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.