference, & at every conference we talk about 'How are you interacting with the Support Card?'

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

palisadesk explains the dead man's test

palisadesk writes:
Where I found the "Dead Man Test" useful was in goal-setting and problem solving. For instance at school support team meetings, we might be considering a 2nd grader who is always out of seat, interrupting others, fooling around. When we try to focus on specific plans of action, with measurable steps and goals, it is not unusual for for goals like "stops shouting out" to make the list.

Enter the Dead Man Test. I'm usually taking the notes, so I lead off with, What do you want to see Student X DO?

I may get another answer that describes what we DON'T want. Then I point out, '"Don't interrupt" fails the Dead Man Test. If a dead person can do it, it's not a behavior. " After some laughter we can refocus on what it will look like if the student behaves the way we want:

--stays on task for 3 minutes
--raises hand before speaking
--puts completed assignment in basket...

...and so forth. It's a matter of looking at things in terms of what you WANT to see (usually, in increments, so that you can develop the habits or skills) instead of what you DON'T WANT.

A maxim I remember from long ago is, You get more of what you pay attention to. The Morningside people make a great deal of observing and reinforcing the appropriate behaviors and study habits -- real behaviors, not "dead man" non-behaviors.

Milton Friedman on what schools would be like with vouchers

from Scott Sumner's blog today:
I didn’t realize until now that today would have been the 100th birthday of my favorite economist. So I don’t have a post prepared. My favorite Friedman comment was in response to someone asking him what sort of schools would be provided under a voucher system. I believe he replied something to the effect; “If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t favor vouchers, I’d just instruct the public schools to operate that way.”
I love this observation, though of course the punchline is completely wrong. It is not possible to 'instruct the public schools to operate' this way or that. Public schools do what they do.

Probably true of most institutions and organizations, not to mention people.


Monday, July 30, 2012

They [ STILL! ] Do What They Do!! ;D

When I read this article, it made my blood boil! Amazing that this junk makes it into print! (Since it's Monday, you may want to put reading this one on hold...) Is Algebra Necessary? NYTimes Sunday Review, Opinion Pages I agree with rknop that "the core of his argument is the ultimate in anti-intellectualism"