kitchen table math, the sequel: 2/15/09 - 2/22/09

Saturday, February 21, 2009

national standards: 1992 edition

History on Trial tells the story.

Ed was tangentially involved in the creation of the 1992 national history standards, which are now used by New York state and receive a grade of "A" from the Fordham Foundation. The entire undertaking was a political fiasco, and having taken a look at Chester Finn's recent description of the standards I have no reason to think things would be different today.

Here is Finn, writing in Troublemaker:
...the quest for standards was instead weakened by the credulous expectation that self-interested experts, mostly free from the discipline of consumers, parents, practicing teachers, and policymakers--and sometimes free from leading university scholars in their own fields--could successfully distill from their own cherished subjects the essential skills and knowledge that kids should learn in school, and could do so while (a) avoiding political correctness, (b) sparing schools from the savage internecine disputes within the field, and (c) producing a manageable document of essential curricular guidance rather than a kitchen-sink tome with the heft of the Los Angeles phone directory.

The dismaying results ranged from incoherent blather (English) to left-leaning political correctness (history) to immense, encyclopedic treatments (geography) that placed the authors' discipline at the center of the intellectual universe and made everything else revolve around it. The U.S. Senate voted 99-1 to condemn the history standards, and an early draft of the English standards was so vapid that Clinton's Education Department cut off further funding.

Troublemaker by Chester E. Finn
p 173
It's always worse than you think.*

Chester Finn is one of the few policy types who has championed liberal education. Yet here we see him dismissing major historians as "self-interested experts" who require the "discipline" of consumers, parents, practicing teachers, and policymakers to produce an acceptable set of history standards.

David Klein got the same treatment.

Worse yet, Finn's glancing mention of the 99-1 vote is obnoxious. The Senate did not vote 99-1 to "condemn" the standards. The Senate voted 99-1 on a bill concerning unfunded mandates to which an amendment condemning the standards had been attached.

Here's Gary Nash:
To well-informed observers in the Senate gallery, it was obvious the action had been hasty and purely procedural. The Senate had held no hearings on the history standards; the Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities had taken no action; and not one of the teachers and scholars who had produced the guidelines had been consulted. It was also apparent that most of the senators voted on the resolution without having opened a copy of the documents at issue. Patty Murray, Gorton's Senate colleague from Washington, admitted that she voted for the resolution without ever having seen the standarsd "in order to move the debate back to the unfunded mandates bill that was on the floor at the time."


Less than two weeks after the Senate passed the resolution, it voted to strip its Unfunded Mandates Bill of all extraneous provisions, including the resolution disapproving the history standards. Later the House took up the bill but neer introduced the history standards issue at all. Nevertheless, a chill wind blew through the NCHS office in Los Angeles. The world's most powerful deliberative body had intervened in support of the most fervent critics of the standards to tell the nation's teachers and academic historians that its guidelines for schools had been written irresponsibly and malevolently.

p. 235-236
There you have it: how politics work. The Senate voted 99-1, then took it back, but the damage was done and that's the point.


Those were some bad standards!

Nearly 20 years later Chester Finn, champion of quality, can roll out this astonishing number as proof that you don't want historians in charge of history, geographers in charge of geography, or mathematicians in charge of math.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Foundation he leads bestows a grade of 'A' upon these self-same standards and no one's the wiser.

The fact is: parents and college professors cut no ice with anyone, including most of the folks advocating on our behalf.

So I'm not going to be signing on for national standards.

I'm giving Gary the last word:
The standards have been used extensively across the country, and for eight years I have not received a single criticism of the revised volume.
Lynne Cheney's Attack on the History Standards, 10 Years Later

Case in point.

David Klein on IB and AP

Chester Finn on curricular gold
Gary Nash: Reflections on the National History Standards
Lynne Cheney's Attack on the History Standards, 10 years Later
History on Trial Chapter One
History on Trial (Harvard Education Letter)
Whose History? by Linda Symcox

the standards:
National Standards for History Basic Edition
National Center for History in the Schools UCLA
ISBN 09633218-4-6
National Standards for United States History Grades 5-12 Expanded Edition
National Center for History in the Schools UCLA
ISBN: 09633218-1-1
National Standards for World History Grades 5-12 Expanded Edition
National Center for History in the Schools UCLA
ISBN: 0-9633218-2-X

* family motto

The Teaching Company

I just listened to the first lecture in Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft.

Very cool!

Here's an "elegantly balanced and extended" sentence by Conrad:
She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificant; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress.

about the course:
This will be a course about how to make sentences longer; longer sentences, when carefully crafted and tightly controlled, are essential keys to elegant and effective writing.
and about style:
The basic unit of writing is the proposition, not the word or even a sequence of words, and we build sentences by putting propositions together.

The style of our sentences is determined by the ways in which we combine not words, but the propositions those words stand for or refer to.

from a WSJ article about The Teaching Company:
As the generations of post-1960s college graduates grow older, they will come to understand that their expensive formal education, with its trendiness and lack of breadth or rigor or enduring substance, quite simply failed them--by failing to connect them to the riches of their own civilization.

Prof in a Box
Friday, August 24, 2007 12:01 A.M. EDT

You can say that again.

helicoptering done well

Friday, February 20, 2009

speaking of literacy specialists

Columbia Teachers College offers a literacy specialist degree!

Contact: Lucy Calkins.

Lucy Calkins, Lucy Calkins
Lucy Calkins at ktm 1

"the schools need more money"

U.S. Department of Education

update from Joe Heater 2.21.2008:

I believe the news is even worse than that displayed on the chart you posted.

Looking at the most current data from the same sources you will find that 34% or fourth graders are below the basic level and another 33% are categorized as basic. By 2007 federal aid to K-12 education increased by some 45%, in constant dollars, over 2001 levels while reading scores in total went from 217 to 220. When you look at the ethnicity gap, we continue to see very little progress. Average reading scores for Fourth grade Black and Hispanic students are 203 and 205 respectively. The cut score for reaching the basic category is 208. Even more disappointing are the scores of American Indian/Alaska Native scores, dropping from 207 to 203. Even more inexplicably, the scores for this sub-set of students reached 214 in 2000. Until we fix this problem, I fear that racial and ethnic tensions will go unabated.

No mater how you slice and dice the data, piling on more resources i.e., tax payer dollars, in not the answer.

For those interested you can find the entire report here (pdf file).

The Great Reading Disaster

In 1987 a World in Action programme revealed that six million adult Britons could not read. The problem was least among old people and worst among school leavers, of whom 25% were so illiterate that they floundered even when simply faced with forms to fill in.


A 1997 study showed that hard-core school-leavers' illiteracy had risen to 33% and other research highlighted the additional seriousness of functional illiteracy. The Basic Skills Agency estimated that total adult illiteracy had grown to nine million.


Old people are rarely illiterate because their teachers knew how to promote literacy effectively. They were skilled in the phonic method of relating letters to sounds and building up successive letter-sounds into words. This was the normal approach before World War II and it produced virtually universal reading ability.

[W]hen Alice Coleman taught 1200 secondary modern school pupils during the 1940s, only one, a brain-damaged child, was unable to read. That was an illiteracy rate of 0.01%. Today, on average, at least 30 of those children would be in special schools for the learning disabled and a further 300 would be illiterate, with many more destined to lapse into illiteracy soon after leaving school. At that time, Kent's 24 special schools for backward children did not exist and the secondary moderns took all, except for the blind and profoundly deaf, and a few going to grammar or independent schools.

Critics of phonics will probably leap to protest that Alice Coleman must have been teaching in an affluent leafy suburb, but this was not so. It was a working-class area of Thameside with mainly blue-collar employment in cement, rubber and paper factories. Furthermore, every child had experienced between four and six years of wartime disturbances to their education, including evacuation to safer areas, winter schooling reduced by an hour to avoid travelling in the blackout, frequent lesson interruptions to rush down into the air-raid shelters and numerous nights disturbed by air-raid warnings. The school itself had been bombed. Those children were indeed disadvantaged but not by their teachers. They could read.

The Great Reading Disaster by Mona McNee & Alice Coleman
p. 7-8

My district uses balanced literacy, aka whole language (pdf file), aka mix and muck the children up.

Also, we have 4.5 remedial reading teachers in K-5; 150 students per grade.

Only we don't call them remedial reading teachers.

We call them literacy specialists.

speaking of big ol' honkin' wallets

When we moved to Irvington from Studio City, some of my office boxes wound up in the garage without my knowing it.

Five years later I spotted the stack sitting beside the door into the family room.

The box on the bottom was labeled "Important."



from The White Man's Burden by William Easterly:
Other evidence on what works has come from cross-country comparisons of country practices and certain outcomes.... James Barth of Auburn, Gerard Caprio of Williams College, and Ross Levine of Brown University found a strong association between banking regulations that force banks to disclose accurate, timely, comparable information on their finances and the level of banking development in a country. They controlled for possible reverse causality and found that the result still held. Contrary to the widespread view that tough official bank supervision is needed to protect savers from rogue banks, they found a negative relationship between powers of bank supervisors and development of a healthy banking industry (also controlling for possible reverse causality). If you want to promote healthy banking, which is an ingredient in enabling the poor to help themselves through credit, then these statistical associations point you in the direction of regulating information disclosure rather than having powerful official bank supervisors.

p. 375

I'm keen to know what effects real transparency would have on public education (if any).

Suppose parents knew exactly where their kids stood in relation to their peers in Europe and Asia.

Would that make folks less inclined to take no for an answer?

The fact that ed schools never, ever call a spade a spade tells me they fear the answer to that question is 'yes.'

Robert P & Paul B on national standards

At the risk of oversimplifying, I think it's possible to eat our cake and have it too. Here's how: national standards (content standards, please) ought to represent a statement of what we expect our kids to learn and know in school. What if we married those standards to national assessments, with reading comprehension tests tied to those content standards. In other words, the selections on the tests would be culled from the content standards, thus making it a test worth teaching to. Finally, tie federal funding to states adopting the standards and tests with NO SANCTIONS WHATSOEVER based on performance. Thus the federal role is limited to spreading sunshine--a pure apples-to-apples comparison among states, districts and schools. If everyone is taking the same test, it'll be pretty clear who is performing well and not, and up to states and districts to improve their performance. If you're serious about "decentralizing down to a few million Darwinian enclaves" as you put it, then the only way to credibly gauge performance and unlock what works is if everyone is shooting for the same target.

Paul H:
Standards don't stand in isolation to the rest of the Gordian knot. The way they're written can drive whether or not your curriculum spirals. They can drive pedagogy, phonics vs. sight words, for example. They can drive calculator usage, or not. Whosoever shall write the standards, shall tie the rest of the knot.

These things drive text book selection, which is driven by the ed schools and professional organizations with skin in the game. Don't forget the publishers and consultant community. Lots and lots of players converge on standards.

I would pose another question, perhaps more thought provoking... Why should the feds give a rats patootie (is patootie a word?)how a school performs? OK, it's rhetorical! They care because they've got their $$$ nose in the tent.

Why is their nose in the tent? It's not a constitutional mandate is it? I think the only people that should care at all are the parents. The objective measure (over time) is; are the graduates successful in their post graduate pursuits? This is far more important than a contrived test.

Until parents own the measurement, and take responsibility for the cost by paying for and having the freedom to not pay if the measurement flops, the camel wins every time.

By advocating for, and accepting federal or state money, schools and parents are making a pact with the devil. They are allowing a convergence of interests (not necessarily aligned with their own) to drive their children's future.

I guess I'm just not convinced that we're collectively smart enough to write a 'standard' that fits millions of kids to a tee.

Point taken. Bad standards are worse than none. But parental interest is a strong reason to support nationalized standards and assessments. As a parent, it's impossible to know whether your child's school is terrific, atrocious or somewhere in the middle unless it's measured by the same yardstick as all the others.

My favorite statement re: parents comes from Joe Williams, who points out that parents have the best odds of making the right educational decisions for their own children.

I agree with Joe, and I believe that you could demonstrate historically that parents as a group have systematically been right where everyone else was wrong.

good news from Bridgewater-Raritan

Everyday Math is out. (pdf file)


More details here.


update 2.21.2008: the Empire strikes back

Bridgewater-Raritan Curriculum

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do you need another example of the failure of discovery learning?

You probably don't, but I have another one from today.

It's from the local Children's Museum. Ours has a motto: "play to learn learn to play". We go because it's fun for my toddler, and he may even learn something from it some day, but only because I understand every experiment and instruct him on what's going on. The other kids are playing, surely, but none are learning.

The Children's Museum is a busy place most days. Typically they have 5 or 6 school field tripping classrooms present each day. The more people present, the less anyone gets anything out of it, because it's impossible to carefully control the exhibits well enough to produce a useful effect. The elementary kids there are a rowdy bunch, pushing buttons, flipping switches. They are discovering nothing. There is no one to help them learn anything at any table, so instead, they fiddle aimlessly.

In one room, they have a lot of water pipes. At one table, they have water pipes with valves. Done correctly, you can turn the valves and demonstrate:
1. sometimes, you can make an object rise without lifting it yourself--so the ping pong ball can start at the bottom of a pipe and be raise
2. sometimes, you can make an object that normally floats on top of the water get sucked down into a pipe--so the ping pong ball can be lowered even though it has no water pushing down from above
3. you can use these in conjunction to raise and lower ping pong balls in interesting ways.

But in all of my over a dozen trips to that exhibit, with more than an hour in that room per trip, only once did I manage to get the kids to set the valves in such a way to do the above, and tell them what they were doing, and why it happened.

Today was the rule, not the exception. I was trying to demonstrate how to get the ball to go down into the pipe by turning the valves so water would flow down and suck the ball with it. But a boy was interfering, constantly rotating the valve as if it were a screw (which it wasn't) so it would open/close/open/close/open/close.

I asked "what are you trying to do?" his honest response: "I don't know."
I then asked "would you like to try and do something instead? Something interesting?"

But I didn't succeed. I needed the kids to stop fiddling, and actually perform the experiment, recognizing action and reaction. Too many kids, too many controls to fiddle with. I fear what they learned was science has something to do with fiddling switches.

PS. Not only are there no instructors ever present, but the explanations on the exhibits are flat-wrong, and worse, they are irrelevant. In each case, there are a dozen things more interesting to say that could be pointed out, but aren't.

look for a pattern

Mark Shead on Paper vs. Importance:

I have noticed the most important people have a very clear desk. This also tends to be the case for people with much less important jobs. To illustrate, I’ve created a graph.

Assuming for the sake of argument this is true, I am on the verge of transforming myself from a person of medium importance to a person of no importance.

Of course, I haven't gotten to the floor piles yet, so maybe not.

I wonder if Al Gore has floor piles?

"A Wide Open Future"

Al Gore's American Life

So how much time do we think Al Gore spends searching for stuff on the Internet?

anonymous cube dweller

"This is circa about 1997. . "

"Same area about 2004. He has expanded into the three surrounding cubes which are almost as bad."

flickr Messy Desk contest

Mad Scientist


There's more here.

She's got the Befores, but no Afters.


I've just found a church bulletin on my desk dated Sunday, December 23, 2007.

SERMON: The second Annunciation

Also a "report from Andrew's bus monitor about his recent conduct on the van." March 17, 2008

I'm sorry. There is nothing about this situation that contributes to my creativity.

Such as it is.

My Messy Desk

the slide-show

There's an interview, too.

Check out Esther Dyson.

Anatomy of a Black Hole

C. told me about stumbleupon this morning, which is exactly what I needed seeing as how I spend so little time stumbling upon internet thingies as it is.

On my first go, I have stumbled upon Anatomy of a Black Hole.

I am severely losing interest in desk-clearing. Only 10 items cleared thus far, and it's 2 o'clock.

Beware of Procedural Knowledge

I'm embarrassed to say that I just learned the State of Virginia is in the process of revising its math standards. I will provide updates as I learn more, but apparently they've already taken comments online from parents, teachers and others. There may be other opportunities to comment however.

I learned about it when I approached my school board representative about the possibility of using Singapore Math in Fairfax County where I live. She seems interested in it and passed on my note to the Assistant Superintendent's office. In the reply back which covered several different items, the following sentence leaped out at me:

"We have not looked at the Singapore curriculum in a couple of years; the last time we did it focused on procedural knowledge and was not as aligned to the POS as other texts."

Uh, excuse me? Could you explain why procedural knowledge is a bad thing?

On the other hand, please don't.

stupid pet tricks

Will we see a back-to-basics movement thanks to the 21st century global world meltdown?


Today’s shaky economy is likely to produce many more such tricks. “In postwar Japan, the economy wasn’t doing so great, so you couldn’t get everyday-use items like household cleaners,” says Lisa Katayama, author of “Urawaza,” a book named after the Japanese term for clever lifestyle tips and tricks. “So people looked for ways to do with what they had.”


Today, Americans are finding their own tips and tricks for fixing misbehaving gadgets with supplies as simple as paper and adhesive tape.... [M]any tech home remedies can be explained by a little science.


Remote Car Key

Suppose your remote car door opener does not have the range to reach your car across the parking lot. Hold the metal key part of your key fob against your chin, then push the unlock button. The trick turns your head into an antenna, says Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley radio engineer.

Mr. Pozar explains, “You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works.” Using your head can extend the key’s wireless range by a few car lengths.

Low-Tech Fixes for High-Tech Problems
by Paul Boutin
NYTIMES 2.18.2009

Learn about Singapore Math from the source

Two summers ago, I attended an awesome summer program in Singapore visiting primary & secondary schools, the National Teacher Institute and meeting with the publishers of the curriculum (the one available here in the U.S.). There is so much more that makes Singapore mathematics teaching successful than just the books. I was so glad to be able to bring that knowledge back to my school!

Great news - Organizers of that trip have planned summer program for this July. The itinerary and registration information are available from SMath Resources.

There is no better way to learn about Singapore Math than seeing it from the source. Of particular interest this summer: Meeting with the Singapore Examination and Assessment Board. They have created an international PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam). Should be interesting to see how it compares to other international assessments.

Best of all, the program will be led by Dr. Patsy Wang-Iverson, a KTM contributor (and leading authority on Singapore Math and lesson study!). I'm thrilled to be helping Patsy with the program and returning to Singapore.

Highlights from the 2007 program are available on this site (keywords Cassyt, Singapore Math) and at Math in Singapore 2007.

fault slippage

I've been cleaning my desk since last Tuesday, February 10.

As of this morning, I have dealt with 326 individual items.

I'm still going.

Doug Sundseth was the person who came up with fault slippage.

Granbury High School

Very cool.

up the down staircase

I may just abandon all hope & spend the coming 21st century global world meltdown years watching YouTubes.

The Tyranny of Average

Whenever I hear about moves to create national standards I'm reminded of the tyranny of averages. Averages are obtained by a simple algorithm that reduces the great cacophony of human endeavor to a cipher. All things human have a distribution and if you're measuring a performance you can be certain of results from awful to superlative.

If you're setting a standard for performance it will seek to find this middle ground of average capability. Set it too low and you leave money on the table. Set it too high and you've created an unatainable, frustrating goal. Even if you attempt to set it as some sort of forcing function, to set a high bar, you still must be cognizant of the middle.

What, then, happens to performers in a system where the goal is changed to average? Well the people who are awful, remain so. Absent some other change to the stage, a new goal doesn't have the juice to change an awful performance. The people on the other end of the spectrum, the ones whose excellence brought the average up in the first place, will likely lower their performance. They're the only demographic that has the unfettered ability to move to the new goal.

The new average, the one that kicks in after a few years of leveling, will be lower than the original. The high end has moved down. The low end stayed in the same place and the middle probably didn't know anything was happening anyway. This is the tyranny of average.

Without firing a shot or forcing any unpleasentness, the frog gets lowered into the cold water to start its cooking!

I'm reminded of Catherine's comments on the 'convergence of interests' when I think of this effort to create a national standard. Put another way, you could say that the convergence is also a 'synergy of entanglements'. A national standard would be a standard gleaned from national consensus (an average) brought to you be a cabal of vested interests. And, even though each participant in the great leveling may have individual pursuits in mind, they all serve the great convergence. They all strive to keep the beast alive because it is the beast that butters their toast.

I've been entangled in many start up companies and was priviliged to see a few grow to greatness. Most are now gone. They replaced their entrepreneurial, chaotic (successful) beginnings with the stultified average of (failed) convergence. We're in the midst of such a process right now in our politics. We seem unable to embrace failure as the cauldron where future success is born. Instead, we are scrambling to make sure that nobody fails. From the executive taking his gold from the burning plane, to the scofflaw who mortgaged a house they couldn't afford, we are doing everything possible to see them reach the tyrannically average American dream.

Our school systems are a mess and they are jam packed with entanglements. On whole it is a gigantic entangled, convergent, average. Instead of codifying this monster with national standards it should be decentralized down to a few million Darwinian enclaves to see which one is most fit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paul H: doomed!

We are truly doomed methinks. Many of the names that I see on my roster have to be misspellings in the delivery room. I have kids tell me that I'm spelling their names wrong so I go and look up their intake docs and sure enough, I had it right.

I don't want to put up actual names but some examples are; ett where the intent was eth, cha where the intent was sha, cr where it should have been chr. That's just the beginning.

Then you have what I call the 'theme meme', like a daughter named Chastity with a mom called Virgin (should it be the other way around, perhaps).

I'm not sure if these things are coming from deranged nurses or parents who can't spell. Either way, doomed!

Jim the Realtor seems to agree.

"a pool in the front yard, right where you need it"

Andrew negotiates

Saturday night Andrew came downstairs not wearing any pants & started bugging Ed to fix him a bagel.

Ed told him to go back upstairs and put some pants on first. Then he could have a bagel.

No. Andrew wanted a bagel.

So Ed got Andrew's Neo and typed: "First pants, then bagel."

Andrew erased "First pants, then bagel" and wrote "First bagel, then pants."

He probably learned that from the Caterpillar CEOs.

Andrew Googles Caterpillar
Andrew persists
Andrew negotiates

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

national standards redux

I've left a comment on the Flypaper post re: Randi Weingarten's op ed promoting national standards.

Weingarten thinks we ought to convene a "broad-based group" to "take the best academic standards and make them available as a national model."

All well and good; we've heard it before. Personally, I have no interest in the views of broad-based groups that aren't broad-based enough to include parents and taxpayers.

If you've time to weigh in at the Flypaper, that would probably be a good idea.

parents need a union
how to change the system (Moses on Caro)

Mary D: No Child Left Behind observations and reflections

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lefty in the TIMES - & the return of instructivist!

"Lefty" has a terrific letter in the New York Times:

Re “Education Is All in Your Mind,” by Richard E. Nisbett (Op-Ed, Feb. 8):

I don’t doubt that removing “stereotype threat,” discussing the benefits of hard work and asking children to consider their futures and personal values improve student performance.

But if changing the curriculum and training teachers “typically produce little in the way of educational gain,” I must conclude that only certain curriculum changes and training protocols have been examined.

How about replacing today’s popular “reform math” programs, which some mathematicians estimate ultimately delay students by up to two grade levels, with a more challenging, pedagogically principled one like Singapore Math? How about specifically training teachers who understand upper-level arithmetic?

Education is, of course, ultimately all in your mind, but neither work ethic nor future focus will help you multiply large numbers efficiently or convert arbitrary fractions into decimals — unless either your teacher or textbook takes time to address these topics.

Katharine Beals
Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 2009

The good news:
Although he has dropped the comparisons to Singapore, Kristof does claim, without citing evidence, that the best teachers are teaching the most privileged students. And he thinks spending $100 billion to save all public school teaching jobs no questions asked is self-evidently a good thing.

Still and all, the contradictions inherent in Kristof's second column are bound to occur to him sooner rather than later:

a) teachers matter more than class size
b) many disadvantaged children are being taught by not-so-great teachers (according to Kristof)


c) no teacher in any public school anywhere in the country should lose a job

As an elected official here in Westchester County once said of the evacuation plan for Indian Point, "All three things cannot be true at once."

As to the $100 billion for education, now that my own child has been rescued by a Catholic school* I'd like to see a good portion of that money go to private and parochial schools that have been successfully educating children for years:
Through a laserlike focus on a no-frills, core academic curriculum, and by resisting progressive-education fads, Rice takes most of the students who enter in ninth grade—many of them two years behind in reading and math—and gradually gets them up to grade level. The kids pass most of the necessary state Regents exams. There are no Jaime Escalante miracles here, no AP calculus whiz kids. But Rice’s graduation rate is a legitimate 90 percent, compared with the public schools’ rate of 50 to 60 percent—despite per-pupil spending in the city’s public high schools triple that of Rice’s. Most Rice graduates go on to some form of higher education.

School-reform experts often argue that money is overrated as a factor in school improvement. For the most part, I agree. But in the case of Rice High School and most of the other Catholic schools in the city, money is the issue. With a little extra each year, we could almost guarantee that Rice will go on doing an excellent job of educating at-risk black boys far into the twenty-first century, just as it educated underprivileged white boys throughout the twentieth century. I estimate that if the city’s Catholic schools could get just 1 percent of the budget for the public schools, there would be no more Catholic-school closings. And if the people and political leaders of this wealthy city can’t figure out how to get such a small amount of money into the Catholic schools, Patrick McCloskey’s inspired book can serve as a requiem for one of New York’s most noble institutions.
Kristof says he's still on the steep part of the learning curve, and I'm thinking he's headed in the right direction. In his follow-up blog post to the second column, he writes that "you’re much better off with a great teacher in a big class in a bad school than with a poor teacher in a small class in an excellent school." That's not something you hear every day of the week.

Maybe by the time Column #3 rolls around, Mr. Kristof will have discovered that education is dominated by charlatans and a noxious ideology!

Nicholas Kristof on The Race Between Education and Technology:
Obama and the Schools November 12, 2008
Throwing Schools Out the Window Feb 6, 2009
Our Greatest National Shame Feb 14, 2009
Your Comments on My Education Column
Feb 14, 2009

Steve Levitt summarizes The Race in 2 sentences
Jimmy graduates

The anemic response of skill investment to skill premium growth
The declining American high school graduation rate: Evidence, sources, and consequences
Pushy parents raise more successful kids

The Race Between Education and Technology book review
The Race Between Ed & Tech: excerpt & TOC & SAT scores & public loss of confidence in the schools
The Race Between Ed & Tech: the Great Compression
the Great Compression, part 2
ED in '08: America's schools
comments on Knowledge Schools
the future
the stick kids from mud island
educated workers and technology diffusion
declining value of college degree
Goldin, Katz and fans
best article thus far: Chronicle of Higher Education on The Race
Tyler Cowan on The Race (NY Times)
happiness inequality down...
an example of lagging technology diffusion in the U.S.

the Times reviews The Race, finally
IQ, college, and 2008 election
Bloomington High School & "path dependency"
the election debate that should have been

* For passersby: I am a Protestant, and my husband is Jewish; our public school is funded at $25K per pupil spending and rising.

after Darwin

Sir Lawrence [Bragg, director of the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University] was shown the paper in its nearly final form. After suggesting a minor stylistic alteration, he enthusiastically expressed his willingness to post it to Nature with a strong covering letter. The solution to the structure was bringing genuine happiness to Bragg. That the result came out of the Cavendish and not Pasadena [where Linus Pauling was at work on the same problem] was obviously a factor. More important was the unexpectedly marvelous nature of the answer, and the fact that the X-ray method he had developed forty years before was at the heart of a profound insight into the nature of life itself.

The final version was ready to be typed on the last weekend of March. Our Cavendish typist was not on hand, and the brief job was given to my sister. There was no problem persuading her to spend a Saturday afternoon this way, for we told her that she was participating in perhaps the most famous event in biology since Darwin’s book. Francis and I stood over her as she typed the nine-hundred-word article that began, “We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.” On Tuesday the manuscript was sent up to Bragg’s office and on Wednesday, April 2, went of to the editors of Nature.

The Double Helix by James Watson
p. 221-222

C. had to read The Double Helix over Christmas break, so I read it, too.



Anyone know anything about this program?

ed ingenue

NYT's columnist Nicholas Kristof has decided that education is important and has jumped into the fray. Our Greatest National Shame

The thrust of his argument for improved education seems to be better teachers. He is excited about the 100 billion in stimulus dollars to be poured into the sinkhole and believes it will lead to reforms. He seems blissfully unaware that education is dominated by a noxious ideology and by charlatans.

It seems that every time a pundit decides to pontificate about education there is a lot of educating to be done.

His column has generated an unusually large number of comments. People care.