kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/30/12 - 1/6/13

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

gone fishing


Back in a week!

"accessible" math, grouping, & IQ

from a friend:
Education Next has made the Jacob Vigdor article (released online in October 2012) the lead story in the current Winter 2013 issue.

He argues that the achievement gap and generally dwindling math performance of US students has been addressed by making the math curriculum "more accessible" (i.e., it has been dumbed down). He then argues that it need not be dumbed down if the curriculum were differentiated between low and high performing students.

In fact, this is pretty much how it was in the 50's and 60's. Students did not need the 3 or 4 years of math in high school to get admitted into colleges. What he leaves out, however, is the quality of math education in the lower grades and how this has affected the number of students who might otherwise be high performing students.
There’s no disagreement that some kids are smarter than others. Most people know that you can’t just set a standard (like algebra in 8th grade) and do nothing else. But Vigdor overlooks overlooks that issue and then claims that the failed initiative defines some IQ/algebra correlation. There are many other variables to consider–which he doesn’t.

The “Math Wars” are about curriculum and teaching methods, but this article skips over that analysis. Most schools separate kids starting in 7th grade. In affluent areas, since “enough” students get onto the top math track in high school, (often due to tutors, learning centers, or help from parents), educators will not look for any fundamental issues in K-6. They only assume that it’s a relative problem.

Why not interview parents to see what is done (or not) at home and try to find out how the best students got there? There may see an IQ connection, but it’s not that simple. There are things one can do to separate the variables. But too many authors of the recent spate of articles about math, algebra and its need, either can’t or won’t.

In his report, he pooh poohs the idea of introducing Singapore Math into classrooms, citing the usual cultural differences argument which is specious. (Teachers in Singapore have better math background; students go to school all year round, so there’s no forgetting concepts during the summer; the culture promotes education and hard work, etc). He neglects the fact that Singapore’s texts present the material clearly and succinctly and that there have been successes in schools in the US that have used it.
I remember one day back in middle school, when C. had done well on one of his death-march-to-algebra math tests, we were taking a walk & discussing his triumph. At some point we got to talking about where he would now rank in Singapore terms. We figured probably on par with Singapore kids who have developmental disabilities.

I'm (half) serious.

Remember the Singapore Math pilot project in New Milford, Connecticut?

The SPED kids were ahead of the general ed kids.

parent-oriented colleges

C. tells me that at his friend's Jesuit college, the R.A. had the students all make Christmas cards for their parents.

That would NEVER happen at NYU.

NYU students don't have parents.

At least, that's the vibe you get attending 'Parents' Day, which didn't feel like a Parents Day at all. When the various speakers referred to our children, they used the term "your student."

"Your student" is the same formulation administrators here in my peer-oriented school district always used, even for kids as young as 10.

"Please share with your student."

"Please discuss with your student." (My personal favorite: the letter home asking us to discuss bomb threats with our student.)

I don't have a student, bub! (Well, actually I do.)

I have a child.

C. told me the Christmas card story and said, "I wish I'd gone to a Catholic college."

I wish he had, too.

update from the Comments:
I teach at a Catholic college, and my husband used to teach at one of the elite Jesuit colleges. Trust me, they aren't worth drooling over. The elite Jesuit college was pretty much like small elite liberal arts colleges of all stripes, except the student body was 95% Irish. My large Catholic university has all the woes of large private universities everywhere, and the Catholicism mainly shows up in the form of trying to force professors to tack service learning into every course. Your kid is better off at NYU.
C.'s friend is attending a Jesuit college, come to think of it. Not sure whether it's an elite Jesuit college. C. will know.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

5 years for a 4-year degree

From Believe it: Harvard cheaper than Cal State
By Matt Krupnick
Add to the equation that students at smaller private colleges often can graduate sooner, saving thousands of dollars over California's public universities, where cuts have made it difficult to get all required classes in four years.

Families and students considering Cal State "do have to think of it as a five-year proposition, at least," said Vicki O'Day, a Menlo Park college-admissions consultant.
Both of my sister's kids are going to need an extra year of college in the UC/Cal State system entirely because of scheduling problems.

only children and peer orientation

re: Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté

C (freshman in college & home for Christmas) has been very interested in the Neufeld discussions Ed and I have been having.

The other night we were trying to figure out whether Neufeld would consider C's friends to be adult-oriented. We all thought he would. C is an adult-oriented teen and all of his friends are adult-oriented teens. One of C's friends is very adult-oriented, as a matter of fact, to the point that he specifically wants to chat with Ed and me when he and C. get together.

So then we were trying to figure out why some kids are adult-oriented when so many aren't. It's certainly not as if any of us set out to raise adult-oriented kids on purpose, or even knew there was an 'adult-oriented' option on the menu.

C. thought about it for a while, and then said that "only children" are more peer-oriented than children with brothers and sisters.

That was a shock. In my day, "only children" were presumed to be adult-oriented. Obviously we didn't have the term "adult-oriented," but we had the concept, at least where "only children" were concerned. Pace Neufeld, nobody thought the adult-orientation of "only children" was a good thing...

Assuming C. is right (I have no way of knowing), it strikes me that the explanation may be the changed culture children and teens (and adults) live in. Neufeld argues, and I agree, that our culture fosters peer orientation.

Although the cultural changes Neufeld describes were already happening when I was young, it's probably easier, today, for an 'only child' to become peer-oriented than it was when I was growing up. Parents don't have the same gravitational pull they used to, and even an 'only child' can escape their obit.

Children who have siblings are subject to the same peer pressures, but peer pressure does not eliminate sibling rivalry. Any child who has a brother or a sister must compete with that sibling for the parent's love, and the competition for the parent's love makes the parent more important.

Are siblings a protective factor in a peer-oriented youth culture?

I think it's possible.

Scott Sumner on the cliff

According to Sumner, the numbers are different from what we read in the papers.

Neufeld on shyness in adult-oriented kids

Shyness is not the problem we think it is

We usually think of shyness as a negative quality, something we would want children to overcome. Yet developmentally, even this apparent handicap has a useful function. Shyness is an attachment force, designed to shut the child down socially, discouraging any interaction with those outside her nexus of safe connections.

The shy child is timid around people she is not attached to. It is only to be expected that adult-oriented children are often socially naive and awkward around their peers, at least in the earlier grades. Peer-oriented kids, by contrast, appear to be socially successfu. This is their forte. They should know what is cool and what is not, what to wear and how to talk--they are applying most of their intelligence to reading from one another the cues on how to be and how to act.

Much of the sociability of peer-oriented children is the result of a loss of shyness. When peers replace adults, shyness is reversed. The child becomes shy with adults but gregarious in the company of peers. We see the child around her peers coming out of her shell, finding her tongue, presenting herself more confidently. The change in personality is impressive, and we are apt to give credit to the peer interaction. Surely, we tell ourselves, such a highly desirable outcome could not emanate from something problematic! Yet true social integration and real social ability--caring about others and considering the feelings of people they do not know--will not, in the long term, be the attributes fo the peer-oriented child.

Adult-oriented children are much slower to lose their shyness around their peers. What should eventually temper this shyness is not peer orientation but the psychological maturity that engenders a strong sense of self and the capacity for mixed feelings. The best way to deal with shyness is to promote warm relationships with the adults who care for and teach the child. With attachment in mind, it's not shyness we ought to be so concerned about but the lack of shyness of many of today's children.
Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté
This is the exact opposite of everything I've ever been told by anyone on the subject of children and parenting. Pretty much.

Shyness is a good thing?

Premature lack of shyness is a bad thing?

As I think about it, I realize that when I was a child people did have a category for premature loss of shyness, mainly relating to girls who were "sexually precocious."

Today, I'm pretty sure that a fair number of parents in my neck of the woods actively promote what my parents would have considered precocious sexuality.

That reminds me.

Back in Los Angeles one of the neighbors -- dear people, but also the subject of intermittent social opprobrium from the other moms on the block -- treated their 7-year old daughter (who had had a brief career as a beauty pageant contestant when she was two) and her friends to a birthday party .... where?

Was it Planet Hollywood?

Something like that. An adult venue. They rented the place out and threw a big bash for twenty 7-year old girls.

My neighbor further down the street thought the whole thing was crazy.

"What are they going to do when she turns 8?" she said. "Fly them to Vegas?"

I loved that street.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Google Master on the middle class & his niece

Catherine wrote: Then, when your child turns 17, you discover that virtually everyone you know with a child who is 18 is paying sticker price.

Google Master writes:
There might be a reason for that. You live in Irvington, where the median household income of about $105,000 puts you firmly in the upper quintile of all households. "Everyone you know" probably also lives in Irvington, or at least Westchester County, whose median income is somewhere between $80K and $100K, depending on the source you use. At a stretch, "everyone" is somewhere on the upper East Coast, which a map of household incomes shows has the highest incomes in the country.

... All of which is a long-winded way to say that you probably don't know the people who are receiving aid, but they're out there.

This reminds me of a discussion I was having with a fellow software engineer who probably grosses about $120K, and his wife, an SAP consultant, easily $200K. He was shocked when I told him his family was not middle class, but rather in the upper 2-5%.

When you live and work among five-percenters, sometimes you lose sight of the average family out there struggling to put a couple kids in college, feed the family, and pay the mortgage on $48K.

My brother does not have a four-year degree and has worked blue-collar jobs since he was 14. He lost his wife when their daughter, my niece, was in high school. That niece got a full ride her freshman year and tons of aid the remaining three years. She graduated a couple of years ago with honors in two departments.
Very good to hear! (And I love the story about the software engineer....I remember, years ago, reading that all Americans universally consider themselves to be "middle class." I hope it's true, because it's one of the things I cherish about this country.)

re: more people in Irvington paying full fare ---- I wonder --- ?

On the one hand, GM is right: many people here (by no means all) are better able to afford the sticker price.

On the other hand, many people here are also better able to afford high-end tutors, including SAT & ACT tutors.

Another factor: grade deflation in "star schools," which by my arithmetic a few years ago is occurring in my public high school (or was then).

C's impression, which I think is probably accurate, is that his peers who attended our public high school are far more likely to be paying sticker price than his peers at the Jesuit high school.

Why is that?

The Jesuit high school is not cheap, and parents there are not poor. I was shocked one back to school night when I realized just how expensive many of the family cars were. Parents at the school don't "act rich" and don't "dress rich" (at least as I define these things, which may be naive or just wrong, I realize) -- so I was brought up short when I realized that we had not actually moved our child to a "middle class" school.

Nevertheless, a large number of those students, it appears, are now attending college and receiving a discount to do so.

I'm going to ask C. how many of those students are receiving merit aid from Catholic colleges.

One more thing: I'm thinking that SUNY may have kept prices down better than a lot of other states, which might explain why SUNY isn't offering a lot of merit aid (although as I think of it, I believe I spoke to a parent whose daughter was given significant merit aid to attend Binghamton a few years ago... )

No one in my circles has been given merit aid to attend a SUNY school, and C was not offered merit aid to attend Binghamton, either.

I had the impression that one of the SUNYs was recruiting him pretty actively -- was it Geneseo? -- but no mention was made of merit aid.

Not a large sample size, I realize!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

no, parents are not stupid, Post number I've-lost-count

Here we go.
Who still believes college sticker prices matter?

Some 58 percent of students from lower-income families and 62 percent of those from middle-income backgrounds are likely to eliminate schools from contention based simply on price. In comparison, 48 percent of affluent households crossed colleges off their list because of price.

Despite the stubborn belief that price-tags matter, two-thirds of students who attend private and public colleges in this country receive some type of tuition break.

Despite the stubborn belief that price-tags matter, two-thirds of students who attend private and public colleges in this country receive some type of tuition break. At private institutions, 85 percent of students receive an institutional scholarship or grant.
I just read this passage out loud to Ed, who said: "If 2/3 of all college students are receiving some type of tuition break, that means parents are aware tuition breaks are available. I doubt they're just getting tuition aid dropped on them randomly."

Speaking as a parent, I have a stubborn belief that price-tags matter.

The reason I have a stubborn belief that price-tags matter is that .... price-tags matter.

Here's how it works (short form).

  1. While your child is ages 12-16, you read articles and attend guidance presentations in which you are told that nobody pays sticker price.
  2. Then, when your child turns 17, you discover that virtually everyone you know with a child who is 18 is paying sticker price. 

How it works (long form).

  1. While your child is ages 12-16, you read articles and attend guidance presentations in which you are told that nobody pays sticker price.
  2. If you're paying attention -- and, if CBS Money Watch is to be believed, a lot of parents are paying attention -- at some point along the line you realize that: a) 33% of all college students - the number paying sticker price - is a big, not small, number of kids and your kid could be among them; b) most discounts are nominal at best (e.g. the $2000 merit scholarship to Vermont --  out-of-state cost $45K -- awarded to a friend of C's); and c) significant merit aid is contingent upon your child attending a school at least one tier below the best schools that accept him. 
  3. Then, when your child turns 17, you discover that virtually everyone you know with a child who is 18 is paying sticker price. 

today's brain teaser

What is the difference between a trained economist and a guidance counselor?

ANSWER: An economist needs a Ph.D. to tell you nobody pays the sticker price.

update: Cost of College says 1/3 of all college students are paying sticker price. I feel as if I know about half of them.

tired of toolkit

When did everyone start saying TOOLKIT?

Do we know?

And, more importantly, when can we expect everyone to stop saying TOOLKIT?

(inspiration for this post, in case you're wondering: Why Persuasion is a Science Not an Art)

more college graduates = higher employment for non-college graduates

...a 10% increase in the number of people with a four-year degree in a given metro area was associated with a two-percentage-point rise in the overall employment rate from 1980 to 2000.

The benefit was particularly large for women with a high-school diploma or less. "The results are consistent," the author writes, "with the hypothesis that individuals accumulate greater skills from working in labor markets" alongside highly educated and trained workers.

Week in Ideas: Daniel Akst
December 28, 2012, 8:38 p.m. ET
"Human Capital Externalities and Employment Differences Across Metropolitan Areas of the USA," John V. Winters, Journal of Economic Geography (Dec. 10)