Friday, December 29, 2006

Workplace rewards tall people with money, respect, UF study shows

Workplace rewards tall people with money, respect, UF study shows:

Judge's study, which controlled for gender, weight and age, found that mere inches cost thousands of dollars. Each inch in height amounted to about $789 more a year in pay, the study found. So someone who is 7 inches taller – say 6 feet versus 5 feet 5 inches – would be expected to earn $5,525 more annually, he said.
As someone who is short... this sucks royally. Perhaps instead of saving for my kids college expenses I should just be paying for growth hormone treatment.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nifong Drops Rape Charges Against Duke Lacrosse Team

Rape Charges Dropped In Duke Lacrosse Case

Nifong's investigator interviewed the woman Thursday, and she told the investigator that she couldn't "testify with certainty" that she was raped.

Prosecutors said they couldn't proceed without her testimony, so they decided to dismiss the rape charges in the case.

Nifong said he plans to proceed with kidnapping and sexual assault charges against the three player
About frickin time. 1/3 of the way there. Keeping any charges is a joke at this point.

I wonder which Duke blogger will be the first to comment? I think I beat them all.

Update 1: 12:49 pm

MSNBC picks it up:

“It’s highly coincidental,” Cheshire said, that the charges are being dropped a week after the director of a private DNA testing lab acknowledged that he initially, with Nifong’s knowledge, withheld from the defense test results showing none of the players’ DNA was found on or in the accuser’s body.
You think?

Update 2: 12:50

LaShawn Barber is the first to post.

Final comments: 12:57

I don't know what is worse... that a prosecutor would use the case for political gain or that Duke University turned their back on the players.

Duke is probably regretting their stance now. According to the N&O, they have launched a major (read expensive) PR campaign to repair their reputation after early admission applications dropped by 20%.

Can you blame students and parents for not wanting to go to a school that faculty like the Duke 88? I have several Duke alumni that go to my church, and to a person they are disgusted by how the University treated the Lacrosse players, especially the three students charged.

For further info check out the following:

John In Carolina

Talk Left for great legal analysis

Durham in Wonderland

This Scares Me!

I ran across the 2005 science Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) from the NAEP.

Summary: Austin and Charlotte kick ass if your middle class white, everyone sucks if your black or low income, and Cleveland is terrible all around.

The good news is that the worse a school district does the smaller the achievement gap. The secret to eliminating the achievement gap isn't improving education, its obviously way more efficient to make everyones education equally shitty. Perhaps the education establishment has already figured it out and all the hodge podge of kooky curriculums out there is their attempt at finally achieving equality. (irony intended)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Work the System Baby, Work the System

So as you know, our 3rd grade boy was enrolled in a 2 day a week after school program called "STRETCH" designed to make sure advanced students score advanced on the SC PACT test. Last week I ran into a parent of one of the kids in my son's TAG class and she mentioned that she wasn't going to be able to let her kid do the Stretch program because of daycare issues. That started me thinking, so today while visiting the kids school for their holiday parties, we ran into the curriculum director for the school. We asked if we could get our 3rd grade girl into the program since we knew they had at least one drop out. She basically told us no problem, and then went on to explain how she was perplexed because so many kids opted not to take advantage of the program. Its too bad, but those parents/kids loss is our gain.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm Not Dead and "Innovation"

Yes I know, I have been slacking... you try raising six kids. First the local education stuff:

A few weeks ago, we got a letter home informing us that our 3rd grade son had been selected for an after school tutoring program called the "Stretch" program. Basically, twice a week kids who have the potential to score advanced on the South Carolina PACT will be receive extra tutoring. They are going to spend 7 sessions each on math, language arts, social studies, and science, with the soul purpose of boosting the schools test scores. Several thoughts:

1. Isn't this why he is in the Talented and Gifted program... this is what the TAG program should be about instead of all the "inquiry" based (read art projects) that they do. I did talk to the schools curriculum director and she told me that basically the TAG program is district run so they have no input, but this program is set up and run by the school.

2. Our other 3rd grader who is a little behind in her decoding skills only gets tutoring once a week. Average students get no extra help at all. It makes me wonder about the schools priorities.

3. Of course its blatant teaching to the test, but if it benefits my child then I am willing to take advantage.

Now on to Innovation:

Innovation is the latest "buzz word" that I keep reading about. Supposedly "innovation" is the key to our countries future. If we just fostered more innovation in schools, our country will maintain its lead in the global market.


Yep, I said it. Innovation as near as I can figure out it a way of saying that schools need more "inquiriy" learning and that facts are outdated. Don't get me wrong, innovation is important in todays global market place, but the for every innovator out there in the work place there has to be another hundred employees that perform the routine day to day tasks. Our country isn't lacking in innovators. Our competive swim or sink capitalist based economic system ensures that there will always be innovators out there ready to capitalize on the next great idea... think Google. Not everyone can be a Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Our country needs many many more mid-level managers, systems analysts, technichians, nurses, machinists... you get the point.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Essays and College

Why don't we just combine the college entrance essay requirement with the SAT essay. Eliminate all the editing, hand-wringing, and yes... cheating that goes with the typical college entrance essay. Give every student 25 minutes to express themselves and demonstrate their writing abilities.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Right Wing Nation#comments

Right Wing Nation#: Not Enough Homework

First, let me say I am one of those whining parents:

As far as I know, every university defines a college credit as one hour of class and two hours of outside work a week. Most classes are three-credit classes (yes, there are a few one- and two-credit courses in the catalog, but very few). By the university definition, then, a three-credit course is three hours of class and six hours of out of class work a week. In order to be full-time, a student must take at least 12 credits per semester — that would be a minimum of 12 hours of classes and 24 hours of out of class work per week.

Which means that a full time college student should be actively doing school stuff for 36 hours a week.
My 16 year old has 4 90 minute classes a day, 5 days a week. She is in class for about 30 hours. She easily has about 2 hours of homework a night. So 30 + 10 = 40 hours of homework.
My two 3rd graders and my 1st grader have 6 hours of instruction a day plus 1 hour of homework a night. At age 8 they have 35 hours of class work, not counting at home reading.
College kids have it easy.
As you mentioned, a big problem is the quality of homework that is required. To much of it, especially at the elementary school level, requires a parent to actively participate and teach to make up for the lack of instruction in the classroom. This is great if you have only one child, but for those of us with more... then after school is hell.
The amount of homework assigned at the elementary school level should be progressive, and not start until around 3rd grade. Then there should be only enough homework to reinforce what is taught at the school.
At the Middle and HS level, I really have no problems with the amount of homework given. By this time, students should be self-sufficient. I also agree that students should be taught the value of hard work.

What an Idiot

Student tapes teacher proselytizing in class

Via Joanne

On Sept. 14 -- the fourth day of class -- Paszkiewicz is on tape saying, "He (God) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he's saying, 'Please accept me, believe me.'"

He adds, according to the tapes: "If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross ... And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you."

Paszkiewicz didn't limit his religious observations to personal salvation, according to the tapes.

Paszkiewicz shot down the theories of evolution and the "Big Bang" in favor of creationism. He also told his class that dinosaurs were on Noah's ark, LaClair said.
And you wonder why American students fair so poorly when compared against other nations?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Swarm of the College Super-Applicants -- New York Magazine

The Swarm of the College Super-Applicants -- New York Magazine

I have read all the stories about what it takes to get into a top-notch college, but this article really puts it into perspective.

Hmmm... I wonder if I could get into Harvard?

Rory H.

Central Carolina Technical College, Sumter
GPA: 3.8
SAT: probably somewhere around 2000 if I studied for several months.
AP scores: Whats AP?

Academic honors: Presidents Honor List for Part Time Students. Honor Graduate in Track Vehicle Mechanic School, US Army 1988.

Extracurricular activities: Currently raising six children from the ages of 8 months to 16 years old. Frequent visits to Jails, Doctors Office's, First Sergeants office, Hospitals, and Public Schools. Stationed for 12 years in Europe with the United States Air Force. Able to order beer in seven different languages. Been drunk in over 50 cities in 9 nations, on 3 different continents and four islands. Spades champion of Switzerland, 2001. Amateur blogger on eduction, despite no practical knowledge or experience. Acting as surrogate father figure to the 23 young Airmen I supervise.

Sports: Huge USC Trojan Fan. Family tag champion. Undefeated kid tickler and wrestler.

Applying to: Who ever will take me.

My chances: Slim to none.
Maybe one day colleges will realize that diversity means more than supporting different charities. Maybe I should tell my kids to just go ahead and apply to community college right now, because they obviously have one thing working against them: They are human and not cookie cutter super achieving academic clones.

Monday, November 20, 2006

D-Ed Reckoning: NYT perplexed over achievement gap

D-Ed Reckoning: NYT perplexed over achievement gap

The edublogosphere is buzzing over the latest article on the achievement gap at the NY Times. So far only D-Ed Reckoning has been brave enough to address the root of the problem.

The achievement gap mirrors the IQ gap. Of IQ gaps we cannot speak amongst polite company, such as those that read still read the NYT.

That's the elephant in the room.
Of course educators can't speak about the IQ gap, because the conversation inevitably leads to the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Instead, education policy makers have created the "achievement gap" which is basically an arbitrary pass fail line drawn in the sand... draw the line low enough and the gap magically vanishes. Thankfully, we have the NAEP to help keep all the states honest, otherwise states could easily game the system.

Of course, even if the achievement gap is solved, it sill won't fix today's inequities. There are only a finite amount of college positions available, and success is all about higher education today. Even if everyone passed some arbitrary reading and math test, Universities are still only going to take the top performers. Of course, unless the IQ gap has been eliminated, historically low performing groups will still be under represented (especially considering the recent bans on affirmative action).

The inevitable reaction will be for educators to once again raise the standard to be considered "passing" causing another achievement gap. I suppose this might sound a little pessimistic and cynical of me, but hey its Monday morning.

Educators and policy makers need to come up with a realist and pragmatic approach to improving education. Instead of focusing on improving gaps between different groups, educators should be concentrating on ensuring that all students are taught to the highest standards that they are capable of being taught too. While we might never be able to fix the IQ gap in the United States, we need to ensure that any kid with the drive and the capability to excel is provided opportunities to do so. The problem is that there are bright driven poor/minority kids out there that are unable to live up to there full potential because they suffer in an education system that doesn't teach them the basics, doesn't provide scientifically based curriculums, and doesn't provide a safe environment.

Ok... Sermon over. Get back to work.

P.S. Did anyone else catch this in the NY Times article:

Standard & Poors has sifted test data from 16,000 schools in 18 states, identifying 718 schools making significant progress toward the national goal.

They are the classic diamonds in the rough, said Paul Gazzerro, director of analytics at Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services. But in general, schools are not closing achievement gaps.

One of the exceptions, the unit said, is Hoover Middle School in Lakewood, Calif., a community in Los Angeles County where the aircraft manufacturing industry has been hit by job losses. The school has raised Hispanic scores so much that in the spring of 2005 Hispanic students outperformed whites, said the principal, Michael L. Troyer. He said the progress resulted from focused instruction, frequent diagnostic testing and several tutoring programs.
I suppose the Hispanic - White achievement gap is hard to accurately measure because Hispanic is an ethnic designation, not a racial one. I checked out the scores and even though Hoover Middle appeared to eliminate the one gap, there are still big gaps between other groups.

Hispanics, whites, and Pacific Islanders all appeared to be performing at approximately the same level. AfAmericansricans lag way behind, and Asian and Filipinos's are excelling. Basically, this information tells us nothing without knowing the economic and educational background of all the various groups.

Why is it after all these years, no one can ever point to one school that has eliminated its achievement gap.

My Absence

Sorry for my week off blogging.

Last weekend we discovered my 16 year old niece was "cutting". We confronted her about it which led to some major drama and a trip to the emergency room.

I spent last week dealing with councelors, pyschiatrists, and insurance companies.

A warning to parents of adolescents. Cutting is real, please be on the look out for the signs. It is a sign of much bigger problems.

The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO - Edgar Simpson: Changing how we teach math

The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO - Edgar Simpson: Changing how we teach math

Mr Simpson has been drinking from the educrat Kool-Aid. Some background.

What Lankford, now in his eighth year as superintendent of Webb City Schools, did instinctively has become a focal debate in public education. There is an ongoing shift from teaching math by rote, as in mesmerizing tables and formulas, to trying to impart concepts.

This change, controversial and by no means settled, spilled over into tears from an educator during an emotion-filled meeting last week in Seneca. The district introduced a reformed math program into its elementary schools in 2003.

The issue goes by a variety of names, "reform math," "Chicago Math," "Fuzzy Math" and its commercial moniker, "Everyday Math." The concept was conceived and developed in the early 1980s by a team of academics at the University of Chicago and is now peddled by a division of McGraw-Hill.

Mr. Simpson though not explicitly stating so, obviously is pulling for the so called "reform math". He goes to offer this argument.

When Chicago University researchers dug into the problem, they concluded the fundamental issue was the way students were being taught - by memorizing facts and formulas, rather than being forced to understand and apply concepts. The difference is an auto mechanic knowing how to change the spark plugs in an engine, and knowing what the spark plugs do and what happens when they don't work.
Lets take a moment to think about this. How many people out there would take your car to a mechanic who doesn't know how to change spark clubs. I don't care how much he can spout off about the theory of internal combustion engines, if he can't turn a wrench then I am taking my car elsewhere.

The other problem with this analogy is that the purpose of math instruction in school, is not to teach students to be theoretical mathematicians, but to be mathematically literate. A more apt comparison, using the spark plug analogy above, is that we are teaching our students to be competent car owners that can perform routine maintenance of their car. What we as car operators need to know is how to change tires if we have a flat, change spark plugs and oil during routine intervals, and know when to take the car into a professional.

At the end Mr. Simpson says:

She notes that the way public education had been teaching mathematics was not keeping Seneca, Missouri or the nation competitive with the rest of the world. Doing nothing is not an option.

She's right. The core reason we want to be competitive, and we should not try to pretend it is anything else, is jobs. Many employers, primarily manufacturing and technology, say some workers coming to them from public high schools and even colleges are not good at math. They know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but not how to think on the fly, to solve problems that require visualizing a logical sequence and then making changes to achieve the desired end.
Once again, Mr. Simpson is missing the point. It does no good to be able to "think on the fly" if you can't perform the basic math operations. California learned its lessons the hard way, but it looks like Seneca is going to have to repeat the same mistakes all over again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006



Loni a homeschooling mom of nine kids is going down a treacherous path.

We bought some cheap multiplication math books, and I taped a sheet of paper at the front of each, with tricks, poems, and cartoons of ways to get them to remember these!

I found most of these at Multiplication.Com. One of my favorites is learning the 9's table:

The NINE multiplication fastest is the one less = nine method
Subtract one from the number you are multiplying by. 9 x 5 (One less than 5 is 4)
The first number in the answer is 4. The two numbers that make up the answer will equal 9. So 4 + __ = 9 (5)
The last number in the answer is 5

9 x 5 = 45
One less than 5 is 4 (45)
The answer adds up to nine. 4 + 5 =9
Tricks like this frustrate me to no end. The intentions are well meaning, but the results can be horrible.

My 6th grader was able to get through 3rd grade by using multiplication table tricks like this, but the problem is that she relied to much on them. Multiplication tables should be learned to mastery, and here is why:

Multi-digit multiplication: When performing problems such as 456 x 35, knowing your multiplication facts to mastery reduces your reliance on working memory, which in turn allows you to use your working memory to perform the carrying and adding functions in the standard algorithms. The more things you have to juggle in your working memory, the more likely you are to forget a step and end up with a mistake in a several step problem.

Division: Not only should you know that 6 x 7 = 42, but if given the number 42, you should be able to recall that its the same as "6 x 7". Unfortunately the 9's trick that is used above doesn't work backwards. If given the problem 54 divided by 9, you can not easily reverse the procedure. The problem becomes even worse if you have a problem like 56 divided by 9.

Factoring: Factoring is a key component to algebra. Factoring relies on being able to quickly recognizing multiplication facts and breaking the number down into smaller products. Once again the tricks do no work backwards.

If Loni really wants to help her kids then she will skip the shortcuts and drill her kids over and over till they can spit the facts out like they can their names.

At our house, we use flash cards. Every child in our house is tested on their multiplication tables at least once a day. We also practice doing reverse multiplication tables. The kids are shown the answer, and have to spit out all the multiplication facts that make up that number.

Last year our 6th grader had to get tutoring for her math. Since then I have re-taught her tables, and on her last interim report in math, she was getting a 91.

Don't be fooled people, some knowledge needs to be committed to memory, and hard work is required.

Update: Rightwingprof has corrected me and pointed out that the trick does work backwards... but a child would have to know all the multiples of 9's to know when to use it, and if they did... then they probably wouldn't need to.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


At my 1st graders school, they have a cute little tradition. On fridays, over the loudspeaker, they play the "Friday" song and everyone sings along. It goes like this.

Friday... Friday...

Friday is my favorite day...

Ok... its very simple, but its the cutest thing in the world to see all the Kindergarden and 1st graders sing it at the top of their lungs.

At my 6th graders middle school, friday was "Serendipity Day". At noon time any kid that was passing all his/her classes got to play games, every one else had extra tutoring in their weakess subjects. My daughter tells me its a big deal.

I have heard of Honors day's where kids on the Honor Roll get a field trip or a pizza party, but I liked the idea that they gave a reward to all the other hard working kids who can't quite make the Honor Roll.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Income doesn't explain testing gap - Greensboro, North Carolina: News - Education: Income doesn't explain testing gap

GREENSBORO — Guilford County's poorest white students on average scored higher on the SAT this year than the wealthiest black students, school board members learned Monday.

Deena Hayes, a member of the Guilford County Board of Education, said the data confirms her belief that the achievement gap in the district is not solely about economics.

A study conducted by the school district showed that white students coming from a household earning less than $20,000 a year scored about 40 points higher on the math and reading sections of the SAT than black students whose households earned more than $70,000 a year.
I have to admit that this surprised me. I am well aware of the persistance of the achievement gap and the arguments over nurture and nature, but this is really depressing. I had expected that achievement would be more tied to SES than to race.

I am sure that many people will blame it on racism, but I am sceptical that this alone could account for everything. Unfortunately I think that the key to improving black academic performance is going to creating a widespread culture of educational achievement in black culture. This is going to be a slow process that can probably only be fixed over generations.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Symbol of hope vs the Hawthorne Effect

Via Joanne Jacobs: Philadelphia Inquirer 10/30/2006 Symbol of hope:

An elementary school in the heart of North Philadelphia has grabbed the national spotlight for dramatically improving its test scores.

The initial jumps were so large the Philadelphia school district verified them by having some students retake the tests.

Over four years, the number of fifth graders scoring at the highest level - advanced - soared from 1.2 percent in math and reading to 42.1 percent in math and 29.8 percent in reading.
I double checked their results and overall they are amazing, but I did notice one thing.

In reading their results improved dramatically from a 12.2% proficiency rate in 2002 to a 72.5% in 2005, but all of the sudden in 2006 they dropped back down to a 47.5%. The same pattern is reflected in math scores.

I have noted this trend in several benchmark schools that I have looked up over my brief blogging career. Could it be that the initial rises in performance are a result of the "Hawthorne effect", and that once a system becomes established there is a leveling out of performance? Unfortunately the article doesn't mention the drop off at all. Perhaps its a statistical blip, maybe there were some changes not mentioned in the article, but its something that I might keep an eye out for in the future.

Update: I found a similar but not quite as dramatic drop off in scores at Amistad Academy of Achievement First.

2006 scores weren't available, but there was a drop off in 2005 scores from 2004 after several years of improvements.

Are there any studies that look at whether this is a common phenomenon?

Towson angles to draw males -

Towson angles to draw males -

The university's decision to tinker with its admission standards to help men comes amid growing national concern about declining enrollment of males, who make up only 42 percent of the U.S. college population. They are just 40 percent of Towson's student body.

The low grades/high scores formula allows the school to draw from a group that is mostly men, without actually using gender as a criterion. "We made a determination two years ago, because this was a group with a large number of males, that it would help us to continue to bring males into the university," said Deborah Leather, Towson's associate provost.
Ok... I should be against this, but I was one of those H.S. graudates that would of benefited from this.

I am no lawyer, but as long as the admission criteria is not based on race, sex, national origin, bla, bla, bla... I see no problem.

It is my understanding that some schools use a reverse policy and base their admissions on GPA and don't even consider SAT scores.

"Pee-Chee" Folder

So tonight I am watching VH1 Hits of the 80's count down and I had a total flashback to High School (Class of '88). Back then, before fuzzy math, new math, and new-new math everyone had "Pee-Chee" folders. My gf has no idea what I am talking about, but it was truly part of my schooling experience. Alas, a quick google told me that "Pee_Chee" folders are no longer being made. Too bad, I would love to get my hands on some.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Power of Demographics

The Enquirer - Waldorf School teaching by arts:

While Ohio requires that kindergartners in public school be "reading ready" by first grade, Waldorf lets youngsters learn to read at their own pace, even if it takes until third grade.


"School is not so much about learning factual information," she said. "It's about how you figure out how to learn and make good decisions, how you conceptualize and imagine."
School Demographics

White, non-Hispanic 87%
Black, non-Hispanic 10%
Asian or Pacific Islander 3%
Rich white people trip me out.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jim Rex, superintendent of education

Brad Warthen's Blog: Jim Rex, superintendent of education

I listened to the debate. I have read their platforms. I have made my decision.

UC would admit 'broader swath' of students under proposal 10/27/2006 UC would admit 'broader swath' of students under proposal

Colleges are constantly tweaking their entrant requirements to broaden diversity. At first they tried this:

Signed into law by Gov. Pat Brown in 1960, California's master plan of college eligibility guarantees a spot at UC for the top 12.5 percent of the state's high school graduates, who are ranked by test scores and GPAs earned in UC-approved college prep courses.
But that only made things worse:

But that approach has widened the ``achievement gap'' in the increasingly diverse state. Access to UC for many racial and ethnic minorities and for students at ``disadvantaged high schools,'' as defined by socioeconomics or geography, is consistently low.
Now they want to try this:

The recommendation means that a student with a C+ (2.75 GPA) average, who was likely to be shut out under the old system, would now be eligible to have their application reviewed -- giving them the opportunity to list leadership positions, jobs or ways in which they have triumphed over adversity. Low SAT scores, while still considered, would not close the door..

Of course it will be hard for the poor rich and middleclass kids to show that they triumphed over adversity when they had the misfortune to be born to parents with a college degree.

Sooner or later someone is going to propose to simply make college entrance a lottery system, which is the only way they will ensure balanced racial and geographic diversity. Of course this would only ensure that their entering Freshman class is balanced. In conjunction with the lottery, they would probably need to eliminate other hinderances to diversity such as grades. To account for the dismal graduation rates of minorities, they should eliminate the outdated requirement for a high school diploma. Instead just open up the lottery system to the entire population of California.

Of course instead, the UC system could throw their considerable influence around to help fix the current K-12 education system which disproportionately fails disadvantaged populations.

Its ironic that the same systems that decry the number of students who need remedial classes in math and english also continually try and find ways to lower the bar. Sometimes it seems like the whole education system has become a vicious circle.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Its Over!

Soccer season is finally over so we can return to our normal after school routine, and I can resume my extra-curricular tutoring. We also got our first report cards so I also know more specifically where I need to direct my efforts.

1st Grader - she got all proficients on her report card, but we disagree. We are not at all happy with her reading skills and are going to concentrate on phonics. We don't yet have a organized method of doing this, but are looking into several programs. Right now we just attack each word, one at a time.

3rd Grade Girl - Her only C was in reading. She is already getting after school tutoring and her reading has made some great strides. We are going to have her preform more out loud reading to us so we can monitor her progress. We are also going to work on her multiplication times tables. She is pretty good in math, but we want her to make sure that she is ahead of the power curve. We believe that multiplication facts are the key to almost everything at this level of math.

3rd Grade Boy - His lowest grade was in health which makes it hard for us to help him, since we have he hardly has any health homework. We will be more proactive about the subject. One thing that he could really use is some organizations skills... he really is a scatter brain.

6th Grade Girl - Our hardest worker. Math was her worst grade, but we have pegged it to a lack of mastery of the multiplication tables. We are continuing to work with her on this, because it will help her division and factoring skills. In reading she is way above grade level and is quite the book worm.

10th Grader -What a challenge she is. We recently pulled her off the cheerleading squad, because she 1. got caught smoking as school and 2. slacked off slightly in her English class. She is perhaps the most frustrating since her standardized scores are WAY above average. She, like me as a teenager, has a lazy streak. I wish I had parents like me when I was that age, because my life would of turned out a lot different. As long as we stay on her she will excel, but if we blink... then its back to mediocre. Hopefully, with several more years of nagging, she will internalize good work habits.

After spending two to three hours a night at the soccer fields, it is such a relief to have time at home for the little things. We were eating take out almost every night, but now we have to get back into the routine of cooking.

Closing the Gap, Child by Child -

Closing the Gap, Child by Child -

In 2004, Gates, the principal, was stunned by scores showing that just two-fifths of his black students had passed the state reading test, compared with three-fourths of his white students.

Even before that year, the school had sought to raise minority student performance. (Scores among Hispanics at the school and others in the county were also a problem.) Hollin Meadows offered after-school tutoring and recruited volunteers to mentor selected students. Gates said the school had energetic teachers. But it wasn't enough.

In retrospect, Gates blamed a tendency to "teach to the middle." He said lessons too often were aimed toward the majority and were not tailored enough to individual students. So teachers generally would march through the curriculum on the assumption that students would either learn the material or eventually catch up.

For most children, that approach worked. But in an increasingly diverse school, some fell through the cracks. "We had kids coming in with different needs, and we didn't say, 'We have to meet you where you are at,' " Gates said.
Why did it take NCLB to force educators to acknowledge what school reformists have been telling them for decades?

Ladson-Billings cited an elementary school in Madison where black students trailed white students. She found that some basic lessons -- such as learning sounds that correspond with letters -- went untaught.

"What teachers said to us is, 'We don't actually teach that,' " Ladson-Billings said. "Most middle-class kids were learning that at home."

Well duh! I know that many teachers and educators have their own kids. Is there some sort of disconnect between what they observe at home and what they do in the classrooms?

Educator's need to come over to my house someday and see what I have to supplement. I spend my afternoons teaching multiplication tables, factoring, algebra, phonics, history, and just about every other subject that should be taught at home. Somehow I manage to teach all these subjects to my five school age kids is a very limited amount of time. Is it too much to ask the teachers to do it at school?

Next leader of L.A. school district vows to remove 'bad teachers' - Los Angeles Times

Next leader of L.A. school district vows to remove 'bad teachers' - Los Angeles Times

"It's called the right teacher in the right classroom in the right school…. Some people do not belong in the classroom, OK? They don't belong there. We're gonna get them out. The question is how is the system going to react to the way we get them out."

I am assuming that all you education junkies are keeping up with the soap opera that is the LAUSD.

I have to wonder if Mr. Brewer (the new LAUSD school chief and former military office) is going to be more than the LAUSD Board of Education bargained for when they hired him.

Now if Major Villaraigosa can managed to shirk the United Teacher's Los Angeles union's influence, perhaps the LAUSD will have a chance.

Charters hurting IPS |

White: Charters hurting IPS

Got to love this story; charter schools doing exactly what they are intended to do... forcing a the Indianapolis Public Schools to improve, look outside the box, and compete.

A break in launching new charter schools, White said, would give IPS time to stabilize its enrollment and draw students to new academies and magnet schools. Those are among a wave of reforms and initiatives launched by White since he became superintendent in 2005.

Those improvements are coming, charter school advocates said, only because of the competition from charter schools and the alternatives they offer to parents.

"The very reason IPS is doing what they're doing is in response to these new choices at charter schools," said Kevin Teasley, who oversees two Indianapolis charter schools as president of the GEO Foundation. "I just hate to limit those choices. It's shortsighted and doesn't take into account the forces of the market."

Now the IPS is asking for a time out, a delay in opening more charter schools to help them fully implement their reforms. It's not like they have the last 100 years to reform is it now? Its hard for me to feel sorry for the IPS when there are successful school models out there (thanks to Charter Schools) that they can adopt to improve their system. It may be painful, but I have no doubt that they will find their way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sara Comes Around

As I noted a few weeks ago, Sara from the Quick and the Ed seemed to be against single sex education:

Its been fascinating--and disappointing--to me to see how conservatives, who are generally skeptical of conferring victim status, and critical of untested new educational ideas, seem to embrace both so uncritically when the "victims" are boys and the education "innovations" include single sex schools and implementing gender stereotypes in the classroom.

And here:

Educators, parents, and policymakers should therefore be skeptical of simplistic proposals aimed at fixing the boy crisis, such as expanding single-sex schooling, implementing gender-based instructional techniques, or funding new federal programs aimed at improving boys’ achievement.

But in her latest post she says:

...believe in giving children and their families more educational choices, and I think the bar for excluding an entire category of choices (such as single-sex schools) ought to be quite high, and that critics of single-sex education haven't met it yet.
Its what I have been saying for a while:

Any single sex education program in the country should be optional and benefit both genders.
Of course she doesn't come around completely... she is still skeptical about the application of gender differences to education, of course I am guessing that she doesn't have children or any long term experience in a classroom... but we hold out hope. The first step is always the hardest.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Educating School Teachers

Via Edspresso, I just read this report on Educating School Teachers.

Frankly, it is too depressing to quote, but can be summed up as saying that our current system of educating teachers leaves a lot to be desired.

I have seriously been considering a second career in education after I retire from the Air Force in a few years, but reading this report certainly makes it a tough decision.

-- deleted paragraph --

While Teachers unions fight against merit pay, I myself would prefer it. Of course I have never been accused of being modest, and have a competitive nature that would love the challenge of proving myself in a way that would allow me to see concrete results for any effort or skill I put into a job. I wonder how many other potential teachers there are out there like me; intelligent, hardworking, and looking for a challenge, but staying away from a job that doesn't provide any concrete feedback or award for accomplishments.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Homework assignment stolen from Instructivist.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Carolina School for Inquiry - Takedown

Carolina School for Inquiry

Lets take a closer look at this new charter school, the Carolina School for Inquiry. First of all, here is a bit of history from this article in The State.

When a group of Columbia parents considered expanding a popular private preschool and kindergarten program, they lit on the idea of a charter school. At first, they considered a partnership between the nonprofit Harmony School and a newly formed charter school.

"We realized you can't have a private board interfere with a public board and vice versa," said Jeannie Eidson, a Harmony parent and Carolina School planning committee member.

Plus, parents don't want anything to endanger Harmony's stellar program, Mandrell said. So the parents began planning a charter school separate from Harmony but based on its beliefs.
So many mistakes begin with the best of intentions. Poor rich people… a misguided set of parents who loved their private “inquiry learning” preschool and kindergarten, decided to create their own charter school based on the principle. I am sure they were a bit upset to learn that as a charter school they had to open up enrollment to the surrounding poor minority community. Of course I have no doubt they convinced themselves that “inquiry” based learning will work for everyone, and not just their high SES kids.

Of course, the private Harmony School knew that it might not be a good idea. From another article in The State:

Eventually, though, it became clear that yielding control of the charter school to a parent and employee-run governing board, which is required by law, was a bit risky for the intimate Harmony community, said Deborah Holmes, school director. "We don't know what conflicts could possibly happen," she said.
Gee whiz, what possible conflict could happen when you try and use an unstructured curriculum with poor urban kids… perhaps anarchy?

But not to be deterred, the Carolina School for Inquiry pressed on and opened its doors this year.

Now let’s see what sort curriculum they use at this new school. You guys are lucky that I love you, but I had to read through this drivel to extract some key points.

Unfortunately, our traditional educational system has worked in a way that discourages the natural process of inquiry. Students become less prone to ask questions as they move through the grade levels. In traditional schools, students learn not to ask too many questions, instead to listen and repeat the expected answers.
Straight away we can see where this is heading, anyone want to bet that they eventually say something to the effect that facts are over rated because they can change, and its more important to know how to learn.

Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today's world. Facts change, and information is readily available -- what's needed is an understanding of how to get and make sense of the mass of data.
Damn I am good, so basically inquiry learning is constructivism on steroids.

Unfortunately, the website doesn’t let us know what reading/ELA curriculum they are going to use, but we can make an educated guess based on their math curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.

Among their many hair brained idea’s.

They choose from a variety of concrete materials and appropriate technology, including
calculators, as a natural part of their everyday mathematical work.
That’s it; forget the multiplication tables, because they can just use calculators.

They find more than one solution to many of the problems they work on
Someone explain to them that while there may be more than one “method” for solving a problem, there is only one correct “solution” to any given math problem (K-12 math that is), and that some methods are more effective than others.

They express their mathematical thinking through drawing, writing, and talking
Of course they do, because you know actually doing math in math class is sooooo overrated.

They move around the classroom as they explore the mathematics in their environment and talk with their peers
Wouldn’t want the kids to get bored sitting at their desks learning.

In Investigations, homework is a vehicle for connecting school mathematics with students’ everyday lives. Homework is an extension of classroom work. Students are asked to work on problems that extend and solidify their mathematical understanding. Sometimes homework offers review and practice of work done in class, sometimes preparation for upcoming activities, and sometimes numerical practice that revisits work from earlier units.
The real secret to Investigations… send home homework so that the parents can teach their kids what they should of learned at school. Great for high SES kids, but a disaster for low SES working parents.

I think Mathematically Correct best sum’s it up:

There is nothing to recommend about this program. The use of this program in our public schools is a strong argument for vouchers.
Unfortunately, since this school just opened, we won’t get any test results for at least a year, but somehow I have a feeling that it won’t be pretty. Unfortunately, charter schools like this will only serve to give successful charter schools a bad reputation. Perhaps the kindest thing I can say about this charter school is that its an option and not the only choice that parents have.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Stand and Deliver

Via Edspresso, I came across this article by Jesse Jesness on Jamie Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame.

While it’s a great article that tells the story of how administrators and bureaucrats effectively destroyed Jamie’s AP calculus program at Garfield H.S. in East Los Angels, I did detect one misconception.

In the article, Jesse writes the following:

Whether the administration will take it is another question. We are being primed for another round of "education reform." One-size-fits-all standardized tests are driving curricula, and top-down reforms are mandating lockstep procedures for classroom instructors. These steps might help make dismal teachers into mediocre ones, but what will they do to brilliant mavericks like Escalante?
insinuating that standardized tests limit the creativity of effective teachers, which is a common argument by the anti-NCLB crowd. Jesse misses one point… that he himself addressed earlier in the article.
Escalante’s students surprised the nation in 1982, when 18 of them passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam. The Educational Testing Service found the scores suspect and asked 14 of the passing students to take the test again. Twelve agreed to do so (the other two decided they didn’t need the credit for college), and all 12 did well enough to have their scores reinstated.

In the ensuing years, Escalante’s calculus program grew phenomenally. In 1983 both enrollment in his class and the number of students passing the A.P. calculus test more than doubled, with 33 taking the exam and 30 passing it. In 1987, 73 passed the test, and another 12 passed a more advanced version ("BC") usually given after the second year of calculus.
Emphasis mine. Notice the common theme? Jamie Escalante’s whole program was geared around teaching his kids to pass a standardized test. Testing does not and should not be deterrence to outstanding teachers; instead it should serve as a measurement stick for successful teachers to use to judge their performance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Parentalcation's readability scores:

readability grades:
Kincaid: 7.4
ARI: 8.0
Coleman-Liau: 10.2
Flesch Index: 72.9
Fog Index: 10.5
Lix: 37.8 = school year 5
SMOG-Grading: 9.8

sentence info:
10872 characters
2464 words, average length 4.41 characters = 1.38 syllables
142 sentences, average length 17.4 words
40% (58) short sentences (at most 12 words)
16% (24) long sentences (at least 27 words)
21 paragraphs, average length 6.8 sentences
2% (4) questions
38% (55) passive sentences
longest sent 53 wds at sent 42; shortest sent 1 wds at sent 83

word usage:
verb types:
to be (78)
auxiliary (44)
types as % of total:
conjunctions 5(111)
pronouns 12(305)
prepositions 12(284)
nominalizations 2(55)

sentence beginnings:
pronoun (39)
interrogative pronoun (3)
article (8)
subordinating conjunction (5)
conjunction (2)
preposition (9)

Well its better than I thought. It appears I write at about a 10th grade level. According to the website, I should be aiming for an 8th grade level if I want to reach the general public.

Note: Sarcasm intended for last sentence. I always thought it was funny that we send kids through 12 -13 years of school with the intension of getting them all to read at the 8th grade level.

TAG: What a waste of time!

My son's Talented and Gifted program is a waste of time. My son's TAG teacher (the art major) called complaining that my son doesn't seem to be engaged in the class. Of course he doesn't, the program is a pull out model that only meets for 3 hours once a week. The teacher told me that my son doesn't seem to be up to speed on his Latin root words that he is learning and seems to be lost in class. I had to remind her that he has been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, which means that he has problems processing information and instructions. I also reminded her that he was identified for the program because of his "math" skills and not because of his verbal skills (he is low average). I asked her what math she was teaching in the class... and she fed me some BS answer about decimal placement and fractions (obviously made up on the spot). Well duh... that’s what they are doing in his regular class. It doesn't take a genius to see that if they can't effectively teach concepts whether its math or latin if the kids are only being exposed to it once a week. I am so seriously considering pulling him out of the program. If he was struggling in reading or math he would get after school tutoring, direct instruction and all sorts of extra stuff, but because he is only "advanced" they put him in this class that pays lip service to education. Well let the other kids waste their time learning through "art" projects, I can and do teach him more by tutoring him for around 15 to 30 minutes a day once or twice a week. If I was rich or in an affluent district, he would be an accelerated math class every day... but no. My low rent school district ignores the needs of its strongest students because they are more worried about improving their "failing" students, which by the way are "failing" because of they don't use the most effective teaching methods.

Can you tell I'm a little pissed off?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Achievement First: Would it work in a rural area?

This morning I came across the Achievement First Charter School website. Not only does Achievement First appear to be highly successful, they have an excellent website that breaks down their philosophy, curriculum, expectations, and methods. One of the most interesting pages I came across was their "12 Lessons about School Reform". Here they are:

1. "These kids" CAN Learn
2. Leadership Matters - Mightily
3. Teachers Are More Important Than Curricula...
4. ...But Some Curricular Are Better Than Others
5. "Mere Mortals" Not "Superhumans"
6. An Unwavering Focus on Student Achievement
7. Interim Assessments and the Strategic Use of Data
8. One Hundred 1% Solutions
9. Serve ALL Urban Kids
10. Sweat the Small Stuff
11. Fidelity to a Clear, Consistent Model
12. Flywheel v. Doom Loop

I would love to see whether this model would work in the poor rural areas of South Carolina. Most charter school systems have targeted urban areas, since there is more money to be made there. It would be more difficult to attract the quality of teachers to rural areas, and their money per student is a lot less than urban districts, but if these charter school systems are truly out to prove that their methods work universally then the "corridor of shame" is the place to do it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Career Choices

More and more, I have been considering going in to education after my retirement from the AF in 3 years.

After my retirement, my plan is to use my GI Bill to finish up my Bachelors degree at the University of South Carolina. For a year now, while I have been knocking out general education classes, I have been trying to decide what to get a degree in. Mechanical engineering would be the obvious choice since it’s closely related to what I do now, but I still haven't made up my mind. I have also debated getting a degree in Math, but I am also interested in Education.

I wouldn't mind being a teacher, but seriously, I don't know if I could take the pay cut. Lately, I have been considering aiming for a degree in education psychology or research. I read so much about education theory as it is, I figured I might as well get credit for it. Perhaps I could teach for a few years and then move into administration... reform from the inside. Of course, if I did go into education, I know I would have trouble keeping my opinions to myself during all the education classes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Advice for Teachers

mellowman, one of my commenter’s made a great suggestion/remark.

He said he liked class websites that allow parents and students to see and/or download homework assignments.

This is one of those great ideas that would require an extraordinary amount of discipline from the teacher. Updating a website can be a time consuming practice, but the benefits would be immense.

Perhaps teachers should create a blog for each class. With today’s web based tools, it would only take a few minutes to create a blogger post and upload it to a website. They could do a short post outlining the homework assignments and any class notes. If they had electronic copies of any worksheets it should be relatively simple to upload it as well.

Parental Struggles Update

Just clarification of my earlier post Parental Struggles. The school imposed punishment is for one day of in-school suspension.

The idea to attend school with my niece is our punishment in addition to the school punishment. I can think of nothing more embarressing than having your uncle sit in all your 10th grade classes with you and hang out with you at school. I expect I will get some funny stares and a few smart ass comments, but we can not accept behavior like this. Besides, I will get to see the quality of teaching that goes on at our local High School, and I might even learn something.

Need Advice/Help!

Teachers, experts, parents... we need some advice/help.

One of our 3rd graders is behind in her reading comprehension skills. She is already getting after school tutoring that utilyzes computer based instruction, but we would like to know what else we can do to help at home. One idea that we had was to have her read out loud to us for her daily 15 minutes of reading and her reading worksheets, but we are unsure if this is the most effective method. Truthfully, we have limited time to spend hours of one on one instruction (6 kids, including an infant) and we can not afford private tutoring. We are looking for things that we can do to help her get more out of her current assignments and extra things we could do that take up no more than 20 to 30 minutes.

Parental Struggles

Niece busted for smoking at school. One day in-school suspension. In addition, I am going to take a day off work and sit in every class with her one day next week. Nothing worse than having a parent attend school with you. We also e-mailed every teacher of hers and let them know to report any misbehaviour, missed assignments, or unusual behavior.

I am disappointed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Advice for Teachers

"Parental involvement" it's one of those complaints that I run across frequently in the edublogosphere, but perhaps what we really need is more "teacher involvement".

A rough calculation shows that I have dealt with over 25 different teachers in my kids educational careers, and in that time I have seen a wide variety in the quality of teachers, the personality of teachers, and the style of teaching. I have seen strict disciplinarians, teachers that all students love, mother figures, burn outs, etc..., but I have made some observations about somethings that most good teachers have in common.

1. Organization. At the beginning of each school year we make an effort to drop in unannounced on our kids teachers, and one of the first things we notice is how organized their desk is. I know this might seem trivial, but we have noticed a direct correlation between the effectiveness of a teacher and their organizations skills. Teachers with messy desks are usually the same teachers that lose assignments, have trouble finding information if we ask for it, and are less likely to respond to notes from us.

2. Availability. Somehow, the good teachers always find time to talk to us when we drop in to see them. There is nothing more frustrating than playing note tag with a teacher when we are trying to get information or clarify something with the teacher. I recently had a teacher tell me to stop by after school to get some information, but when I did they were in the middle of a "conference". Don't tell me to stop by unless you know you are going to be free to talk with me... I work for a living.

3. Honesty. We know our kids aren't perfect and when we talk to/conference with a teacher we want to know exactly what our child needs to work on, the more specific the better. We don't want to know that our kid is "acting out", we want to know exactly what they did under what circumstance so that we can address it specifically with the child. If our child is struggling with something, don't tell us that they need help with "math" tell us that they don't know their "6x times tables".

4. Email. Everyone else in the world uses it, but for some reason teachers don't use it to help with communicating with parents. Instead of sending a note to school with a 1st grader, it would be so much easier if we could send a email and know the teacher was going to read it in a timely manner. In addition, instead of sending all those copied notes, send us an email, I know not every parent uses email, but a large majority do.

5. Pre-plan homework. We love teachers that give us all the homework for the week on the Mondays. That way we can have the kids work ahead if we know that they have a soccer game on Wednesday.

So teachers, if you work on your "teacher involvement" we parents will have an easier time working on "parental involvement".

Thursday, October 12, 2006

First Microsoft Now Google!

Education is booming business. Google is entering the education world. They have created Google for Educators which is intended to be a clearing house for how educators can use Google tools to enhance education. Like Microsoft, they have their own lesson plans, but unlike Microsoft their lesson plans appear to actually teach kids.

Google Earth is the coolest thing since sliced bread and I have to admit I have spent hours on it exploring the globe. Google has partnered up with Discovery Education to provide some fairly interesting lesson plans that utilize Google Earth.

And no, I am not against technology despite my tirades against the School of the Future. Technology, used correctly, is a great tool to enhance content knowledge. Using Google Earth to help teach geography and history is a stroke of genius.

Microsoft can take a lesson, but instead they waste time with lemonade.

South Carolina Education Roundup

Here's what’s happening in South Carolina Education News:

The push for school vouchers continue to make the news.

Controversy over a recent decision by the State Board of Education to give the same status to "dual-credit" classes as to AP/IB classes for qualifying for state scholarships. Parents who go to affluent schools that provide these classes are against this decision. They make the point that AP/IB classes are tougher than "dual credit" classes. Unfortunately, not all students have access to AP/IP classes, so the scholarships help kids from affluent schools disproportionately.

Lexington 1 school district implements language immersion program. I think this is a great idea, and conveniently we were planning on moving to this school district in two years when I retire from the Air Force. It will be too late for most of my kids, but my baby daughter will be able to take advantage of it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reading and Braces

This morning I got to speak to my first grader's teacher. I asked her if they used phonics at all to teach reading. She told me that "they" don't like them (the teachers) to use any one method of teaching, but she tries to use a little phonics during the lesson. I also asked if they used any reading programs, and she said no.

In other parenting news... my 3rd grade son is getting braces today. Just in case anyone wants to feel sorry for me, do you know how much money I am going to spend getting five kids braces. Four of them will probably overlap having braces. I am going to buy the orthodontists' vacation house for him.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another Report from the First Grade Trenches

D-Ed Reckoning: Report from the First Grade Trenches

Seriously if you don't read KDeRosa's blog on a daily basis, you are missing the best commentary in edublogging on the net. Enough kissing ass.

Since I also have a first grader, I thought I would compare my child's school experience with KDeRosa's.


In math, for example, they've only taken home about three homework assignments. One assignment asked them to draw pictures of things having numbers, like a clock or calendar. Another asked them to find a picture that told a math story--there are three dogs and two cats in this picture, how many are there all together.
In math, I think our school does a little bit better. We get about 3-4 math worksheets a week. It started out pretty basic the first two weeks, but quickly improved. Last week, all of her worksheets were on addition and subtraction. She seems to have quite a good grasp of the subject, so I have no complaints yet.


I hesitate to call what's going on reading since there is so little actual reading going on. The kids were given a DIBELS test and broken up into reading groups. Whether they were broken up by ability, I do not know. Teaching consists mostly of letting kids pick out books they like and letting them "read" them independently. If the kids can't read yet, they can look at the pictures. That's nice.
Our child is assigned 10 spelling words a week to learn. The words correspond with the words in her weekly reading story. She really stuggles with her reading, and seems to have no concept of phonics. Her teacher appears to be teaching her how to sight read. Unfortunately this means that she struggles with new words.


We aren't very happy with her teacher overall. I have been to the school several times and the teacher gives the impression of being unorganized and very inexperienced. Reading homework has been especially difficult, and often ends up with us getting very frustrated. While I am satisfied with her progress in math, I suspect its mostly due to innate aptitude instead of sound math instruction.

We do supplement her instruction at home, but we are nowhere as organized as KDeRosa nor are we able to spend the amount of individual time that he does.

Booo Yaaaaahhhhh

Girlfriend talks to district. Principal gets call. Dr. Counselor gets call, fixes problem, and apologizes.

Now wouldn't it of been much easier for him to hook us up at the beginning instead of having to get "talked to".

Also, niece is allowed back on cheerleading team. One rebel teenager turned into all american girl. We rock!


Bait and Switch

In my last post I said this: "I had to raise hell to get her enrolled in honors and college prep classes."

It appears I wrote to soon. When we got the hardcopy of my niece's schedule yesterday after school, she was NOT put in honors classes, despite Dr. Counselor looking me in the face and telling me that she would be.

My niece had some bad thing happen to her as a child that are still with her today. She is on daily med's to help her. The first semester of her freshman year she got into some "trouble". She was sent to us for her 2nd semester of school. Because we knew she was smart, we got her into honors classes despite her having terrible grades at her last HS. This is the results:

1st Semester Grades (She was absent most of the semester)
Math 69%
English 73%
NOTE: they actually gave us the highest "F" possible out of pity

2nd Semester Grades
Honors Algebra II 96% with a 98% score on the end of year exam -- year average 86%
Honors English 95% with a 100% score on end of year exam -- year average 87%
Honors Biology 82% with a 81% score on end of year exam -- year average 83%
NOTE: She wasn't in Biology in her first semester so her score on the exam reflects her literally only having 1/2 the course and having to teach herself the first half of the class!

With scores like this, we think that it is perfectly reasonable for us to expect her to have honors classes this year. It wasn't her or our fault that she had to attend another school for the first semester. She actually only got to attend 3 weeks of class at the school before she was allowed to sit out. (Long story, the situation was caused by lax parenting and a pyschologist that is ready to make any diagnosis that a parents asks for)

This is a school that serves a majority of disadvantaged students. Our niece, with the right parenting, can be a true success story at their school, but only if they help us help her.

Note: Not that it matters, but our Niece is Hispanic, so having her do well will also help them show that they are making gains on the "achievement gap"

Right now, my girlfriend is at the district office ready to raise hell with the district superintendent if that’s what it takes. I hope this gets fixed, because they have no idea the amount of fury that she can rain down on someone if they mess with our kids.

I have tried to avoid naming schools and people on this blog, but I have never been so tempted to identify the perpetrators.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Arggggg - Block Scheduling

I just got back from registering my niece at the local high school... what a frustrating experience. The school counselor was so condescending. I had to raise hell to get her enrolled in honors and college prep classes.

I also discovered that South Carolina uses some sort of block system. They have four periods a day. A class can either be a quarter class or a semester class. One semester class is equivalent to what I would consider one year of a normal class. For instance my high school math geometry class was a year long, but my niece's class is only one semester. Here is the conversation that followed:

Rory: So she could conceivably take two math classes in one year and do two years of math in one?

Dr. Counselor: Well actually no. Students are only allowed to take one core class of math or English a year.

Rory: Is it done like that in all of South Carolina?

Dr. Counselor: Yes, it makes it easier for students to transfer between classes.

Rory: Doesn't that affect how the students do in their classes, since many kids will have to wait anywhere from 6-months to a year between classes?

Dr. Counselor: Well maybe, but I have never looked into it.

Rory: Well I have seen the test scores, and that probably explains why South Carolina does so poorly on the SAT.
Seriously, it just seems idiotic. If someone has 1st semester algebra I in 9th grade that finishes in January, they might not get to do Algebra II until the 2nd semester of 10th grade… a full year between courses that obviously build upon the previous classes foundations.

When I went to High School, we had six classes a day. Math and languages were a whole year long. English classes were only a semester long, but you had to take at least one English class each semester… i.e. a composition class one semester and a literature class the next semester.

The other thing I learned is that the High School doesn’t do AP or IB classes at all. They actually have the local community college come in and teach a college course, in which they earn High School credit and college credit from the college.

I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand it does make sense, since I know there is a problem with some AP or IB instructors not being qualified to teach. Of course they will never make Newsweek’s list of top High Schools in the Country since the rankings are entirely based on AP and IP results (let me know if I am wrong on this).

Another thing… I have to pay for my niece to take the PSAT as a sophomore even though it’s a requirement to get into the South Carolina’s Governors School for Science and Mathematics. I also had to pay a bunch of school fee’s… isn’t public education meant to be free?

Update: A little googling led me to this great site on the problems with Block Scheduling by Jeff Lindsay. To sum it up... block scheduling sucks for the following reasons:

1. Limited attention spans of teenagers
2. Time between consecutive classes creates needs for remediation
3. Its a bummer for athletes and music classes
4. Difficulty when school is missed
5. Problems transferring.
6. Math, science and Foreign languages are better taught in small regular doses instead of intensive long sessions.

Looks like I found my next crusade!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Education Myths

Swamp Fox Insights points to this great essay entitled Education Myths by Jay Green.

Allow me to paraphrase.

1. The money myth: Throwing money at schools alone does not improve educational outcomes.

2. The teacher pay myth: Teacher's salaries are competitive when compared with people with similar skills and qualifications. High-performing graduates aren't taking up teaching because there isn't enough incentive for strong performance or longer hours.

3. The myth of insurmountable problems: Don't blame social problems, reform schools.

4. The class size myth: The benefits of reducing class size aren't worth the expense.

5. The certification myth: Reward teacher's performance instead of certifications and "paper" degree's.

6. The rich-school myth: Private school's perform better than public schools, despite the average private school tuition being less than that of the public schools average dollars per pupil.

7. The myth of ineffective school vouchers: School vouchers really do cause public schools to improve.

While I agree with many of the author's points, I am not sure I agree with all of his conclusions.

One of the problems with many school reformers (of which I consider myself) is a tendency to come across as advocating "vouchers" and competition as the end all solution to improving our countries education system.

One of the arguments that reformers always use, is how our students perform internationally. Yet, there seems to be almost no effort to emulate the best practice's of some of the high performing nations.

More Fun with the School of the Future

Microsoft's High-Tech High, A Philadelphia High School Has No Textbooks, Blackboards Or Paper But Plenty Of Laptops - CBS News

“One half of the period you're learning math, the other half of the period you're learning science. But it all comes together,” said one student.
So thats how to improve math and science performance; cut down instruction time. Duh... why didn't I think of that!

This is a $63 million project, and with so much emphasis on high-tech elements, you might expect that it would be more expensive than traditional schools. Officials say that is not the case.
I see the accountants for Enron found new jobs.

New school, free laptops, no wonder so many kids want to go there. There's no entrance exam, only a lottery. Fifteen-hundred kids applied, 170 got in — most of them African-American. There is an exit exam of sorts — in order to graduate, they have to apply to college.
Wooo hoooo, If I apply to graduate school, can I skip the rest of my college education?

The ultimate test will be whether technology as tutor will actually help students learn.


Im Back!

Well I'm back, one kid richer. Thanks to Dennis and Mrs Q. for your kind words... I appreciate them.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Adding one kid.

My 16 year old niece is coming to live with us. She originally came to live with us in December of 2005 because she had several issues (stole car, failing every class, drugs... etc) and her mom couldn't handle her.

In six months, we managed to turn her into a church going, straight "A" student. This summer when she went home to stay, her mom (my sister) and us got into a "spat" over our parenting style (strict), so her mom decided to send her to Los Angeles to live with her grandma (my mom). We told everyone that this was a horrible idea, because my mom's is just to easily fooled and not that involved, but everyone said that she was "fixed" and gave the credit to the medication that she had been put on.

After less than 6 weeks after starting school she was slipping into the same old patterns. so she is coming to live with us again.

I know, I know... this means we will now have 6 kids but she is family and she needs us.

Me and Shannon know we can get her back on track. She just requires some parents who are involved with her school (we get weekly updates on class progress), and some parents that sent reasonable expectations and limits.

Our results speak for themselves. When she came to live with us last December she was literally failing Every class. We advocated for her at the local school and got her into the college prep curriculum. The results... Straight "A's for her last semester and "B's" and "C's" for the year. Our goal was to get her through 9th grade, and we did it.

What does this mean to my loyal occasional readers? Well 6 kids gives me even more creditablity and a high schooler means that now I get to criticize the upper grades as well as K-8. (sic)

So... I am off to Los Angeles later today and will return Saturday. I managed to get a next day round-trip flight for $250 to pick her up. Priceline rocks!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shop class redux

Response to Righwingprof comment in my last post:

rightwingprof said...
Except that testing had nothing to do with shop classes disappearing; the ever increasing pressure for everybody to go to college did, long before testing.

Completely agree.

First of all, standardized testing doesn’t and shouldn’t measure ever single subject taken in High School. It should evaluate students on basic core skills such as reading, writing, some civics/history, science and math.

Most HS students take 6 classes a semester, 2 of which are usually filler elective classes which are not usually covered under standardized testing. It use to be that once upon the time, you could choose between woodshop and biology, but not anymore. Somewhere, some idiots got in their heads that the sole purpose of High Schools should be to prepare kids for college, and despite the obvious fact that there aren’t even enough universities and colleges with places to accept everyone. There has been a tendency to require a more and more rigorous college prep curriculum simply to graduate HS.

Unfortunately this thinking is almost guaranteed to set up a large percentage of students to fail. Student’s who aren’t cut out for or don't desire to attend college; find they struggle in a system that is only designed to prepare them for a college education. Their only option is to stick it out in classes that they don’t need or aren’t interested in so that they can perhaps find a technical college or trade school after they graduate. Of course, many student’s find simply find this too challenging and just drop out of school. Even if they do graduate, they find that they are too burnt out on education to continue on with any decent job training.

What I would like to see, is our one size fits all system replaced with a system that provides an excellent college preparatory foundation for those who would benefit, but also an option that provides a more practical route that works hand in hand with local business’s and technical/community colleges to provide high quality training in the skilled trades. There are many occupations that are high paying, do not require a college degree, but do require a technical background and skills training.

Perhaps what we need is a system that provides different categories or levels of the traditional High School diploma. This system would allow students who are on a college prep track to have their class standing and GPA compared fairly by universities. It would also give student’s that might be at risk of dropping out another avenue to pursue. If a student who for what ever reason was struggling with the normal college prep curriculum had an option to become certified as a mechanic, plumber, electrician, or some other highly skilled trade, they might be more willing to stick it out til 12th grade.

Now I know that I will get many people who say this is nothing but “tracking” which has become a dirty word in our current system. Of course this is a form of tracking, but it’s tracking with an end result that all students will graduate with knowledge and skills that benefit them and the nation economically. Yes there should be provisions put into place that allows students to change course mid-stream, providing they demonstrate the ability to successfully complete the required “requirements” for the new track, just like a student in college is able to switch majors.

Many European countries have systems that work along these lines and as a whole, provide a much better trained workforce. I lived in several different European countries for over 12 years and witnessed first hand what a decent education system can do. In Germany I had a friend who self-admittedly would have never made it through college, but he attended a trade oriented school that allowed him to eventually secure training as an aircraft mechanic. He currently makes quite a good living, but I can't help but wonder what would of happened to him in the United States.

Our economy requires more than lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, and accountants to function. It requires high skilled mechanics, air traffic controllers, plumbers, electricians, nondestructive inspection technicians (what I do), and a variety of other jobs that do not require a traditional high school education. Today many of these jobs are learned through on the job training or technical colleges, though there is no reason why they couldn’t be taught at the HS level.

There are avenues for people to get this skilled training, but they often require expensive training that ensures only the priviledge have access to it. If you don't believe this, go look out how much it costs to attend ITT. I don't want to know schools like ITT since they provide some much needed skills, but I wonder if the instructors at ITT don't get frustrated that their students never learned how to use simple hand tools or don't know how to an internal combustion engine works. Maybe they would be happier if their students showed up already certified to weld or able to use a computer aided drawing program.

Note: My girlfriend who is a nursing student, reminds me that there are many healthcare related occupations that do not require a college degree.

Shop class is back!

CNN - Rebuilding shop classes in U.S. high schools

Vocational education classes, once commonplace, began to languish as standardized tests started to determine success and failure and college became a singular goal. Now called career technical education courses, they are beginning to enjoy a renaissance.


Around the country, high schools are being transformed into career academies or adding smaller vocational schools within their buildings. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley recently announced an initiative that will let high school students become qualified to work in particular industries. Students would then use their certificates to find high-skill, high-paying jobs.
This rocks... common sense in the school system.

Not all kids are going to college, thats a fact. Providing kids who aren't going to go to college with high quality training in the skilled trades is good for the kids and good for the country.

Many european countries have understood this for a while and have an excellent trades program, many with formal apprenticeship programs.

I have an idea formulating, but I have to go to a meeting...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Self-promotion and Self-criticism

In keeping with the time honored tradition of shameless self-promotion, I have an article up over at edspresso commenting on a recent op-ed by The State newspaper.

I hate reading my own posts. Unlike 99% of education bloggers, I do not have a college degree, and while I think my blogging has improved since I started, but I am no where near the level that I would like to be on. So if your reading my blog, I would like to offer a heartfelt thank you for ignoring my spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and lack of expertise and reading my idea's (whether you agree with me or not).

Wooo Hooooo we are mediocre!

The State 10/03/2006 College study ranks states K-12 system in the middle nationally

Gots to go to work... but the article is about this report.

Sara, Sara, Sara

Sara Mead responds to this article by Judith Kleinfeld over at the NRO, which critizes this report by her saying that the whole boys failing crisis is overblown. Her rationing:

Kleinfeld has to seize on this silly exchange because the actual reasons that I argue we should be cautious embracing "boy crisis" hype have nothing to do with "men oppressing women." Rather than falling, boys' achievement has actually increased over time on a host of measures. There are some places where that's not the case, and even where it's rising, boys' achievement isn't rising fast enough or as fast as that of girls. But that doesn't discount the fact that boys are doing better than in the past in many ways.
Me thinks she doth protest to much. Lets have a little fun.

Kleinfeld has to seize on this silly exchange because the actual reasons that I argue we should be cautious embracing "boy crisis" the income inequality hype have nothing to do with "men oppressing women" "rich oppressing poor" Rather than falling, boys' achievement poor people's quality of life has actually increased over time on a host of measures. There are some places where that's not the case, and even where it's rising, boys' achievement poor peoples quality of life isn't rising fast enough or as fast as that of girls the rich. But that doesn't discount the fact that boys poor people are doing better than in the past in many ways.
Wow... that was fun, but I'm tired... you get the point, using this logic would allow us to ignore half a dozen other "gaps". Lets move on to see what she says next.

More significantly, I'm concerned that generalized fears about a boy crisis distract attention from the groups--students with disabilities, poor and minority youngsters of both genders (although the problems facing boys in these groups are more pronounced)--who suffer from much more significant educational gaps. And I'm concerned that a lot of explanations and solutions being peddled for the boy crisis are based on ideological agendas, misinformation, and little hard research--exactly the recipes for goofy educational practices and bad curricula that have been undermining our education system for years. There are perfectly good reasons to be concerned about the impacts of the boy crisis hype and some of its practitioners' recommendations for boys, leave girls out of it for a moment.
Wait... is she saying that we shouldn't worry about boys because she doesn't like the solutions that boy advocates are proposing? Ok, I'm not an expert but aren't the usual boy crisis solutions single sex education, more male teachers, and different teaching strategies? Seriously, none of these solutions seems to be outrageous. Its not like people are proposing that we lock girls up and don't send them to school. Come to think of it, wouldn't most of these strategies help girls as well? (except for the lock girls up one :p) Wouldn't closing the gender gap also help close the achievement gap, since the gender gap is larger among minorities?

Sara's last line sum's up her fears:

Its been fascinating--and disappointing--to me to see how conservatives, who are generally skeptical of conferring victim status, and critical of untested new educational ideas, seem to embrace both so uncritically when the "victims" are boys and the education "innovations" include single sex schools and implementing gender stereotypes in the classroom.
Wait a minute here... who said anything about implementing gender stereotypes. I have not come across a single supporter of single sex education that has advocated "implementing gender stereotypes". Lets play our little game again:

Its been fascinating--and disappointing--to me to see how conservatives liberals, who are generally skeptical of all for conferring victim status, and critical supportive of untested new educational ideas, seem to embrace reject both so uncritically when the "victims" are boys and the education "innovations" include single sex schools and implementing gender stereotypes equality in the classroom.
I couldn't of said it any better myself.

Disclaimer: I am a bit of a liberal myself (loved Bill Clinton, not fan of Bush, think Iraq war is not going so great, support gay marriage, believe in progressive taxes, believe in a minimum wage, think there is systemic racism in America, etc...). I know Sara cares passionately about education and I read her posts regularly, I just think she is a bit off the mark on this subject. For the record, I reject the ad hominem attack on her made by Judith Kleinfeld.

Monday, October 02, 2006


A new chapter in education: unschooling: Controversial home-taught approach lets kids take the lead in learning - Newsweek

Interested in the Greeks? Start cookingWhile homeschooling began as a trend among fundamentalist Christians with largely religious motivations, unschooling is more about educational philosophy. It’s rooted in the belief that humans are naturally driven to learn and will do so fiercely if left to their own devices.Unschooling is difficult to define because no two unschoolers do the same thing.

Kike homeschoolers, unschooled children don’t attend traditional class. Unlike most homeschoolers, however, unschoolers do not follow any sort of curriculum. Children are allowed and encouraged to set the agenda and pace using their parents, their own lives and their homes and communities as resources.

So if they want to spend all day learning about bugs or gardening, they head outdoors. If they’re interested in criminal justice, parents might set up a visit to the police station or help them get books on the subject. If something about Greek mythology piques their interest, maybe they’ll cook Greek food or write a play about Perseus and the Gorgon. Or maybe not.

“Here’s how I define it: Unschooling is allowing your child as much freedom to explore and learn from the world as you can comfortably bear as a parent,” says Farenga, co-author of "Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling."

Others have called unschooling ambient learning or child-led learning. Some call it bunk.

You think?

I am for choice, but not all choices are good.