Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To much homework...

I'm not the only person that thinks our kids have to much homework. Claudia Wallis has a great article entitled The Myth About Homework.

LAUSD eliminates achievement gap... really!

A while back there was some minor debate in the edublogosphere about Charles Murray's opinion piece on the gaming of the achievement gap. Well the LAUSD has finally managed to eliminate the achievement gap. How you ask? By officially redefining it as the "proficiency gap". The proficiency gap is defined as

"100% minus the percent of a subgroup scoring Proficient or above (Proficiency+) on official performance assessments (i.e., California Standards Tests). For example, if 55 percent of students in a subgroup scores Proficient or above on the California Standards Test - English Language Arts, then the English Language Arts Proficiency Gap for that subgroup would be 45 percent;"

This is of course is awesome, because if lets say you manage to get one group scoring 100% proficient on the exam and another group scores 100% advanced on the exam, you still dont have a gap!

Talented and Gifted... what a waste!

How can our schools be expected to teach the average child when they can't even teach the gifted students. My son is in the talented and gifted (TAG) program this year. It's a pull out program that involves pulling him out of his normal class one afternoon a week. Today I went to the school district office to speak to the administrator about the curriculum that they would be using. I was quite disappointed to learn that there would be no accelerated learning, instead they would by using constructivism to learn the same material as everyone else, but more in depth. My son was placed in the program because of his math skills, so I was hoping that they would be able to challenge him by teaching him at a faster pace. He has long since learned the multiplication tables, but instead of moving right along to division, he will have to wait another two months while every one else masters 7 x 6 = 42. Once again we will have to suck it up at home to challenge our children, but with the hour of homework, soccer practice, the baby, our homework, dinner, its getting more and more difficult to find the time.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Steve Barr over as Eduwonk asks about people's experiences with PTA's. I have attended several PTA meetings at my kids schools, but found them to be a waste of time quite frankly. The PTA's tend to be dominated by military parents (we have a large Air Force Base in town) while the local parents are more apathetic. They tend to be nothing more than a booster club, trying to raise money or put on some sort of event. I am sure if I stood up and tried to start a debate over the achievement gap, direct instruction vs. constructivism, or single sex education, I would be treated as a pariah. Now the school board, thats where the real power is...

Monday, August 28, 2006

From the Trenches of Public Ed.

I have been having a discussion with Dennis from From the Trenches of Public Ed. He made a statement that I thought I would clear up. In one of his comments to my last post he says "You seem to be very unhappy with some of the teachers at your kids' school." Its not that we are happy with our teachers, we actually get along with and work well with all our teachers, but then again we are active involved parents. Having said that there are some issues or problems that we have come across. One of our 3rd grade teachers gives way to much homework, especially compared to our other 3rd graders class. An hour and a half of homework a night is way to much for a 8 year old, especially since it seems to be busy work and somewhat redundant.

The scariest thing we have seen, was in our 1st grade teachers class. I had stopped by the classroom to just say hi, and we saw three boys sleeping (when I say sleeping, I mean laying across chairs and snoring) while the rest of the class was having reading time. When I asked the teacher about it a few days later, she said that it happens quite often with those students and that she had contacted their parents. She also said that if she doesn't let them sleep they tend to be disruptive. Personally, while I have to question the system that allows this, frankly if having those boys sleep allows my child to get a better education then I'm not going to complain.

All and all, I tend to be pragmatic. While I disagree with some aspects of the system, I realize that I am not going to be able to change it. If it takes a few extra hours a week of my time to ensure my kids get the basics they need, then I am more than willing to give it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Public School Teachers

Dennis from From the Trenches of Public Ed. has come up with a solution to solve the American education system. He wants to kick out the "apathetic" from the nations classrooms. Of course we all know course we know which sort of students he means when he says that. No wonder there is an achievement gap with teachers like this. Pathetic.

Note: Read his reply to KDeRosa in the comments for the details. - Study Shows Teacher's Gender Affects Students' Performance - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

Once again it takes a scientific study scientific study to show what 90% of parents could of told you. Give me a choice and I would choose a male teacher for my son and a female teacher for my daughters. Im sure this is going to set off a round of debates and denials between the "experts". Note Marcia Greenberger from the National Womens Law Center says "The data, as he presents them, are far from convincing". Don't you wonder if any amount of data would convince her... I doubt it. Is it about education or politics?

New Math vs. Old Math

My oldest daughter struggled in 5th grade math. Her biggest problem... her multiplications skills. When I was a child, the multiplication tables were drilled into me... commited to memory. Her 3rd grade teacher taught the multiplication facts by teaching children to skip count, to use some finger trick with the 9's, and all kinds of other tricks, everything except to just memorize them. Unfortunately, learning long division and factoring requires that you know the tables by heart. Luckily were able to take advantage of NCLB provisions and get her extra tutoring in math where her multiplication tables were redrilled into her. We take part of the blame for not realizing how the schools were shortchanging her, but we learned our lesson. Both of our 3rd graders already know their multiplication facts through to the 12's because we took an hour each day during 2nd grade to drill them into their heads. Now in 3rd grade they are both well ahead of their peers, but it took time and effort on my and their moms part. My recommendation... don't trust your kids teachers to teach the basics.

Sample size and more than meets the eye...

Erin Dillon over at the The Quick and the Ed points out how Walt Whitman High School, an otherwise strong school, had an atrocious pass rate for African Americans in Algebra on the Maryland High School Assessment exam. Only 33% of Walt Whitman's Walt Whitman's African Americans passed in 2006, down from 38.5% in 2005 and 55.6% in 2004. Of course what Erin fails to mention, is that there are only 15 African American students at Walt Whitman High School. In fact, since 2002 exactly 5 African Americans have passed the Algebra test. The only difference is that the number of African Americans taking the test has varied from 9 to 17. If we look at data from 2003, it now appears as if Walt Whitman has increased its African American pass rate from by 4%. How did I find out this information... hours and hours of exhaustive research... no... I just hit the detail button on the chart that Erin linked to. Now I'm not expert at statistics, but it seems to me that this is a tiny sample size to make an informed judgment on. I am a firm believer in making education decisions based on numbers and research, but even a layman like me can see that you need a large enough sample of students to make these decisions. Perhaps Walt Whitman is neglecting its African American students but then again, perhaps Walt Whitman is just a victim of a statistical blip.

Married couples going Childless at Newsweek

Talk about the "me" generation. Let them enjoy their vacations now. We will see who is laughing in 40 years when they are realize while sitting in a nursing home that they are lonely, will leave no mark in the world and be remembered by no one. Better yet, lets have true social security reform... since the retired of tomorrow will be supported by the children of today, lets base social security on how many children you have.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sparks Fly over Race and IQ

Brad over at Hunblog and KDeRosa from D-Edreconking go at it over Race and IQ.

Update: Brad throws in the towel.