Sunday, October 30, 2011

Very Difficult Treasure Hunt

A while back, I was floating around the web and found the following treasure hunt. I saved the images, and put a description and source into a Word document which has disappeared. If anyone can help, I'd appreciate it.

Who is responsible for this nasty, wonderful, complex, multi-layered, multi-disciplinary, I-Can't-Wait-To-Edit-It-and-Give-It-To-My-Own-Students puzzle?

Yes, it will take you a while.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Samples must be numerically significant or else conclusions are worthless.

Parents Against Tired Truckers is losing it's religion over the results of a new study on an experiment up here in Vermont. Just as in education, small sample sizes and incomplete data are being misunderstood and misrepresented to further a viewpoint that may do more harm than good. PATT has it's heart in the right place, but it's brains are sorely lacking.

Vermont asked the Feds to study whether allowing 100,000 lb rigs on major highways would be more dangerous than having them travel the back roads.

The study results came out. PATT shouted

The Trucking Industry Is Wrong on the Maine and Vermont 100,000 lb. Truck Pilot Program – DEAD Wrong 

Wow. That must be some study. "Dead wrong" isn't mincing words.

" .. the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) released startling information revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent to the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans)."
Impressive. "Startling", you say? Took a FOIA request, huh? I must read further. "Catastrohic results" "People needlessly died." Damn.
The number is SO BIG.
Documents show that during the 100,000 lb. truck pilot project in 2010, Vermont’s commercial motor vehicle fatal crash rate tripled from .49 fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled in 2009 to 1.44 fatal crashes (“Vermont Truck Interstate Pilot Study- Report to Congress (State of Vermont Version for Review) – Summary Report (Draft)” prepared for FHWA by Cambridge Systematics, Inc, hereinafter “Vermont Report”).
What does that mean Regis? The Death rate tripled.  Holy Batman, mackerel.  They're quoting Government documents and it sounds so official.

Well, actually, it doesn't mean much at all. You see, Vermont had one death involving trucks on its roads in 2009 and three in 2010. Yeah, the death rate "tripled" but you need to have a bigger sample size before you can claim that trucks are making things more dangerous.

You also need to look at the reality of those crashes. In the one crash, two trucks and a car were involved in an accident that was blamed on icy roads and bad conditions. One of the truck drivers and the car's driver were killed. In the other accident, the car (probably drunk) crossed the 50-foot median and hit the truck head-on. Again, hardly the fault of the truck driver.

As in education, there's always some fool trumpeting results based on small sample sizes and assuming the study will scale up. Remember when Bill Gates spent nearly a billion dollars to create the Small Schools Initiative? The smaller schools that did better than the large public schools were showcased until the next year when the same school would do worse, at which point the deformers would shout about some other school which HAD done well that year. Variation of the small groups, not the inevitable superiority of the charter school, small-school, voucher school, Catholic School, whatever.

To give you another example, consider Daisuke Matsusaka (RedSox). He had four starts. Two were terrible and then two were decent. Can we say that trend is positive? Yes, but I'm not giving him a contract based on that.

Still another comes from here:
Last week I tossed a coin a hundred times. 49 heads. Then I changed into a red t-shirt and tossed the same coin another hundred times. 51 heads. From this, I conclude that wearing a red shirt gives a 4.1% increase in conversion in throwing heads.

Pretty foolish.  Besides, everyone knows that wearing a red shirt is tantamount to a death sentence anyway, so I'm not sure what can be made from this "study" either.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Any Questions? License Plates

Yup. Nearly 100 years old.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Any Questions?

Four one-gallon milk jugs in the red crate.
Nine half-gallon milk jugs in the gray crate.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

California - Tech vs Fine Arts

Broke in a broken system.
Joanne shares about California's new law.
"Music and art teachers are complaining about a new California law that expands graduation requirements: Students can take one career or technical education course in place of art, music or a foreign language, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Arts and foreign-language courses are twice as likely as vocational classes to be certified as college-prep courses, so students who choose career tech could be ineligible to go from high school directly to the University of California and California State University systems."
So here's my question ... if VoTech is what the kid wants to study, why are we so hell-bent on getting him into a college degree he'll waste his time on?

Take that woman in the picture.  She went $100,000 in debt to finance a women's studies and religious studies major at NYU and now is working as a photographer's assistant for $20 per hour. (It's obviously CitiBank's fault for giving her the loan. That's why they posed her there.)

Why?  Why should she incur that debt for such a meaningless degree?  Because she's stupid, self-centered and gullible -- she willingly took out loans without considering how she'd pay them back.

California provides a free college education to its residents (well, except for fees, but I digress.)  Why should California provide a free college education for someone like her who serves no practical benefit to the society which pays that bill?

There is nothing wrong with a life and a career without a degree. Millions of people accomplish it all the time.  They become fine upstanding members of the community and college grads look down their noses at them at their peril.

We must stop this "college for all" one-track mindset.
Some urban districts, such as Oakland Unified, San Jose Unified and East Side Union in San Jose, use UC’s college-prep curriculum as their graduation requirement.
Which is ridiculous.

Public schools should not be pretending that all kids belong in college nor should it require that all kids be ready to make that step before we're willing to let them go out and be successful.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Circle of Failure

The other day I was in a 504/IEP meeting and a kid was being considered for alternative programs.  The tech center guy was sitting across the table and was discussing the kid's options.

"Well, the Hospitality Program would be a good fit."
"She doesn't want to put in any effort. What would be her options after that?"
"Well, she could work with the elementary school kids.  She really likes kids."

What I wanted to say was "This girl has failed at every possible program we can think of. She is lazy, and spoiled, and even her mother can't bribe her to do well.  She hates math and barely tolerates English and Social Studies. She couldn't care less about academics of any kind.  ... Why would you put her with a bunch of impressionable elementary kids?  How can that possibly work out well?"

Fortunately, I didn't have to say that, but at some point you need to put the majority's needs ahead of the reclamation project.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Flipping: Fad or Function?

Joanne Jacobs talks about flipping. So does Education Next:
Flipping instruction — typically, students watch a video at home and work through problems at school — is going mainstream, writes Education Sector’s Bill Tucker in Education Next.
I'm not convinced that this is the answer for everyone. I think, like SBG or Portfolios, this is a method that will work well with certain classes and certain teachers in certain situations.

As long as you can boil your whole lecture down to a five minute video tweet, it's great.  Is that really the goal in a math class? How well does it work in a class that discusses the new material for more than 5 minutes a day? This seems better for learning programming, where a tiny idea must be put into place with debugging and tweaking needed all the way through.

The right stuff: One of the gushing reports is from an AP Calculus teacher who claims that she is done with the AP Calculus curriculum a month early because of it.  While I am a bit skeptical of that claim, it is possible because she's dealing with the best, brightest and most responsible group of students in the entire school.  They probably have a great deal of time and a lot of parental support, computer access and other advantages.
What kind of time is needed?

Flipping began at the college level. I think it is a better fit there because of the tremendous amount of time required on the students' part -- time the college student has and the high school student typically doesn't.

I am not convinced that my ninth grade students (or frankly any of my students) can get to this video learning each night, after practice, for each of their six or seven classes, fighting their older brother for computer time. Even if they can manage the time, are students capable of absorbing new information and methods from six different classes, at 9pm?

The problem, of course, is that it will scale badly down at the highschool level, yet the educrats and deformers will leap on this bandwagon with both feet tied behind their backs.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals: Um ... Confidentiality?

The true HIPster is acutely aware of his school's scores and how NCLB is bearing down on his job as a result. Fearful for his bloated salary, he flails out with any half-baked idea that might have an effect on the school's results, regardless of the damage it does to students. After all, he's HIP.
You could give them gang tattoos, too.
"Anaheim Union High School District has killed a controversial incentive program that assigned students color-coded ID cards and planners based on state test scores, required those who performed poorly to stand in a separate lunch line and awarded the others with discounts. The program was designed to urge students to raise scores on the California Standards Tests, but it also raised concern among parents and students who said it illegally revealed test scores and embarrassed those who didn't do well."
Yeah. "Urge" them to raise scores. Or maybe "humiliate" them might be more accurate. "Here are all the smart kids in the school and none of them are you." Other than painting a target on the smart kids' backs (because you haven't really solved that bullying problem, yet, have you?), all that this accomplishes is to divide the students against each other and raise resentments higher than they were naturally.

And to have to carry around binders and ID cards that announced continuously that you were deficient -- who thought this was a good idea? A HIP.  It's akin to saying "All you Black kids in this line. All you Asian kids in the Yellow Line. Hispanics in the Brown Line. Normal kids in the White Line."  I can cite psychology experiments (one quote above) that demonstrate what's wrong with this idea and history is filled with stories of whole societies that took this idea and ran amok.  Never mind the confidentiality laws - you CANNOT announce a students scores on tests.

No matter how desperate your job prospects are.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals: Idealism Run Weird

Everyone has standards - things we will or won't tolerate in class. All of us have administrators who toss in a few of their own - no hoods, no hats, no gum, no food in the rooms, no drinks in the halls, no glass bottles; you've heard them before.

But then you have the Highly Ineffective Principal. He goes way beyond the reasonable ... all the way to "perfect".

1. Every class should have 100% attendance daily. It is the teacher's responsibility to call parents and make this happen.

I am speechless.

This is "perfect", all right. Perfectly idiotic.

h/t to Pissed Off Teacher, who has a list of these from a real HIPster.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals: Make a new committee

So we have a committee that is charged with discussing the way testing will happen. They talk about the testing schedule and the testing environment. A question comes up about a different group of students that isn't being tested at that time and a proposed change for them.

As a HIP, what do you do?

Do you appoint someone to make the change work? Do you state clearly that you believe that a school should do X in a situation like this one and that the current committee should make a decision? Or do you form a new committee that will meet at a different time, comprised of different people but still has you, the HIPster principal as its head?

Yup, make a new committee.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's not a dichotomy ...

Okay, I'll admit.  I am a math teacher. Furthermore, I live in an area of the country where living costs are surprisingly low, which is why the top step in our pay scales around the state are in the $55k - $65k range. Having said that, I'd like to take issue with this little tidbit of rabble-rousing.

First, no one is asking for teachers to take a 20% pay cut. At most, I've heard of negotiations proposals that ask for teachers to take on an additional teaching assignment instead of a prep period. In one of our previous contracts, the teachers agreed to a 15 minute extension on the day.  Similarly, you'd think the School Board was demanding capital punishment when you heard the outcry.

Nobody wins when you blatantly exaggerate like this.  Especially if you're of the opinion that the upper tax rates are way lower than they used to be, and lower than they should be.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Education Nation is Full of Narcissistic Fools

SO NBC, that bastion of level-headedness, has this thing called Education Nation. I did not watch the two segments.  After reading the following list, I couldn't do it.  I feel somewhat sick already and didn't want to push it.

The Innovative Educator thought this was all peachy-keen and listed out some of the talking points that resonated in its empty head.

Apparently, no one listens to the students and that's bad.  Of course, most of us do but that's not the Reformer Way of Describing Teachers so we obviously don't do that and obviously The Students Are Always Right When They Complain.

" In their discussion, young people provided insight into their own experiences with education and what they think needs to be done to ensure that every student receives a world-class education."  Because we all know that students are the Font of Wisdom and teachers are morons.  Quick note: Sleeping through class does not make you an expert on education.

But let's let their words speak for them ...
I have to critically think in college, but your tests don't teach me that.
They're not supposed to teach you that. They're supposed to help form and guide your learning and measure it, give that college some idea of what you can do.
We learn in different ways at different rates.
SO? Even though you really aren't all that different from your peers.  It's funny how I easily I can predict what each student will be able to achieve and what time frame it will take to do it.  Amazingly, the whole class is within a short time of each other.

I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
Bullshit. Teachers can connect but it's a two-way street and you're not playing. If you can't learn without the touchy-feely crap then you'll never learn from Salman Kahn, a computer, an online program, a disinterested presenter or any teacher who is even slightly less than your ideal of perfection.  That's a damn shame.
Teaching by the book is not teaching. It's just talking.
Minor point. Teaching by the book is accepting that someone smarter than I and with more time and help from his graduate students, has put together a pretty damn good calculus book.  Why would I change it radically?
Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
Bullshit. Caring about you is not the reason I get paid nor the reason you're in that class.  Teaching is a profession and one that I enjoy but I am not your parent, your priest or your counselor. I am the teacher.
This is my job.
Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
Nope.  My job is to teach math the best I can. See all that stuff to the right? Your job is to see to your dreams. You're the only one who can force you to put in the effort to reach your dreams.  This is an internal incentive.  External forces don't work here.
We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
Really? "Life coach"? When did teachers take the place of your parents? Do you really want me to (A) know about all of your off-campus shenanigans and problems and (B) are you willing to let me solve them? Did it ever occur to you that I might not have an answer for why your religion is retarded or why your mother is drug-addicted? I might not be the best person to counsel you on what to do with your life. How can I possibly know what you want? You can't even tell me what you'll be doing next summer, forget what you'll spend your life doing.

Or do you want someone's shoulder to cry on and pat you condescendingly on the head? If you want my advice as a Certified Life Coach: stop being a navel-gazing narcissist and grow up. The world really doesn't give a damn about your "life coaching".
The community should become more involved in schools.
Meh.  If there's anything less appealing, it's having a whole bunch of people around who are convinced that they know everything because they went to school.  You don't second-guess any other professionals in your life, why the eagerness to second-guess teachers?
Even if you don't want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship.
I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
I love them, too. Now get out your iPads and load up the Kindle version of the textbook and get to work. If you can't connect to the school's network, then set up a wi-fi hotspot off your iPhone, go to, find the answer to the first part of the question and incorporate it into the Excel spreadsheet to further analyze the problem, dump the results to Powerpoint, send it to your portable printer or convert it to one of the four acceptable electronic formats.  Then, don't send it to my email account but rather submit it to the class Moodle in the proper forum.  You know how to do that, right? By the end of the week, I'll want you to be able to explain all this and apply your knowledge to something completely different, so you need to get cracking.
You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.
Really?  Cool. That'll get me an additional $50k per year, and I get to send the rest of the class away for the period while we talk. Feel better now?  Made much improvement in math while you sorted out your ego?
Tell me something good that I'm doing so that I can keep growing in that.
You're a big boy, now.  If you don't know your strengths, my telling you over and over isn't going to help. I give praise when it's deserved and to encourage students.  I don't give out gold stars because that's demeaning. You need to do something difficult. You need to fail, and then pick yourself back up, fail and finally succeed.  YOU need to tell YOURSELF what's good. You're not supposed to be dancing to my tune on that.
When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.
Not it doesn't.  I'm not your parent. Our relationship is on a friendly, but professional level.
We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype
I'd appreciate it if you paid attention in class and made the most of the limited time we had. Since we only have those 60 minutes and there are quite a few equally needy souls in the room, how about we dispense with the games and focus on the math you signed up to take?  My understanding was this was pre-calculus. I know a whole lot more than you do about what you'll need in the workplace ... XBox, not withstanding.
Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.
Grow up.  Seek out the teachers.  The good ones will be there. Just wait until you get to college and have the privilege of sitting with 400 of your closest friends in a lecture hall listening to a TA with a heavy foreign accent. Nobody is connecting until you show up at Office Hours and ask an intelligent question.
Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.
Those things should never have left. Don't blame me for the morons in the community who made that decision. HOWEVER, student interest should never drive their education decisions ... they have no idea what they'll need and waste the limited time they have on things that are easy and un-challenging rather than on things they will later wish they'd done.
Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.
Nope. Until you have some experience, your "opinion" is worthless and people will blow you off.  When you have that experience, you'll find we already do listen.
You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate.
You need to put away your childish toys and realize that gossip and passing notes is something we did when we were young, too, and that Facebook and twitter are simply the new version of that. There's a reason why older folks don't communicate as often - they communicate BETTER.  Quality will someday replace quantity.  In the meantime, continue sending 300+ texts a day .... I'm sure someone is reading and thinking deeply about them.  At some point, though, the two of you sitting on each end of the couch texting each other might consider putting the phone down and "talking".
You need to love a student before you can teach a student.
Awesomely silly.   and false.
We do tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don't help us to learn what's important to us.
I don't like those tests either.  If I had my choice, you'd have four tests per semester and an end-of-course exam. Five scores. That's it. No homework grade, no participation grade, no effort grade, no attendance ... nothing but "Do you know what you're doing"?

I'm glad we had this talk.