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?

Mindless Math Mutterings: A Lesson in Collaboration

Mindless Math Mutterings: A Lesson in Collaboration

New Milford has decided to use a hybrid of math programs. See Mindless Math Mutterings for details, but I did want to comment on one thing I read in the final recommendation, posted at the district website.

By the end of second grade, students should have many of their basic skills in addition and subtraction firmly set, and it is at this point that we feel the pace of Saxon can present a problem. Students ready to “rocket forward” are sometimes kept in “lock step”. Parents remarked about that as well.

Therefore, beginning grade three we recommend a hybrid of both EDM and Saxon materials be given teachers. Teachers would, within their classes or working in tandem with another teacher’s class, group and regroup students throughout the year to provide practice where it is needed here and enrichment where it needed there.
Translation: Saxon mathematics was so effective that students were ready to move at a faster pace than we really want them to. To counter this, we will place them into Everyday Mathematics, which will distract them with alternate algorithms, word problems and silly games, and prevent the higher ability kids from getting to far ahead.

You notice it never occurred to them to just move through the Saxon material faster. Die acceleration, die! Enrichment wins again ->[insert evil maniacal laugh here]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Aim low, avoid disappointment

UCSMP: Everyday Mathematics:

"Helping children learn the basic facts is an important goal in the Everyday Mathematics Curriculum. Most children should have developed an automatic recall of the basic addition and subtraction facts by the end of the second grade. They should also know most of their 1, 2, 5, and 10 multiplication facts by this time. By the end of the fourth grade most students should have an automatic recall of all the basic multiplication facts and be familiar with the basic division facts. Multiplication and division facts are reinforced at the beginning of fifth grade.[emphasis mine]
Anchorage uses Everyday Math. This is what I have to look forward to... most (not all) children having automatic recall by the end of 4th grade (not 3rd grade).

I fully intend to start a parental revolution like that happening in Ridgewood, NJ, Washington state, and New York.

Plan of attack:

1. Start website
2. Letters to editor
3. Raise issue at PTA
4. Raise issue with school board

I know, I know, I promised to stay out of education reform, but it looks like so much fun.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos Finale


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Buzzword BS

The blogosphere and news world is on fire about the latest report on the progress made in education over the last few years.

Even though everyone and there bother has wrote something about it (including me now), I will pick on Kevin Drum's post over at Political Animal. Commenter's are using all sorts of cool phrases over in the comments section: phrases like "curriculum narrowing"

Curriculum narrowing is such a nice little buzz word. Of course no one talks about the curriculum broadening that happened over the last couple of decades.

Our schools teach the same things, to the same students, year after year, hoping that if it's repeated enough, some of it will sink in. Of course this is a very inefficient manner of teaching. It's half ass year after year.

K-3 should concentrate on basic reading and math skills.

4-8 grades should be used to gradually increase students background knowledge.

9-12 grades should then begin to merge the background knowledge, put it in to context, and teach critical thinking.

Instead our schools try and teach critical thinking to 8 year olds, basic reading skills to 8th graders, and background knowledge to Juniors in High School.

Kevin himself, notes the wide discrepancy between the state test scores and NAEP. (He isn't the only one, bloggers on the left and right are miraculously discovering it).

The discrepancy between State scores and NAEP performance has been well covered by the education blogosphere, including take-downs of several NYC articles.

For example.

Its amazing to me that the political blogosphere only cares about education when it can be used to score points against which ever political party they are against. The rest of the time, all that interests most political bloggers is whether some guy named Scooter is going to serve any prison time.

Meanwhile there are thousands of parents out there railing against the system trying to encourage the smallest amount of reform. Enjoy your 15 minutes school reformers, it will come around again in another few months.

Peace, I'm outie.

This guy should be fired!

Report Shows Indiana's Achievement Gap Still A Problem:

"Perhaps the only clear-cut data the report showed about Indiana is that the achievement gap between white students and poor or minority students is large and doesn't seem to be going away. Many other states have the same problem, said Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center on Education Policy, an independent nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.
I don't know who hired him, but they should probably be looking for someone else. "Many other states" don't have the same problem. EVERY STATE has the same problem. There isn't a single state without a large achievement gap. OK, maybe that isn't true. Some states have large achievement gaps, the other states have gigantic achievement gaps. With the exception of Washington state, the states that do show the lowest achievement gaps pretty much have crappy overall scores anyway.

You think if he was going to make excuses, he would go with "everybody else sucks as well", instead of "we aren't the only one who sucks". Put it perspective baby, put it in perspective.

Reference: Education Trust: Education Watch State NAEP Tables

I hate the new layout - The Internets #1 source for Education News and Information

Just saying...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dysteachia: The History and Science of the Code and Learning to Read and Comprehend it.

The History and Science of the Code and Learning to Read and Comprehend it.

I just found a really interesting and comprehensive website on the science of reading. It is chalk full of videos interviews with leading reading experts and researchers.

The contributors read like a who's who of reading experts, Engelmann, Moats, Hirsch, Whitehurst, etc... they literally have 30 to 40 interviews with just about any expert that you could name.

In this video called Dysteachia, the problem is summed up nicely by Dr. G. Reid Lyon, Former Branch Chief, National Institue of Child Health and Human Development.

When we look at the kids that are having a tough time learning how to read, we went through the statistics, 38% nationally, disaggregate that, 70% kids from poverty and so fourth hit the wall. 95% of those kids are instructional casualties... About five to six percent of those kids have what we call dyslexia or learning disabilities in reading. Ninety-five percent of the kids hitting the wall in learning to read are what we call NBT: Never Been Taught.
"Instructional Casualties" and "Never Been Taught" (NBT), I think those five words nicely sum up the problems that us parents have to deal.

My favorite interview is with Siegfried Engelmann, who gets quite passionate in his argument about the root cause of the problem.
...because in grade one, teachers did eminently stupid stuff, like have them look at the picture, discuss the picture, and then read the words. I am sorry Virginia, pictures do not generate specific words.
I will probably be blogging a lot more from this series in the coming weeks, but I highly suggest that you check it out.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Can't bear to watch... Nice White Lady a.k.a. Freedom Writers

So I am sitting here with the remote control in my hand trying to decide whether to watch Freedom Writers, and all I can think of is this youtube spoof.

I know once I hit play, I will probably cringe at all the stereotypes and exaggerations, just like I do when I watch any movie that portrays the military. Pray for my sanity.

- 5 minutes in to the movie and I am already cringing. I grew up right next door to Long Beach. It was bad, but not that bad. And then the whole, "I'm here for the diversity line"... I am about to puke.

- OK, her class just entered the room, and I realized I was actually rooting for her to fail. Something is wrong with me. Is this movie going to be as condescending as I think?

- Supposedly Ms Gruwell is super smart... so if she is so smart, how come she seems so shocked by the school? Growing up in Los Angeles, I don't care if you are from Beverly Hills, you are aware of the culture of the inner city.

- So only one kid in the whole 9th grade class knew what the holocaust was? (and he was white). Seriously... how many fricking stereotypes are they going to throw at me?

- Go white lady, go white lady, go! The journal idea is actually kind of cool. It probably doesn't help much with teaching grammar, spelling, or organization, but it could be a useful tool.

- It may be cliche, but the part where she took the kids to the holocaust museum actually got to me a little.

- Crap, I enjoyed that movie. Manipulating director 1 - Cynicism 0.

- The one thing I did take from the movie, is the idea of a teacher moving with their students from grade to grade. The idea has merit, unless of course the teacher sucks.

And I thought I was cynical... check this review out.: A Skeptic's view of Freedom Writers.

At first, I absolutely refused to see Freedom Writers. It looked like yet another feel good white-teacher-saves-colored-students with-much-rejoicing in-the-land-of-Nod movie. I mean, the narrative is another twist of the American Dream: ignore the circumstances around you and focus on yourself, and you’ll poise yourself for success and improvement. Rampant individualism abounds. You see people you once characterized as your people doing The Wrong Thing, and you set off to do The Right Thing without those people. And movies like Freedom Writers tell you in veiled ways that that’s okay, and the world cuts off when you leave it outside the fences of your school. The real world of deserting husbands, gang violence, and homelessness wipes clean away. As usual, my analysis is spoiler ridden because I just don’t give a damn. :-p
Read the rest for a pretty good analysis of the movie. (Despite all this, it still gave me an E.T. moment.)

This review over at MrCranky sums it up nicely as well.
More "credit" is due LaGravenese[the director] for deciding to avoid the scene with that one student who quits or dies or just doesn't get it. Everyone gets it in "Freedom Writers." Every student learns. Every student achieves. Every student is a changed person by the end of the film and Erin might as well be Mother Theresa.

"Freedom Writers 2" will feature Erin traveling to the Middle East to teach everyone peace, I'm sure.