Friday, December 28, 2007

A Bearish Sign on N.Y. Home Prices - December 27, 2007 - The New York Sun

A Bearish Sign on N.Y. Home Prices - December 27, 2007 - The New York Sun:

New York City's status as a rosy exception to the nation's slowing housing market may be starting to come to an end.
Right now, most residents of NYC think that they are immune to the housing crash slump, but I'm not so sure.

Some real estate analysts say that despite the country's overall slowdown, Manhattan apartment prices will maintain an upward trajectory in the fourth quarter. "Our fourth quarter report is coming out next week and we expect price growth will continue," the chief economist at Halstead Property, Gregory Heym, said. "Several new condo developments are starting to close, such as the Plaza and 15 Central Park West, which will help push up prices."

In addition to apartment closings at new developments, where prices are often high, there are many larger units that are also closing, Mr. Heym said. Despite the market turmoil, Wall Street bonuses at many firms are expected to be solid, and with a weak dollar, foreign buyers continue to flock to Manhattan.
I guess in a few years Manhattan is going to consist of nothing but Wall Street executives living amongst a bunch of empty foreign owned apartments that are only used a couple of weekends a year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Seven things

Seven things at Joanne Jacobs

So Joanne tagged me. Normally I don't participate in these sort of things, but as you may of noticed, I have been slack about blogging. So without further ado, seven random things about me:

1. I have lived over half my life overseas, in New Zealand and Europe.

2. I am planning a trip to Vietnam this year to help my brother find his birth father.

3. I divorced my first wife twice.

4. While living in Europe, I got involved in Hashing.

5. I have had the same best friend since 7th grade.

6. I hate horror movies.

7. I have two 1959 Vespa GS150 scooters in my garage that I am restoring (very very slowly).

This branch of seven things will die with me, since most of the blogs I read have already been tagged.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Multiple Choice Question

EXCLUSIVE: Paulson 'Optimistic' on Subprime Plan:

Paulson said the plan will not be a government-run bailout of subprime borrowers, and the banks that loaned them money. Instead, Paulson said, the government is just providing an industry-sponsored solution to borrowers who can afford to own a home but would have trouble making their mortgage payments after a reset.

'This is not a government subsidy that we're talking about here,' said Paulson.

'This is something that the industry will do where it makes sense.'

The plan would establish guidelines for lenders to freeze payments for homeowners who qualify for the program. Paulson said the program would be completely voluntary, and only some borrowers would qualify.

He said homeowners who can handle an increase in payments and those who don't 'have the financial capability to own a home' will not be offered an interest-rate 'freeze. [emphasis mine]
Once upon a time their were three families who both bought a home June of 2006. The families were identical in every way. They had the same credit rating, the same amount of debt, the same income, the same number of kids. For all practical purposes they were mirror images of each other, except for one thing...

The first family decided to buy a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom starter house in a decent neighborhood using a fixed rate interest loan which they were able to get because they had been saving up for a down payment for several years. They made sure to take out a loan that they could afford and because they already had some built in equity, they weren't to worried about the housing market.

The second family decided to buy a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom executive home in a great neighborhood. They did take out an adjustable rate loan, but they weren't to worried since they made sure that the house wasn't so expensive that they couldn't afford the reset if for some reason they were unable to refinance in a couple of years. It would be tight, but they figured they would be ok, especially since their payments were exactly the same as the first family and they had a bigger and better house.

The third family decided to buy a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom McMansion instead. They knew they wouldn't be able to afford to the reset, but figured what the hell, they would always be able to refinance, because after all "housing prices always go up." They can afford their current payment, but it is tight.

Multiple Choice Question: Which family will soon get a helping hand?

The first family is living within their means, they made good decisions, and are financially sound... they won't be getting anything from the government.

The second family is still OK. They might be overstretched, but at least they were smart enough to make sure they could afford the reset. The government doesn't give a crap about them either.

The third family is living it up, living far and above their means. Yes... this family will be getting a helping hand from President Bush and the rest of the crooks that run the predatory mortgage companies.

Can you say Moral Hazard?

Moral Hazard is the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently, for example, that an insured party's behavior will be more risky than it would without the insurance. Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.

U.S., Banks Near A Plan to Freeze Subprime Rates

Free Preview -

U.S., Banks Near A Plan to Freeze Subprime Rates

By Deborah Solomon and Michael M. Phillips
Word Count: 1,346 | Companies Featured in This Article: Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration and major financial institutions are close to agreeing on a plan that would temporarily freeze interest rates on certain troubled subprime home loans, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

An accord could reassure investors and strapped homeowners, both of whom are anxious as interest rates on more than two million adjustable mortgages are scheduled to jump over the next two years. It could also give a boost to the Bush administration, which is facing criticism for inaction amid the recent housing turmoil.

It's pretty sad when even the Republican party is turning into market manipulating, welfare state supporting, gutless panderers.

And the main stream media wonders why people support candidates like Ron Paul. I will never ever vote for a single politician who supports this plan.

Next year for an encore they are going to pay off debts for anyone who files for bankruptcy. Go ahead, don't worry about your credit rating, take out some bad loans, be late on payments, buy that third house on a subprime loan, the government will be hear to bail you out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I.G.N.I.T.E.: Another Anchorage Gifted Blog


Today I found another blog, this one ran by a gifted teacher in the Anchorage School District.

He only has a few posts, but I think it illustrates nicely what todays current gifted education consist off.

While some of their activities are interesting (launching a model rocket and seeing how much weight a balloon can lift), I suspect that the activities could of just as been easily accomplished by your average elementary school student.

Why do gifted programs bother to put selective criteria on admission and then dumb down the curriculum?

Can you imagine the outrage if we tried to put all high school students in the same math and english classes? Ability grouping is fine for older kids, but younger kids just have to suffer. Can't let the kids get to far ahead... right?

Last night I taught my 4th grader how to add, subtract, and multiply mixed fractions in approximately one hour, and he isn't even in the gifted program.

Imagine what they (elementary school gifted programs) could do if they spent their two hours a week providing accelerated math instruction, and perhaps some more challenging science and reading.

Anchoragegifted’s Weblog

Anchoragegifted’s Weblog

Last night I ran across the Anchorage School Districts Gifted Blog. It's a great idea for communication, but I hope to see it updated a bit more.

I posted a comment asking for more information, so hopefully I can spur some debate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Good Idea Backfires

Two weeks ago, Aurora Elementary instituted a great program in which students were rewarded for eating healthy foods. Teachers and volunteers would go around during lunch, and give tickets to students eating a healthy food. Our kids loved it, they insisted on having healthy snacks for lunch, and came home everyday bragging about getting tickets.

Fastforward to this morning...

Our normal morning routines consists of waking the kids up around 7am, so that they can eat breakfast, get ready, make their own lunches, and then leave at 8:30 to catch the bus. Normally, I am around to oversee this since I get home from my grave shift at around 730am, right before my wife leaves for work.

This morning though, my wife and I decided to take our toddler to day care together at around 8am. The kids were already ready, all they had to do was make their lunch, and head out the door. They had a full half hour to complete this simple task.

We pulled up to the house at around 9am after stopping off for coffee, looking forward to coming inside and relaxing in an empty house. Imagine our surprise when we walked into the house, and our kids were still there.

Seems like they "couldn't find any healthy snacks" so just decided to miss the bus. This is two 10 year olds and an 8 year old.

After we chewed their little behinds and dropped them off at school, my wife and I laughed our asses off, at how dedicated to healthy snacks they were.

Funny enough they still prefer junk food on the weekends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Warren High School Class of 88

Ok, this post is doing nothing more than creating a link for google search..., just ignore it. Unless of course you happened to graduate from Warren High School, Downey, California in 1988, then go on over.

Almost forgot, here is the link: Warren High School Class of 88

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Housing Bubble and the Military

It occurred to me that military people will be hit especially hard during this housing downturn.

Thanks to housing privatization, the supply of base housing is being greatly reduced, so more military people have been buying houses the last few years. Military people are conservative (poor) by nature, and we tend to use fixed rate VA loans, with very little down. Unfortunately, we are also subjected to mandatory military moves, so when we need to sell, we need to sell. Add to this that many bases are located in huge bubble areas (3 AF bases in Fl, Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, 2 AF bases in AZ, etc...).

I already know of a few people who are hurting because they can't sell their house. There is added stress because a foreclosure looks bad on the military member, and the hit can affect their security clearance.

I am predicting that this will become a major issue in the military in the next few years. For the record, the military will not buy your house, unless it is a result of a down market caused by a base closure. On military moves, we are on our own.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Schools stunned by voter rejection

Schools stunned by voter rejection:

Voters looked at their rising mortgage payments, the empty houses on their streets and a shaky economy. Then, in 17 of 22 districts, they shot down proposals to maintain funding for Valley schools, deciding they couldn't afford it.
Expect much more of this. The housing market is tanking, people are asking for lowered property tax appraisals, tax receipts are down, we are on the verge of a major recession... school funding is going to be a low priority for many people.

Of course, as house prices come down to reasonable levels, teachers will be able to finally afford to buy a decent house in a decent neighborhood.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Friday, Friday, Friday is my favorite day.
Friday, Friday, Friday is my favorite day.
Monday is a bummer, Tuesday's only fair.
Wednesday's gettin' better, Thursday's almost there,
Friday, Friday Friday is my favorite day.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The housing slump and Education

Housing slump affects sales tax collections |

Georgia's tax collections fell slightly last month, following a trend across the country where the housing slump has begun to affect state budgets and sparked talk of spending cuts for education and health care.
As houses depreciate, property taxes will inevitable be reduced. Not only will their be less property taxes collected, but spenders will also cut back on a lot of discretionary spending, causing a reduction in sales tax collections.

Education will be a primary target for local and state governments, when they look to make spending cuts.

The hardest hit areas are going to be large cities with a significant portion of poor and minority students. Reduced funding won't make all that much difference to well funded middle class suburban school districts.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How to tell if your local Gifted Program is worth a S%^#

Walk in to your local elementary school and observe a hour of the gifted program.

Ask yourself if they did anything in that hour that was beyond the capacity of an average child.

If the answer is no, then the chances are that you just witnessed your tax dollars going up in smoke.

Proud parents...

Our 2nd grader, who is a struggling reader, won an award Friday for "outstanding diligence".

We weren't quite sure what this meant and why she was chosen, but our daughter explained it to us.

"The teacher wrote everyone's name on a piece of paper and put it in the hat. Then she picked out four names, and I won. Aren't you so proud of me daddy?"

Actually I am very proud of her, but I don't need meaningless awards to justify it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


No, not a teacher, not the schools, me.

I am on grave shift for the next few months.

I go to work at 1130 at night and then get off at 730 in the morning. After the kids leave for school at 830, I sleep until they get home. Then its pick up the baby, do homework, cook dinner, and then put the kids to the bed.

Anyways... I am so jet lagged, my brain is mush.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I am so wrong...

The housing market crash has finally hit cable. I am sitting here watching "Please buy my house".

One woman desperate to sell her 3/4 of a million dollar home hired a feng shui expert, another family went on to a local real estate radio program and practically begged for someone to buy, while another couple hired their grandson to decorate.

Idiots. Lower the friggin price... this isn't 2005. The bubble is over. Homes are places to live, not investments.

Ok, I do feel a bit for the older couple... but its is a bit entertaining to see desperation in real estate instead of all those smug house flipper shows.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Good things about Aurora Elementary on Elmendorf Air Force Base

I know I complain a lot, so here are some really cool things about my kids school and classes.

My 4th grade girls teacher uses a wireless surround sound system so that all of the kids can hear. He is also setting up a class blog.

My 2nd grade teachers doesn't assign reading stories from their whole language text book, instead she sends home photocopies "decodeable" books on the sly. She also has assigned several reading groups in class based on skill level. My daughter is in the lowest, but is improving tremendously.

The school has a really active running club for all grades and puts on track meets. They also have a great P.E. program, and plenty of recess.

My 4th grade son's teacher doesn't overload with homework, which is great, even if he has to do the occasional poster.

The staff is super friendly.

Oh and the math teacher at my 7th graders school pulled out some antique "old school" math text books from 1991 to supplement the "integrated" math books bought by the district. She told the class that they would be mostly working out of the old books. Get this, the old books actually have math stuff in them.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Real homework!

My son got real homework today... a math worksheet. Of course it was only because his class was acting up, otherwise all they would of had was the project.

Would it be wrong of me to tell my son to act up everyday to ensure he actually learns something?

Monday, October 01, 2007

First Stupid Project of the Year

Today my son doesn't have any math, reading, or writing homework. Instead, he has to do a fire prevention poster, due by Friday.

The poster will be graded on creativity and neatness.

I am still trying to decide if I should question the assignment or literally have him shut up and color.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Supposedly Direct Instruction works...

According to this book, Direct Instruction works, at least thats what Marginal Revolution says:

Ayres argues that large experimental studies have shown that the teaching method which works best is Direct Instruction (here and here are two non-academic discussions which summarizes much of the same academic evidence discussed in Ayres). In Direct Instruction the teacher follows a script, a carefully designed and evaluated script. As Ayres notes this is key:

DI is scalable. Its success isn't contingent on the personality of some uber-teacher....You don't need to be a genius to be an effective DI teacher. DI can be implemented in dozens upon dozens of classrooms with just ordinary teachers. You just need to be able to follow the script.

Contrary to what you might think, the data also show that DI does not impede creativity or self-esteem. The education establishment, however, hates DI because it is a threat to the power and prestige of teaching, they prefer the model of teacher as hero. As Ayres says "The education establishment is wedded to its pet theories regardless of what the evidence says." As a result they have fought it tooth and nail so that "Direct Instruction, the oldest and most validated program, has captured only a little more than 1 percent of the grade-school market."

Who would of thought...

Update: Go read the comments, pretty interesting, with the usual character showing up to enlighten the idiots.

Gifted: No Thank You!

Even though my 4th grade son was in the gifted program at his last school, I declined to have him tested for the gifted program here in Anchorage. I asked around and discovered that the gifted program here was exactly like I feared it would be.

It wasn't all that hard a decision. His experience last year in South Carolina was a waste of time. He colored more posters in his gifted class than he did in art class.

It seems like the supervisor of Anchorage's gifted program ran across my post, and is concerned (last comment), to quote her:

Last week there was a Gifted Parent Forum in Anchorage and its too bad you did not attend. There was much discussion about Gifted Education and the challenges educators face when trying to meet the educational needs of gifted children.
I am more concerned about the challenges that gifted children have, than the challenges of their teachers.

Except for the Individualized Acceleration (IA) Program at Rogers Park Elementary, Anchorage's IGNITE gifted program consists of "enrichment opportunities that incorporates universal themes with classroom learning in alignment with the district's standards and goals".

It seems to me that the biggest challenge that gifted teachers have is finding enough time wasting "enrichment" activities to spend time doing to prevent the kids from getting to far ahead.

Amazingly they have a different standard for the highly gifted. If you score in the 99.5 percentile on an IQ test you get to be taught at an accelerated pace, but if you score at the 96-99.4 percentile all you get is extra projects.

No thank you... I will stick to after-schooling.

p.s. I have spoken to several Anchorage teachers in several different grades and several different schools about the gifted program. Off the record, a few of them said it was a waste of time, while most were tactfully neutral. Not a single one praised it.

Disclaimer: it is entirely possible that my son would not qualify for Anchorage's gifted program, as the cutoff here is 2 percentile points higher, but I can't be bothered to find out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Alaska, termination dust, and more homework

Have I mentioned how awesome Alaska is? The people are unbelieveably friendly, not fake friendly like in the south, really seriously friendly.

Last week we got "termination dust" on the mountains. When you see snow settling on the peaks of the mountains, you know that that it will be snowing in the city within a few weeks. It is natures way of telling us that summer is over, and winter is here. (There isn't much of a fall)

We have managed to get a handle on the four kids homework.

We used to make the kids do it as soon as they got home from school, but because school starts and ends late here (930 - 330), we let the kids play until dinner, and then do their homework. It gives them and us a break after school and work to relax and unwind before dealing with the tears...

Our biggest problem is that one of our 4th graders teachers gives more homework than the other one. It causes a few problems, but we usually supplement the homework to mitigate the problems.

In other news, a guy from work brought in some smoked salmon today... OMG was it good. I am so taking up fishing next year.

To Rightwingprofessor: No moose BBQ yet, but we have a family of three moose hanging out in our backyard.

I swear once I get settled in more, I will have more sarky commentary. For now go read D-Edreckoning... he had attitude and facts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Don't laugh... major breakthrough

I was helping my 2nd grader read her decodeable books this evening and all of the sudden I noticed the helping e rule of thumb for whether a vowel is going to be long or short, except for "v" words. (i.e. the "i" in hide is long and the "i" in hid is short, long "a" in made, short "a" in mad. I don't know if there is an official name for it)

I told my daugher the rule, then practiced it for a bit, and it was amazing how quickly her reading improved in a matter of minutes.

Instead of guessing long or short vowel sounds, now she can figure it out most of the time. I swear her reading speed improved by 50% within half an hour.

I am an extremely fluent reader, and this simple rule of thumb never occurred to me consciously until tonight. I had somehow internalized the rule without being aware of it. What I can't figure out is why her 1st grade teacher never pointed it out to her. Perhaps she would be reading on grade level.

I also pointed out that "v" words are weird and don't always follow this rule. i.e. "ive" words can be short or long, and ave words are almost always short.

Teaching kids how to read is hard. You would think someone would come up with a systematic way to teach all the phonetic sounds and letter combinations, instead of relying on a parent to stumble on them by accident.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My (I mean my sons) first progress report

I got my sons first weekly progress report today, and he was missing one assignment.

Last Friday, he gave me a copy of his weekly home journal, which I read then promptly forgot.

I guess I was meant to not only sign it, but also write back comments for him to turn in on Monday.

So he did the writing, but because his father mess up, he gets dinged with a missing assignment.

I didn't realize I would be graded this year.

I sure hope I am not required to do a science project...

Don't worry though, I already did my assignment this Friday. I signed my name in my best cursive, and wrote a three sentence paragraph. The paper is already back in my sons folder.

p.s. to be fair, we love Alaska, and the school is pretty well run (except the whole curriculum thing, but you can't have everything).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spelling Sentences

I have nightmares about writing sentences for spelling words. Helping 2nd and 4th graders write 15 - 25 (correct) sentences is tedius.

Why can't teachers split the sentences up through out the week... it aint rocket science.

Posted during hour 2 of 15 2nd grade sentences.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

St. Paul school conquers the education achievement gap

St. Paul school conquers the education achievement gap

Great title for an article, except of course it isn't true. While the schools test scores are excellent for all demographic groups, there is still a significant achievement gap.

Approximately 90% of the schools white students are proficient in reading (according to the Minnesota state test), while 65% of its black students are proficient and only about 40% of its Native American students are proficient.

It has managed to eliminate the gap between Hispanic and white students.

Don't believe me? Check for yourself.

Do newspapers fact check education stories at all?

Homework... it's back! (and still sucks)

The kids (and schools) have hit the ground running. It's homework time again, and Aurora Elementary School on Elmendorf AFB, Alaska is no different than any other school in South Carolina (or any state for that matter).

4 school age kids = 3.5 hours of homework, of course the ironic thing is that it takes my 7th grader the least amount of time to do her homework.

Today only 3 out of 4 kids cried.

Frickin waste of time if you ask me. I guarantee, that except for learning their spelling words and about 15 minutes of reading, the rest of the stuff didn't increase my kids competence at all.

To any teachers out there, please remember that homework probably takes at least twice as long and causes at least three times the amount of stress at home than you think it does.


President of Parents United Against Useless Homework.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Still Alive...

- Moved in to new house (unpacking sucks)

- Kids all enrolled in school (Heath math, not Everyday math... yeah!)

- Attended two school open houses (bla, bla, bla... teachers need to learn to get to the point)

I am back online, but wont have time to post to much until later next week.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mackenzie, BC, Canada

We are making great time, and are about 250 miles ahead of schedule. I am posting from Mackenzie, Canada, a little sleepy town in northern British Columbia.

You wouldn't believe how beautiful it is up here. Rivers, lakes, mountains, and trees, British Columbia has it all.

Tomorrow we will hit the Alaskan Highway, and head to Fort Nelson.

Here is a link to our updated map.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another trip change!

We have decided to skip waiting for the Ferry and just drive to anchorage. We are anxious to get there, and we don't have to wait.

We figure we can do the trip in 7 days.

Link to our route.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

When loving parents choose segregation - Opinion -

When loving parents choose segregation - Opinion -

But a well-documented and powerful educational phenomenon known as the 'peer effect' comes into play. Simply put, Johnny stands a much better chance of academic success in a school filled with privileged kids whose parents value education and push them to excel. The likelihood of Johnny achieving at high levels plummets if you put him in a school where most students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and don't get enough encouragement and support from home. Even in the unlikely event that the two schools are exactly the same in every other way — including teacher quality — Johnny probably will fare much better where he is surrounded by affluent students. Will sending Johnny to school with disadvantaged kids make him a better person? Maybe. Will it make him a better student? Almost certainly not.
Save me some google time... does anyone have any links to studies documenting the "peer effect"? Specifically, do middle class kids do better when they are sent to upper class schools?

update: hat tip to Joanne

Disneyland (and USC)

So we took the four oldest kids to Disney yesterday, so there went $1,000K. It is so much more expensive than I remember it... then again it was my parents who were paying when I was a kid. What is it about amusement parks, airports, and sports stadiums that cause hyperinflation? Does it really cost 2 or 3 dollars more to prepare a hamburger at Disney than a mile away at the local fast food joint?

I saw approximately 127.5 people wearing USC Trojan shirts and hats, and only one person wearing a UCLA shirt (and I think he was a tourist).

Fight On!

Monday, August 20, 2007

housing bubble related to education

It occurred to me that education funding could be significantly impacted by a housing market crash, since as property values go down, so would property taxes which are a significant source of school district funding.

I imagine that this would hit inner city urban neighborhoods a lot more than wealthy suburban neighborhoods.

Here in SoCal, small one bedroom houses in Compton and East LA have been going for half a mil. There true value is probably somewhere around 100K.

Disclaimer: OK, compton houses might not have quite gone for 500K, but they were fetching 400K for pretty damm small houses, but for an example of what I was talking about see...

Real Homes of Genius

Off topic... housing bubble

We are enjoying our impromptu vacation here in Southern California, so much so that we have discussed moving back here after I retire. The only problem though is the outrageous price of real estate here in the bloated California market.

I am not that worried though. I have spent the last few days reading extensively on the housing market, and I am convinced that our country is going to have a massive real estate crash, even worse than the 90's. My prediction is that in 4 to 5 years, I should be able to pick up a decent house here for under $300K.

You only have to look around here at people earning maybe 80K - 90K a year living in million dollar homes, to know that they are overextended. Sub-prime loans are coming due, foreclosures are at record levels, housing starts are down, and the housing inventory is increasing.

Don't expect a soft landing... it is going to be harsh, and will probably put us into a deep recession.

Perhaps the most telling thing is seeing people paying for million dollar homes and then driving around in Saturn's and other mid-range vehicles. Something is obviously not jiving.

The only question is how low and how long. My prediction... 25% nationally, 40-50% in bubble markets, and for prices not to stabilize until 2011.

Just saying...

Friday, August 17, 2007

"achievement gap" - Google News

Search the term "achievement gap" on Google News any day of the year, and it will amaze you the number of dumb repetive articles that are posted around the country and the world.

The articles usually go something like this... (paraphrased)

Recent test results continue to show an achievement gap between whites and (select any other racial category except for Asian).

[Optional comment about slight improvement in test scores and reduction on gap, though its never a significant amount.]

>insert quote from education official saying that the closing the achievement gap is their number one priority<>

>insert quote from sociologist or educator who attribute the causes of the gap to (choose one: racism, school funding, crime, distribution of highly qualified teachers, expectations) to ensure that no one even considers IQ<

Education officials have recently started a new program/initiative to address (problem selected above).

Officials are optimistic because they have second hand knowledge of some school has made progress, even though there are rarely any facts to back up the assertion.

Seriously! Check out a few articles. It's almost like there is a fill in the blank template.

How much do you want to bet that the same template will still be being used 20 years from now?

Just for fun, here are the number of results for various google news searches.
  • 83 for ("achievement gap" poverty)
  • 60 for ("achievement gap" expectations)
  • 55 for ("achievement gap" school funding)
  • 27 for ("achievement gap" teacher quality)
  • 5 for ("achievement gap" intelligence)
  • Your search - ("achievement gap" IQ) - did not match any documents

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Tuesday night, while in Moab, UT on my way to Bellingham, Wa, I got an email from the Alaskan Marine Highway telling me my Ferry was canceled. My choices were to either drive to Alaska or wait 2 weeks for the next ferry. Unfortunately, we couldn't drive because all of our kids birth certificates had been sent away when we had ordered passports, and they weren't back yet.

Of course this presents two problems, what to do with the extra 14 days, and what to do about the kids school, since they won't arrive til 2 weeks after school starts.

We decided to head to my hometown of Los Angeles to visit family. We also decided not to worry about the school, since the first two weeks of school are usually nothing but review anyway, and as I have said before, the Alaska standards aren't as tough as South Carolina's anyway.

Just to be safe, we ordered copies of all the required birth certificates, just in case the next ferry is cancelled as well.

So it's LA Baby... beaches, Mexican food, and traffic!

p.s. Here is an upated route. Note the visit to the four corners, and the long detour to Los Angeles. If I am forced to drive to Alaska later, I will update the map. (click the map for interactive version)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We are right...


We get to Albuquerque, NM and everyone apologizes for the heat. When we left South Carolina, it was as hot as 111 degrees with loads of humidity. A dry 95 feels like a spring day to us.

My grandparents are both ex-educators... and of course we started talking about education. They are both fans of multiple learning methods, multiplication fact tricks (skip counting, finger tricks, etc...), and mo money. It was a nice little discussion, and my Grandpa might hit up my blog (Hey Gramps).

Tomorrow we head north towards Salt Lake City and Boise. It should be a much prettier drive, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas are pretty flat.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Our trip...

Just in case you are wondering... here is the continental part of our trip to Alaska.

Click for an interactive link.

Let me know if you are on our route.

School of the Future's first casualty...

How did I miss this from the Philadephia Inquirer?

Also in line for new leadership will be the district's flagship High School of the Future, which saw the surprise resignation of its principal. Shirley Grover, hired by the district in 2005, left for personal reasons this month, officials said.
There was also a single update to the School of the Future blog.

So where are we? Well, no matter where we go I get asked the same question. I find it very indicative of where we are as a country in our analysis of education… “What are the test scores showing” Well… while the learners will be responsible for taking the PSAA’s in their 3rd year, they are not taking the 6 week bench mark tests. So, from an assessment perspective? Each learner has a 17 page OneNote Assessment Portfolio. It documents and measures their work and competencies against a rubric. (Below)
Pretty convenient to not have to worry about benchmark tests. You can click over to read their whole child rubric if you want.

Perhaps the most interesting this is the way Mary Cullinane goes off about the system.
So what have been the biggest challenges?
Well… the system. And I’m sure this comes as no surprise. And I don’t want to suggest that people have not been supportive. They have. However the system prevents them from going to the edge. The system prevents us from being creative. The system supports the status quo, not innovation. The system gets in our way. The system is frustrating.(sic)
Hopefully she isn't complaining about the part of the system that insists the students learn how to read, write, and perform math without relying on computers.

For some real entertainment, read a commenter's rant about the "others."
And then there were The Others. I won't dwell on them, but I'm sure you have a pretty good idea of what and whom I'm talking about. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you had to deal with them while all of this was coming to fruition. I'll bet you could write an entire book just about these people, and your dealings with them. In a perfect world, people such as these would be relegated to the dustbin. But in our real world, this does not necessarily happen. Pity.

No matter what the project, whether in Philly, Boston, or Timbuktu - there are always The Others. And there will always be The Others. They are a given in this world. These are the people who withhold their cooperation for various stupid reasons. These are the naysayers - but you know this because you've experienced it all first-hand, though you may be too diplomatic and too nice to admit it.
It's like a conspiracy theory. Pretty dramatic stuff.

Also see this video news report on the SOF. Make sure you view the end where a professor from Temple University questions the practicality of the SOF.

Monday, August 06, 2007

On the road...

Sorry about the light blogging. I have spent the last week moving out of my house, and we are now living in a hotel. On Friday we hitting the road for our 13 day drive to Alaska via the Alaskan Ferry.

Unfortunately this means I haven't had time to follow the latest education news, meaning that my usually sarky comments are on a brief hiatus.

Be patient, and you will be able to follow my trials and tribulations in our new school district. I wonder how long it will be before I upset someone at the school?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

CUNY Plans to Raise Its Admissions Standards - New York Times

CUNY Plans to Raise Its Admissions Standards - New York Times

The City University of New York is beginning a drive to raise admissions requirements at its senior colleges, its first broad revision since its trustees voted to bar students needing remedial instruction from its bachelor’s degree programs nine years ago.

In 2008, freshmen will have to show math SAT scores 20 to 30 points higher than they do now to enter the university’s top-tier colleges — Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens — and its six other senior colleges.


Dr. Goldstein said that the English requirements for the senior colleges would be raised as well, but that the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared.”

In the fall of 2005, for example, more than 40 percent of students in introductory math courses — pre-calculus, college algebra and calculus — either failed or dropped out of the classes, numbers typical of many universities nationwide.

[emphasis mine]


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Something smells fishy in Baltimore...

How schools get it right By Liz Bowie Sun Reporter

Tucked amid a block of rowhouses around the corner from Camden Yards is an elementary school with a statistical profile that often spells academic trouble: 76 percent of the students are poor, and 95 percent are minorities.

But George Washington Elementary has more academic whizzes than most of the schools in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

These students don't just pass the Maryland School Assessment - they ace it. About 46.2 percent of George Washington students are scoring at the advanced level, representing nearly half of the school's 94 percent pass rate.

I love a success story as much as the next person, but somethings are almost too good to be true. I could understand George Washington excelling if their scores had gone up incrementally over the years, but according to their amazing performance has happened suddenly over the last two years.

In 2004, only 46% of their 3rd graders scored proficient in reading, in 2005 it jumped up to 76%, and in 2006 an amazing 96% of their kids pass the MSA.

The 3rd grade cohort from 2004 jumped up to 87% in 2005, and to 97% in 2006. This is amazing progress.

The same pattern in repeated in every grade.

Now according to the Baltimore Sun article, George Washington Elementary uses the same curriculum as the rest of the city and doesn't have a high level of parental involvement. They do have a homework club for an hour a day after school and have a 3 week summer program.

So I wonder what the secret of their improvement was... is their homework club and summer program that great, did they suddenly replace all their average teachers with superstars, or did the same teachers spontaneously improve their performance.

George Washington teacher Tracy Larkins says teachers at her school have been given a degree of autonomy. When staff members go to the principal with a new idea, they usually will be allowed to try it out, she said.

You have to wonder if one of the ideas wasn't to give the kids the answers to the test.

hat tip to This Week in Education

Disclaimer: If the school really is a miracle worker, I will profusely apologize and become their biggest advocate, but the scores certainly do warrant investigation. Who knows, perhaps we can can their magic and pass it around to the rest of the education establishment.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Republicans for Hillary???

"Can She Be Stopped" [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
In your book, JPod, you argue Rudy can do it. I have my doubts tonight any Republican can, all circumstances being basically what they are today. What say you?
07/23 10:10 PM

Obama's Astonishing Moment [Byron York]
Sen. Barack Obama, the candidate who once neglected to mention that he would counterattack if al Qaeda destroyed two U.S. cities, tonight pledged to meet, one-on-one, in his first year as president, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il.Sen. Hillary Clinton refused to make such a pledge. "I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year," she said. "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."
07/23 09:00 PM

Hillary [John Podhoretz]
I don't like her. I wrote an entire book on how to stop her. But in these debates, there's Hillary in the lead...and then there's everybody else.
07/23 08:58 PM

There's Really No Question [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Hillary is the nominee. She won't talk to Ahmadinejad and Assad? That puts her way Right of our Speaker of the House.If I had to vote for a Democrat, I know who it would be.
07/23 08:10 PM

I've always thought it was pretty ironic that the perception of Hillary has been of a super left-wing liberal, when in reality, she is the most centrist of all the Democratic candidates.

Now if only she would get on the right side of education reform...

Anchorage School District Middle School Math Textbook Adoption

According to their website, the Anchorage School District has adopted MathScape as their 6-8 grade math text book.

Of course there was never any doubt about whether they were going to adopt "reform" math. The four choices they had to decide upon were, Connected Math, Math in Context, MathScape, and Math Thematics. I suppose it was just a matter of figuring out which one was the fuzziest.

According to the School District memorandum, here are some of the strengths of the program (emphasis mine)

The program provides the following for the needs/rights of students:

• know the purpose of learning, including objectives, standards, goals, criteria and evaluation rubrics
• choose from a variety of strategies to explore, solve, and communicate math concepts
• engagement through a variety of activities, which may include independent projects, cooperative learning, manipulatives, technology, collaborative work, etc.
feel connected and free to take risks
• a belief that math can be learned
• opportunities for self-monitoring and self-reflection
• make connections to real life applications
• support at individual learning levels

• Teacher makes meaningful connections between math and real-life.
• Teacher has high expectations for success and achievement for all students.
• Teacher uses a variety of instructional and assessment strategies (differentiated instruction, cooperative learning, exploration & learning extensions, use of manipulatives and technology, and other best teaching practices).
• Teacher clearly states classroom expectations, and content and language objectives. • Teacher provides time for student reflection & meta-cognition.
• Teacher communicates with and is available to parents and students.
• Teacher receives appropriate and ongoing professional development & training (knowledgeable of pedagogy, content, and vertical alignment of curriculum).
• Teacher is provided adequate time and opportunity for grade-level and vertical collegial collaboration and support.
You notice there is nothing about fluency, mastery, clear examples, computation, standard algorithms, etc...

What do you expect from a school district that uses Everyday Mathematics?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education

UPDATE: Blatant spelling mistake in title corrected after thorough embarrassment by anonymous commenter.

I love reading the Chronicle of Higher Education, but unfortunately they are a subscription based website, so you have to pay to read most articles.

Unless of course you use google.

For example, eduwonk linked to the article, The Latest Way to Discriminate Against Women

When you click on the link, you can read the first two or three paragraphs but have to be a member to read the rest.

Unless you can google for the phrase "The Lastest Way to Discriminate Against Women" , and click on the cached version of the article.

Pretty good for find for a boy huh.

And speaking of the article, which points out that women make up the majority of college students, you would think that there would be more boys doing everything they could to get into college... college women, seriously, whats not to love.

By the way, there are quite a few guys on my base who date girls from the local colleges here in South Carolina. I suppose the unbalanced ratio works out for guys in the military, as long as they are stationed by a college.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So here is a question

It appears that NCLB might be encouraging teachers to teach to the "bubble kids", the kids in the middle, the ones who need just a little effort to score proficient.

My question is this: economically where should our we concentrate our efforts in this country? Does it make more sense to concentrate on the brightest 1/3 of our students who arguably will contribute the most to innovation and development? Perhaps raising the middle 1/3 is the best answer, after all these are the ones who will form the vast bulk of our middle class. Does the cost of raising the achievement of the lower 1/3 outweigh the benefits? I know that ideally we would give all kids a superior education, but until the country moves to a value added system that take into account progress at all academic levels, any policy is going to result in the system targeting specific groups. Just a hypothetical question...

Update: Matt Johnson churns out a well reasoned argument for concentrating on the bottom 1/3. Go read his post for the full scoop.

I am going to play devils advocate and say that we should spend most of our energy on the middle 1/3. Like Matt, I agree that the top 1/3 will be OK anyway, but my argument is that $1 spent on the middle 1/3 will give more return than $1 spent on the bottom 1/3. Of course like Matt says, throwing money alone at a problem isn't going to solve anything, what we really need is pedagogy reform. (Disclaimer: I actually don't believe this, but that's why we call it being a devils advocate.)

Highly Qualified Students

It suddenly occurred to me while reading eduwonk, that all this effort on improving teacher quality is so inefficient.

What we need is highly qualified students!

By the way, go read the Education Intelligence Agency's (EIA) take on "bubble tests."

Any question on a fill-in-the-bubble test provides all the data necessary to come up with the correct answer. Students are then supplied with four or five possible responses. By their very nature, standardized tests inflate the scores of students on the low end of the scale. The only students who score lower than 20 percent on a fill-in-the-bubble test are victims of bad luck, since entirely random responses should raise you at least that high.

I would go even further. Since we all know that most multiple choice tests have at least two distractors that you can eliminate out of hand, most kids should score at least 50% on any test. When you consider that the students have been prepared for the tests, its a wonder than anyone fails.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Too Cool

From Tony via Darren at Right on the Left Coast

Easy Graphical Multiplication Trick - video powered by Metacafe

No, I still don't support Everyday Math.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

School integration article actually argues for ability grouping

I was researching the "segregation" study in a previous post, and I came across this quote.

Study of reading development: “Segregated” schools hinder reading skills

“These findings support policies that promote comprehensive reading instruction, but indicate that just as much attention needs to be paid to ensuring that schools are integrated and to reducing classroom concentrations of children reading below grade level,” said Lynne Vernon-Feagans, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood, Families and Literacy and Professor at the School of Education and co-author of the study.
Is it my imagination or does she seem to be arguing for ability grouping? School integration good, classroom integration bad?

By the way, there is very little recent research on ability grouping. There was a spat of it in the late 80's and early 90's, but very little recent research. I know that ability grouping is indirectly addressed in a lot of Direct Instruction and gifted education research, but as far as regular studies, it seems like Robert E. Slavin was the last researcher to seriously address it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

So very tired... w/ sciencedaily update

I am still alive... well at least I have a pulse. I am currently working 12 hour shifts, straight through the weekend due to an exercise. I am averaging 4 hours of sleep a night... and dragging.

Yet, I have still found time to bring you education related science briefs from

In the no duh category

Curriculum Focused On Cognitive Skills May Improve Child Behavior

Children who were taught a curriculum that focused on self-control and awareness of their own and others’ emotions were found to exhibit greater social competence and fewer behavioral and emotional problems.
Kids who are taught how to behave, behave better... I might apply that to my parenting skills.

Children With Sleep Disorder Symptoms Are More Likely To Have Trouble Academically
According to the results, students with reported symptoms of sleep disorders received significantly worse grades than students without symptoms of sleep disorders. Specifically, there were differences in math, reading and writing grades.

Late Weekend Sleep Among Teens May Lead To Poor Academic Performance
Teenagers who stay up late on school nights and make up for it by sleeping late on weekends are more likely to perform poorly in the classroom.
So let me get this straight... being tired doesn't help you learn? Who would of guessed.

'Segregated' Schools Hinder Reading Skills
Children in families with low incomes, who attend schools where the minority population exceeds 75 percent of the student enrollment, under-perform in reading, even after accounting for the quality of the literacy instruction, literary experiences at home, gender, race and other variables, according to a new study.
The study also showed that the percentage of struggling readers in a classroom negatively influenced every student’s reading performance, erasing any benefits of comprehensive literacy instruction. Children attending kindergarten classrooms with higher percentages of students reading below grade level demonstrated constrained performance in reading at the end of kindergarten. The same was true for children in first grade.
Next thing you know we will find out that ability grouping might just work...

Science Daily did have one interesting articles though.

Cognitive Scores Vary As Much Within Test Takers As Between Age Groups Making Testing Less Valid
How precise are tests used to diagnose learning disability, progressive brain disease or impairment from head injury" Timothy Salthouse, PhD, a noted cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia, has demonstrated that giving a test only once isn't enough to get a clear picture of someone's mental functioning. It appears that repeating tests over a short period may give a more accurate range of scores, improving diagnostic workups.
It struck me that many kids are sorted into gifted or not gifted after one single test. I imagine a few high ability kids get missed based on one unlucky test. Its also ironic, that we might actually need more testing, not less.

Well, that's it for now. Time for me to crash.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Calling him out...

Ok, who else is dying for Ken over at D-Edreckoning to start blogging again. Whether you agreed with him or not, he certain had some of the most thought provoking and well researched posts in the edublogosphere.

Ken if you are reading this, get off your lazy ass and post something.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Last Word

My absolutely last word on school integration (I hope). Why don't school districts just impliment a pure lottery system to school assignment? Everyone would have an absolutely equal chance of being screwed.

No Sympathy

Supreme Court - School Integration: What Will We Tell Our Children?:

Amid the lawyers, policymakers and pundits debating the implications of Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Louisville and Seattle voluntary school integration plans, came the soulful plea of an African-American mother. Interviewed on National Public Radio, Mary Myers of Louisville explained how the ruling against her local officials’ efforts to racially balance their schools may well jeopardize her two children’s school assignments and educational opportunities. Ms. Myer’s children, ages 13 and 16, had benefited from the defeated desegregation plan because it had allowed them to attend racially diverse public schools outside of their community. Had they and their peers attended neighborhood schools, Ms. Myers noted, they would not have been exposed to people of different racial and cultural backgrounds and they would not be prepared for the incredibly diverse and global society they will soon inherit. When asked about her response to the decision, this 49-year-old mother sounded fed up: “Leave these children alone. Let them go to school together…. They have to go into the workforce and work together.”
If Ms. Myers is so concerned about exposure to diversity, then why does she live in a neighborhood that doesn't have any? Also how does sending her kids to the local suburban school prepare her kids for a "incredibly diverse and global society"? Do they have a lot more foreign kids in the suburbs? Maybe she should find a school or neighborhood with a large Hispanic population.

Arguments for race based school integration policies are a lot stronger if they concentrate on school inequities, instead of relying on straight "diversity" arguments, unless of course the community and parents have made a documented proactive concentrate effort to end neighborhood ethnic clustering. Then again, assigning people where to live based on race would be unconstitutional.

p.s. spare me any arguments about Ms. Myers not being able to afford to live anywhere else, I have been to Louisville and there are plenty of poor white neighborhoods.

Update: I want to be clear that I absolutely support integration efforts as long as they don't explicitly take into account an individual students race. Economic integration... love it, school choice... love it, magnet schools... give me more, but I would be beyond pissed off if I was told that my kid couldn't attend a school for no other reason than his race. Of course I consciously chose to live in a diverse neighborhood with integrated schools.

Weak NCLB Growth Models

There are many critics of NCLB. Some people complain that it causes states to lower standards, others complain that it's unrealistic, still others say that it lacks funding, while others complain that "tests" don't really measure learning and the whole premise is wrong.

To counter some of these arguments, several states have been approved to use so called growth model formulas, including my future home state of Alaska (45 days and counting). When I first heard of the concept, I was pretty excited, after all I figured that growth models would make it harder for school districts to ignore students who already meet the low expectations that is required of them.

I was wrong.

Alaska's growth model only uses growth if a student doesn't meet standards. In other words if little Johnny scores two grades below grade level, Alaska can still get credit for him passing as long as he is on target to pass the test within the next few years, or by 10th grade. 3rd graders and 10th graders must test on target.

So basically, there is still no incentive to improve performance of those already making the grade.

I need to find a state that sets their education target at ensuring all kids make AT LEAST one year of progress in one year of school.

Oh well, NCLB is a crappy law but it's less crappy than nothing. I am so pragmatic.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Questions on Diversity

Everyone is talking about diversity, ethnic vs socioeconomic, the supreme court ruling, and student achievement. I am going to chime in, in the new couple of days, but first I wanted to raise some questions that I haven't seen addressed.

1. Everyone acknowledges that diversity, whether by income or race, does raise achievement of targeted groups, but only if the targeted group is in the minority. Is the purpose of diversity efforts to expose students to another culture, or is it to supplant their current culture?

2. High achieving majority minority schools such as Achievement First and KIPP seem to impose a new school culture on students. Is this their way of eliminating the need for diversity, but just creating a middle class boot camp?

3. Is their a logical reason for white flight? Most diversity advocates say that middle class students academic achievement isn't hurt by diversity, but you never ever see numbers to back this up. Are white parents racist or looking out for their children?

4. Why do I get the feeling that the Supreme Courts decision won't really have any large scale effect on diversity efforts. Seattle doesn't even use their system any more, and its not like we read about x number of cities that are now going to have to change their policies.

I am still pondering these questions and more, but if you want to read some honest thoughts on the subject, go check out Teaching in the 408.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

No Benefits of College Completion for African-Americans?

Ok, this is crazy. I was exploring the NAEP Data Explorer today and ran across a really unexpected statistic.

I know its hard to read, but the average scale score for blacks whose parents completed college is 246, compared to 251 for blacks whose parents have "some education after High School".

Yes I did check, and the difference is significant (at least according to the NAEP website).

I am at a total loss to even attempt to explain these results. Anyone have any guesses?

Update: I realized I didn't describe the results. Well this artifact shows up in 8th grade reading and math and holds true for Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians.

More on Economic Diversity

So I have been reading a lot about the benefits of economic integration lately, and I came across this chart from an article called Raleigh: a Model for Economic School Integration by Alan Gottlieb in the May 2002 issue of The Term Paper from the Piton Foundation.

Click for Larger Image

The whole issue of the Term Paper argues that economic integration is a benefit for everyone involved, this chart (on page 5) is used to document the improvement of subsidized students who attend majority middle class schools, but doesn't it also show that there is an even more significant penalty for middle class students who attend predominantly low SES schools?


Between the iphone and the latest Supreme Court ruling on school integration, I can hardly scan the Internet without puking.

The hysteria is mind boggling. You would think from some of the articles posted that the Supreme Court just reinstated slavery.

As far as I can tell its only the fugly awkward racial integration plans that are going to be effected. There are plenty of options still available including socioeconomic integration, a subject that is going to become a lot more popular in the coming months and year.

The Century Foundation prepared well and already has the first post-supreme court paper out on socioeconomic integration. It's only 24 hours after the decision and they already have a 78 page report out.

Rescuing Brown v. Board of Education: Profiles of Twelve School Districts Pursuing Socioeconomic School Integration

Some of the key points made:

A large body of research has long shown that concentrations of poverty—even more than concentrations of minority students—can impede academic achievement, and that providing all students with the chance to attend mixed-income schools can raise overall levels of achievement. Breaking up concentrations of poverty is not, as one judge suggested, a "clumsier proxy device"3 for obtaining a certain racial result; it is a powerful educational strategy for raising student achievement.

Are middle-class children hurt by attending economically mixed schools? The research suggests that sprinkling a few middle-class children into a school of highly concentrated poverty may hurt their academic achievement, but so long as a critical mass of the students are middle class (not eligible for free and reduced price lunch), middle-class student achievement does not decline with the presence of some low-income students. Studies find that integration is not a zero-sum game, in which gains for low-income students are offset by declines in middle-class achievement. This is true in part because the majority is what sets the tone in a school, and because research finds that middle-class children are less affected by school influences (for good or ill) than low-income children.
I am a bit uncomfortable with the naked condescension that postulates that poor and minority students always need to be kept as minorities to succeed. For one thing it means that integration in many heavily minority cities will be useless and harmful (at least to the the middle class kids that are integrated). Of course, it's obvious from cities like Washington D.C. that just throwing money at the problem won't work.

My prediction is that we will start to see more and more talk about merging suburban districts with city districts to water down the overall concentration of low SES students.

It's a complicated problem and one that doesn't have an easy answer.

Of course given the hype about the new iphone, how long will it be before someone advocates giving an iphone to every inner city student, with the argument that they can listen to podcasts of lectures and then call their teacher if they have a problem.

Friday, June 29, 2007

An argument against parent choice...

Much has been made about giving parents the opportunity to make choices for their children, often with the mantra that "parents know best", but in somethings I would beg to differ.

By all accounts my parents were ideal. My mom had a Bachelors Degree, My father graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a Masters Degree in math. They emigrated to New Zealand when I was baby, where my father got a job as a math teacher. Yet... they still made a conscious decision to dress me, my brother, and my sisters like this... and then take a picture to record it for posterity.

Of course by posting it on the internet, there is an argument to be made that I am an even bigger fool.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hillary Won... (not that it matters)

In case anyone was wondering, Hillary pretty much won the Democratic Debate tonight. My thoughts and observations... at random.

Hillary was the only one to get a standing ovation for the answer to one of the questions.

That guy from Alaska is seriously wacko.

There was a lot more questions on education, and there were none on Iraq.

Biden was very articulate.

Obama was disappointing... he is to intellectual for the format and doesn't come across well during short soundbites.

Obama was the only one brave enough to actually mention the black communities responsibility to hold themselves partially accountable for certain social problems.

I had no idea that crack and powder cocaine crimes were sentenced differently.

There was no direct question about NCLB.

It was the fairest debate format so far, but the number of candidates limited response time.

I found myself disagreeing with the candidates stock answers to a lot of questions... surprising since even though I am fairly conservative these days, I still consider myself a Democrat.

Oh yes, it was a complete panderfest for the most part.

Disclaimer: my observation that Hillary won was based on observation, not on preference, and was based on an objective view of which candidate did the most to shore up support for their target audience. It does not mean that I think Hillary is the best candidate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

South Carolina: Managed by Idiots

South Carolina is run by idiots, of course that is no secret. We have a history of academic under performance and mismanagement, and here are two more examples.

The tuition and fees at Winthrop University, a good school, but not necessarily an academic powerhouse, has now been raised to $10,210 for an academic year.

It's fees are the now the highest in the state, higher than University of South Carolina and Clemson, though their fees are rising dramatically too.

In 1997, Winthrop’s annual tuition and required fees amounted to $3,818. Tuesday’s action means the cost of a Winthrop education has soared 167 percent in a decade.

For comparison, Clemson’s tuition was $3,112 annually in 1996-1997. If the Clemson board approves president James Barker’s recommendation for a 5 percent increase, that would mean Clemson’s tuition and fees have increased 217 percent in the same period.
We constantly hear about how a college education is super duper important, unless of course you want to be a nobody, yet our governments and the schools just keep raising tuition.

Of course it's always blamed on funding cut-backs, but I don't buy it for a second. It's supply and demand, with the demand perpetuated by the supplier.

Want more proof that the higher education system is more concerned about money and prestige, than they are about educating students?

In my local paper today, there was an article about the latest report on USC Sumter's bid for official status as a four year university.

The justification for why the Sumter can't sustain a four year college is because we are, well simply put, uneducated country bumpkins.

Of course perhaps access to a local college is what we need... teach us.

Oh wait, I forgot, teaching isn't what colleges are about... after all according the the report, Sumter's current teachers aren't worth a S*&#, because:

total faculty publications are at this time less than the output of a single professor at a typical research university
Yep, it's about time for me to move to Alaska. They are probably all screwed up, up there as well, but at least I can go fishing and skiing more often.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Education Gossip and Scandalous Videos

Well we all know that school consist of 75% gossip and 35% learning, so Alexander Russo points out that Sara Mead (formerly of The Quick and the Ed) and Matthew Yglesias are an item now, and are to be added to his list or education "power couples".

Since I am naturally nosey curious, I googled around and found a pretty scandalous video of Matthew interviewing Sara Mead. Who knew that neuroscience and education could be so sexy.

From the TFA Trenches: In Closing... (The Kids)

I read a lot of blogs quite cynically, but my favorite posts are almost always the soppiest.

I have to say I loved this post from the TFA Trenches blog, where he recounts the students that really effected him during the school year.

S--- is a tremendously shy Vietnamese boy, often ostracized by our enormously Latino majority. This year, however, he made not just one friend but two. After a semester slumped against a pole looking deeply morose, he can now be seen with his arm across the back of his friends, running and smiling.
T--- is an all-star. In class, he tracks me with almost unnerving focus. Sometimes I want the kid to be distracted so I can pick my nose.
M--- is a “newcomer,” this is her first year in the United States. As of next year, she is also identified as “gifted.” She participates tremendously in class and invalidates the very concept of a “language barrier.” Her writing shows an almost photographic memory of English sentence patterns.
L--- is a student I will deeply miss. I’ve known her for two years, as her older brother brought her to my after-school science classes last year. She is a rarity ----unsophisticated without being immature. Her sense of humor, childish of course, is still quite agreeable to me. She is one of few students with whom talking at length is not onerous.
This is only a sampling meant to tease you. Click on over and read it all, if it doesn't make you go awwwww then you have no heart.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

'Men cleverer than women' claim

BBC NEWS UK Education 'Men cleverer than women' claim

I think this article is mis-named. Men might have a slightly higher IQ, on average, than women (note the "might"), but we certainly aren't "cleverer".

Clever is convincing men that the default position of the toliet seat is down.

As far as I am concerned I would gladly trade a few of my IQ points (and I don't have many), to be "more conscientious and better adapted to sustained periods of hard work work."

Diane Ravitch Misguided Arugments against the Pay-the-Student Plan - Politics on The Huffington Post

Diane Ravitch: Bloomberg's Misguided Pay-the-Student Plan - Politics on The Huffington Post

Via Edwize, I just read Diane Ravitch's critique of NYC's pay the student plan.

She says:

From the point of view of schooling, this plan is wrong because it tells kids that they should study only if they get extrinsic rewards. Yet what educators are supposed to do is teach kids to have a love of learning, to encourage them to improve their lives by enlarging their knowledge of the world. If they are going to study only if someone pays them, what happens when the payment ends? What will motivate the kids who are not getting cash payments when their classmates are being paid off for higher scores? The plan destroys any hope of teaching the value of intrinsic motivation, or the rewards of deferred gratification, or the importance of self-discipline for a distant but valued goal.
Nowhere in the article does Diane Ravitch make the argument that the plan won't improve achievement, instead she complains that poor inner-city students should suck it up, ignore reality, and learn for the sake of learning.

I don't know if this program will work. All I care about is that if it does work, that it's more cost effective than any other plan to raise achievement by the same amount.

Diane's argument is petty, unrealistic, overly-idealistic, and represents whats wrong with our holier than though education system.

By her arguments since teaching is a truly valuable and critical profession, in fact it is a noble profession and a higher calling, perhaps we should all oppose any attempts to increase teachers pay, since increased pay devalues "the value of intrinsic motivation, or the rewards of deferred gratification, or the importance of self-discipline for a distant but valued goal."

Note: I actually like a lot of what Diane Ravitch says, but even I get it wrong sometimes.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Science and Education

I was perusing today and ran across several articles that pertain to education.

Disclaimer: inclusion on this list does not mean I necessarily agree with all the conclusions.

Early Education:

Childhood Social Skills Linked To Learning Abilities

Early Head Start is a national intervention and support program for income-eligible families and provides comprehensive services to families prenatally until the child is three years old. The Brophy-Herb led group is currently working with EHS providers in six Michigan counties to evaluate an infant/toddler curriculum, targeting early social and emotional development that was developed by the MSU team and their EHS partners. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Overall, EHS children performed better on measures of cognition, language and social-emotional functioning than their peers at age three. In addition, they were less likely to be in the “at risk” category of cognitive and language functioning.By age five children who had received EHS programming as infants and toddlers continued to show fewer behavior problems and more positive approaches to learning.
  • Parents of EHS children were more supportive of their children’s emotional, cognitive and language development when their children were three years of age. The same results were observed at assessments when the children were five years of age.
  • When impacts were examined by race/ethnicity, African American children continue to show the greatest benefits. They were more likely to be enrolled in formal programs following EHS than those children not in EHS.

Reading/Language Arts

At-risk Readers Can Be Identified Early Through A Combination Of Brain Scans And Behavioral Tests

Taken together, functional brain scans and tests of reading skills strongly predict which children will have ongoing reading problems. What's more, the two methods work better together than either one alone, according to new research in the June issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Neuroscientists at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities think this double-barreled diagnostic can help identify at-risk readers as early as possible. That way, schools can step in before those children fail to learn to read or develop poor reading habits that might interfere with remediation, such as relying on memory for words rather than sounding out new ones. Early identification and systematic intervention can very often turn likely non-readers into readers, according to the study authors.

Russian Readers Learn To Read More Accurately And Faster

Children whose mother tongue is Russian and who acquired literacy in their home language before entering first grade received higher grades on reading skills tests than their peers who speak only Hebrew or those who speak Russian but have not learned how to read it. This was revealed in a study recently completed at the University of Haifa. The researcher, Dr. Mila Schwartz, pointed out that because of the linguistic complexity of the Russian language, it can be deduced that knowing how to read and write Russian will give children an advantage when learning to read other languages.


'Teaching Gap' Exists Among US And Asian Math Teachers, Study Says

U.S. teachers incorporate analogies into their lessons as often as teachers in Hong Kong and Japan, but they less frequently utilize spatial supports, mental and visual imagery, and gestures that encourage active reasoning. Less cognitive support may result in students retaining less information, learning in a less conceptual way, or misunderstanding the analogies and learning something different altogether.

Stereotype-induced Math Anxiety Undermines Girls' Ability To Perform In Other Academic Areas

The scholars found that the worrying undermines women's working memory. Working memory is a short-term memory system involved in the control, regulation and active maintenance of limited information needed immediately to deal with problems at hand.

They also showed for the first time that this threat to performance caused by stereotyping can also hinder success in other academic areas because mental abilities do not immediately rebound after being compromised by mathematics anxiety.


Advances In Genetics Should Make Learning Easier, According To Professor

Fischer and Gardner describe some of what has been done so far. Donna Coch, one of the first Mind, Brain, and Education graduates and now an assistant professor at Dartmouth University, tracks electrical activity in the brain as children learn to read. “Everything she does is groundbreaking,” Fischer comments.

He points out that such research can aid in diagnosing disabilities at an early age. “We know that the earlier you catch learning difficulties, the easier it is to overcome them,” he says.

Dyslexia, in which children with normal intelligence have trouble reading, is an example. For many years, dyslexia was not usually detected until fourth or even sixth grade. “We can now detect signs of it in 3- to 4-year-olds,” Fischer notes. “In 10 years, with the help of genetic technologies, we may be able to find it in 1-year-olds, or even at birth.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Point : IQ Testing Issues - IQ Testing Issues

On Point : IQ Testing Issues - IQ Testing Issues

I was listening to NPR today and ended up screaming at the ignorance of the commenter's. I am going to paraphrase what Stephen Murdoch, who wrote IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea, had to say about IQ tests.

IQ tests don't measure intelligence, they measure knowledge, verbal and math ability, reading skills, and abstract problem solving ability
Makes you wonder what the definition of intelligence is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Graduation at the 408

I know that I am cynical most of the time, but I do have a sensitive side. TMAO has finally posted some things after taking a few weeks off.
This post, "Teaching in the 408: Graduation Dichotomy", by TMAO almost made me tear up.

I walk around after it's over, and there is more hugging, and parents ask me to pose with their children for pictures. "How's my hair?" I ask in two languages, and the shutters click. "How many more graduations will you have?" I ask every kid. At least one they tell me. Two, others say. One of my favorite kids ever, S., with starting roles in three sports and a 3.83 GPA, says two very quickly, but his mom shakes her head slightly, "Tres," she says. And as he looks over at her with a question forming on his mouth, she says it more firmly, "Tres."

I smile, and nod, and look past her toward the fence, and the bushes, where C. crouched and hid on the dirty, slippery ground.

TMAO might only be in his 20's, but I still want to be like him when I grow up. Go read it, and while you are there, check out his comments on KIPP attrition rates.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I hope this chick kicks ass!

Schools Chief Makes Quick Mark -

Michelle A. Rhee, the acting chancellor of D.C. public schools, has moved quickly to exert control over the system by halting the principal hiring process, because she is concerned about the quality of the candidate pool.

"What I wanted to avoid was a rushed decision to fill a vacancy just for the sake of filling a vacancy," she said during an interview. "I have to know that we have a strong pool of candidates."

Rhee, former executive director of the New Teacher Project, said she will look internally, within the region and nationally for candidates to fill vacancies. "We need to be incredibly aggressive about recruiting the best," she said.

Rhee said she will consider interim principals rather than hiring someone permanently who is not a top candidate. The school system has at least 10 vacancies, including five at high schools.
Don't know why, but she seems like she might be the business.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Translation services

Having studied edu-lingo and school-think for the last year and a half, I thought I would translate the reasons that New Milford didn't choose Singapore Math after they tested it for a year.

memo reviewing the meeting with teachers and math committee members of April 6, 2006, which summarizes information about the pilot materials

Singapore - We have piloted Singapore Math materials in 6 classrooms in grades 1-3 (2 classes each grade). We have found the following:

1.Parents generally like it, especially once we figured out how much homework was appropriate for the program in the early grades.

Parents recognized good math when they saw it.
2.The program covers fewer topics, but does so in greater depth; kids seem to be doing quite well with it.
There isn't all that wasted "enrichment" that most math programs have.
3.The pace of the program is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content almost by definition becoming non-sped students!
It made the rest of the teachers look bad.
4.There is little prose within the books and the books themselves look deceptively simple; the materials are more inviting to the math- phobic than the traditional type programs.
It is missing all those cool stories and pictures we are use to seeing.
5.Adoption of such a program would change the "landscape" that we know as math programming. Students in this program K-8 would have completed Algebra I, most of Algebra II and Geometry. Currently between 20%-25% are tackling Algebra I in grade 8; under 5% in a good year are tackling Geometry by that grade level.
It will make the rest of the education establishment look stupid
1. The teacher's guide has been termed in the words of the Singapore trainers "as pretty much useless". They are correct. The guides have offered little insight or guidance to teachers on how the program should be presented. Training support for this program would be essential and pretty much on going.
We were education majors. All that math stuff hurts our brains.
2. The books fall apart easily. The school in New Jersey that used them basically estimated a 20% replacement rate annually. While the books are $8 dollars per book (not expensive in today's world), 2 books per grade ($16), we would be
running up sizeable costs in replacement texts annually.
We can't afford to pay $16 per student per year for superior performance, we need to save that money for field trips to the local park.
3. Teachers report that it has been "labor intensive" to prepare lessons, often taking longer to prepare the lesson than to teach it. With familiarity, some of the prep time would be reduced. Yet a real concern still exists at the elementary level about the amount of prep time necessary to sustain the program and teach the other subjects too. It isn’t that teachers are not willing to give the effort, it is that they saw this program as often requiring disproportioned amounts of time to prepare lessons, robbing from preparation required for other subjects. Hearing the stories about the demands on time have made many other elementary staff skeptical about this program.
Yes, it requires to much time to prepare a lesson in addition and subtraction, and we really haven't figured out how to collaborate yet.
4. The "change in landscape" image sounds exciting, but presents real practical problems. Can we train 6th grade teachers to teach Algebra I well? Can we recruit grade 7 teachers who are comfortable presenting lots of Geometry and Algebra II? If not, do we have a sense we could train them and, if so, at what costs? If we went down this road, it would become necessary to redesign the scope and sequence of high school math sequences. Does the system have the funds to do that and the staff to deliver the change? We would have almost all students taking Calculus by junior year, if not before then. That means the academic levels expected of all our staff would be raised in math.
We already told you that we were education majors, and math really really scares us.
5. The Singapore curriculum does not match the state frameworks very well, something the critics would applaud who feels the state frameworks are a problem to begin with. However, as mentioned above, the state measures on CMT’s reflect those frameworks. If we adopt this program, we would likely face an interesting, almost contradictory, dynamic of more students going further than ever before in math, yet perhaps having lower math results on the CMT’s. Our program, if powered by Singapore, would not cover all the discrete concepts measured on CMT's. In talking with one of our consultants who faced a similar issue in New Jersey with their test, he said such a dynamic never materialized. We will not know if it will be an issue here because we will not getting results back on CMT's in time to study how the program may have impacted results this year in grade 3. Since CMT’s impact how the district looks on NCLB issues of achievement, we cannot afford to ignore this issue.
We suspect that the Singapore Math students will score high on the CMT, forcing us to choose Singapore Math. Luckily we have to make a decision before the test results come out.
6. When asked for working models that involve districts like us, we found that we would be the cutting edge for all practical purposes, especially in Connecticut. That is a bit scary. We would be out there by our "lonesome" for now.
Big changes frighten us. Did we forget to mention that we were education majors because math scares us?