kitchen table math, the sequel: 10/13/13 - 10/20/13

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Meet the new boss

Our new $240K $250K superintendent, the one who was to bring accountability, college prep, and every-child-every-dayness to my district, is leading the annual fall effort to set goals.

(Fall is for goals; winter and spring are for threatening to cut Latin and Greek if we don't override the tax cap.)

Thus far, he is in charge of framing the discussion, and since the board no longer allows comments at the beginning of meetings, he may remain in charge. We will see.

Irvington parents aren't meek. A couple of weeks ago, the super attempted to push through, with just two days' community notice and on a consensus vote,  two "speech policies," the purpose of which was to sharply curtail (if not eliminate altogether) student First Amendment rights. That effort was crushed by a hardy group of parents and high school kids who shredded both the policies and the impetus behind them. It was a debacle and, judging by the look on the super's face the night everyone turned out, it may have been the first real parent uprising of his career.

In any event, the district is now the recipient of two letters from Adam Goldstein, the second of which a high school student read out loud during the board meeting. He did a fabulous job. Very witty.

But back to the goals of fall. The superintendent believes we should ask "challenging questions" (challenging questions constructed by him, not us). Last year the challenging question was: What does success look like?

A close reading of the above slide reveals a pattern in the use of evaluative adjectives:

Without the adjectives, we have:

Or, alternatively, adding evaluative adjectives to the first option, we get:

Et voilĂ :

So that was last year's challenging question.

This year's challenging question for parents and taxpayers to ponder is:
  • [Should our district goal be admission to] Ivy League vs. schools with top programs for the areas our students are interested in[?]
e.g.: So-and-so knows a student who is super-smart and could definitely get into a top college but he wants to be "X" when he grows up, so he's going to attend a lesser-ranked college because it has the top program in his desired field of "X."

That's what we want!

We shouldn't obsess over Ivy League schools!

Fine, I won't, but I know brainy kids with very high SAT scores who are not getting into Big-10 schools. That's a problem.

The super also reports that the district has put 'technology' on the back burner (wrong), so now technology is going to be on the front burner. I bet if we play our cards right, we can be the first kids on the block to invest in Smart Tables! (The sturdy pedestal prevents tipping by even the most enthusiastic learners....)

The board asked him if he could come up with a couple of "deliverables." Last year's goals, they said, were too broad; this year they'd like a deliverable. Or two.

That is a fabulous word, deliverable. I wish I'd thought of it.

Wrong again

COOK: What are you looking into now? Where do you see the field going in the future?

PENNEBAKER: One of the most fascinating effects I’ve seen in quite awhile is that we can predict people’s college performance reasonably well by simply analyzing their college admissions essays. Across four years, we analyzed the admissions essays of 25,000 students and then tracked their grade point averages (GPAs). Higher GPAs were associated with admission essays that used high rates of nouns and low rates of verbs and pronouns. The effects were surprisingly strong and lasted across all years of college, no matter what the students’ major.

To me, the use of nouns -- especially concrete nouns -- reflects people’s attempts to categorize and name objects, events, and ideas in their worlds. The use of verbs and pronouns typically occur when people tell stories. Universities clearly reward categorizers rather than story tellers. If true, can we train young students to categorize more? Alternatively, are we relying too much on categorization strategies in American education?

The Secret Language Code
Psychologist James Pennebaker reveals the hidden meaning of pronouns
By Gareth Cook
Number one: most college applicants seem to write personal narratives. As far as I can tell.

Number two: most college composition textbooks applaud the use of verbs, caution against overuse of nouns, and condemn nominalization (non-nouns turned into nouns) with zeal.

The world is topsy-turvy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

SAT scores indicate 'most freshmen aren't academically prepared for college'

... only 43 percent of SAT takers among this year's freshmen are ready for the academic rigors of college studies.
College readiness is determined by meeting the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark score of 1550.
... The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B- or higher, which in turn is associated with a high likelihood of college success. Studies show that students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, more likely to earn a higher first-year GPA, and more likely to earn a higher first-year GPA, and more likely to persist beyond the first year of college and complete their degree.

A consistent pattern over the last few years:

SAT math scores have stagnated over the last six years while reading scores have slipped.

Leaders and laggards among SAT test-takers
Students planning to major in some of the liberal arts and sciences performed significantly better than many who are aiming at more vocationally oriented degrees. Students wishing to major in multi/interdisciplinary studies earned the highest combined SAT score (1757), followed by the physical sciences (1673), English language and literature (1665), and social sciences (1661).
Significantly lagging behind were students hoping to major in three of the most popular fields -- education (1442), psychology (1484), and business management and marketing (1497). Some of the lowest scores came from  students wanting to major in parks and recreation (1328) and construction trades (1274).
(Cross-posted at Cost of College)