Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Other Hand, Have a Nice Flight.

I can't tell you how happy I'd be to win the Lottery, just so I could buy this Sukhoi-27 Flanker.

It's for sale. All weaponry has been removed, of course.

Have a Nice Flight.

How can a Muslim student,
- whose name appears on a US law enforcement database of terrorists,
- whose father notified US law enforcement that he was "over the edge" and likely to become a violent Jihadi,
- who was denied re-admittance into the UK because he was too high a risk,
- who was traveling from Yemen, probably having trained with an al-Queda group,
- who had an explosive device sewn into his underwear yet still get past a number of security checks,
- and be granted a visa to travel to America?

There's also word that a fellow passenger was videotaping him for the entire flight. No one commented on this? "I'm taking a video of this other man doing nothing for 1.5 hours. Isn't that normal behavior for you, too?"

Instead of addressing the problem at hand and correcting the mistakes that were made, administration decided to head off on a tangent and make new rules for everyone: Folks who are not identified as terrorists can't visit the head for the first or last hour of the flight, can't have a laptop on the lap (or anything else), must strip off shoes and clothing at whim, and stand in lines for hours waiting for low-grade morons to stare woodenly at screens until their eyes defocus and they overlook everything.

That tactic worked so well this time, TSA are doing more of it.

Have we forgotten the cardinal rule of minimum-wage humans? They get bored easily. When you increase the size of the haystack, you won't find more needles so you can't improve your security by adding stupid procedures and paperwork. What's needed is to reduce the size of the haystack, to ignore the obviously innocuous and focus on those who are holding up signs declaring themselves dangerous.

Why does this remind me of a Highly Ineffective Principal?

Juxtaposition, Graphics, Lying Like a Rug

It's amazing what you can do with statistics. ("Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.") Here's a sample:

Funny how the addition of a graph makes a point stronger, while not necessarily making anything clearer or more correct.

The problem with this graph is its simplicity - those are not the only pertinent bits of information at play.

Teachers often can be incredibly one-sided and have too much effect on students by asking questions that require agreement with a false premise before answering. I have heard variations of all of these questions as I have passed by open classroom doors ...
  • Did Clinton cause that improvement on his own or did the computer age have more of an effect on the economy?
  • Did Bush really destroy the economy or were these events out of his control?
  • Did Bush know that his failures, including "Mission Accomplished", would come back to haunt him and his legacy?
  • What should Bush have done differently in the last six months of his Presidency?
  • Why didn't Bush do something while the economy imploded?
  • Is it a coincidence that Democrats have grown the economy while Republicans have not?
  • Since Democrats grow the economy,as seen in the graph above, why shouldn't we pass Health Care reform and save the lives of those less fortunate?
Why is this okay? Is it just because too many people are innumerate (to use Paulos's word for it) that this kind of thing is promoted and passed on?

Just sayin'.

Manufacturing a Soccer Ball

So this used to be a truncated icosahedron. You could make one from scratch pretty easily, cut it out and Viola!, you had a ball.

Oh, how times have changed ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas - my present to you

I hated Secret Santa at school. It's hardly any better at work. I can never seem to get the right balance in the group. Someone always is disappointed, someone invariably gives a too-expensive gift while someone else forgets or just doesn't bother. Tensions run high when it should be a good time. Then, you have the difficulty of getting a present for someone you don't know well. Everyone has trouble with this. The "funny" gift is received with a whince or a stone faced, "Thanks" and winds up in the trash can later.

We've solved that problem up here in the frozen north. Here is my present to everyone who needs a better way to get happy, have fun and give a gift to coworkers. It also works great when you have some folks who are less well off than others. You make a $15 limit. Since you are not buying for a specific person, this is MUCH easier.

Everyone buys a single gift for "themselves". Couples bring two. Surreptitiously, everyone places their wrapped gift in the middle of the circle.  The goal is to disassociate the giver from the gift.

Fortified with an appropriate libation, it's time for ...

A Yankee Swap

Numbered cards are picked from a basket to decide order of play. The players then arrange themselves in order around the circle. The Number cards should be kept visible near the player since they will be part of the game later.  You can use these or make your own.

In order, each chooses a gift from the pile.

Then, in order, each unwraps the gift. This gives everyone a first chance to see them and think about which they want to "play" for.

Three of the playing cards are dealt to each person. (These are seen on the next page.) The remainder are placed in a pile in the center.

In numerical order, players place a card face-up in the middle of the circle and picks up a replacement from the pile of extra tickets. The instructions on the face-up card are followed.

Swap cards, do-nothing cards and pass cards are played in turn.
Protection cards and EndGame cards are played at any time, in turn or out-of-turn.

  • We had a couple gifts that were double-wrapped so people played for them "blind." You may want to add a "unwrap any presents" card to the group below.
  • Some Yankee swaps say the swapping should happen once and BEFORE the gifts are opened. We felt that this made the whole exercise boring – how do you know if you want it if you don't know what it is?
  • Additional tickets available by answering trivia instead of having a pick-up pile in the center. This can be difficult if someone gets too many tickets and others have none.
  • All tickets can be dealt out at the beginning. I like it better when you play a card and get a replacement. It feels more like a game.
  • The "Swap with a birthday in January" cards were included because we happened to have a bunch of January birthdays in the group.
Fire up your word processor, make a table with cellspacing and borders or use these to the right:

PLAYING CARDS: (x2 indicates the number of copies of this card.)

The Swap Cards:
These cards are person-to-person swaps. Some are specific (person to the right or left) while others allow a choice on the card-holder's part (e.g., swap with an odd number – the choice is in which odd number of course)

  • Swap with Birthday not in January
  • Swap with Birthday in January
  • Swap with anyone wearing sneakers
  • Swap with anyone wearing socks without shoes
  • Swap with a prime number (x2)
  • Swap with a composite number (x2)
  • Swap with an odd number(x2)
  • Swap with an even number (x2)
  • Swap with anyone older than you (x2)
  • Swap with anyone younger than you (x2)
  • Swap with the person 2 to the right (x2)
  • Swap with the person to your right (x2)
  • Swap with the person to your left (x2)
  • Swap with the person 2 to the left (x2)

The Do-nothing Cards:
These cards keep the status quo ante. Play them to keep everything as it is.

  • Keep-sake ! swap with no one (x3)
  • This card was intentionally left blank. (x3)

The Passing Cards:
Everyone in the circle passes to the right or left.

  • All Pass - everyone pass to the left (x2)
  • All Pass - everyone pass to the right (x2)

The Protection Cards:
Unlike the other cards, which are played in turn, Protection cards are played out-of-turn when the holder wishes to undo or alter a swap or pass.

  • Safe! use this card to block someone from swapping with you. (x4) "Safe!" is played to block a swap that another player has called on you. The other player loses the swap and cannot choose another swap.
  • Skip me! any pass, left or right, skips over you. (x2) "Skip Me!" is played in response to another player's pass card. The pass "skips" to the next person around the circle.
  • Chocolate! temporarily leave the game to get chocolate.(x2) The Chocolate card allows the player to withdraw from the game and therefore not be subject to any swaps or passes. Return at any time. This game is supposed to be fun so the time of return is left up to the player.
  • Not So Fast ! This card will undo the last swap. Use at any time. (x2) "Not so Fast!" is played at any time to stop any swap or pass, whether it affects the holder personally or not. Typically, this is thrown when the player realizes that someone has become attached to a particular present and is forced to exchange. A player can even play a card in turn and then immediately follow it with "Not So Fast!" to undo it.

EndGame Cards:
  • Stop! (x4) These can be played at any time, in-turn or out-of-turn. When the four "Stop!" cards have been played, the game is over. Use these cards to end the game when the presents are "right" and further play would result in hurt feelings. Additionally, the last "Stop!" card can be played in such a way as to block an undesired card. For example, if the card being played is "Pass Left" then the final "Stop!" card can instantly end the game before the pass takes place or it can be held until just afterwards.

Please, enjoy the holidays. Have a Merry Christmas. Have a Happy Hannukah. Have a Happy New Year in 2010, 1432, the Year of the Tiger or a belated Rosh Hashanah 5771.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Politicians can't Do Math, or Risk Analysis

Based on absolutely no evidence other than a nagging feeling that there might be something in that whiny voter's complaint, a Maine senator wants force companies to put a warning sticker on the back of all cellphones, warning of radiation.

Let me summarize:
1) Some low-grade moron has a vague feeling that the tiny bit of radiation from the cellphone is dangerous because you held it to your head for 400 minutes a month (0.8% of the time for a radio transmission that MIGHT travel 3 miles) yet the radio transmissions from all those radio stations are okay (for signals that travel a couple hundred miles and are broadcasting 24/7/365 -- right through your head).
2) No one has been able to show causation in studies. In fact, most of them show that cellphone users have a LOWER brain cancer rate than non-users.
3) Handheld or not, the cellphone is as dangerous to use while driving as four shots of whiskey in a teenager. (DUI crash rates are on par with cellphone crash rates)
4) texting while driving is something like 25times as dangerous as driving with friends piled in the car, and 6-8 times as dangerous as DUI.
5) the sound levels on iPods and other MP3 players drastically reduce the attention and awareness of the teenage driver. Surprisingly, playing the radio does not have nearly the same effect.

Given all that, they want to warn about cancer.

Spare me.

reposted Yahoo article below the fold:

In the NFL, it's called taunting.

Joanne Jacobs has the story of an angry boy arrested for throwing a football.
When a 14-year-old boy “angrily” threw a football at another boy’s leg, middle school officials called the police, who arrested the boy for assault. The other boy was not injured. There was no real explanation as to why the incident was considered serious enough to involve police. The police report states that the unnamed juvenile suspect appeared “angry.”

What happened here is still unclear. At first blush, this administration (HIPsters obviously) over-reacted. Upon further reflection and some limited research, I've decided the administration over-reacted badly. I can see no instance or set of circumstances that would justify having this kid arrested.

The HIPPIE (Highly Ineffective Principal, Possibly Idiotic Even) reminds me of the police officer in D.C. who drew his gun when he car was hit by a snowball: Child has tantrum. Elder is offended. Elder instantly escalates to the extreme. Don't forget to make the "offense" sound really dark and evil by calling it "assault."

I'm also amused that "Crittenden Middle School Principal Karen Robinson did not respond to phone calls by press time." Seeing as this incident happened on Friday and the paper was the Monday edition, she certainly had time. Must be hiding something.

Should have dropped a penalty flag for "Unsportsmanlike conduct" and left it at that.

Lip-dub procedure.

Alexander Russo is curious how an extended shot lip-dub video might be made:
"One school [Shorecrest] made a video with kids lip-synching an Outkast song and challenged a rival school. Kids at the latter institution [Shorewood] not only produced a Hall & Oates lip-dub video but also did the song & video backwards." 
It's not quite the opening shot to Boogie Nights or the long single shot in the middle of Atonment, but there are some seriously complicated logistics here. I wonder if anyone's done a "how to" on pulling these things off.

Here's my thought:
1) play the song over the intercom system or speaker system.
2) walk a set path with a steady-cam. record students.
3) dub the same track to the video in premier or other editing software.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simple Pleasures

From Rateyourstudents comes the Smestyer-End Simple Pleasures
  • The realization by a colleague that the two students I had such an awful time with last semester are indeed A#1 assholes
  • An email from an earnest C student saying that despite his low grade, he really enjoyed the class, feels that he learned a lot, and is recommending the class to everyone.
  • A holiday dessert in the departmental office that actually tastes good
  • Knowing that the colleague who finished grading all three classes by the last day of class and thus got to start his vacation one week early is now miserably stuck in a snow storm
  • Thank-you notes from 2 of the 17 students for whom I wrote letters of recommendation
  • Empty boxes by the department’s trash can that are the perfect size for mailing holiday gifts
  • No paper cuts
Feel free to add your own ....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teacher Magnet School is Bad

h/t to Darren,

Students at the Teacher Training Magnet School don't understand math, or English for that matter?

Crenshaw Senior High 5010 11th Ave., Los Angeles, 90043
» Schoolwide Performance California Standards Test (STAR)
Students scoring proficient or above: English 18.9% Math 2.3%
# Students in advanced math: 15%

No Child Left Behind (AYP)
Fail: Missed 16 of 23 federal targets for 2009
Fail: Missed 25 of 25 federal targets for 2008
Fail: Missed 16 of 22 federal targets for 2007

SAT Reasoning Test Composite Average 1098
Math: 363 Verbal: 367 Writing: 368
Source: state data reported for 238 participants

How is this possible? An average of 363 means that some were higher and some were lower. The standard deviation for the SAT is about 100 points. Think about that. Then consider that these folks are in the teacher training program.

This is Crenshaw Teacher Training Magnet School.

LA's 141 Magnet Schools, Ranked in Ascending Order.
(percentages are percent proficient in Math, English
Dorsey Police Academy Magnet 0.0% 16.3%
Washington Communication Arts Magnet 0.0% 29.8%
Crenshaw Teacher Training Magnet 1.1% 28.6%
Washington Music Academy Magnet 1.2% 45.5%
Washington Math/Science/Technology Magnet 2.1% 36.5%
Fremont Math/Science/Technology Magnet 3.7% 39.8%
Dorsey Math/Science/Technology Magnet 4.4% 38.3%
Jordan Math/Science/Technology Magnet 4.9% 45.1%
Wilson Police Academy Magnet 5.0% 25.0%
Dorsey Law/Public Service Magnet 5.6% 36.6%
Manual Arts College Prep Magnet 7.0% 30.9%
Wilson Administrative Law Magnet 7.5% 44.9%
Teacher Training Magnet is one of the worst. Couldn't see that coming.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Scheduling's not rocket science but it sure seems that way.

Pissed Off Teacher has a student with a IEP: kid is doing math at a 3rd grade level and his IEP wants him to master math facts "and to be able to work with whole numbers, decimals and fractions." He is enrolled in Algebra.

Joanne Jacobs mentions that bilingual education didn't work ... "California’s bilingual education ban, which was supposed to lead to disaster, worked for Hispanic students ... Hispanic test scores on a range of subjects have risen since Prop. 227 became law."

What's the connection?

Students should master the basic material before moving on to more difficult material. If you shove them into a class they're not ready for and tell the teacher "Individualize the education", then you will ultimately fail.

Better to spend an entire year getting up to speed and then moving on than to struggle for years in half-assed placements.

And now for the Glorious Baa-studs

I am speechless.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I was wandering the web and was reading about "Why we are not 'we' anymore" when I found an interesting sidebar. It was the list of most-viewed stories from the website, normally a fairly humdrum sort of thing:

Number two seems out of place somehow. Maybe Forbes could spice it up a little too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adaptation and Learning

Who says no one can use critical thinking anymore?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Twitching and Twittering

Just musing on the state of the 21st Century Skills for a moment ... There's Live Journal, Twitter, a couple Blogs and comment applications, personal websites and class websites, a slew of email accounts, Google Office and Shared documents, edline, texting, telephone ... not to mention the other 98.34% of the communication on the web.

When I'm not using some talking head's particular favorite, why am I considered "techno-phobic"? Why do I need am account at all of these places just to communicate?

Closing Schools - Now what?

Pissed Off: Out Of The Mouth Of Babes says:
The kids were all abuzz about some of the borough's schools being closed. They were worried that these kids will now be coming to Packemin. They didn't understand why these schools were being eliminated. I told them about the school's poor academic records and their failure rates. The kids immediately piped up with "Bad kids are bad kids. So now they will all come here and bring our school down too. I bet we will be the next school closed."
Toles had it best:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Percentage or Points?

This may seem like a minor point, but the implications are not. I have to give the people credit for using the phrase "12% drop" correctly but it doesn't excuse the conclusion.

Sandra Stotsky and Ze'ev Wurman say
"Yet, is it really the case that low-performing high school students would drop out if high school diploma requirements were ratcheted up? That doesn't seem to be the case in Massachusetts, which in 2008 reduced its dropout rate by 12% from the previous year."
You figure this to be an amazing drop worthy of Gates money. Then you follow the link and find that the dropout rate in Massachusetts went from 3.8% to 3.4%. Not only that, but this "proof" of their theory is further shaken by the clauses supplied -- a new way of counting who is which class, new definitions, new SIS system. This is another case of the random lucky bounce being taken as an incontrovertible law of nature that happens to be in your favor ... until the next unlucky bounce demands a new law of nature in your favor.

Did the ratcheting up cause the drop? Can't say. Correlation with two data points is not quite good enough to show cause.

Hallelujah Chorus ... Subtitled ??

Just watch:


Monday, December 7, 2009

Look Where a Charter got The Professor and MaryAnne and the Howells

"President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made it clear that expanding charter schools is a critical part of successful education reform."

If the charter schools do such wonderful things because they are unchained from the rules, regulations and funding limitations of the public schools, why not just lift those chains from the public schools?

We keep talking about how some corporate entity is going to be SOOO much more responsible with public money but forget that they'll be responsible to their shareholders and management instead of to the public.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Consultants / Insultants

Q: What do you call a consultant at your inservice?
A: An insultant.

Original Here.

Cellphones and Teenagers.

Over at Joanne Jacobs, Sexting is Popular among teenagers:
More than a quarter: involved in sexting
One third sent or received explicit photos.
14 percent said they suspect the pictures were shared without permission
Seventeen percent of those who received naked pictures said they passed them along to someone else, often to more than just one person.
I'm not surprised. Cellphones (with their current abilities and prices) are so new that everyone has difficulty. Society hasn't set the rules yet. We're close, but it's gonna take time. It always takes time for society to figure itself out.

I recall going to an Everclear concert at a local club. They were playing loud and furious and an audience member held a camera high above his head to record the whole song. Everyone else was doing the same thing but this guy was close to the stage and the camera was right in front of Alex's face and the guy kept it aimed right at him. He stopped the song in the middle. "Dude, you're weirding me out."

We have the same situation in schools with texting during class and the constant NEED to have the phone on vibrate or "too high for teachers", the same situation with over-controlling boyfriends and their new way of keeping track, the same situation with impulsiveness and what the older group deems irresponsibility.

Give a kid unlimited candy and he will eat too much of it.
Give a kid unlimited hours in front of a tv, he will sit there and veg.
Give a kid a computer in his room and he'll spend all his time on it.
Give a kid unlimited use of a cellphone, he will misuse it.
The same with videogames.
The same with sports.
The same with books.
The same with sex.

The parents who give their kids unlimited and uncontrolled use of a toy unleash the limitless ability of the teenager to waste all his time with it and do something stupid or intelligent, wasteful or pretty cool, annoying, funny or thoughtless.

Adolescence is the time when controls are needed to establish boundaries and learn the appropriate use of everything. Limit choices.

Finally, a note to the parents of high-school students:
Please don't try to claim that the current cellphone with all of its bells and whistles is necessary - only the "call parents" option is necessary. Everything else on that phone will be misused.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Google is doing evil with SideWiki

The company that vowed to "Do no evil" has really crapped the bucket with SideWiki. For those who aren't aware, SideWiki is a completely open wiki-type commenting system that appears on the side of your website.

Users who install the Google toolbar can leave comments on any website - any comments - without any kind of control or moderation by the website owner, blogger, etc.

If you are the leading provider of services in an area, paying Adwords lots of money (or even if you aren't and don't) then one of your competitors, disgruntled employees or just an idiotic teenager with a warped sense of humor can write comments on your frontpage.

Yep. The page you spent money for (or time and effort) can now be hijacked by anyone:
  • link to their own page.
  • say negative or slanderous things.
  • demean your product.
They always had the option of using twitter or myspace or any one of a thousand review sites, but never before could they actually do it right on your website.

There is no way to erase them.  There is no way to block them without using complex workarounds.  You can't even post your own opinions in the SideWiki on your page without first proving that you are really the owner of the page.

Time to turn up the heat.
Google SideWiki Forums

Not just for Global Warming

EUGENE VOLOKH ON DATA SHARING AND CLIMATE RESEARCH, though this sentiment applies to all research. This is how peer review works. It is why we know that fusion power is not yet commercially viable, that perpetual motion machines don't and that certain medicines are dangerous or effective.
My inclination would be to say that data should nearly always be shared. If you share your data, this lets others check the conclusions you draw from the data, as well as verifying the accuracy of the data against other available sources. They might disprove your arguments, or lead you to improve your arguments, or, if they reproduce your results, they might help prove the validity of your arguments. But in either case, science progresses better, and the decisions made based on the science are more reliable, than if you keep the data secret.
I can see some possible exceptions, for instance where there are concerns about the privacy of research subjects, or where the data was gathered as part of a commercial endeavor that requires that the data be kept proprietary for the commercial project to be viable, or some such. Even there I stress that the exceptions are merely possible; perhaps on balance the data should be shared even then, and in any event, even if there’s a good reason for the data not to be shared, people should view the research skeptically because of the lack of sharing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vaccines do not cause autism.

I'm not a fan of those such as Jenny McCarthy who run around trying to scare people into forsaking vaccines and known cures in favor of holistic medicine and other proven-to-be-pointless non-working treatments. The polio vaccine has saved countless children but Jenny is certain that it caused autism in her child so she campaigns against it. Not that she has any scientific evidence for that, of course. Not that she doesn't constantly rail against "scientific evidence" as if repeating the words will somehow turn them into blasphemy.
“I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it's their fucking fault that the diseases are coming back. They're making a product that's shit. If you give us a safe vaccine, we'll use it. It shouldn't be polio versus autism.”
Jenny McCarthy in Time Magazine, April 2009
Learn science, people. Do proper research. Trust logic.

I have had students tell me that the government is just trying to make money off the swine flu vaccine, that it'll just make you sick, that it'll cause all kinds of things. Then, of course, they get in a car and drive like idiots so I'm not terribly surprised that they can't take this seriously. At least the vast majority of the students in our school have gotten the shot a couple weeks ago.

Preventable IllnessesPreventable Deaths

You can keep up to date with the Jenny McCarthy Body Count.

You can check this data at the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Reports, if you trust those **scientists**

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A 1, and a 2, and a 1, 2, 3, 4 !

Here we go!! When you can't fix the students, change SOMETHING.

From The Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. —
Spokane elementary schools switch to number grades

Parents looking at elementary school report cards this week in Spokane are seeing 4-3-2-or-1 instead of A-B-C-D-or-F. Schools have switched to a number-based grading system they say better records student standards and assessments.

The Spokesman-Review reports 4 means consistently extending knowledge; 3 means meeting standards; 2 means approaching standards; and 1 means below standards.

After three years of testing at six schools, the new system was implemented this year at all elementaries in the Spokane district. A learning services specialist who led the change, Tammy Campbell, says number grading gives parents a clearer picture of where their child stands.
This is SOOO much better. Now, you can't just assign a fake and inaccurate A, B or F. Instead, you have to give a much more authentic and fairer 4, 3, 2, or 1.

And I've always appreciated the "1=Below" being somehow different from the "2=Approaching but still below." Aren't all failing students below standard students "approaching" the standard? Does anyone think that giving a kid a "1" is going to make anything any better than giving him an "F"?

Majoring in Math

EdWeek has an article on this. It's behind a login portal, but they made it available for a while.

Essentially, they argue that the value of a math major for middle teaching is small but noticeable. I'm not surprised that there isn't much benefit. People who enjoy math enough to major in it are not usually the ones who can deal with teaching kids how to add fractions. They are also VERY unable to deal with other teachers who insist on using calculators instead of teaching long division.

What we need, however, are elementary and middle school teachers who are capable of doing higher level math and who understand what's going on.

Portfolios Inflate Scores - Who Knew?

Once more into the Breach, Dear Friends ...

According to the Washington Post, Portfolios inflate scores. Color me surprised.

When one type of assessment fails too many students, the response is "Let's change the teaching." When too many still fail, it's "Let's blame the teachers for not changing." When the scene doesn't improve, we then try to game the system and teach to the test "Let's teach test-taking skills using the released questions." If we are STILL not making the grade, we change the test and measure the students differently: "Testing without testing."


We claim it's "more authentic" and a "21st century skill" and all that, but it's just misdirection. They're "fairer" and "more meaningful" only because they artificially raise the scores.

Portfolios are not necessarily the students' work (parents and teachers help, books are consulted), aren't as structured or as difficult, are usually the four or fifth rewrite (with so many specific corrections that the student's voice is lost), and most importantly aren't definite -- anything that looks good goes in, anything that doesn't, won't. How can one fail under those conditions?

"Teachers document learning throughout the year in a binder of class work, including worksheets, quizzes and writing samples." When you have such an obvious selection bias, don't be surprised if the final numbers are off. In this case, higher than they probably should be if you are actually expecting that the students know the same things as students in other jurisdictions.

Let's focus on this paragraph:
Last year, students tested with portfolios outperformed classmates who took multiple-choice tests in Fairfax. Students with disabilities surpassed schoolwide pass rates in reading or math tests in more than a dozen schools. Students learning English were far more likely to score in the highest performance tier on the reading test, which measures knowledge of language arts concepts such as metaphor and plot, than their native-speaking peers. Overall, English-learners and students with disabilities charted 20- and 18-point gains respectively in reading pass rates, compared to a six-point gain for the division.


Reposted here because it'll disappear from there.

The first step is admitting you have a problem ...

and if you don't admit it, then you have a problem. But if you admit it falsely in order to get a teaching license, you are confessing to a problem and that's a problem.

I can understand it when an alcoholic is forced to admit his alcoholism in order to begin healing. Denial of said problem by someone who is obviously an alcoholic is a clear indicator that the person is not on a road to healing alcoholism. It is NOT, however, a sign of alcoholism.

A person can deny alcoholism and be right.
A person can deny alcoholism and be in denial.
Let's please try to remember that.

Substitute "racism", "bigotry" or "misogyny" for "alcoholism" and you have this:

Reposted here because it'll disappear from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Katherine Kersten: At U, future teachers may be reeducated

They must denounce exclusionary biases and embrace the vision. (Or else.)
Last update: November 22, 2009 - 6:57 PM

Do you believe in the American dream -- the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools -- at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.

In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U's College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of "the American Dream" in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace -- and be prepared to teach our state's kids -- the task force's own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.

The task group is part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, a multiyear project to change the way future teachers are trained at the U's flagship campus. The initiative is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers' lack of "cultural competence" contributes to the poor academic performance of the state's minority students. Last spring, it charged the task group with coming up with recommendations to change this. In January, planners will review the recommendations and decide how to proceed.

The report advocates making race, class and gender politics the "overarching framework" for all teaching courses at the U. It calls for evaluating future teachers in both coursework and practice teaching based on their willingness to fall into ideological lockstep.

The first step toward "cultural competence," says the task group, is for future teachers to recognize -- and confess -- their own bigotry. Anyone familiar with the reeducation camps of China's Cultural Revolution will recognize the modus operandi.

The task group recommends, for example, that prospective teachers be required to prepare an "autoethnography" report. They must describe their own prejudices and stereotypes, question their "cultural" motives for wishing to become teachers, and take a "cultural intelligence" assessment designed to ferret out their latent racism, classism and other "isms." They "earn points" for "demonstrating the ability to be self-critical."

The task group opens its report with a model for officially approved confessional statements: "As an Anglo teacher, I struggle to quiet voices from my own farm family, echoing as always from some unstated standard. ... How can we untangle our own deeply entrenched assumptions?"

The goal of these exercises, in the task group's words, is to ensure that "future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."

Future teachers must also recognize and denounce the fundamental injustices at the heart of American society, says the task group. From a historical perspective, they must "understand that ... many groups are typically not included" within America's "celebrated cultural identity," and that "such exclusion is frequently a result of dissimilarities in power and influence." In particular, aspiring teachers must be able "to explain how institutional racism works in schools."

After indoctrination of this kind, who wouldn't conclude that the American Dream of equality for all is a cruel hoax? But just to make sure, the task force recommends requiring "our future teachers" to "articulate a sophisticated and nuanced critical analysis" of this view of the American promise. In the process, they must incorporate the "myth of meritocracy in the United States," the "history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values, [and] history of white racism, with special focus on current colorblind ideology."

What if some aspiring teachers resist this effort at thought control and object to parroting back an ideological line as a condition of future employment? The task group has Orwellian plans for such rebels: The U, it says, must "develop clear steps and procedures for working with non-performing students, including a remediation plan."

And what if students' ideological purity is tainted once they begin to do practice teaching in the public schools? The task group frames the danger this way: "How can we be sure that teaching supervisors are themselves developed and equipped in cultural competence outcomes in order to supervise beginning teachers around issues of race, class, culture, and gender?"

Its answer? "Requir[e] training/workshop for all supervisors. Perhaps a training session disguised as a thank you/recognition ceremony/reception at the beginning of the year?"

When teacher training requires a "disguise," you know something sinister is going on.

Katherine Kersten is a Twin Cities writer and speaker. Reach her at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Football for College Credit.

Everyone seems to be all up in arms about this but I don't agree. I think the football players should be able to legitimately get a credit in football.

One credit. Two. It doesn't really matter.

I got a credits for athletics when I was in college - kayak was 1 and archery was another. We had to have two PE credits. You showed up. You learned a few terms, shot a few flights, took a silly multiple choice exam. It was a nice break from the 18-21 mechanical engineering credits per semester (on top of the ROTC and the stuff for commissioned officers).

What's the big deal? I like it that the rest of the school can have its courses without the lunkheads slowing everything down. They would never have made it to college other than for football, so it's not like they're being deprived of anything. Any players who do have brains will get their education regardless of what the lunkheads do.

With all the people majoring in FillinTheBlank Studies or some other touchy-feely joke, I can't think that 100 football players is going to skew the median all that much.

Damn Funny, even if you're a Republican.

from Doonesbury:

"They made a porn movie about Sarah Palin, and the same actress, Lisa Ann, played me in the porn version of 30 Rock. Weirdly, of the three of us, Lisa Ann knows the most about foreign policy."
-- Tina Fey, speaking at Ad Council gala

Saturday, November 21, 2009

HIP sidetrack - Zero Tolerance

In a slight digression, I pass on the story of an Eagle Scout and some truly stupid administrators. I can't decide whether I consider these idiots "Ineffective" because they will forever misunderstand the true meaning of discipline, perspective and working with and teaching students or if they are "Effective" in their rigid adherence to regulation.

I can remember when hunting season meant that an occasional student would hunt before school and then walk to school. He'd have to store his shotgun in the office (in my experience) but some older teachers recall kids just putting them in their lockers. Certainly, any kid lucky enough to drive to school simply left it on the rack in the truck. No one thought much of it.

Intent should come into play here. Walk in with a Bowie knife and brandish it in the face of someone you're shouting at -- that's serious. Walk in with a baseball bat and do the same thing -- that's serious. Walk in with a new baseball bat to show it to the coach who's also your history teacher -- who cares?

So we have this ...

Story reprinted here because it will disappear there:
LANSINGBURGH -- Matthew Whalen's suspension will stand.

On Wednesday night, the Lansingburgh Central School District board of education rejected Whalen's appeal of the punishment and decided not to expunge the blemish on the record of the Eagle Scout suspended for having a pocketknife in his car while the vehicle was on the grounds of Lansingburgh High School.

Whalen received a 20-day suspension in September after he turned over to school administrators a 1 1/2-inch knife that he kept in his glove box as part of a car survival kit. He returned to school in October.

Whalen has said he does not know how school officials learned he had a pocketknife in his car, but suspects another student may have tipped off administrators in an attempt to pull a prank on him.

School officials, who did not respond to requests for comment, have said Whalen violated the school district's zero-tolerance policy because he brought a weapon on to school grounds and that the suspension was an appropriate response. The case raised national furor when Whalen went on two separate national Fox News programs to discuss the penalty. He worried that the action could hurt his chances of getting into West Point.

He said he never realized the school considered the keychain knife a weapon. He said his grandfather Robert Whalen -- who recently retired as police chief of the Hoosic Falls Police Department -- gave him the folding knife to use in his car after they used it to cut wires while installing a car radio.

Whalen was given a Lifesaving Heroism Award by the Boy Scouts of America at age 13 after he performed CPR on his aunt, saving her life. He said he carries water bottles, a sleeping bag and a change of clothes in his 1999 Mercury Sable in case it breaks down. He considered the key-chain knife part of that preparedness kit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - No Game Plans

Fire Drill? Everyone just go mingle on the athletic field. The faculty can take roll and the assistant to the VP can wander aimlessly about. At some point, you exit the building and casually call the school back in. After all, you are the HIP one here.

Why should you bother to make a fire drill/evacuation plan that organizes everyone? Nothing will happen. There won't really be a fire. Fire, Schmire.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Cop-Speak

Officer Callahan is your Buddha, cop-speak is your Mantra.

You must re-brand everything in the worst cop-speak you can:
  • If a kid refuses to do what a teacher tells him to do, don't say "For refusal to obey a stupid order" but rather for "Insubordination". (You have to make it sound really bad)
  • Taking an Advil for PMS should be called "Illegal Drug Use" and warrants a strip-search.
  • Pocket knives and nail clippers are "Illegal Dangerous Weapons"
  • Horseplay is "Assault, Level 1" because calling it horseplay isn't mean enough.
  • Use words like "Perpetrating" cause they use those at the station.
  • Call the police if she won't stop texting. That'll teach her.

N.B. I'm not ragging on cops here. I understand that they have to do their jobs in a world of lawyers who delight in hanging cops by their words, so they HAVE to be careful. Principals need to keep things in perspective. Using cop-speak is a sign of a good cop but not a good administrator. Then its a sign of a highly ineffective principal.

Technology and the 21st Century

There was a nice comment on my rant the other day. I was discussing the merits of Dangerously Irrelevant's call for firing teachers who demanded training or who wouldn't learn new technology.

Sandra said "I'm wondering if DI is thinking of the same teachers I am who are perfectly happy to keep photocopying the same originals (or multiply-copied copies) they've used for 20 years, and who balk at the request to re-type them and make them available to other teachers digitally."

Before I ask for a teacher to be fired over this, I wonder if someone could explain exactly how much of this makes a difference in that teacher's classroom? Does re-typing something improve it? If that old map is still useful and correct, use it. If that hand-written worksheet still works, what is the need for change? (I am assuming it is legible. In fact, I note that many items deliberately use a handwriting font for student interest and understanding - maybe we should hand-write them sometimes?) If someone else wants to use it, why is a teacher required to put it in a convenient form? Why can't the recipient do that work?

We are too often changing without knowing that the result will be an improvement. I am very uncomfortable with forcing people to upgrade or perish.

I am in favor of technology and all the teachers I know are as well. What I disagree with is the notion that new is necessarily better and that teachers who don't jump into the bleeding edge are somehow deficient.

Change for the sake of change: Here's my take on the Frameworks, Standards, GLEs, Curriculum Mapping and Other Reasons to Re-type the Syllabus.
Sandra also asks "In addition to only using their word-processing programs for the most basic purposes, these teachers also refuse to learn how to use basic email and student grade software themselves, and either find someone more tech-savvy to give them their own personal tutorial session or insist that the school give them one."
This is a better point. I cannot imagine someone refusing to learn email. I can see the reluctance to learning gradebook software on their own. Many of those grading programs are garbage. The flaws are legendary and the implementations are often a joke. The interfaces are counterintuitive and cumbersome.

One school locally has a grading program that takes forever to use because of all the "wizards" it pops up, and then there is a different, on-line, system that the teachers HAVE TO MANUALLY RE-TYPE data into. Oh, and they're required to keep a paper gradebook and lesson plan book as well because the Principal wants to be able to review them. Any wonder why these folks don't bother doing more than one grade per marking period on-line? The retreat into "I want training" is pretty reasonable - it's a way of putting off the pain.

Then we have a philosophical question. If something is new, why should people be denied training in how to use it? Like Sandra, I am the teacher people ask for help because the tech guys are non-existent and useless. Why me? I spend hours on this stuff - I like it. I run websites with thousands of pages and I've been doing programming for years. I know how programmers think and I can teach.

Most people take a bit of time - I try for a two-hour window during the August inservice so I can get everyone done at once. It's a lecture with each teacher at a workstation. You can leave them to explore the software (taking 10 to 20 times as long to find 10 to 20 percent of the stuff they need) and do collaborative learning or 21st century on-line learning, ...

But teaching is quicker, better and more efficient.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Facts and International Tests

21st Century Skills, as promoted, are not effective without a command of some basic factual information. If you don't know any factual material, a few minutes on Google may or may not get you relevant facts. Then, of course, the student who has no knowledge cannot evaluate what facts are found, cannot compare the new knowledge to the old, cannot "stand on the shoulders of giants". An hour's worth of Powerpoint and some multimedia cribbed from Google images won't hide that lack, which is why I refer to it as Glitzenbullshit.

One commenter replied to an earlier post that
"There is a reason why the U.S. scores 35th in the world in math. It is because the rest of the world is embracing inquiry and prioritizing 'flexible' thinking...while we are still preparing to compete in the industrial age."

I'd really like to know how he arrived at this cause-effect relationship.

The US averages must naturally include many schools that have made these changes to a 21st Century Focus -- I would maintain that it is precisely because so many of our schools have changed to 21stCS that our averages have declined on tests like PISA and TIMSS. These tests don't measure 21stCS sets; they measure factual information and basic skills.

It is not, perhaps, indicative of a 'good education', but until you define THAT and determine what such should entail, you cannot use a fact-based international test to determine superiority or otherwise.

I would also point out that the whole concept of comparison conveniently ignores the fact (there's that dirty word again) that many nations to which we compare ourselves have much more homogenous culture and demographics, and most have a national curriculum and province-wide, if not national, control over schools. Almost all of the "great" successes have nationwide testing programs to finish off school. The final product is much more amenable to testing like PISA.

When I compare students and programs, talk with ex-students, visit colleges and speak with professors and admissions, converse with tradesmen and businessmen, I find one thing across the board. Success in college, life and careers is correlated more closely with schools that stressed facts and knowledge first and then blended in communication, information, literacy and critical thinking skills. Any school that tried to do it the other way invariably and ultimately did a disservice to its students.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - The SIS

You must purchase a very expensive piece of software if you want to be a HIPster. This software is called a SIS, which is short for Student Information Software.

This software is vital; you cannot be a proper principal without being able to spend hours looking through the data. How else will you be able to notice that Mr. C's classes are failing the state tests and they are failing his class? How else will you make the leap to the realization that Mr. C. is a lousy teacher?

Do not accept his reasoning when he says, "When you have a class full of 10th graders who really should have been 11th grade but failed everything last year; when those same kids are absent 20%-50% of the days; when those kids even tell you to shove it where the sun don't shine ... what did you expect?"

Simply reply that you are running an "outcome-based education system and the only outcome you'll accept is passing grades for all students."

After all, the SIS (and therefore you) is infallible. The teacher must be at fault.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Budgetary Legerdemain

You've got the budget requests for your departments? Send them back with a request to cut the budgets 25% because "It's really tough out there right now."

Once the budgets are in and fixed, spring the new courses on them so they panic over buying new course materials. Then, submit the budgets late so the School Board "trims the fat" with a heavy knife instead of with due consideration.

When everyone is furious and seething, splurge on new office furniture, computers and software for the office (remember that $35,000 Student Information System you didn't really need?) -- because hey, it's in YOUR budget.

Ahhh. What a comfortable chair.

Dangerously Irrelevant Is

Dangerously Irrelevant shows why he's irrelevant.
In many job sectors, employees are expected to keep up with relevant technologies or risk job loss. When do we require that of K-12 and postsecondary educators? At what point do we say to them “No, we’re not training you how to use this. It’s easy enough for you to learn on your own. And if you don’t, we’ll find someone else who can.”
When will we, as educational systems, redefine the job descriptions and expectations of educators to include their regular and effective incorporation of relevant digital technologies?

Like many bloggers and opinionators, DI has it wrong. There are precious few teachers who aren't technologically capable. We all use technology every day. We call on cell phones, use computers, drive cars, download things from the Internet, use graphing calculators, SmartBoards and other technology. The level of use is different, but we're ALL living in this world now.

Who defines your acceptable level? Who decides that it isn't enough? Who has actually made sure that more technology is actually USEFUL in the classroom setting? Will it be Techno-geek boy or an actual teacher in a school like Packemin High School? To accept a definition like this from someone who has such an obvious axe to grind is like calling on the Oil Companies to write an energy bill for Congress. (Oh, wait ...)

A commenter says "The obvious next question is: If we are successful in changing job descriptions to include integrating 21st tools and resources, how do we fairly assess teacher performance?"

to which I respond:

The students need to know what they are doing - that's called knowledge of subject. Those 21st century skills are mostly Glitzenbullshit, a tool that kids can pick up at any time. People like this commenter are changing the subject out of ignorance.

As Peter Berger (Poor Elijah's Almanac) says,
The high-powered Partnership for 21st Century Skills still preaches this same doctrine, euphemistically arguing that we need to "emphasize deep understanding rather than shallow knowledge."

Unfortunately, without deep knowledge, the best you can have is a shallow understanding. Without any knowledge, meaning facts, any understanding you think you have is illusory, baseless, and void.


You can't attain understanding without knowledge, and you can't acquire knowledge without mastering facts. You can't skip the grunt work, even if it's often dull and painstaking. That's true in any discipline. Our children need to realize and accept this. So do the experts who mastermind our schools. So do we all. That's the new angle on teaching and learning that we desperately need. More gimmicks won’t help.

True, grappling with facts and turning them into knowledge can be hard work.

But reckoning with ignorance is even harder.

Success is in the Eye of the Beholder.

Through test scores, Arizona rates about 24 percent of charter schools as "excelling" or "highly performing." About 37 percent of regular public schools win those marks.
Thanks to George Orwell, you can define anything to fit your opinion. Long live Charter Schools.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Caffeine and alcohol

The FDA is looking into suspected problems with caffeinated alcoholic drinks.
Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food (such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages) is deemed “unsafe” and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation, the substance is subject to a prior sanction, or the substance is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). FDA has not approved the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages and thus such beverages can be lawfully marketed only if their use is subject to a prior sanction or is GRAS. For a substance to be GRAS, there must be evidence of its safety at the levels used and a basis to conclude that this evidence is generally known and accepted by qualified experts.
Which leads me to wonder whether any of the nerds at FDA have ever actually had a drink. Let's see: Kahlua, anyone? How about drinking a cup of coffee to try and sober yourself up?

Here are some of the offending types:
Liquid Charge, Liquid Core, High Gravity Core
Joose, Max Vibe, Max Fury, Max Live, 3Sum
Hard Wired
Smirnoff Raw Tea Malt Beverage
P.I.N.K. Vodka, Tequila, Rum, Gin,
3AM Vodka
Gravity Vodka
V2 Vodka with Caffeine, Everglo Vodka
Vicious Vodka with Caffeine
Slingshot Party Gel
Gruv Malt Beverage with Guarana

Reported problems? Hey if you drink any of this crap, you've got problems. Psychological, not physiological.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Learn Vocabulary in Bite-sized pieces.

I'm usually talking about math here, but I've found a website that cracks me up, is free, and helps with vocabulary in a clever way.

Give it a try.

And Now ... the Ugliest Ring Ever Made

What the title said:

Okay, maybe I'm being unfair.  They photographed it on cheap purple plastic astroturf and that NBA logo is so wrong.  Let's try another view:

Meh.  Could be worse, I suppose.  Blocky, garish, heavy as hell (but that's the point), loaded with way too many mini-diamonds (bling!).  I remain unconvinced.  How about a side view?

Ooooooh.  Isn't that clever?  They laser-etched the player's face into the ring.  This is possibly because the players can't read their names and will need to identify the ring if lost?  No, that can't be it.  The team has super-duper secretly etched a tiny "L" into the ring somewhere to identify it with a ultra-secret password-y id number written down on a piece of magic paper in a vault somewhere.  Why?  Because you might mistake it for another ring just like it? 

Did you notice the special detail? The shape of the upper part is exactly like the Staples Center roof.  Can't you hear it?  "Look, ma ... this is where I play ... and this is my face."

Like anyone would steal this thing and not instantly melt it down in horror.  Shudder.

Because the NFL is against selling a product ...

A player struck the Captain Morgan pose in the Eagles game. The NFL fined him because they didn't get a cut ...
The NFL will likely be a little more sensitive with this latest promotion, since it would have benefited Gridiron Greats, and the post-career struggles of players has been a paramount hot-button topic. While the league welcomes charitable donations to Gridiron Greats, it doesn’t want those contributions to be used as a carrot to influence the on-field antics of players – particularly when the antics center on selling a product.
God knows, you wouldn't want crass commercialism to get in the way of a football game, would you?

I think it was hilarious. The players should pose anyway and Captain Morgan should pay the fine AND pay the $50,000 to the retired players fund.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Doonesbury - Say What?

Sometimes words just fail me.

"I've had two teenagers who were considering killing themselves, because they didn't want to be around when the world ends. Two women in the last two weeks said they were contemplating killing their children and themselves so they wouldn't have to suffer through the end of the world."
-- NASA Astrobiology Institute scientist David Morrison, on 2012 fears
I lived through the cold war. We would practice hiding under desks in case the Bomb was dropped. The siren was tested every day at 2:00. The cellar of the school was the town bomb shelter and periodically we'd line up and practice the attack drill. It probably affected me deeply but I can't say as I ever heard of any of my contemporaries having this kind of reaction.

Do we need a new Great Depression to shock the world back to reality, followed by a great War to give them a new sense of pride of self?

God, I hope not.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Mission Statements.

The mission statement needs revising. Set up a committee to rewrite it. The next four faculty meetings should be spent on choosing the most appropriate verbiage to reflect the school and community's core principal academic principles and values while maintaining the highest standards of obfuscation and repetition of seemingly obvious truths.

Did we mention this already?

Yes. But we need higher standards so that our students can achieve more and the Principal will continue in his job. Therefore, we need a new mission statement.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Changing Grades

A truly HIP dude knows that teachers can't grade their students properly. This means, of course, that you must wait until they've submitted grades and have gone home for the summer before you change them.

When a parent complains, then you must spring into action and become the good-guy hero of the moment. Change the "F" to a "D" so the little snowflake can pass on to the next grade.

You are not to think about how the little snowflake will accomplish the harder work. That is beyond your ken. Besides, it's the teacher's fault for not being Effective enough.

You will not notice the irony.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Circle and area

Just the image

Google Earth - with Ruler

Google Maps - with scale

The discussion on dy/dan involved being helpful when posing the problem but not TOO helpful and asking for some other stat but in a better way. I think I'll use this one tomorrow, asking for the amount of fertilizer to fertilize this green.

Thanks Dan.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Soda Pop Man


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guy Fawkes

Gotta love the British sense of humor.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Chain of Command

To be true HIP warrior, a principal must always refuse to answer any request or question. Do not answer "Yes" or "No" but always remind the querant that you will be meeting with the Superintendent later this week and you will bring the topic up at that time.

Since you forgot when the time comes, you will of course make a mental note to bring it up the next time you meet ... four weeks from now. Making a decision could turn out badly.

"The Buck stops there."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Education 3.0 and Trying to sound Intelligent.

I'm not sure how to interpret this ... I mean, it's not software. eSchool News would like me to know that there's a next level of educational amazingness and superlitude:
"eSN Special Report: Education 3.0 -- How some schools are taking 21st-century teaching and learning to the next level"
Does this mean we've successfully passed through Education 2.0, Education 2.1, Education 2.1011, Education 2.SP1, and Education2.SP2?

I think I'll wait for the next release before implementing any changes and upgrading my software.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Speak in Tongues

Use double-speak and the Educational Bullshit Generator. Always use (and capitalize) Care, Dare, 21st Century Skills, Paradigm, Whole Child Education, Schools for the Digital Age, and other terms that mean nothing but sound intellectual to parents and media.

If your listeners can't understand it, they'll nod and agree -- no one will want to look stupid pointing out the Emperor's Clothes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Hide

Do not get to know your students. If you know their names, they will talk to you and you can't have that. Create a fortress for yourself and keep everyone at bay. The constant flood of email gives you a perfect excuse.

Bonus points for forgetting the names you unfortunately did learn. Double bonus if you forget the valedictorian and student council president from last year.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oblivious teenagers??

I was struck by the ad copy in PETA's news article announcing Hannah Teter's 'Save the Seals' Ad:
U.S. snowboarder Hannah Teter comes from a close-knit family of shredders who spend a great deal of their time doing what they love in the snow and ice. So when the Olympic gold medalist learned about the seal slaughter that takes place every year on Canada's ice floes, she posed for PETA's "Save the Seals" ad series to help spread the word.
"So when the Olympic medalist learned about ..."


She just learned about it? In 2009?

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Debate

Always use the "Nightline Tactic." Whenever someone has a good idea or makes a good point, always call on someone who will disagree with it. Set up committees this way to nullify their effectiveness.

Nightline used to have someone from both sides of every debate, regardless of how stupid one side was. The effect was to take an argument that was 99-1 and make it into a 50-50 argument. What should be obvious is suddenly questionable as people start to think "well, maybe that would work." It was quite ludicrous at times. Equal time, hence equal weight, was given to the reasoned and thoughtful columnist as to the paranoid schizophrenic nutjob.

A corollary is to "always listen to both sides of an argument" since "no one has all the answers." If someone says "Let's focus on practicing basic skills," make sure someone says "We can't drill and kill. We need to teach Critical Thinking."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - committee

Form committees for everything.

Include new teachers fresh out of Silly School (Teacher College) to counter any experience on the committee. When choosing from the experienced teachers, choose two who disagree with each other so they will cancel each other out.

Always Chair the committee and stay out of the discussion, ostensibly so that you can "take the measure of the school," or something.

Nod whenever the Newbie speaks so the Newbie's ideas will sound intelligent. This will encourage him to speak and make him dependent on you.

When you take the minutes, use your word-smithing skills to change the tone of the meeting to reflect what you wanted the meeting to decide. Adjourn the meeting after the Silliest idea comes up, saying, "That's good. Let's all think on this and we'll re-convene next month." Do not allow decisions to be made unless the committee compromises on the silly idea.

Always meet after school so that the cynical and experienced teachers have something else to do and can't make it. Who will make it? The Newbie who wants to prove herself and is eager to agree with you and be non-confrontational. Who can't make it? The older teachers who have kids and a life (and teaching experience and after-school tutoring commitments). That's too bad, here are the minutes.

Vick and Nike

Michael Vick is back with Nike more than two years after the company severed ties over the quarterback’s involvement in a dogfighting ring. The managing director of the agency that represents Vick announced the deal yesterday. Michael Principe of BEST referred questions to Vick’s agent, Joel Segal, who said: “Mike has a longstanding great relationship with Nike and he looks forward to continue in that relationship.”

Money talks.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Twisting

Use teacher self-evaluation comments in your observation reports. If the teacher says that he "would like to improve his homework policy" then your observation notes should include "Teacher's homework policies are inconsistent, ineffective and need improvement." "I'd like to explore a different curriculum" should be included as "Teacher does not use the approved curriculum. Test scores were low."

Twist every statement the teacher makes into a criticism that you can use on your report.

Always include phrases like "Does not use Best Practices", implying that you know better than the teacher. Remain focused on things like chair arrangement, seating charts and bulletin boards, clarity and length of type-written lesson plans, and written plans with links to standards. Always look for paperwork: If it isn't written down then it's wrong. If it is written, then use it against the teacher.

Happy Halloween.

The "Children sing Obama" video has competition

A little while ago, the world was horrified (okay, Fox News et al. was horrified) that an elementary school would have its children singing the praises of Obama in a YouTube video. Comparisons to Soviet Russia and cults of personality.

Then the antispin: "It's civics! At least these children know who the President is. Not like those twits on the Tonight Show."

Now we have the same thing, only this time it's corporate: Microsoft advertising jingles.

Can't say that's an improvement on singing to Obama.

I wonder if Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin will get their panties in a twist over it?

h/t to the Register

Friday, October 30, 2009

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Meetings

Schedule meetings. Do not write memos when you can hold a meeting instead. Do not give out the memo at the faculty meeting. Read the memo to the faculty. Better yet, put it into Powerpoint, using dense masses of tiny text that no one but you can read. Then read it verbatim. Do not make the hard-copy available.

It helps if you are assisted by someone whose sole function is to tap the SmartBoard to advance the slides. Bonus points if you use the District Technology Coordinator as the Vanna White stand-in while talking about the district's improved use of technology.

When you are finished, adjourn the meeting. Do not take questions or allow for discussions because "I know some people want to get out of here".

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Learning from mistakes

Mistakes Help Us Learn

An interesting discussion in Scientific American:
For years, many educators have championed “errorless learning," advising teachers (and students) to create study conditions that do not permit errors. For example, a classroom teacher might drill students repeatedly on the same multiplication problem, with very little delay between the first and second presentations of the problem, ensuring that the student gets the answer correct each time.

The idea embedded in this approach is that if students make errors, they will learn the errors and be prevented (or slowed) in learning the correct information. But research by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays and Robert Bjork at U.C.L.A. that recently appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition reveals that this worry is misplaced. In fact, they found, learning becomes better if conditions are arranged so that students make errors.

People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail. In a series of experiments, they showed that if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning. It’s an idea that has obvious applications for education, but could be useful for anyone who is trying to learn new material of any kin.
In one experiment:
Students were asked to read the essay [on vision] and prepare for a test on it. However, in the pretest condition they were asked questions about the passage before reading it such as "What is total color blindness caused by brain damage called?" Asking these kinds of question before reading the passage obviously focuses students' attention on the critical concepts. To control this "direction of attention" issue, in the control condition students were either given additional time to study, or the researchers focused their attention on the critical passages in one of several ways: by italicizing the critical section, by bolding the key term that would be tested, or by a combination of strategies. However, in all the experiments they found an advantage in having students first guess the answers. The effect was about the same magnitude, around 10 percent, as in the previous set of experiments.
Which is why we start out sections with a question or a problem situation to be solved. I'm not sure I'd give them the impossible question as if it were a test, but I do think that kids should hear/see the questions that are the goal of the material.

Having no delay between presentations of the same problem doesn't work terribly well, and I'm glad to see the research bears this out. This is NOT to say that "spiralling" is appropriate. I just feel that rethinking at the end of a section or using that same material in the NEXT section is the best way to make the learning stick.

Habits of Highly Ineffective Principals - Crack Down

Crack down on mistakes, write up a letter each time that rules are broken. Every late arrival or missed duty must have a letter to File or the teachers will continue to do these heinous things. You need to "send a message" and protect yourself with CYA paperwork.

Every success or challenge overcome is to be ignored. "These people are professionals and don't need to be constantly praised like little children."

You will not notice the irony.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Naturally Speaking

I was at another conference the other day and the presenter rambled on about this and that (don't they always?).

He caught my attention when he spoke about 21st Century Skills: "students won't have to use the keyboards and won't have to learn to type. It's a new form of communication skill - they'll be using Dragon Naturally Speaking instead" and then he spoke of the dramatic improvements to DNS and how it's tuned to the user's voice and that we have to transform our schools and our teaching to take advantage of this different manner of communication.

I nearly snorted in my teacup. I remember when DNS (or it's corporate predecessor) was relatively new - 12 years ago - I got it free with Corel Wordperfect. It didn't work very well then and it doesn't work very well now and it has nothing to do with the program and its capabilities.

First, voice control is always touted as a boon for the student who can't learn to type, for SpecEd, for the less-capable student. The problem is that voice control is a lousy interface model and totally inappropriate for those who don't write well to begin with, uh, like, it thinks, no , back up, delete, tries to uh, get rite the students words but it dozen quite do it, uh, like, yeah. .

Additionally, a student is rarely in a room or environment appropriate for voice control. There are other students around who are problems not because their voices add words to what the program hears but because they are a distraction and the DNS user is a distraction right back. How often would he be trying to think of what to say when he overhears the kid next to him saying something that catches his ear? He'd be constantly trying to get back on task -- multi-tasking is not a human feature.

Can you imagine 25 students in a computer lab using DNS simultaneously, trying to format a paper, correct an error, compose a sentence ... out loud?

Now add in the fact that most students who use DNS are special ed, 504, IEP students. The only time or place they should use DNS is in a solo situation with no distraction -- how often is THAT happening in your school? Then go to college - you can't use voice control in the library, in class, in any populated environment and probably not even in your dorm room. Who wants to be "writing a paper, email, letter out loud in the coffee shop? Force the world to listen to your next great idea? Plop on your headphones or earbuds and then speak WAY TOO LOUDLY and everyone has to shush you so they can hear the TV or the music or their conversation? Your roommate will kill you if he has to listen to you try and compose a paper. The click of the keyboard is white, background noise. Speech recognition is unbearably irritating if you're an innocent bystander.

Try to use voice control at work? Not happening and not worth it. The writing that most people do is not long enough or is too complicated (filling in forms, tabbing through text boxes, etc) to find any improvements with DNS.

In a manipulative sense, it is much less accurate and fine-grained than fingers or pointing device. As Jakob Nielson put it, "it's even less suitable for most everyday interactions because it's a less data-rich channel and it's harder to specify something in words than to choose it on a graphical display."

Is it faster? Yes, in limited circumstances. Is it more efficient? Not unless you can write very well, compose on the fly, organize in your head, and speak in complete sentences that follow the rules of proper grammar.

Lastly, my biggest concern is that, for many of the above reasons, keyboarding DOESN'T go away and the student will not have learned the skill. Now what? Where's your 21st Century Communication Skill now?