kitchen table math, the sequel: 1/20/13 - 1/27/13

Saturday, January 26, 2013

1966 Film of Zig Talking and Demonstating DI Math

Barry G sends this link to this film of Siegfried Engelmann working with children at the Engelmann-Bereiter Preschool.

Open SUNY at Cost of College

‘SUNY to boost online offerings, push early graduation’

Grace's post reminds me of something a student in one of my classes told me. It was very sweet.

I teach in a small, non-selective college that has no campus life whatsoever and is short on dorm space to boot. So a lot of the kids live in a large chain hotel and are bused back and forth.

My student was from Staten Island and had chosen to live in the hotel instead of commuting to school because, he said, "I wanted to have the college experience."

Meanwhile C. tells me he's not getting the "college experience" because he attends a university with neither a campus nor a football team.

He has a point.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Wisconsin introduces competency exams!

From College Degree, No Class Time Required:
David Lando plans to start working toward a diploma from the University of Wisconsin this fall, but he doesn't intend to set foot on campus or even take a single online course offered by the school's well-regarded faculty.

Instead, he will sit through hours of testing at his home computer in Milwaukee under a new program that promises to award a bachelor's degree based on knowledge—not just class time or credits.

"I have all kinds of credits all over God's green earth, but I'm using this to finish it all off," said the 41-year-old computer consultant, who has an associate degree in information technology but never finished his bachelor's in psychology.

Colleges and universities are rushing to offer free online classes known as "massive open online courses," or MOOCs. But so far, no one has figured out a way to stitch these classes together into a bachelor's degree.

Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor's degrees from a public university system.

January 24, 2013, 6:32 p.m. ET
Wall Street Journal

I'm thinking....all those disruptive technology people may turn out to be right for the wrong reason.

The coming Disruption won't be courses going online.

The coming Disruption will be courses going away altogether. (Some of them, anyway.)

The tests go online, not the courses.

I don't believe in making predictions, but even so I have simply never been able to see how MOOCs save the day. I can't stand online courses myself, my students don't like them, and I don't know any grownups who like them, either. The people touting them (and investing in them) don't seem to have taken any coursework via MOOCs themselves, as far as I can tell.

So while the logic of the MOOC -- put the best professors online so thousands can learn! -- often seems unassailable, I just don't see it. Put it this way: I don't believe in making predictions, and I continue to wonder what I'm missing, but I will not be investing my pennies in Udacity, Coursera, or edX.

I have always thought, though, that there is a major use for the internet when it comes to assessment.

Maybe college competency exams are the missing piece?

Such a scenario -- MOOCs fail as a means of making college affordable, but competency exams succeed -- strikes me as possible.

First, according to the Bain/Sterling Partners report, one-third of U.S. colleges and universities are in financial trouble.

Second, the economy continues to be depressed and, absent "regime change" at the Federal Reserve,  will remain depressed.*

Given a depressed economy, I assume some colleges will close.

College closings will put pressure on state universities to expand, but state colleges are also in financial stress and have been raising tuition. They are in no position to grow.

At some point, it seems to me, political pressure will build on state legislatures to find another way to provide college diplomas.

In short, I can imagine Wisconsin's move attracting a lot of imitators, and sooner rather than later. I can also imagine a circular effect, with college closings leading to the introduction of competency exams,  and the introduction of competency exams then leading to more college closings.

That's disruption.

We'll see.

If competency exams begin to take hold, I can imagine a number of other developments that might be very interesting.

* The economy is growing but is not going back to trend as it always has done in the past, including the Great Depression. I know people hold out hope that a housing recovery will lead to a real recovery, but since I am persuaded by Scott Sumner's analysis, I don't see housing as the white horse.

chart from: historinhas
and see:
Lawyers without Law School
proposal for a national baccalaureate
why college costs so much
US News: 2-year law degrees

on the other hand

follow on to Why you don't want your child to be popular
Last October, the National Bureau of Economic Research distributed a study showing a compelling correlation between high-school popularity—measured by how many “friendship nominations” each kid received from their peers—and future earnings in boys. Thirty-five years later, the authors estimated, boys who ranked in the 80th percentile of popularity earned, on average, 10 percent more than those in the 20th. There are obvious chicken-and-egg questions in all studies like this; maybe these kids were already destined for dominance, which is why they were popular. But Gabriella Conti, an economist and first author of the paper, notes that she and her colleagues took into consideration the personality traits of their subjects, measuring their levels of openness, agreeableness, extroversion, and so forth. “And adolescent popularity is predictive beyond them,” she says, “which tells me this is about more than just personality. It’s about interpersonal relations. High school is when you learn how to master social relationships—and to understand how, basically, to ‘play the game.’ ” Or don’t. want your child to be well-liked but not popular?

Is that it?

Maybe so. Another study found that 10th grade girls who self-identified as brainy fared well compared to "princesses":
At 24, the princesses had lower self-esteem than the brainy girls, which certainly wasn’t true when they were 16.
Why You Never Truly Leave High School
By Jennifer Senior Published Jan 20, 2013 | New York Magazine

why you don't want your child to be popular

More from Why You Truly Never Leave High School:
In 2007, for instance, Steinberg and two colleagues surveyed hundreds of adolescents in two midwestern communities, asking them to decide which category they most identified with: Jocks, Populars, Brains, Normals, Druggie/Toughs, Outcasts, or None. They also asked a subsample of those kids to make the same assessment of their peers. Then they compared results.

Some were predictable. The kids who were identified as Druggies, Normals, or Jocks, for example, tended to see themselves in the same way. What was surprising was the self-assessment of the kids others thought were popular. Just 27 percent in one study and 37 in a similar, second study in the same paper saw themselves as campus celebrities. Yes, a few declared themselves Jocks, perhaps just as prestigious. But more were inclined to view themselves either as normal or none of the above.

Faris’s research on aggression in high-school students may help account for this gap between reputation and self-­perception. One of his findings is obvious: The more concerned kids are with popularity, the more aggressive they are. But another finding isn’t: Kids become more vulnerable to aggression as their popularity increases, unless they’re at the very top of the status heap. “It’s social combat,” he explains. “Think about it: There’s not much instrumental value to gossiping about a wallflower. There’s value to gossiping about your rivals.” The higher kids climb, in other words, the more precariously balanced they feel, unless they’re standing on the square head of the totem pole. It therefore stands to reason that many popular kids don’t see themselves as popular, or at least feel less powerful than they loom. Their perch is too fragile.

"sadistically unhealthy places to send adolescents"

Two people have told me about this article now: Why You Never Truly Leave High School

I love this line:
“Ironically, one of the reasons many of us have chosen to educate our own is precisely this very issue of socialization! Children spending time with individuals of all ages more closely resembles real life than does a same-age school setting.”
Casey and two of her colleagues, Francis Lee and Siobhan Pattwell, were part of a team that co-published a startling paper last year showing that adolescents—both mice and humans—were far less capable of dialing back their fear response than children or adults.


...if humans really do feel things most intensely during adolescence, and if, at this same developmental moment, they also happen to be working out an identity for the first time—“sometimes morbidly, often curiously, preoccupied with what they appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are,” as the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson wrote—then it seems safe to say this: Most American high schools are almost sadistically unhealthy places to send adolescents.

Until the Great Depression, the majority of American adolescents didn’t even graduate from high school. Once kids hit their teen years, they did a variety of things: farmed, helped run the home, earned a regular wage. Before the banning of child labor, they worked in factories and textile mills and mines. All were different roads to adulthood; many were undesirable, if not outright Dickensian. But these disparate paths did arguably have one virtue in common: They placed adolescent children alongside adults. They were not sequestered as they matured. Now teens live in a biosphere of their own. In their recent book Escaping the Endless Adolescence, psychologists Joseph and Claudia Worrell Allen note that teenagers today spend just 16 hours per week interacting with adults and 60 with their cohort. One century ago, it was almost exactly the reverse.

Something happens when children spend so much time apart from adult company. They start to generate a culture with independent values and priorities. James Coleman, a renowned mid-century sociologist, was among the first to analyze that culture in his seminal 1961 work, The Adolescent Society, and he wasn’t very impressed. “Our society has within its midst a set of small teen-age societies,” he wrote, “which focus teen-age interests and attitudes on things far removed from adult responsibilities.” Yes, his words were prudish, but many parents have had some version of these misgivings ever since, especially those who’ve consciously opted not to send their kids into the Roman amphi­theater. (From the website of the National Home Education Network: “Ironically, one of the reasons many of us have chosen to educate our own is precisely this very issue of socialization! Children spending time with individuals of all ages more closely resembles real life than does a same-age school setting.”)

In fact, one of the reasons that high schools may produce such peculiar value systems is precisely because the people there have little in common, except their ages. “These are people in a large box without any clear, predetermined way of sorting out status,” says Robert Faris, a sociologist at UC Davis who’s spent a lot of time studying high-school aggression. “There’s no natural connection between them.” Such a situation, in his view, is likely to reward aggression.

By Jennifer Senior
Published Jan 20, 2013
New York Magazine

Ed on Stephen Colbert

talking about Mali

I love the "back yard" line.

update: full episode here (Ed is the first guest after the monologue, which is hilarious.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ed on Stephen Colbert tomorrow night

Talking about Mali.

He'll be the straight man.

Stephen Colbert. On Comedy Central.

from 2008: Phil Holmes in Los Angeles

I have been meaning to get this story posted for years now. In fact, I've been meaning to track down Phil Holmes to ask whether he'd be willing to share his unpublished textbook with me.
Phil Holmes, one of the great English teachers of his generation, is standing before a class of high school seniors, trampling all over their self-esteem.

It is a Thursday in October, not long into the school year. Holmes gazes out at his class, his proper prep school face set off by white hair and rimless spectacles, and tells his students, all of them black kids from South Los Angeles, that the first grading period is ending "and most of you will be getting Fs."

The students stare, dead silent. For perhaps the first time today, he has their full attention.

"This is not a good start," Holmes continues, his tone stern but even. "But on the other hand, it's not unusual."

Class dismissed.

Holmes spent 35 years building his reputation at Harvard School for Boys and its successor, Harvard-Westlake, which attracted some of the best, the brightest and the richest students in Los Angeles. His teaching methods, his curriculum, his empathy, his intensity, his relentless demand for clear, well-ordered thought, changed kids' lives.

More than that, he shaped wave after wave of young teachers, many of them now working at some of the most influential educational institutions in America.

But when he and a colleague wrote a book describing their teaching method, publishers scoffed. Of course their method worked! Their classes were filled with bred-for-success overachievers! Who couldn't teach them?

So in 2002, at a time when most people his age were sliding toward retirement, Holmes accepted a teaching job at View Park Preparatory High School, at Slauson and Crenshaw boulevards.


View Park Prep is no blackboard jungle. For many View Park parents, the choice was not between the charter and a traditional public school -- say, Crenshaw or Dorsey High -- but between the charter and a private school.

Still, the 15 miles that separate View Park from the rolling Coldwater Canyon campus of Harvard-Westlake might as well be 15,000.

More than 96% of the students at View Park are African American, and studies show that even middle-class black students tend to do worse in school, on average, than comparable students of other races. Moreover, roughly half of the students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

"At first, it was a shell shock," Holmes said, "because of three things. I wasn't prepared for the students to be so far behind in their reading development. . . . We were reading "The Odyssey," and within one or two days I knew we couldn't move through it like we did at Harvard-Westlake. Second, these students had no training in classroom discipline. At Harvard-Westlake, I could ask kids to start writing an essay in class, and I could go upstairs, get my mail and come back and they'd just be quietly working. If I walked out of class at View Park Prep, it would be total pandemonium.


At the center of Holmes' teaching is a slender red-bound book titled "The Uses of Argument," first published in 1958 by British philosopher Stephen Toulmin, which sets out a steel-trap method for structuring an argument.

Creative writing, Holmes believes, is a frill for most high school students. How many, after all, will become poets or novelists? But virtually all will need to write some form of persuasive essay, in college and in their careers. That is Holmes' central focus.

By midyear, Holmes' students were showing progress.

"Can you state," Holmes asked his class one day in January, "what is the writing goal for the whole View Park Prep curriculum?"

Mister Searcy raised his hand.

"Writing a sustained case, free of mechanical errors, in a readable style," he said, repeating the mantra that Holmes has been chanting all year long.

By this time, everyone in Holmes' class knew the formula for a sustained case: Claim, clarification, evidence and warrant, cemented by "backtracking," a practice in which the writer re-reads and challenges his own work and answers any questions that arise.

The method works, as any number of View Park graduates can attest.

Skye Williams, now at Clark University in Atlanta, said Holmes' lessons "really helped us in college -- in history, biology, anything."

Teacher instills a love of words, but the lesson is about life
Los Angeles Times
By Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 21, 2008
Susan S tells me that her high school uses some version of Toulmin's method, but it's been extremely confusing to deal with. I have yet to read Toulmin myself, sad to say, though I've read several  explanations of Toulmin posted at various college sites over the past two years.

I'm thinking Richard Nordquist's explanation at is probably the place to start if you're curious. George Hillocks' book on teaching argument writing has a section on Toulmin, and Joseph M. Williams' The Craft of Argument (there are 2: a long version and a short one) may be an adaptation of Toulmin's method (not sure).

I find it horrifying that Holmes could not find a publisher for his textbook.

This passage from the article is very nice:
That Thursday in October began with students filing into the 12th-grade English composition classroom that Holmes shares with a younger View Park colleague. He was dressed in a suit, green dress shirt and tie, black loafers, his hair neatly trimmed, his bearing attentive.

Just before the bell, one of his students poked her head in, hoping to get excused from class. "We're taking a makeup test in AP history today," she said. "Do you mind?"

"Yes, I do mind," Holmes said. "We're doing something very important in here."

Holmes had nothing unusual planned. He considers every lesson, every minute of class time, to be important, and, at age 66, he often stays up past midnight preparing for the next day's lessons. There are 26 students enrolled in this class, which was designed to give them the skills they would need to write college papers. All were dressed in some variation on View Park's uniform: khaki pants, a maroon sports shirt.

Holmes asked them to take out a homework assignment -- a critique -- that was due.

The assignment called for the class to analyze a student's college application essay. In the course of the next 90 minutes, Holmes led the class in dismantling not just the essay, but one student's critique of it, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word.

There's a hanging detail, he said at one point -- why is it a problem?

"It's too vague," a boy answered.

"What's vague about it?" Holmes demanded.

The boy couldn't answer at first, but Holmes was relentless, forcing him to think. In the end, they hammered out an answer.

At another point, a single word -- resourceful -- launched Holmes into a discussion of Odysseus, and how his resourcefulness ("He found a way to blind the giant") could be a source of inspiration for the students.

The entire class was like this, Holmes leading a discussion in which no point, no word was insignificant. He could be brutal, dismissing one student's argument as "mindless." And he could be generous, if guarded, with praise.

Outside after class, Khadijah McCaskill said the students don't mind the tough talk, or the tough grades. This is her second class with him.

"His toughness helps the class concentrate and makes it easier to learn," she said.

"He's a phenomenal teacher," she added. "He's phenomenal because everything he does connects together. And even if you don't know it then and there, it will . . . be connected to a larger thing later on."
Authoritative teacher ("his toughness helps the class concentrate"), coherent curriculum (everything he does connects together).

That's the magic.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

why college costs so much

They're paying the adjuncts too much.

Moving Beyond Grade 12
By Lynn Olson
Published: January 4, 2007
Education Week

Health Law Pinches Colleges
Wall Street Journal
Updated January 18, 2013, 7:53 p.m. ET

Sunday, January 20, 2013

the people's poems

Thinking about cells and bells, I realized that instructivist types actually do have 3 rhymes to our name:
I like sages on stages, so I'm claiming that one for us.