Friday, June 29, 2012

Romney ups the ante.

And then Raises the bar.
I think this is a land of opportunity for every single person, every single citizen of this great nation. And I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford and with their time they’re able to get and if they have a willingness to work hard and the right values, they ought to be able to provide for their family and have a shot of realizing their dreams.
"They get as much education as they can afford."  Seems a bit like the rich dude is telling the rest they don't get the same opportunities he had, which is capitalism at its finest, I suppose. I'd rather focus on the "everyone has a fair shot" part of it but that second part ... I don't know.

"Join the military" -- Yup, excellent advice.
"Borrow from your parents" - not happening for the majority of Americans.

"As much as you can afford" is not where I'd draw the line. I'm not thinking the criteria should only be "I can afford it" or "I can borrow it". I'd like to include those who are good enough academically and willing to work hard even if they can't afford it.

I'm not saying this in the sense of finding one more subsidy or entitlement - I want the best for this country. This country deserves no less - it's about time that we understand that finding and educating those who can be educated, those who are willing to undertake the tremendous work of college and higher education regardless of whether they are poor or wealthy, is the only way we can ensure a successful future.
"By... [selecting] the youths of genius from among the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the State of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use if not sought for and cultivated." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIV, 1782. ME 2:206

Thursday, June 28, 2012

AP Scores

It's a charter school with an "open enrollment". Color me suspicious, but I don't see how you get these kinds of results from a random sampling of American students.  There has to be some selection bias here, don't you think?

Charter Schools aren't necessary

Wait, I know this.
We'll make another charter school!
From NYC Educator: Charter School closes and leaves parents and students in a pinch.
On the second to last day of school, the principal at my school got a phone call from a parent. His daughter's charter school was being closed, and he'd received a letter in the mail saying that my school was to be his daughter's new school. Could he, the father asked, come by to see the school and meet the principal?
And there you have it.  The primary difference between a public school and a charter school. When the charter school doesn't make enough money to satisfy its backers or simply becomes less exciting to run than its founders thought it would be back in the halcyon days of three years ago, it quits and closes up shop. That's how you tell the difference between involved and committed, between "nice to have if everything is perfect" and "necessary to the community".
  • Can't make those vaunted teachers work harder for less?
  • Can't keep pretending that your off-the-cuff charter was off-the-charts good?
  • Your students didn't buy into your KIPP-like gulag?
  • Are your test scores comparisons leaving you lacking?
  • Your admissions filtering system didn't work well enough?
  • The principal and the principal owners aren't each making $200K per year?

That's okay. You can quit and someone else will pick up the pieces. No skin off your back.
It wasn't about the students after all, was it?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Online College Degrees

I need me one of these:

Technology Quote

Robert Talbot:
Technology neither improves or diminishes learning. It’s the instructional design choices made and instructional practices used by individual teachers with individual students that do this.

Texas Republicans are Against Higher-Order Thinking

Don't think for Yourself.
From the party platform:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
Because nobody wants you to challenge your fixed beliefs and because everybody knows that parental authority is sacrosanct. New state motto: "Don't Think For Yourself."

Oh, and make sure you use the right books:
We believe that the SBOE ... responsibilities must include maintaining sole authority over all curricula content and the state adoption of all educational materials. This process must include public hearings.

Until such time as all texts are required to be approved by the SBOE, each ISD that uses non-SBOE approved instructional materials must verify them as factually and historically correct.
 Whose definitions of "facts" and "historically correct" are to be used is carefully not specified.
We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings.
Yup, like the math of the Three-Fifths Compromise? Of course, if we only look at the original writings and the original founding documents, we'd have to ignore the amendments like the 1st and 2nd ones, wouldn't we?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What a waste.

Do I sound annoyed?

Yes. I have reason ... the science department has been throwing out expensive soil testing kits, tech-toys, a SmartBoard from another manufacturer, new-in-the-wrapper supplies that loser-teacher purchased and never used because he "didn't have time to figure out how to use them." Now, some years down the line, the tech has gone obsolete, or the rechargeable batteries sat for too long and now can't hold a charge, or the expensive soil testing kits were better suited for a commercial lab instead of 9th grade physical science. I left my door unlocked and said to leave me anything remotely to do with physics or math, but Loser was a biology/physical science teacher so it'll probably just be tossed..

Sorry. It just pisses me off something fierce.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Visuals are powerful when done right

Each desk represents one of the 857 students who drop out of high school in the United States every single hour, every single school day, according to the College Board, which arranged the display to underline its effort to urge presidential candidates to put education at the top of their to-do lists.

Those Digital Natives are not Teachers

Just because it's a computer
doesn't mean it's remarkable.
Is it just me or has the phrase "digital natives" started to sound a lot like the "noble savages" idea of some years ago? I get this sense that we have no idea of how limited most students are, tech-wise and otherwise, and so we attribute mythical abilities to all students due to their being just a single step up the tech knowledge ladder from most teachers, present company excluded.

Anyway ...

NEAToday sent me "5 Tips for Tech Terrified Teachers", and I'm thinking to myself, "Holy Crap, Self! How can there be any Tech-Terrified Teachers left?" and then I get depressed because I know it's true.

How is it that any teacher isn't tech savvy by now? All the new teachers are part of that digital native group we've been placing on a pedestal these last ten years, while the more experienced ones are adapting to it. Are there really that many older teachers who are still terrified of tech and refuse to embrace it? Are there really that many people who are afraid to RTFM and learn some new software?

I'll tell you what I think: we still have too many stupid, pig-headed, teachers.

Read this list, if you don't believe me. Consider that some teachers need to read this and change, that some teachers are still resisting tech, and that the union felt it necessary to write this and publish it. Then you can laugh about the odd phrasing, simplistic advice, and especially #5.
  1. Remember, it’s not about you! Your discomfort with technology impacts your students’ futures. Teachers need to be preparing students for the world we live in today. So many jobs are dependent on a basic understanding of technology. Always ask yourself, “am I teaching something that is obsolete, or something that will help my students in the future that lies ahead?”
  2. Don’t resist your tech guru teacher-friend: It is difficult to ask for help but partnering up with a tech guru teacher-friend can provide a support system that can help ease your transition from tech terrified to tech curious.
  3. Realize it’s okay if you are not in control: In reflection, I realize that a major reason that I resisted tech for so long is because I feared what would happen if I was no longer in control…but it is okay if the tech malfunctions. In fact it can lead to some pretty teachable moments.
  4. Let your students teach you something: Newsflash – if you think you are the omnipotent force in your classroom, think again! Kids know a lot these days and it can boost their confidence and engagement if you call on students for support.
  5. If you find a product you like, ask someone from the company to come visit – Tech startups want you to use their products so most likely if you send an email, they will answer any questions you have or maybe even come visit your school to teach you how to use their product.
About #5: Tech startups will send someone to talk to Dan Meyer, Sal Kahn, or someone who will really make use of their software and make some valid contributions.

No company will send someone out to talk to a tech-terrified teacher with some toys sitting around the classroom gathering dust because loser child can't be bothered to figure out how to turn them on.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How to Create A Monopoly

Laying some groundwork: The Common Core Initiative has been gaining steam in the U.S. for some time.  They've been adopted in 45 of the 50 states. The CCI is fine as it now stands. One could argue with some of the standards or with some of the timelines, but overall they are remarkably similar to most states standards.

Phase Two:  Someone has to test these standards. For 26 states, that would be Smarter Balanced, which is pushing hard on computer-adaptive testing. This is testing that is given on computers or tablet, and using a difficulty rating and some math, delivers questions based on how correctly the student answered previous questions ... answer correctly, it gives you a harder question, answer incorrectly and it tones it down a bit.  Add that to a massive databank of questions (all rated and sorted) and you get a perfect assessment of that students and his abilities.

Like this one.
Every student will have to have access to a desktop running a browser and some lock-down software or to a tablet running a specialty app ... and strangely, the tablet are going to be required for the 11th grade math. N.B.: I am not sure on this last but the presenter (Sue Gendron) said that schools would be required to have at least 25% of the students tested by tablet and then mentioned math questions, so I think that's right.

If all goes well. If they finish in time. If they do their work well. If they finish at all. If the questions are rated correctly. If they're testing the right things.

Here's where the market manipulation comes in.

They are NOT DONE YET; in fact, they've barely started and they probably won't be done completely in time for the rollout in 2014.

So which tablet operating system do you think they starting with, Android or iPad?

With a lot of development money donated by Apple in the form of thousands of iPad IIs that are only costing the states $240 each (per Sue Gendron, ex-Commissioner of Education, Maine), is it surprising that Smarter Balanced is not going to get to the Android app until much later?

Slick, right?

Think about how school buy tech.
iPad money tree.
  • Once the IT buys iPads for the first round, will they really want to introduce a second operating system and purchase the more expensive Androids? No.
  • What if the Android makers bring the price down to a competitive level? Too late. The schools and the teachers and the states are all in the Apple pipeline - that's really hard to break.
  • Isn't the iPad priced below market value to the point of anti-competitive pricing? Yup.
  • Isn't that illegal? Yup.
  • Are states pushing this? Yes, this monopolizing is being done at the behest of the Government.
    • Republican or Democrat, they're both doing this.  Don't get started with that. 
    •  Doesn't iPad have to be linked to iTunes, and come with a ton of EULA restrictions and bullshit that so many people hate about Apple and all of it's products? You Betcha.
    • Every school in all the 26 states, buying iPads ... as soon as the schools get hooked, the price goes up to it's normal point of three times what you're paying now and twice what a normal-priced Android tablet would cost.And since there aren't any schools with Androids now, who wants to bother developing the app for them? 
    But that's okay, isn't that the only ...
    • Don't you want to use those shiny new tablets for eTextbooks? Yes, purchaseable ONLY through iTunes, naturally. 40%, please.
    • Don't you want the kids to read on those shiny new iPads? Yes, but all books are 40% to Apple.
    • If the kids write something good on an iPad, they are required by the EULA to sell it through iTunes and Apple gets a cut.
    Congratulations, you've just witnessed the beginning of a monopoly.

    Updated for those with 21st Century Learning Skills

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Common core and computer adaptive testing.

    The common core update happened today at our school, with the kindly old lady telling us how much the scores are going to rise when we raise the reading level and the difficulty level of all the questions. (Yeah, I know, but let's play along.)

    She described the computer adaptive questions and how the program would be able to deliver a different next question based on whether the student got the previous one right.  I'm good with that concept, actually.  With a suitable scoring system (like the one for Olympic divers), it should work out quite well. 

    Then we got to the "performance tasks" which were much more extensive, taking 2 hours each for high school students to complete. The students will be responding with text, handwritten (onto a tablet - the goal is for 25% of tests to be taken on tablet), voice over documents, video, and anything else the test creators could dream up.

    Here's the kicker.

    None of this is past alpha development stage. The iPad apps are still in development. The Android apps, laptop programs, desktop programs, Mac, PC, ... all were still in development. Everything is computer-based but they can't figure out how to block the student from getting on Google. They don't know how the schools will supply themselves with all the tech ... "When I was Commissioner in Maine, I just put it in the budget. We're talking to your state about it."

    The math framework and examples will be ready ... in a few months.  The digital clearinghouse ... maybe by June 2013. The funding for technology ... "we're working on that".  The assessment engine ... that'll be ready soon.  The suitable scoring system I mentioned earlier ... "I'm not sure exactly how that'll work".

    I point out that the questions they're displaying are problematic, but her response was to remind me that the exemplars had been posted for some time and teachers had been able to make comments. Oh, my bad.

    Not inspiring confidence, here.

    She put up a reading example about a science topic that was similarly flawed - if you knew the science already, you'd have a huge advantage and your "reading score" would be much higher. Fair enough, you might say, but the elementary teachers in the auditorium didn't know most of the words either.  "Turbidity", for example.

    8th grade - they'll guess and check.
    I'm not sure how that's supposed to
    measure algebra, though.
    Scoring will be a pain, too.  Questions like this one will be scored by ... someone. This will be a source for error right there.  Portfolios had this problem, too.  You'd think it would be easy to get all the scorers to come up with a consistent grade since they all had a page-long rubric to follow.  You might think that, but you'd be wrong.

    I love education.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    Let's stop calling it "College Prep"

    Not for everyone.
    All around this country, we call classes "Honors", "College Prep", regular, or whatever.  It seems to me that this is a bad way to divide the students. I've found (and you have, too) that most students fall into categories width-wise instead of vertically.

    Maryanne was definitely going to college. She was great in English class, loved history, was an artist in the 1% bracket and hated math.  She never thought she was good at it. She made it through algebra II in junior year and considered herself finished and had no intentions of signing up for a math class senior year. .

    Why was she in college-prep algebra II with the pre-engineer kids who ate up math, but hated English? Because they were all going to college and the course was college-prep. Why do we think that the mechanics-to-be and the farmers can't do high-level geometry and algebra II? What if they enjoy math but are most interested in building cars -- don't they need math, too? Can't the Future Farmers enjoy math even if they have no intention of going to college?

    This is awesome. I want it.
    Why can't we accept that kids aren't going to be superior in every subject?  Certainly none of the adults I know are that way. If a kid is going to beauty-school ( "college" ), is she really needing algebra II with the kids who love it and do really well in math every year?

    Let's instead have "Hate math algebra II" and "Love math algebra II".

    Separate the kids by interest and enjoyment of subject, not by future plans that may or may not have anything to do with ability in the subject.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Learning styles don't exist ... except for the textbook author.

    By now, you've all read about the still struggling fad of Learning Styles, perhaps you've watched Dan Willingham's video on the subject:
    Learning Styles Don't Exist

    What disturbs me is that the textbook authors are buying into this dreck as well.

    Larson Algebra 1, 2012 Common Core Edition.