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.