kitchen table math, the sequel: 1/13/13 - 1/20/13

Saturday, January 19, 2013

news to me

from Education Week:
We hear it all the time. "Students should take ownership of their school."

7 Ways to Increase Student Ownership
By Jennifer Barnett
January 8, 2013
That reminds me.

Back when C. was in middle school, all the students were required to pick up trash strewn around outside by one small group of students. The assistant principal told parents the reason for the policy was that when some students are required to pick up other students' trash, they "take ownership of the school."

When I shared the rationale with C, he said, "But if it's our school, then it's our trash, too, and we don't have to pick it up if we don't want to."

In the edu-world words never mean what you think they mean.

I believe it was Glen who pointed that out.

I can answer that

Trying to catch up on old copies of Ed Week....and I find....

Good news!

Harvard Education School has partnered with Survey Monkey to create a PARENT SURVEY.

All about parent involvement in the schools!

Very exciting.

Reading right along .... I have a suggested revision for Item 10 under Parent Engagement:

I answered a couple of others as is...

do not press send
Harvard, SurveyMonkey Offer Tool to Weigh Parent Engagement By Michele Molnar January 15, 2013

Cells and bells, the video

I've just watched the "open spaces" video a couple of times. I don't see a single adult in any of the images. No classrooms, either. Just "think tanks" and "breakout rooms" and "wide hallways" and the like.

From the video:
LIBRARIES evolve into vibrant extensions of classroom space.
THINK-TANKS or breakout rooms support individual or group work space.
OPEN COMMON AREAS allow students to meet and gather informally.
And this:

When it comes to building proposals, as opposed to curriculum and teaching methods, citizens actually have a vote.

Mine is No.

Cells and bells

That's a new one on me.

Cells and bells.

Meaning: old-timey school buildings with old-timey teacher-dominated classrooms (sage on the stage) and old-timey bells:
A building alone does not create a school culture. But research shows that school buildings can affect students' morale and academic performance. Now, school officials are moving away from the "cells and bells" design marked by long, locker-lined hallways of windowless classrooms, and toward more open, flexible buildings aimed at creating a sense of community and collaboration.

Such new designs tie together a shift to a more technology-driven, collaborative, student-centered approach to education with an effort to improve students' safety, engagement, and community.


Increasingly, the spaces themselves are designed to foster student connection. Traditional cafeterias in some schools have been replaced with more café-like areas where students might work and eat at the same time. Windows are opened to improve daytime lighting and indoor-air quality. Hallways are broadened and lockers removed to reduce clutter and chaos.

Many newer buildings also are "more learning-focused, less teacher-focused," says Craig Mason, an architect with the DLR Group, based in Overland Park, Kan. Some school buildings include breakout spaces for students to meet in small groups, or have windows specifically so a group can work outside while still being supervised.

Schools' Design Can Play Role in Safety, Student Engagement
By Jaclyn Zubrzycki
Published in Print: January 10, 2013, as Building Toward a Positive Climate
I'm asking myself: what would Gordon say?

School buildings are being intentionally designed to foster peer orientation? To minimize teacher influence?

OK, fine. One more reason to vote down bond propositions.

Meanwhile, how come the ed establishment has a lock on slogans that rhyme?
  • guide on the side
  • sage on the stage
  • chalk and talk
  • drill and kill
  • cells and bells
I need a rhyme.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Citizens Weigh-IN on Common Core

Parents, teachers rally against Common Core standards in Indiana schools Lawmakers, teachers and parents rallied Wednesday at the Statehouse for a bill that would withdraw Indiana from Common Core State Standards , a national set of academic standards adopted in dozens of states. People who oppose the Common Core initiative argue decisions about educating children need to be made locally and not in Washington.

copy that

The associate director of the learning center at my college told me a fascinating story this week.

Her son was hired by a major copy editing company (I had no idea copy editing companies existed). When he took the job, he was required to copy, by hand, several well-written and well-edited articles: each one three times!

She said she'd never heard of such a thing and neither had her son, but then a friend told her that's the way the Jesuits taught writing when he was in school.

Is that true?

Did the Jesuits have students copy good works by hand?

The UK regains some sense in math

I've heard it remarked that what happens in Europe is just a preview of what's coming to our shores here in the US.  If that's true, then this makes me smile:

Pupils aged 11 will be given extra marks for employing traditional methods of calculation in end-of-year Sats tests, it emerged.
Children who get the wrong answer but attempt sums using long and short multiplication or adding and subtracting in columns will be rewarded with additional points.
Ministers insisted the changes – being introduced from 2016 – were intended to stop pupils using “clumsy, confusing and time-consuming” methods of working out.
This includes so-called “chunking” and “gridding” where pupils are encouraged to break problems down into numerous component stages before an answer is reached.
Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, will outline the plans in a speech to the North of England Education Conference in Sheffield on Thursday.
Speaking before the address, she said: “Chunking and gridding are tortured techniques but they have become the norm in recent years. Children just end up repeatedly adding or subtracting numbers, and batches of numbers.
“They may give the right answer but they are not quick, efficient methods, nor are they methods children can build on, and apply to more complicated problems.
Everything old truly is new again.

Dartmouth strikes a blow against A.P.

So glad we didn't have C. apply to Dartmouth (my alma mater):
“The psychology department got more and more suspicious about how good an indicator a 5 on the A.P. psych exam was for academic success,” said Hakan Tell, a classics professor who heads Dartmouth’s Committee on Instruction, so the department decided to give a condensed version of the Psych 1 final to incoming students instead of giving them credits.

Of more than 100 students who had scored a 5 on the A.P. exam, 90 percent failed the Dartmouth test. The other 10 percent were given Dartmouth credit.


The College Board, which administers the A.P. program, said it found the Dartmouth results hard to credit.

“It’s very difficult to believe that 90 percent of students with a 5 on their A.P. would flunk a test on an introductory course,” said Trevor Packer, the College Board official in charge of the A.P. program. “We have research, including Dartmouth students who got a 5 on their psychology A.P., showing that they did better than students without that A.P.”

Mr. Packer said he believed Dartmouth had an obligation to share details of the experiment.

Dartmouth Stops Credits for Excelling on A.P. Test
Published: January 17, 2013
Suburban schools in my neck of the woods are itching to dump AP courses, and Dartmouth's move will be cited far and wide and often. Thanks!

Dartmouth needs to release the data. AP courses are developed by disciplinary specialists; in the past Ed's been approached to work on AP history. In terms of content the AP course is a college course.

I agree that high school teachers are in no way the equivalent of college professors with Ph.D.s in the field, but that is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is Dartmouth's claim that entering students who have scored 5s on the AP Psychology exam fail an introductory Dartmouth psychology department exam. I don't believe it. I know the kind of kid who gets accepted to Dartmouth -- I personally know several students attending Dartmouth now -- and they're not failing introductory-level course exams. If they are, there's something wrong with the exam.

Here's a student essay, from the AP Psychology Examination, that scored 10 of 10. (Scoring commentary here)

Here's the College Board's explanation of scoring for the writing portion.

Psychology Course Description

Thursday, January 17, 2013

fractions, again

Wonderful post on Diane Ravitch's blog, written by a high school math teacher. The whole thing is great, but I especially love this passage:
I teach high school math. I took a break to work in the private sector from 2002 to 2009. Since my return, I have been stunned by my students’ lack of basic skills. How can I teach algebra 2 students about rational expressions when they can’t even deal with fractions with numbers?

Please don’t tell me this is a result of the rote learning that goes on in grade- and middle-school math classes, because I’m pretty sure that’s not what is happening at all. If that were true, I would have a room full of students who could divide fractions.

in the stockings this year

from Urban Dictionary

I reckon I'll pass

Susan S has conducted an inquiry into the "Writing the Essay" course C. suffered through this semester, and found this question posted to Yahoo Answers:
Essay 2
Write an essay of your own in which you reckon with the original, chosen essay and its ideas. Do this reckoning in the context of other sources (written and experiential). Do this reckoning not only for its own sake but also for the sake of developing an idea of your own. Your writing task is at least two-fold: to deepen our understanding of that original source while letting us see you reckon with it across the entire essay; and to develop your own idea along with this reckoning, an idea that emerges through your analytical reckoning. You must cite the original, chosen essay and at least three other written texts in your essay. You can also use your own experiences to help develop your idea.

[The student asks]: RECKON??? do you know how many definitions there are of reckon... can someone explain what i am supposed to do.
For Christmas I ordered three Writing the Essay mugs from Urban Dictionary, one for Ed, one for me, and one for C.

Unfortunately, the one I ordered for me has a definition of "Trailer Fraud" on the side, so now that's another whole multi-step errand to add to the list.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

learning to read by learning to spell in Aruba

from the Official Tourism site of Aruba:

Dutch and the local language of Papiamento are the official languages of Aruba, but most Arubans speak a minimum of four languages including English and Spanish.
In the cab back to the airport we interviewed the driver re: multilingualism in Aruba.

He told us that Aruban children speak Papiamento at home and in Kindergarten.

Then, in 1st grade (I'm pretty sure it was 1st grade, not 2nd -- but I wish to heck I'd taken notes) students move to immersion classes taught in Dutch.

The teacher speaks in Dutch (and does she write her words on the board?? I don't remember).

The children have a slate of her words at their desk, with a piece of tracing paper on top. They trace over the words as she speaks them.

They learn to hear Dutch at the same time they learn to spell Dutch.

That's the way things were done in America lo these many years ago. Both Frederick Douglass and Huckleberry Finn describe learning to read English by learning to spell English.

Aruban children commence studying English and Spanish in 5th grade. Some years back, they moved on to learn Italian, German, Portuguese, and French in high school, but that is no longer the case today.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Laura Z on parents as guides on the side

re: Gordon Neufeld's Hold Onto Your Kids, Laura in AZ said...
This is a wonderful book! One of the best I've ever read, period!

Oh, yes, when you don't go with the flow with your child. I too tried with my daughter - from Pre-school through 4th grade. Not knowing she had Asperger's - though she is very high functioning. The schools tried to make her social, tried to make my "square-peg" fit into the "round-hole" of the whole social set-up. When it didn't work, it was my fault. (This was before her diagnosis).

Then when we started homeschooling, everything became so much easier for my daughter, because she had so much less stress! But the accusations came that I was sheltering her (Er... yeah, that's kinda my job), she wasn't getting "socialized" (We were keeping it at healthier levels and not overwhelming her), etc.

It all came down to the arguments given in the book - modern society really believes that especially as children get older they should raise themselves and each other. Parents are only to be "friends" or perhaps "Guides on the Side." We have lost our place of authority. How many parents even ask little 2 or 3 year-olds what they want to wear? Or what they want to eat?

intense world and nonrandom numbers

I haven't followed autism research for longer than I care to I hadn't heard of the "intense world" theory. I'm fascinated to hear of it now because I've spent years thinking something along these lines. In fact, from time to time I've asked myself whether I would be willing to take a 'magic pill' that would cause me to spend one day being autistic, and to my horror the answer has always been 'no.'

I don't follow the reasoning in the final paragraph here, though...
You also write about neurological and psychiatric conditions that can alter consciousness, and suggest that autistic people might actually have more consciousness than others.

Autism is one of those odd-one-out conditions in the literature. The classical assumption was that most severely autistic children are mentally disabled and have low IQs, but that’s partly because they weren’t tested properly. If you test them on nonverbal IQ, they are normal or slightly better than normal. On other tests, they perform better than average for perceptual tasks. Some people are now suggesting that maybe it isn’t a deficit, that they have a different kind of [brain that has certain] advantages. With Asperger’s, which probably many prominent scientists have, whether they are diagnosed or not, it seems almost as if they have extra consciousness: they are better able to process information than normal, which I think is a fascinating idea.

The whole idea that autism is [primarily] a social disorder, I don’t think that theory is going to last into the next decade because there is increasingly successful treatment that centers on socializing that has turned very withdrawn children into very affectionate socially aware children: I don’t see that as fundamental [to autism].

Do you support the “intense world” theory of autism, which suggests that problems result from sensory overload?

I just think [the social issues] are a side effect of the way [people with autism] approach the world. They are searching for patterns and structure in the world — what they obsess over isn’t everything; it’s mainly structures, stuff like calendars and mathematical patterns.

I worked with the prodigy, Daniel Tammet. [Tammet holds the European record for memorizing the 22,514 digits in pi.] He seemed very extremely autistic as kid and has been officially diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, but if you meet him, he’s very socially aware. He maintains eye contact. He decided in his teen years to teach himself [to be social and he did].

In what context did you work with Tammet?

We did a brain scan study [where we looked at his brain after he had memorized short sequences of numbers that were either patterned or random]. It was very striking compared to normal people. He completely failed to spot the external structure [in the nonrandom numbers] and his brain activation was very different from those who were aware of the structure. I make the claim that the prefrontal parietal network is important for consciousness; in my study, the prefrontal parietal network was most active when spotting these patterns and maybe that means a lot about what consciousness is for. For Daniel Tammet, his prefrontal parietal network didn’t activate for these sequences because he didn’t spot them, but it was generally raised compared to those of normal people.

Why Solving Puzzles Is Fun: Q&A with Consciousness Researcher Daniel Bor
By Maia Szalavitz | Sept. 21, 2012

browbeating at the kitchen table!

I LOVE this Comment by Jen:
Funny, well, funny in a sad way, that I had JUST now had a quick conversation with 21 yo college kid about how it may actually come down to homeschooling his little bro (10 yo).

Oldest kid got a better than average education in an urban district. He had some truly excellent HS teachers and was in an IB program. Whatever he missed out on that suburban kids had (nicer facilities, actual guidance counselors) was, we felt, more than made up for by the diversity of his experience, the exposure to so many different kinds of people and lifestyles, his ability to get along with all sorts of people in all sorts of settings.

BUT, the quality had slipped for the brother who is only 3 years younger. It was kind of a crapshoot to leave him be and know that he was only getting maybe 60% of the quality that his brother got. (Some very good teachers' positions not offered back to them, incompetent teachers mysteriously still there as the program went through a strange move and change of name and grade levels and the like, teachers retiring rather than deal with the craziness, etc.)

Youngest -- well, the new curriculum has basically proven itself a failure for everyone that doesn't have a concerned, aware parent at home and even for many that do. You could come out of our system now knowing almost NOTHING it seems. Gaaa. There's only so much you can teach over the dinner table and through browbeating.
It's true!

Jen is right!

There is only so much you can teach over the dinner table and through browbeating.

I am living proof of that.

I spent four years browbeating math at the kitchen table (not to mention one summer browbeating SAT math)* and my kid does not know math.

He's taking "Math Patterns in Nature" or some ungodly concoction next semester to fulfill his college math requirement.


I'm thinking "There's only so much you can teach over the dinner table and through browbeating" should replace "They do what they do."

* For passersby, I should add that the actual period of browbeating was more like .... one or perhaps two years, just up to the point where I read Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the Dog. (see: posts on positive reinforcement)