kitchen table math, the sequel: 11/22/09 - 11/29/09

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In The House of Mirrors; It depends

Is the goal of public education social or academic? Think you know the answer don't you?

Don't get your child's schooling methods in front of a judge. The answer just may fool you.

Read about a 10 year old, home schooled girl, acknowledged to be at or above her grade level being forced to attend public school. Put down that turkey sandwich and get back to it...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

help desk - duties & responsibilities of elected officials

I need a good source explaining the duties & responsibilities of elected officials, as well as the responsibilities of an informed citizenry in a representative democracy.

I need this for me, but anything good written for high school age or above would be fine.

More later - and thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

help desk - usage & mechanics

C's ACT PLAN scores came back. He's at the 96th percentile in reading, 79th in usage/mechanics.

C. taught himself to read in Kindergarten. One day we were meeting with his Kindergarten teacher, being told that he was at risk for dyslexia because his handwriting was so bad (true: bad handwriting is a flag); two weeks later he was reading. On his own.

By the end of the following summer he was years above grade level in reading comprehension, and he stayed there.* Never once was he assigned a book at his reading level, not until he went to Hogwarts. He's a sophomore now, reading The Scarlett Letter.

Too bad he didn't teach himself mechanics & usage.

Or handwriting. His handwriting is still lousy, in spite of my brief efforts to remediate his handwriting** before I had to devote full-time to reteaching math.

Speaking of math, he's at the 79th percentile on that.

Basically, he's at the top of the country in the subject he taught himself, 20 points lower in the subjects handled by his school.

He's got his own personal Achievement Gap.

help desk

So what do you think?

I need a workbook/textbook to start drilling usage & mechanics. For math, I'm thinking a daily dose of ALEKS.

Which reminds me: I have to finish up my ALEKS geometry course and then get back to Algebra 1, the course with 333 individual topics.

Any advice?

* Whether he would have stayed there without MegaWords, I can't say.
* Handwriting Now by Barbara Getty - terrific

Monday, November 23, 2009

Michelle Rhee in the Journal

HOW TO LEAD: I often get in trouble for saying this, but I actually think it's true—that collaboration and consensus-building and all those things are, quite frankly, overrated. None of you CEOs run your companies by committee. So why should we run a school district by committee? The bottom line is that in order to run an effective organization, you need one leader who has a very clear vision for what needs to happen and the authority to make that happen.

FIRING EMPLOYEES: We had to conduct a reduction in force of about 500 employees in the district. And that included about 250 or so teachers. We made the decision that we were going to conduct the [layoffs] by quality, not by seniority. It caused this firestorm.

From a managerial standpoint, it would make no sense to do a layoff by seniority only. In a school district that is struggling as hard as ours is, we have to be able to look at the quality and the value that different employees are adding.

MONEY FOR NOTHING: We spend more money per child in this city than almost any other urban jurisdiction in the country, and our results are at the absolute bottom. So it goes against the idea that you have to put more money into education and that's how you're going to fix it.

It comes down to two basic things about why we spend so much money and the results aren't as good. First is a complete and utter lack of accountability in this system. And the second is a lack of political courage on the part of most of the people who are running cities and school districts.

We have a system in which you can have been teaching for 25, 30 years. Every year, you could actually take your children backward—not just not improve their learning as much as you should, but your kids can move backward in your classroom every year—and you will continue to have a job. You will continue to get your step raise. You will continue to get your negotiated union increases. Where else can that happen, except in public education? So that lack of accountability is a significant problem.

And then on the courage part, I think that when you're talking about making the difficult decisions that are necessary in this climate—closing schools, firing teachers, removing principals, et cetera—those are the things that make most politicians run for the hills because it makes your phone ring off the hook and people are saying oh, don't close this school, don't fire this person.

OUT-OF-CONTROL SPENDING: When I came on board, people told me to find out where the money is going, and so I sent people out. One of my assistants came back to me and said, "Did you know that we spend $80 million a year in this city transporting a few thousand kids to special-education placements across the city?" And I did the quick back-of-the-envelope math and it turned out to be $18,000 per kid, per year.

And I thought, that's crazy. I said, well, I don't know anything about running bus routes, but I'm pretty sure I can do it for cheaper than $18,000. With $18,000 a year, you could buy the kid a Saturn the first year and a driver for the Saturn every year after that!

So I said, this is going to be a good one. We save the money; we're more efficient; we push the money down to the classroom. And what people said was, no, you can't do that because for decades, the district had done such a poor job of transporting these kids to their placements that now it's under a court order.

There's a court-appointed special master who now runs the bus system, and he's allowed to spend as much money as he wants to as long as he gets the kids to school on time. All we can do is pay the bill. We have no ability to control costs. It's an insane system that's been set up over time because of the dysfunction of the school district.

VOUCHERS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS: We have a very strong choice dynamic in this city. About a third of the school-age children go to charter schools. We have the traditional public schools, and then we also have about 2,000 kids who attend private schools through the use of vouchers. We call it the tri-sector approach. I think it works extraordinarily well.

Laying the Groundwork
November 23, 2009

The Latest Silver Bullet

Read this after pouring yourself a stiff drink!

Get set to compose your very own autoethnography and be sure to discuss America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.

Are they putting something in all those Minnesota lakes???

from the annals of...

We review the growing literature on health numeracy, the ability to understand and use numerical information, and its relation to cognition, health behaviors, and medical outcomes. Despite the surfeit of health information from commercial and noncommercial sources, national and international surveys show that many people lack basic numerical skills that are essential to maintain their health and make informed medical decisions. Low numeracy distorts perceptions of risks and benefits of screening, reduces medication compliance, impedes access to treatments, impairs risk communication (limiting prevention efforts among the most vulnerable), and, based on the scant research conducted on outcomes, appears to adversely affect medical outcomes. Low numeracy is also associated with greater susceptibility to extraneous factors (i.e., factors that do not change the objective numerical information). That is, low numeracy increases susceptibility to effects of mood or how information is presented (e.g., as frequencies vs. percentages) and to biases in judgment and decision making (e.g., framing and ratio bias effects). Much of this research is not grounded in empirically supported theories of numeracy or mathematical cognition, which are crucial for designing evidence-based policies and interventions that are effective in reducing risk and improving medical decision making. To address this gap, we outline four theoretical approaches (psychophysical, computational, standard dual-process, and fuzzy trace theory), review their implications for numeracy, and point to avenues for future research.

How Numeracy Influences Risk Comprehension and Medical Decision Making
Valerie F. Reyna | Cornell University
Wendy L. Nelson and Paul K. Han | National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
Nathan F. Dieckmann | Decision Research, Eugene, Oregon; and University of Oregon
Psychological Bulletin | 2009, Vol. 135, No. 6, 943–973

in a nutshell:
Despite the surfeit of health information from commercial and noncommercial sources, national and international surveys show that many people lack basic numerical skills that are essential to maintain their health and make informed medical decisions.