Monday, November 29, 2010

Superintendent to CEO.

I read in the newspaper the other day that the Superintendent for a local school district just resigned to become the CEO of a major industrial company.  There was no question she could do the job as she had been running a multimillion dollar school district for more than 10 years.

Okay, I'm lying. That lede wouldn't fool anyone. The idea is patently silly. Of course, a story about someone moving in the opposite direction seems a little ridiculous as well.

If Cathy Black is a good fit as chancellor because she has experience running a magazine, should Joel Klein simply take over the New York Times? Seems silly, doesn't it?

Would Cathy Black be any good at running GM - or would the company, its stockholders and its employees all rise up in anger and reject her appointment on the grounds that she know a lot about magazines and choosing the right model for the front cover but damn spit nothing about cars.

The NYTimes quotes a few experts who are used to looking at industry - none of them has any experience in education. NYTimes

"They held up several examples of corporate chieftains who hopscotched successfully from industry to industry, people like Louis V. Gerstner Jr., who went from RJR Nabisco, a maker of food and cigarettes, to I.B.M, a maker of computer equipment."
Yeah, there's a good analogy ... maker of food stuff to a maker of non-food stuff. Both of which are assembly line type situations where defective parts or ingredients are trashed or recycled.

Oh well. Here's to one more experiment with someone else's kids.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Further You Extrapolate, the Sillier You Look

I'm always bemused by graphs that try to extrapolate too far.  Case in point at right (found by Darren).  The numbers previous to today are obviously known well but the future is a little cloudier.  Nevertheless, this graph claims to see a trend going rather upward, even though the trend for the next few years is downward.

Like the "population bomb" scare stories of the recent past, this one is just silly.

Why silly? Because it assumes that "given no change in policy, the numbers will do this."

Given no change? This is America.  We can't stop changing. The one thing that will never happen is steady state.  Somebody will introduce a bill to change this or that and your whole projection becomes worthless ... as if it meant much to begin with. We adapt in this country.  When the deficits were spiraling out of control under Reagan/Bush I, the country adapted, we nearly balanced the budget and we were starting to work on the debt.  Clinton's policies were less of a driver than the tech boom but, c'est la guerre. I'm frankly surprised that the National Review published it because it shows the sharpest drop under Obama's second term.

I had to tweak Darren, since he's a staunch conservative:

"Come on. Extrapolating a possibly exponential curve out to 2082? You really shouldn't, as a math teacher, have let that go without some comment. 

But I'll play along ... let's read the graph. The percentage surges upward in 1980-1984 when Reagan was doing those enormous deficit budgets -- to drive the Russians to bankruptcy, yes, but it still increases.

Then the economy recovered and those percentages dropped under Clinton (not that he was totally responsible for that, but it does make a good way to tweak conservatives!).  Likewise, the percentages rises under GWB, hits a peak in 2010 under Obama, and then shows a tremendous downward slope under the remaining years of Obama's term (and into his next?). Then, in 2016 (when the Republican presumably gets elected), the percentage starts to climb again.

I'm not sure that's exactly what you had in mind."

Darren responded later ...
"It's when the health care costs really start to kick in. Of course extrapolations that far out are silly, which is one of the reasons why I love the global warmers so much. Still, I don't see anyone arguing that our interest payments are going to go *down* any time soon."

No. But why is that graph any less ridiculous? The spending by Government is totally under the control of the Legislature and can be adjusted yearly as the political winds blow. If they wanted to, the Afgan war could cease in days, the bailouts could stop, the contracts could be ended and penalties paid.

Global warming isn't quite up to a vote by the House Ways and Means Committee. Natural processes don't stop on a whim.

I don't particularly care about the gloom and doom part of the debate anyway, so I'm probably not a good person to argue this with. I don't care about global climate as such, but I do care about MY air. If NYCity goes under water, it'd be turned into a modern Venice pretty quickly and Mankind would adapt. Florida would build dikes like Holland and Mankind would adapt. Ideal croplands would be found further north and, well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Looking for the Value in Value-Added.

In all of the argument and debate in the merit-pay/ teachers suck arena, the topic of value-added assessment comes up often. I wonder if anyone can actually delineate in which fashion or way that a multiple-choice, standardized test that is taken by students who have no pressure on them at all and who have no immediate personal need to pass the thing can possibly measure the educational state of said students, let alone any "added value" imparted by me.

Standard-based, constructivist, traditional ... none of that seems to matter.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ingenious Solution - except for those who didn't pack their own bags.

The Grouchy Old Cripple had a thought:
FINALLY - A great alternative to body scanners at airports ...

The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners at the airports. It's a booth you can step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on you. They see this as a win-win for everyone, with no crap about racial profiling. It also would eliminate the costs of long and expensive trials. Justice would be swift. Case closed!

You're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter an announcement comes over the PA system . . . "Attention standby passengers - we now have a seat available on flight number XXXX. Shalom"
"Have your bags been in your possession since the time you packed them?"
"Have a nice day."

One-percent of a Standard Deviation

... is quite a bit smaller than a one-percent increase. In fact, 1% of a standard deviation is pretty damned small. It seems somebody needs a Statistics course:
Public schools located near private schools increased reading and math scores more than public schools that had little competition.
Huge, I tells ya.
For every 1.1 miles closer to the nearest private school, public school math and reading performance increases by 1.5 percent of a standard deviation in the first year following the announcement of the scholarship program. Likewise, having 12 additional private schools nearby boosts public school test scores by almost 3 percent of a standard deviation. The presence of two additional types of private schools nearby raises test scores by about 2 percent of a standard deviation. Finally, an increase of one standard deviation in the concentration of private schools nearby is associated with an increase of about 1 percent of a standard deviation in test scores.
Test scores rose more for elementary and middle schools than for high schools, perhaps because the scholarship made K-8 private schools affordable but didn’t cover as much of the tuition at private high schools.
Hummmm ...

Did the scores of the private schools drop at the same time as the public school rose?  If the public school scores rose, was it because the parents of weaker kids took the money and ran? Was it because Florida is investing heavily in on-line learning and told certain kids that their behavior was unacceptable IN school so they had to switch to the private school or take courses online? We'll never know but this is an equally valid interpretation of the facts as presented.

I find the "1.5 percent of SD per mile" statistic interesting but pretty meaningless. That's not a standard deviation, it's one-one hundredth of a standard deviation. That's the equivalent of SAT scores rising 1 point. Read the collegeboard's take on significance.

Just because you can see something in your educational microscope doesn't mean there's anything worth looking at.
The quote also says that this happens only in the first year following the announcement. So the average SAT scores went up about 1 pt.

Here are Florida's average SAT scores for the last couple years. Notice the yearly fluctuations larger than that touted by the article. Note, the standard deviation for SAT scores is typically 100 - 110 points. So 1.5% of a standard deviation would be 1.5 points.

The timeline is also interesting. The idea that the mere announcement of a private school makes a difference in the first year (but only in the first year) indicates that it's got nothing to do with the education provided since it takes some time for a kid to get an education. Statistically insignificant.

I'd be looking for information on who paid for this study and who has the most to gain by falsely trumpeting miniscule gains and falsely attributing them to the glorious private schools.

Duh. Comment.

Some clown at Dissertation Help really needs to improve his "robot commenter."
Dissertation help said... This is a sort of blog we can have loads of information i would like to appreciate the intelligence of this blog's owner
If this is their idea of intelligent comment and correct grammar, who in their right mind would ever go to that website for help with a dissertation?

Okay, I'll bite.  Let's go look.

Nope, they suck.  Let the students go there, spend their money, pretend they actually wrote a paper.  Thank you for your time and we'll see you in this class again next year.

The Single Funniest Lede in History

Right from the front page of the Rutland Herald (VT) ...
When David Belock's car went missing, he told state police he suspected the men who delivered cocaine to his house on a weekly basis may have been responsible.
But wait, it gets better. How? Well, a man was found driving it. (There was also a passenger from Brooklyn) The driver claimed he didn't know the man in the other seat nor where the car had come from, but
When he arrived at his home, he found the man from Brooklyn in his house and the car parked in his driveway. He decided to go to the store and noticed the keys were in the ignition so he decided to take the car to the Grand Union supermarket.
And, all this time, I thought the New York Post made this kind of stuff up.
(story by Brent Curtis, Rutland Herald)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sure sign you're teaching in Vermont.

"Hey, Mr. Curmudgeon.  I won't be in on Thurday or Friday.  My family is going hunting.  I'm hoping to get a moose."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Some people just have different priorities.

I find it amazing that this article had to be written ... then I remember times in class when I reference basic historical knowledge and I understand.

While fans of the "Harry Potter" series headed to the Web on Thursday to catch the London red carpet premiere of the latest movie, others wondered why the actors wore matching red poppy boutonnieres. Stars Daniel Radcliffe, 21, Emma Watson, 20, and Rupert Grint, 22, who play Harry Potter and his best friends, Hermione and Ron, all donned the red blooms. They were joined by attendees Tom Felton and Ralph Fiennes and none other than J.K. Rowling herself -- and not just because they looked dapper. The flowers have a special meaning in Britain. 
"A special meaning" indeed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thought for the Day

GOLD is the money of monarchs.
SILVER is the money of gentlemen.
BARTER is the money of peasants, and
DEBT is the money of slaves.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reggie Miller on Ray Allen

On RA's hitting 7 of 7 from 3-pt distance ... "I'm done. I'm taking my record and walking over to the Celtic bench and handing it to him."

Those who can ...

Yeah, I know.  I hate that old saw, too.  But dammit, why do we have to have so many people confirming it?  The Mrs. reminded me of a time last year when she went to a conference. Another teacher stood and spoke of their "adventures" hiring a third-grade teacher. The school required the applicants (13 of them? Number was implied, not specified) to write an essay and take the 8th-grade end-of-course math test.

None passed.

The school had to reopen the application process.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jargon means something

It's been said before and it bears repeating. Jargon ("the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group") is used to make communication simpler and more precise.

Except in education.

Education "experts" use jargon to make simple things sound complicated, to change the inherent meaning of words and to appear (I guess) smarter than the speaker actually is. Education experts further abuse the English language by changing the meanings of simple words to either "be cute" or to obfuscate.

In what other field would a person who was speaking to a room full of professionals, requesting that thoughts and questions be "captured" (written down on sticky notes) and that the sticky notes be then attached to the "Parking Lot" at the back of the room (a large piece of paper decorated with an elementary school cartoon of a car and the words "Parking Lot" in large, multi-colored letters.

Teachers will never be taken seriously as professionals until we cease to find this clever, cute, or anything but demeaning and puerile.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Teacher Training?

"Mr. C, I want to be teacher."
Then your entrance exam is to decode this.  If you can make sense of this, you are ready to be a teacher.

h/t to Pissed Off!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Polls may be hitting a wall.

Slashdot has a thought:
"The 'cellphone effect.' In 2003, just 3.2% of households were cell-only, while in the 2010 election one-quarter of American adults have ditched their landlines and rely exclusively on their mobile phones, and a lot of pollsters don't call mobile phones. Cellphone-only voters tend to be younger, more urban, and less white — all Democratic demographics — and a study by Pew Research suggests that the failure to include them might bias the polls by about 4 points against Democrats, even after demographic weighting is applied."
This will make the "science" of polling even more suspect.  It's a factor I hadn't really considered until now, but everyone that I know who has dropped their landline for a cell-only life is definitely in the Democratic profile. 

On the other hand, those people most likely to skip voting entirely are also in the exact same demographic.