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?