Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gender and Math: Quiz

Jim scored a 97, Bob scored a 76, Dan scored a 45.

Jane scored a 81, Barb scoed a 78, Dana scored a 66.

Who is better at math, the boys or the girls?

Which gender has the worse performer?

Which gender has the top performer?

Originally posted in comments over at the Core Knowledge Blog.

Aim low, avoid disappointment

Alaska thinks(pdf) that 81.7% of its 4th grade students in 2007 were advanced/proficient in reading.

The NAEP says that only 29% of Alaskan public school 4th graders were at or above proficient. In fact the NAEP shows that only 62% of it's public school 4th graders were above basic, which is still a pretty big difference.

The NAEP expects 4th graders to read three syllable words; Alaska only expects 4th grades to read two syllables.

I didn't look at math scores, but I am guessing its the difference between counting to 10 and counting to 5.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coming to the East Coast

I am going to be in Washington D.C. next week for a conference, and then spend the weekend of 1-4 August in Harrisburg, Pa hanging out.

I will be the short bald guy nursing a hangover.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Right Wing Nation

Right Wing Professors blog has gone missing. I suspect it's a domain registration issue.

Sort of bummed me out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The American Scholar - The Disadvantages of an Elite Education - By William Deresiewicz

The American Scholar - The Disadvantages of an Elite Education - By William Deresiewicz:

"Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it.Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it."
Via Liam Julian at the Flypaper and John Derbyshire at the National Review, I came across this great article. Definately go read the whole thing.

#98 The Ivy League « Stuff White People Like

#98 The Ivy League « Stuff White People Like:

"Once you have determined that a white person did not attend an Ivy League School, you should try to give them the opportunity to explain why their school was actually a superior educational experience. Some easy ways to do this are to mention grade inflation, professors who value research over teaching, or high tuition costs. Any one of these will set a white person off on a multi-minute rant."
I am officially a white person.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You're kidding me, right?

Camp Education « Jay P. Greene’s Blog

"I think it’s worth thinking about what we can learn from camps to make schools more effective"
As a parent of 5 kids, let me give this some thought...

Is he crazy... my kids waste enough time at school on silly projects with no educational value.

My son's gifted class last year was a lot like camp. The teachers idea of math enrichment was having them do some crazy number wheel.

Creativity is a mantra, not an teaching tool.

More like camp... he seriously didn't say that did he?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Anchorage Housing Market in Pictures

Enough said.

Graph from

Friday, July 18, 2008

A conversation with Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools - Charlie Rose

A conversation with Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools - Charlie Rose

Where Michelle Rhee explains that teaching is a popularity contest, and that if more teachers brought their students McDonald's, everything would be honky-dory.

Disclaimer: I am having a hard time lately seeing the difference between education reformers and the education establishment.

Update: She wasn't all bad. At least she didn't pull a Wendy Kopp and avoid substantive answers.

Even more: She is frickin impressive as hell actually. I want to work for her.

A picture is worth a thousand words (and looking at pictures is a reading strategy anyway)

click to enlarge

One of my commentors mentioned teacher creativity. My daughters teacher expressed her creativity by the use of blue paper and fancy fonts. Note the same old "looking at pictures" as a reading strategy, it even gets higher billing than sounding out words.

No Fucking Duh

I just took dropped my daughter off for her last day of school, and went in to talk to her summer school teacher.

I asked the teacher, how much progress my daughter had made and if she had any test scores, assuming that school used some sort of formal diagnostic assessment. I know, I am an idiot.

Her teacher told me that she had "done some stuff at the computer lab", had a few spelling tests, and done a lot of writing.

I asked if their was anything formal.

"It's all formal" she replied.

"So you have no way of measuring progress" I asked.

The teacher then went on to explain to me that six weeks just wasn't a lot of time, so they worked on some "reading strategies".

The teacher was obviously sensing my frustration and tried to placate me.

"You daughter is a good reader, she just has problems with her decoding"."

"No FUCKING duh", I thought to myself, "you're a fucking idiot."

"You do know what decoding is, don't you?" she asked, assuming my shock was lack of understanding.

I walked out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Math or Elementary

I have been planning on becoming an elementary school teacher after I retire because I think that it's elementary education that needs the most reform, but lately I have been tempted to become a math teacher.

I have two Airman in my shop who are currently taking college algebra online. I have been helping them with their class, and have sort of enjoyed it. Maybe it runs in the family. My father was a math teacher in New Zealand for a number of years, at least until we moved back to Los Angeles and he became a programmer.

The big minus with becoming a math teacher is I would have to take a bunch more courses and get a second degree. This would seriously delay my future time line.

Any input?

Friday, July 11, 2008

TFA love... what it would take!

What it would take for me to start having some TFA love?

1. A tilt towards elementary education, or at least an acknowledgement that TFA math and science teachers are just a stop-gap until elementary school education is fixed.

2. An expansion of recruiting into working professionals and retiree's. If TFA's recruiting and training system is so great, wouldn't it work to identify smart motivated middle aged or older professionals looking to make a difference.

3. Drop the whole "pipeline of leaders" meme. We need more soldiers and less generals, more teachers, less administrators.

4. Start your own Education School. One that conducts real research and then uses it to produce superior teachers. Certify your own teachers.

5. Wendy Kopp's phone number. Just kidding Mr. Barth, I am married (and might need a job someday).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The TFA responds to accounting fraud failures

The Quick and the Ed

But the Office of Inspector General at the US Department of Education has charged TFA with failing to account for half of the $6 million the organization received in federal discretionary grants between 2003 and 2005. The IG's office scrutinized a sample of the federal funds and concluded in a reported released last month that "TFA did not fully comply with applicable laws and regulations..." The organization "could not provide adequate supporting documentation [for half of its expenditures] because it lacked sound fiscal accountability controls," the IG's office wrote, adding that, "On several occassions, we requested additional documentation from TFA's Vice President of Accounting and Controls, but she never provided us with adequate supporting documentation or an explanation of the expenditures."
A newly hired TFA alumni responds:

"Like oh my God, you know...

Accounting rules are like, so contributing to the achievement gap. Totally.

If more teachers were, like, totally more like us, then everything would be like sooooo cool.

I mean its not like we are sending alumni to Wall Street or anything... well even so, that is just like, so unfair.

Gag me with a spoon. you know?"

I might vote for Obama after all...

Jackson's Obama comments almost went unnoticed - Los Angeles Times

Anyone who can piss off Jesse Jackson deserves at least a second look after all, besides McCain is mutating into Bush Lite.

What my kids and the military taught me about teaching...

Last year, one of my daughters asked me to help her study for a social studies test she had at school the next day.

We got out her text book and I asked her what we were studying. "Unit 3" she said. I flipped to Unit 3, and realized that Unit 3 consisted of three chapters, each at least 10 pages long. It seemed to cover the entire history of the United States up until and including the Revolutionary War.

The tears started almost immediately. She correctly deduced that there was no way she could cover the whole unit in one night.

I asked her if her teacher had highlighted any areas to key in on, but my daughter couldn't remember.

I told her to just skim read the Unit and concentrate on the main points. I was met with black stares. She had no idea which were the key points and which was just fluff.

Flash forward a week later...

My daughter brings home the test, and she has gotten a C-. I decided to look over the test and see what was covered, but as far as I could tell it was nothing but a quiz of random facts from the Unit. There was no rhyme or reason to it. Trivial matters were covered, but questions about key events were missing. As far as I could tell, she would of had to have memorized the entire Unit to get an A.


The Air Force is very big on professional development of the enlisted force.

As soon as an Airman gets selected to be an NCO, he/she is immediately sent to Airman Leadership School, and enrolled in a "Train the Trainer" course. The professional development, both residence and computer based is reinforced through each state of an NCO's career.

This continuous professional development is one the key reasons our enlisted force is the backbone of the most competent and powerful military forces ever assembled.

In ever single professional development course I have taken, one of the key themes that we are taught in training and mentoring is the establishment of training objectives and measurable goals.

When I am assigned a new Airman, I am required to sit them down and specifically state my expectations. I have been trained to make the expectations easily measurable, and not subjective.

When I develop training plans, I have to write a specific goal, and then define a measurable evaluation. Before conducting any training, I tell my trainee's exactly what I expect them to be able to accomplish upon completion of the training.

It's my responsibility to break down the task, and to go over each step. I am to assume nothing, and develop the tasks so that someone with zero experience will be able to accomplish the task upon completion of the training.

If upon evaluation, my trainee can not perform the task to the measurable objective then I immediately schedule remedial training.

I do not give up or make excuses.

I am continually trying to improve. If someone doesn't get something, I assume that it's because I haven't explained it clearly.

If my Airman were not to get trained properly, my bosses and my commander would hold me responsible.


If I were to conduct my training or mentoring like most teachers teach, I would be fired.

If I were my daughters teacher, I would clearly communicated as to what information they needed to know out of the Unit.

I would of conducted evaluations of my students through out the Unit, and if I had detected an area of weakness, I would of immediately gone back to reteach the material before I moved on to the next section.

By the time my students had taken the final exam, they would of been quizzed and reviewed on the key themes and facts.

My test material would not of been a surprise to the students or the parents.


My example is not uncommon, with the only exception of spelling and math tests.

I coin this method of teaching and testing, "Gotcha education".

Plagiarizing myself...

Backed Halibut... hmmmm

To save time and effort, I am just going to post the comments I made at other websites.

On eduwonkette: The Rhetoric of Reform: Does Research Count?

It's not like private school or charter school teachers get any different training that public school teachers.

To me this is a no duh study.

It's basically the same result when you randomly place low SES students in middle class schools.
Vouchers or school choice are only useful if parents choose a school that uses effective teaching practices. Then again, it would be so much simpler if public schools improved their teaching techniques.

If our government is going to spend money on studies, someone needs to do a long term study on which education schools produce teachers who have the greatest effects on student achievement.

Who wants to bet that the results show that education schools that concentrate on the mechanics of teaching do much better than the schools that concentrate of edujargon?

Actually, hold of on doing the study, I smell a great thesis paper for my graduate studies in a few years.

More from eduwonkette: Guest Blogger Mica Pollock on: Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School#comments

Arguments that race isn't biological are naive see... Lewontin's Fallacy. The critical debate is whether IQ/intelligence/academic ability is genetic, but to focus on that question misses the boat when it comes to education.

Education standards should be set based on the premise that they are achievable by all students regardless of their ability (speed of learning) or starting point. Once we have accepted this, the key then is to figure out how to get all students across this line.

I am probably spoiled and naive when it comes to addressing race due to my upbringing (adopted multiracial family) and to the Air Force (most successfully integrated organization in the world), but I realize that there are probably some system/organizational changes to made to provide every student with the proper opportunities and outlook.

However, I am convinced that the key to improving education outcomes for disadvantaged groups just aren't going to be solved by addressing race. Simply put, it all boils down to the curriculum and pedagogy. There are right ways and wrong ways to teach. It’s just that middle/upper class students have the advantage of parents and an environment that can compensate for the shortcomings.

As to ability grouping, it really comes down to a simple premise.

Ability grouping is better for low, middle, and high performing kids in absolute terms. The problem is that in comparative terms, the differences between the groups get relatively larger and larger.

Our system has subtly decided that it's better to keep the relative differences smaller instead of making greater performance gains for all groups. Ironically, given NCLB's measuring stick of all kids getting above a certain line, the system works against itself. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

No comments allowed... if you must call me an idiot, do it at the original website.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Something fishy...

Ever wonder what an opinionated education blogger does on holidays. Well this 4th of July I was in Homer, Ak on a halibut charter.

They might not be the biggest halibut every pulled out of the Kachemak Bay, but they will still taste delicious.

Between me and my wife, we have 39 pounds of halibut filet's in the freezer. Anyone know any good recipes?

p.s. I suppose I should mention my wife caught the biggest fish on the boat... beginners luck I say.

Love Fest in Anchorage

Que rant...

In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards. Mark Twain

Lately, I have taken to watching Anchorage School Board meetings on my local cable community channel. I have come to the conclusion that the Anchorage School Board is nothing but a rubber stamp for the school district administration.

During the decision to adopt "Everyday Math", there was almost zero debate or inquiry into the rational behind the decision. In fact, the commentary by the school board was more like a love fest than a decision making process.

I do not doubt for one second that the school board members are caring, intelligent, members of the community, but my suspicion is that unless it comes to money issues, the members are intimidated by any discussion of curriculum.

Then again, I am guessing that the majority of voters in school board elections are teachers, perhaps the board members are all ringers but in by the teachers unions and Ed School mafia.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

To Too much pressure...

Schoolgate - Times Online - WBLG: The Ten Best Blogs about Education

Sarah Ebner was kind enough to mention my blog as a decent read. She must of caught my blog on a good day, because rumors of my competence are greatly exaggerated. Perhaps she found out I used to live in Cambridge... who knows?

In order to deflect attention away from myself, and relieve the guilt associated with not posting (or proofreading) nearly as often as I should), here are five blogs that are much better than mine, and truly must reads...

D-EdReckoning: Ken writes the most comprehensive, coherent, and educational blog around. If you disagree with him, there is a good chance that he will make you look silly. If you don't have facts or evidence to back your position, hang it up.

Teaching in the 408: TMAO is probably the best pure writer around. His blogs posts are as close to literature as you can get in the blogging world. Hopefully, he can keep his mad skills while writing for the Education Trust - West.

From the Trenches of Public Ed.: The more I learn about education, the more I find that I agree with most of what Dennis has to say. Don't tell him that, because he is officially my nemesis.

kitchen table math: What do you get when you combine the talents of 10 to 20 of intelligent parents and teachers, all focusing on math and math instruction,... only the best damn group blog around. Catherine Johnson anchors it all together, but the rest of the semi-regular posters kick ass as well.

NYC Educator: I am pretty sure that I am opposed to most of what NYC Educator posts, but I love that he doesn't mince words and he tells it like it is. I suspect that Major Bloomberg and Joel Klein have a secret department solely dedicated to keeping track of him.

Right Wing Nation: He isn't a pure education blogger, but when it comes to common sense and higher education, he is spot on. Lately he has been focused on the elections, but even if you don't agree with him, you can always steal some great recipes from his website.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

NBA Hires Army Maj. General to Oversee Referees -

NBA Hires Army Maj. General to Oversee Referees -

NEW YORK -- The NBA hired Army Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Johnson on Tuesday as senior vice president of referee operations, a newly created position to help strengthen the league's officiating programs following the Tim Donaghy scandal.
Johnson recently retired after 32 years of service as a combat engineer. He was commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region division, from 2003-04, responsible for overseeing $18 billion of reconstruction in Iraq.

"Ron's wealth of leadership and management experience, together with his engineering expertise in areas such as systems analysis, processes, and operations, make him an ideal candidate to lead our officiating program," Stern said in a statement. "Our referees are the best in the world but they never stop striving to improve and Ron has made a career out of getting the very best out of people."
I don't know crap about basketball, refereeing, or civil engineering, but I do know that officers almost never have any practical hands on experience. They don't pay Generals to engineer, they pay them to lead and manage.

I predict he will be just as successful as Vice Admiral David L. Brewer, III.