June 30, 2003

The weather's fine (in Hell). Wish you were here.

Yep, it's that kind of Monday, including sleep deprivation, a sick cat (vomit cleanup was required), a sick boss (vomit cleanup not required, thank God), a full day of committee meetings, some spur-of-the-moment presenting thanks to the sick (and absent) boss, a business lunch, and now a business dinner, with more meetings to commence bright'n'early tomorrow morn. My desk is buried in papers, I don't know when I'm going to have time to revise my presentation in the next two days, and I don't know when I'm going to have time to run all the errands that I'm not doing tonight because of this business dinner, which I'd forgotten about until 7:54 this morning.

So, that explains the non-existent bloggage. And did I mention the sick cat?

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Posted by kswygert at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2003

Blair Hornstine - the full story

The Weekly Standard has a comprehensive essay up about our favorite high-school news item, Blair Hornstine. Author Jonathan Last is an unique position to comment - he attended Moorestown High School and so was able to provide an insider's viewpoint of the whole scandal. He attended the graduation. He talked to the parents who allegedly heard Louis Hornstine brag about manipulating the system. He synthesized a great many details into this fascinating wrapup of the whole saga. And he certainly uncovered some new facts, not previously noted in the press.

Best tidbits?

Blair's lawyer wasn't an expert on education law, but instead a man legendary in Jersey circles for defending mob kingpins. Two additional lawyers came on board when her plagiarism was discovered, in order to "play offense" with Harvard and make sure that her acceptance there was still valid. [Update: Hope they' weren't billing by the hour....]

Few people in Moorestown seem to believe that Blair had any sort of physical disability, at least one severe enough to prevent her from attending school. Blair's chirping statements to interviewers - you know, the ones about there being plenty of time in the day for her to do volunteer work and about how she always keeps busy to avoid boredom? - didn't help matters.

She received an A+ (value: 4.3) for gym, a class she never attended (she had a doctor's note excusing her from it), and her father wanted the grade removed. No, not because she didn't deserve it, but because her GPA was above 4.3 at the time, and this undeserved grade in gym would have drug her GPA downwards.

And, last but not least, Blair's father, New Jersey superior court judge Louis Hornstine, has accepted an adjunct teaching position at - where else? - Harvard. Guess this means that the online petition for Harvard to rescind Blair's acceptance was completely futile, eh? Harvard's not going to shut the gates on the daughter of one of their newest faculty members, now are they?

Posted by kswygert at 07:04 AM | Comments (32)

June 27, 2003

Pennsylvanians rally for education

Big rallies today in Harrisburg (for those of you who never memorized your state capitals, that's in Pennsylvania) for increased state funding for education. The event was organized by Good Schools Pennsylvania, and at issue is the amount of money that the state will spend on public schools.

Governor Rendell is asking for money to implement many new initiatives, including "providing preschool programs in the poorest school districts, reducing class sizes through third grade, and improving teacher training." Sounds good, except for that little matter of the attached $559 million price tag.

I checked out the GSP website. Heart-tugging photo they've got there. The group is for accountability and higher standards, which is good, but I noticed this in their mission statement:

Public Schools Must be Adequately and Equitably Funded- Pennsylvania will only be able to improve its school outcomes when the funding is adequate and distributed on an equitable basis to benefit all school children.

Now, I actually know little about ecomomics, and even less about funding schools. But most of Pennsylvania's bad schools are in poor districts where property values are very low. Those schools aren't going to receive much in the way of local tax funding. So does "equitable" funding mean that every school should receive the same amount of money from the state - which means schools from richer districts would still be better off - or does it mean that the state should give more money to certain schools in order to balance out the inequities?

Posted by kswygert at 08:02 PM | Comments (13)

Do I have any readers in Duluth?

Anyone out there in Duluth? Do you homeschool? There's a mighty nifty-sounding workshop coming up July 18th, on standardized testing for homeschooled kids. It's being hosted by the Minnesota Homeschooler's Alliance. If anyone has a chance to drop by, let me know how it went. Heck, I might email 'em for the information - I'm genuinely curious as to how they're going to be instructing homeschooling parents to help their kids with the tests.

Posted by kswygert at 07:52 PM | Comments (7)

More on the NY Regents Math fiasco

Scores from the faulty June administration of the the New York Regents exam Math A section were discarded because the test form was too hard, and this is causing untold headaches for NY's students. This description of the resulting chaos in the Kingston school district is but one example:

For seniors who took the exam, the remedy...is clear: If the student passed the Math A course, that student may substitute the course grade for the exam and then graduate. A total of 22 Kingston High School seniors took the Math A exam. According to [Kingston Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Grere] Fischer, two seniors passed the exam and 18 will graduate today based on their passing course grade...

But how this will affect the grades of freshman, sophomores and juniors is not yet clear...[state Education Commissioner Richard] Mills originally said that juniors could substitute their course grades for the test as well, but recent communications to school districts stated that the state may re-score the exams...

For freshman and sophomores it gets a little more complicated...a sophomore can take the Math A exam at the next opportunity, which means that a sophomore who might be continuing with Math B this upcoming year may have to take the Math A exam in January after a whole semester away from the material...four years of a certain exam are developed at the same time. There could be three more years of faulty Math A exams to come...

Fischer said that the Math A fiasco could have also affected students grades on other standardized tests that week. She said that many teachers reported students crying in the middle of taking other exams after finding out that they "bombed" Math A.

Bas Braams has examined previous Math sections of the Regents exams and found them to be lacking in quality as well. If he is correct in his statement (stated in a previous comment on this page) that the test designers "clearly do not have an adequate background in mathematics, or even in precise and clear use of language," the future of the Regents Math exam is starting to appear rather bleak.

Posted by kswygert at 02:37 PM | Comments (2)

Professor of Pathology - or pathological professor?

Amit Duvshani, an Israeli, has been rejected for a doctoral position at Oxford University in England. His qualifications in the subject matter don't seem to have been the issue, given the reply he received from the professor in charge of hiring, Dr. Andrew Wilkie. Dr. Wilkie unaplogetically stated in his letter his "huge problem" with Israelis taking "the moral high ground" from having suffered through the Holocaust, and under no circumstances would he hire someone who had "served in the Israeli army." The authenticity of the letter has not been confirmed, but neither has it been exposed as a hoax.

If, in fact, this email is genuine, then, given that all Israeli men and women over the age of 18 are required to serve in the Israeli military in some capacity, with exceptions made for Arab-Israelis and the more Orthodox Jews, what the good professor is saying is that he will under no circumstances hire a Jew from Israel. Which would seem to contradict Oxford University's Equal Opportunity Laws (the "racial" discrimination rules are broad enough to include "nationality" and "national origins"). I agree with the commenters on the LGF board, though, that the professor will suffer no ill-consequences of this blunt statement (other than having his email account flamed).

I haven't posted on the topic of anti-Semitism in the academy too much before, because (a) it's not closely related to standardized testing, and (b) other bloggers such as Meryl Yourish, Charles Johnson, Erin O'Connor already do a great job of reporting the rising tide of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel discrimination among allegedly "educated" and "enlightened" academics.

But occasionally I come across a story about someone so brazenly anti-Semitic that it takes my breath away, and this is one example. If Dr. Wilkie's understanding of pathological medicine is as flawed as his understanding of history and the Middle East, and as limited as his conceptions of honesty and fair play, then I pity any student of his.

Update: As commenter Allen G. notes, the power of the blogosphere is mighty to behold - Oxford has already issued a statement claiming that they do not condone Dr. Wilkie's actions, and have demanding his apology. But check out what the good professor (and, by association, Oxford) considers an "apology" for his blatantly anti-Semitic comments:

“I recognise and apologise for any distress caused by my e mail of 23 June and the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal opinions in that document. I was not speaking on behalf of Oxford University or any of its constituent parts. I entirely accept the University of Oxford’s Equal Opportunities and Race Equality policies.”

In other words - "I'm sorry you were upset by my words," not, "I'm sorry I said them." It's as though he's amazed to learn that a job applicant might take offense at being accused of genocide. And he'll abide by the university's policy, because he has to.

Or, as one LGF commenter brilliantly put it:

"I'm sorry that the guy I e-mailed knew how to forward my response."

Some apology.


Posted by kswygert at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2003

They do things differently in Utah...

Something tells me this school district doesn't run the risk of having another Columbine happen. Heck, if I were a kid there, I wouldn't even mouth off to the teacher, much less try to harm another student. Something tells me those Utah teachers might be good shots...

Posted by kswygert at 07:46 PM | Comments (4)

A "special avenue" for Mass. students

For the first time this year, the MCAS is required for a high school diploma in Massachusetts, and already a Democratic state senator has inserted an amendment into the most recent state budget which would allows special-needs students who don't pass the MCAS to receive a high-school diploma through a "special avenue". Currently, those that don't pass the MCAS must accept the "certificate of attainment" alternative, but that may soon change:

Spearheaded by state Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, the amendment targets the state Department of Education's decision to award "certificates of attainment" to special education students who meet their high schools' requirements for graduating but failed the MCAS...

Under Creem's proposal, a student with special needs would be eligible for an appeal if he or she has taken the MCAS at least three times or has submitted a portfolio at least two times; has maintained an adequate attendance record; and has participated in academic support services.

The appeal, which must be filed by the school superintendent at the request of a parent, will have to meet several criteria. For example, there must be proof that local graduation requirements have been met. A recommendation from the student's individualized education plan team that he or she is ready to graduate is another requirement.

This plan appears to have some checks and balances to prevent abuse of the system, but it's also likely to be used by the anti-testing crowd as one more piece of evidence that standardized tests are "unfair".

Posted by kswygert at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

More classroom time for Jersey's neediest schools

The East Orange school district in New Jersey is adding the equivalent of 95 full school days to the school year, in order to to boost test scores in reading, writing and mathematics. The 95 days will be spread out among 30 Saturday classes, 35 days of summer classes, and six hours of after-school tutoring per week through the school year. The program is projected to cost around $800,000.

I think it's not a bad idea - problem is, these poorly-performing schools are the ones most likely to lack air conditioning (intalling AC would boosts the costs even further), and parents may not be willing to replan summer vacations and after-school time based on extended school hours.

Posted by kswygert at 03:48 PM | Comments (3)

*Whew*

The presentation is over, and I did a great job, according to the members of my audience (which included some serious bigwigs, including my boss, and my boss's boss). Thanks to all of you who sent helpful tips.

Now, it's time to PARTY - as much partying as possible, that is, given that we're all still at work for another four hours. But hey, at least we are ordering in pizza.

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Regular bloggage should resume sometime late this afternoon.

Posted by kswygert at 01:33 PM | Comments (2)

June 25, 2003

It's art, I tell you

Two distractions that have kept me sane, in-between bouts of wrestling with PowerPoint and obsessing over my talk for tomorrow:

Heathers - Ah, for the good old days, when a movie could be made featuring a sympathetic lead character who whips out a gun in the cafeteria and shoots the two most obnoxious jocks in school with blanks. He not only doesn't get expelled (or jailed), he also gets the girl - though he tries to off her in the end, as well. Every line is a classic.

The Outsiders - Ah, for the good, even older days, when greasers read Gone With The Wind and quoted Robert Frost.

Which is more memorable?

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

or

"Well, they seem to have an open door policy for assholes though, don't they?"

Posted by kswygert at 09:24 PM | Comments (1)

A bundle of nerves

Hello, everyone.

Bloggage will be light for the next two days because I'm getting ready to give a presentation. This will be the first time some of the senior staff here have seen my work, and I'm as anxious about it as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs.

I appreciate your patience while I have a minor nervous breakdown and leave you without your testing news for a couple of days. (Joanne Jacobs is back online and trying to catch up on the testing news she missed, so if you need a fix, you can go visit her site.)

And if you have any kind words or useful advice for handling stagefright, be sure to send 'em my way. Thanks.

Posted by kswygert at 09:31 AM | Comments (11)

June 24, 2003

Test design blunder negates NY Regents scores

N2P Reader and humble genius Bas Braams has sent a couple of emails my way regarding the mathematics portion of the NY Regents Exam. For those of you unfamiliar with the exam, it's produced by the New York State Education Department to assess if students have met the New York State Learning Standards, and it's a requirement for graduation in New York State. The administrator's manual for the exam is here.

The first email that Bas sent covers the negative press the June 2003 exam had been receiving, and he concluded that perhaps the exam was okay, although the difficulty level may have been inconsistent with past exams.

However, he followed this up with an email in which he decided, after further inspection, that it appeared the January and June 2003 exams differed greatly in difficulty, and that some items were badly worded as well. The open-response section of the June exam appeared to him to be more difficult than the corresponding section in the January exam. Now, even when exams are well-constructed, some difficulty fluctuations may appear, but if care is taken when assembling the test forms, the fluctuations will be small, and can be corrected through equating (this is done on the SAT).

Now, though, it's a moot point, because schools have been given the option of discarding the math portion of the exam. The test construction method must have failed at some point, because the statistics show the June exam was in fact far more difficult than the January form:

A high failure rate on the Regents exam had called into question the fairness of the test and imperiled the right of thousands of seniors to graduate from high school this week. Commissioner Richard Mills also ruled that the planned August administration of the math test would be suspended to give education officials more time to review the June test results and why so many students failed...

Last Tuesday, tens of thousands of high school students across the state took the test, known as the Math A Regents examination. The state immediately ordered a speedy review of the results because of initial reports by school districts and parents of unusually low passing rates...

Speediness now doesn't quite compensate for incompentency earlier. Incidents like these bother me a great deal, not only because I feel for the kids who had to take an exam that is essentially going to be thrown out, but because this also adds fuel to the fire for those who advocate removing high-stakes tests altogether.

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Posted by kswygert at 08:26 PM | Comments (3)

Swamped and sleepy

I've been so busy today that I just now realized I didn't blog anything. I had meetings all morning, and very intense meetings at that. I was already tired, because I stayed up late last night getting together a presentation I'll be giving at work and at an international conference next month. I was going to continue working on it today after all the meetings, but had the distinct feeling that if I stayed at work, I would be dragooned into yet more meetings, so I came home to work.

Problem: The room where my computer is at home is not air-conditioned. I moved into this house less than two months ago, and so I didn't realize the extent of the problem until today. I think my computer is okay (and my python, who also lives in the room, happily appreciates the warmth), but the heat made me drowsy, and the air-conditioned bedroom beckoned me for a nap.

Problem: Mid-day naps, especially when I'm already sleep-deprived, result in a lot of very weird REM cycles. Normally the telemarketers who begin calling at 5 pm drive me nuts, but today I'm glad they woke me up. I'd begun by dreaming that I was an investigative reporter on the verge of proving a scandalous link between my ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend and the Mob (hah), and had moved to a dream in which my current neighborhood was in fact the traditional Native American outpost of Philadelphia (eh?), and so my neighbors were reclaiming this ground by digging up the pavement and burying their dead there.

Like I said, I'm glad the telemarketer woke me up. I don't think I made much sense on the phone, though.

Anyway, I'm now hard at work on the presentation, but I hope to get some blogging done tonight as well, seeing as how I'll be in front of the computer for the next seven hours or so...

Posted by kswygert at 06:32 PM | Comments (7)

June 23, 2003

Joanne Jacobs is latest victim of Blogger bug

Venerable High Priestess of EduBlogging Joanne Jacobs has fallen victim to Blogger's wretched code bugs, and has been unable to post since Friday. She asked me to announce to all of you that she is switching to Moveable Type this weekend (an illustration of her surfing the web while switching hosts is shown below), and she hopes to be back up as soon as possible. Having just gone through what she is now enduring , I can definitely say I feel her pain. Once everything's said and done, though, I think she's going to love her new digs. Let's hope she's back online as soon as possible.

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Update: She's back online, and still on Blogger for now, but will making the switch ASAP.

Posted by kswygert at 09:37 PM | Comments (2)

"Bracing" for the end of affirmative action?

The US Supreme Court will soon rule on affirmative action policies, and US colleges are supposedly "bracing" themselves against the possibility of having to dismantle AA policies. This Detroit News page has a lot of good information, including a special report on AA, and an overview of Michigan's appalling "points system", in which socioeconomic background and race count much more than stellar SAT scores and difficulty of school coursework.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Democratic presidential candidates say they will willingly defy any Supreme Court rulings in order to continue with affirmative action. Explain to me again how this is ostensibly the party that opposes racism?

Update
: The Supreme Court ruling is in - and it's a split decision. Racial quotas and point systems are unconstitutional, and race cannot be the decisive factor in admissions - but colleges will be able to seek other ways to take race into account. There's lots more on the front pages of FoxNews and TownHall right now as well.

Where's John of Discriminations when we need him? He's the expert on this subject - and he's house-sitting in San Francisco with an iffy DSL and a bad case of post-traumatic stress disorder from his flight. Let's hope we hear from him soon...

Posted by kswygert at 02:16 PM | Comments (7)

Tarot cards for Bloggers

Oh, this I like. I really, really like.

I don't think he's gotten to me, yet. Will "Edublogger" be a card? "Over-educated Blogger?" "Ridiculously specialized Blogger?" Remains to be seen...

(I really, really hope I don't come across as the "Newbie".)

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Posted by kswygert at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

For those of you new to this site...

Just in case there's any of you who are new to the site who (a) want to learn more about me, or (b) are feeling flush with cash right now, I've added two new permalinks on the right.

The first is an "About Me" page that gives you information about my educational background, what I do, and what my other interests are (other than blogging, of course).

The second is my Amazon Wish List. 'Nuff said.

Posted by kswygert at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

A failure of testing, or of ideology?

I'm not sure what to make of this news article from Seattle. It seems that the Seattle School District gave the Cognitive Abilities Test to every first-grader in the district, ostensibly for the purpose of selecting students for the district's advanced learning programs. But the district didn't really want to identify the smartest students; it wanted to identify the smartest students who are racial minorities.

The test, on the other hand, identified the best-performing group as being 91% white or Asian, and now the school district is blaming the test for failing to "diversify" the potential advanced-learning group:

Most top scorers on the Cognitive Abilities Test were either whites or Asians, already the two predominant groups in the district's advanced-learning programs. The results mean the district will now consider other criteria to try to boost enrollment of underrepresented groups in those programs.

Students in the district's APP program generally work two grade levels above their grade, while students in the Spectrum program work one grade level above.

"We hoped the universal screening would increase the number of underrepresented groups. That just wasn't true," said Herb Packer, the district's director of advanced-learning programs.

Because the testing didn't yield the results the district had hoped, administrators said the universal screening probably won't be administered next school year. Chief Academic Officer June Rimmer said the district instead will propose a plan next month that probably would include other admission criteria for Spectrum.

In other words, the school district doesn't want to use an intellectual benchmark as admission for an intellectually-advanced program. We're not talking about an enriched program here; we're talking about classwork that is one or two grade levels ahead. That sort of challenge isn't going to be helpful for a student who isn't ready for it, and the students who are ready will likely be impatient with other kids in the class who slow them down.

Rather than educating every child to the best of their ability, what seems to be more important to the Seattle school district is placing more minority children into advanced programs, regardless of whether they're truly ready for it. The proposed alternative admission criteria are relatively subjective, so much so that one member of the district's Advanced Learning Steering Committee has already noted that this leaves the district open to criticism from parents who wonder why their children did not get admitted to the program.

Why isn't the school district using these results to focus on those kids who didn't make the cut, and admit that those kids aren't ready to be skipped one or two grades ahead? If a kid is working at grade level, focus the education there. Don't be a quota-driven bean counter who thinks that the school system is a failure if the advanced programs don't acheive some perfect, mystical racial balance. It's not about that.

Posted by kswygert at 10:41 AM | Comments (6)

Optional essays to be added to the ACT

ACT, Inc, will be adding an optional essay to the ACT assessment beginning in 2005. They're currently in the midst of the grueling process of selecting essays, training raters, and setting standards for grading the essays. No word yet as to how many colleges will begin requiring the essay for admission. An essay section will also be introduced to the SAT in 2005.

Posted by kswygert at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

Getting put on the "Dishonor Roll"

For the past year, officials at Granite Bay High School (CA) have been posting the names of student who cheat on an internal internet server. School officials say the list, officially known as the "Academic Dishonesty List," unofficially known as the cheaters list, will be back this year, because teachers find it useful:

Staff members with passwords can open the...cheaters list, on their computers. Faculty members report incidents to the assistant principal and a secretary updates the list. The teachers receive e-mails about once a month, notifying them when the list has been updated...

At the end of the school year, 68 incidents were logged. Because of multiple infractions, three students had made the list twice. One student appeared three times. Reports had come from 29 teachers....

...Assistant Principal Michael McGuire said the list probably will be available on paper only to teachers who come to his office to report cheaters. One-time cheaters' names probably will be erased from year to year, he added. School officials said that the cheaters' list does not become part of a student's transcript or prevent seniors from graduating.

Teachers always have had access to students' disciplinary records, Severson said. The shared electronic list merely simplifies the process. Teacher Karl Grubaugh appreciates the efficiency.

"In the past, if I wanted to get the rundown on the 70 students in my government or economics class, I had to go the assistant principal's office with a list and go one by one through the files to see if any cheating had occurred," said Grubaugh, who helped develop the idea at a faculty retreat last year.

Posted by kswygert at 10:22 AM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2003

Confederate flag flap in Maryland

Devoted Reader Richard H. sent me a link, which Instapundit found as well, to a blog by Jared M., a 17-year-old Maryland high school student. What does Jared blog about? Well, on Friday, he got to report that several school officials assualted a student who was carrying a small confederate flag. And he names names:

I looked to my left, and saw a young man in the usual punk-style garb walking, Confederate flag grasped by his hip, silent. Not a second later, I saw my school's Principal, Ms. Joan Valentine, and Vice Principal Ms. Bonita Sims(both African American females), without prior warning, rush toward him. Grabbing at him, HITTING him repeatedly, they tried to hold his arms down and rip his flag away.

There was a Military Police Officer standing no more than 20 feet away, who looked on, taking no action, despite their blatant assault of this student. Passing the flag off to his friend, who, too remained silent and walked on, Ms. Valentine and Ms. Sims quickly stopped, and decided to herd them to the Officer across the sidewalk, instead...

Now, what right in the world did Ms. Valentine and Ms. Sims have to assault him? I don't care who you are, if you hit somebody without provocation, that is a crime, plain and simple. The leaders of a school, most of ALL, should be the last ones to act out in violence. Instead, they were the first and only ones.

Now, I'm sure a bunch of people reading this have already typecast me as a racist. Let me reassert myself. I believe first and foremost in freedom...Yes, I know that the Confederate flag carries a connotation that is well known. However, you cannot take vigilante action upon someone merely exercizing their rights in a reasonable manner. The administrators acted far beyond their bounds by attacking that kid...

I wasn't able to corroborate his story with any online news reports about this (but it's quite possible that the press wasn't told). However, when searching Google, I did find this little snippet from earlier in June:

A federal court in Baltimore ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs can block a speaker from advocating that a Confederate flag be flown at a Civil War cemetery at Southern Maryland's Point Lookout. A reference to the flag was to be part of a speech during a June 14 ceremony at the former prisoner-of-war camp, where thousands of Confederate soldiers perished.

Looks like the Confederate flag is off-limits in Maryland, period - even at a Civil War ceremony, honoring prisoners-of-war who died for that flag.

The school administrators, though, if they really assaulted that kid, were way out of line (as a comparison, what kind of punishment do you think another kid who beat up a confederate flag holder would have recieved? Probably a long suspension, under "zero tolerance" rules). As the Instapundit put it, "High school bloggers will be the bane of officious principals."

Posted by kswygert at 10:41 AM | Comments (12)

June 20, 2003

Rain sucks

Oh, what a lovely weekend it's shaping up to be. We had planned to go to the Jersey Shore this weekend, but the weather report is for a high of 61, with rain. Lots of rain. Like we've had all month. Earlier this week I put in my garden a stone statue of a frog holding a water collection tube. When I went outside this morning, I discovered the frog had exchanged his tube for a giant golf umbrella. He's as sick of the rain as I am. I don't care if the Spanish word for rain is a lovely-sounding word; it still sucks.

I'm also tired of thinking about testing. My work this week included:
(a) handing in comments on a paper on computerized testing guidelines, only to discover later that I edited the wrong paper,
(b) revising a research paper in preparation for an upcoming conference, only to discover that policy decisions were made this week that completely change the nature of my conclusions, and
(c) literally dozens of hours worth of meetings, involving complicated scoring rubrics, mathematical models, and office politics. Most of which took place in a building where the air conditioning was broken.

My brain is dead.

So here's what I actually am thinking about now:

I just found out that a friend of mine was deployed to Iraq as part of a fire-fighting unit. He's in the 369th Eng Platoon, and I don't know how long he'll be out there. He's more than capable of handling any trouble, but I'm sending good wishes his way nonetheless. Hopefully the Iraqis are happy to see him, and they should be.

Right now, I'm lovin' the following:
My director's cut DVD of A Streetcar Named Desire.
The new CD by Evanescence.
The Decorated Page - a guide for illustrating my scrapbook/journal.
A new true crime book - Glensheen's Daughter - about a female mass murderer. Money, murder, madness - I love it.
The Reptile Exhibition at Philly's Academy of Natural Sciences. I loved the museum so much that I just applied to be a volunteer. If I can get a chance to work in their live animal exhibit, I'll be in heaven.

Oh, and my copy of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix shipped out from Amazon today! Wahoo! I'm actually going to be waiting until July 4th to start reading it....and I'll tell you why later.

Have a great weekend. Since the weather is so crappy, I'll probably be at the computer tomorrow, so check back for more postings.

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Posted by kswygert at 04:21 PM | Comments (4)

Has "The Biggest Experiment" worked?

Philadelphia's school year just ended, and the Philly Daily News has a summary of the some of the results of the large-scale reforms implemented by the city. Some called this "the biggest experiment in the history of American public education" - but did it work?

Here's a glimpse from the ground level of the historic school year that was.

THE GRADUATE

There was a slight smile on the face of Selemawit "Selam" Tewelde as she sat in an empty classroom the other day. The smile said the Bartram High School student was glad to be among her classmates who graduated Wednesday...She's already been rejected by West Chester University, Penn State University and Kutztown University. She's now placing her hopes on Lincoln University, which hasn't gotten back to her.

"The education that I received at this public high school puts me below everyone else in magnet schools or suburban schools. I'm not prepared for college," said the 17-year-old..."Sometimes I just wish that colleges could understand what type of area or school that I went to," she said, "to understand why this student is lacking in certain parts."

THE NEW TEACHER

When Sara Demoiny, 22, was hired last year fresh out of Carson-Newman College near Knoxville, Tenn., she didn't have a choice of whether or not to work at a school being run by a private manager. Her lack of seniority assured that she would be, as veteran teachers fled to district-run schools.

Her first year done, the social studies teacher believes she and Edison have succeeded...The social studies curriculum was sound, she said, and teachers received 45-minute group professional development sessions every other day.

THE RESTRUCTURED

If John Barry Elementary School is any indication, the district's effort to start reforming 21 low-performing schools in-house was a tough assignment...The reform process - called restructuring - brought the school more money, but it was still as violent, mouse-infested and lacking in essential materials as ever...

...teachers left because they couldn't stand the heat of accountability and reforms such as a new curriculum and materials in math, reading and science, said Principal Jill Silverstein, a 33-year district veteran.

"If you turn over every rock, then you mess up the soil. That's what's going on here," said Silverstein, who doesn't hesitate to call the cops when kids fight. "But there are forces that don't always understand how things need to be. Change is painful."

Posted by kswygert at 01:18 PM | Comments (4)

X=rolls of duct tape, Y=girth of principal...

Students at a school in Rochester (NY) are stuck on math - and their principal is willing to be stuck for math. Nice to see an educator who puts his money where his mouth is - and his body where the duct tape is.

Posted by kswygert at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

OK with white people? Well, get over it!

Over on Joanne Jacob's blog, you'll discover a discussion of the evil inanity that is "whiteness studies". Unlike other ethnic-centered courses, which seek to reassure students of the importance of their race and the pride they should take in it, the field of whiteness studies is determined to teach whites to be ashamed of themselves and their forefathers. Whiteness studies advocates teach that the entire concept of "race" (and thus, racism) was invented by whites, and therefore most of the evils of Western Civilization were created by whites who wanted to remain dominant. Whiteness is not something to be celebrated, nor understood, but something to be destroyed.

Joanne's comments are, as always, concise and insightful ("College is about feeling comfortable?"), and her readers' comments are really good too, on topics ranging from AIDS activists who refuse to study science, to the wonders of "electrophallic chemistry". One of the commenters also links to James Hudnall's excellent essay on how whiteness studies is the new racist idea from the left. The fact that most whiteness studies professors are whites isn't lost on him:

Leave it to white liberals and lefties to be the most racist of all. Except their focus is on self hate. And there is nothing more annoying to me is when self haters try to push their agenda on others...What galls me about these morons is that they preach a new form of hate. A hate yourself kind of hate. And why? Because they can then think they're superior to everyone else, because they see themselves as enlightened....

No one gets to choose their parents or their race. This kind of swill is like that original sin nonsense (sorry if you believe in that hocus pocus), the idea that you are born bad and have to be saved by the dogma of some priestly class.

These leftist professors seem themselves as priests, preaching their new dogma. What they are trying to do is fill people's head with self hatred, like their's, so they will follow along when the marching orders from the party officals are bullhorned in.

My take on it? UCLA is one of the universities offering a whiteness course. Meanwhile, one source claims that half of UCLA's incoming freshmen must take remedial English, and the dropout rate for UCLA's minority students is still much higher than that for white students (although it declined after affirmative action was abolished). Is a course designed to teach UCLA's students to hate white people, filled with historical revisionism and ideological ranting, really what those students need to succeed in the academic world?

Posted by kswygert at 12:37 PM | Comments (11)

June 19, 2003

Graduation Day! - Updated

Well, Moorestown High's graduation ceremony appears to have gone off without a hitch. In fact, it sounds like a darn good time was had by all, and I'm sure salutatorian Kenny Mirkin appreciated his standing O. Miss Blair was completely absent from the proceedings, both in mind and spirit; although listed in the graduation program, her name was not announced from the podium with the rest of the graduating class.

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I'm sure a few wrapup stories about Blair's trials and tribulations, and the Moorestown students who seem happy to be rid of her, will appear over the next few days, and I'll link to all the ones I can find.

Posted by kswygert at 11:00 PM | Comments (3)

Getting hits

Wow, the new self-explanatory URL must be making life easier for my readers. I've noticed in my referral logs that most of the hits are now direct hits, which is what's going to happen with someone bookmarking the site or typing in the URL. With the old blog, I had relatively few direct hits as referrals. Glad to know the new digs have made it easier for you guys to find me.

Posted by kswygert at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

Tune in, turn on...stand up?

It's true that the dropout rate in the US has remained relatively high for the last 15 years, especially for black and Hispanic students. It's true that drugs, alcohol, and pregancy are some of the more common causes of dropping out. It's also true that dropping out of high school doesn't do much to improve one's chances to succeed in life.

This, however, is a really bad way of pointing that out.

As Joanne Jacobs succinctly notes, "Do school administrators have to pass a stupidity exam?"

Posted by kswygert at 01:43 PM | Comments (4)

Are we getting better or worse?

Good news - A new report shows our nation's fourth-grade reading scores on NAEP have increased.
Bad news - The same report shows that the NAEP reading scores for high school seniors have consistently declined.

The report can be found here (requires Adobe Acrobat). The New York Times has the story:

...the data released today suggest that serious problems loom at the high school level. They showed average reading scores dropping in virtually every level of expertise among 12th graders, both since the last exam in 1998 and in 1992, when the first comparable exams were given.

In 1992, the share of 12th graders who had not mastered the basics of reading was one in five. By last year's exam, fewer than one in four read at what the test defined as a "basic level." In earlier exams, 12th graders showed falling scores in math and science, while their performance on history and geography tests has remained flat.

How in hell will a student who hasn't mastered the basics of reading by 12th-grade stand a chance of understanding history and science? This is appalling. And the fourth-grade numbers don't look too great when broken down by race. Overall, 36% of fourth-graders don't read at the basic level - but that translates to 25% of white youngsters, and 60% of black youngsters.

Anyone who can look at these numbers and claim that the public school system works just fine, or that testing is the problem, is absolutely insane. I know there are good schools and good teachers out there. But a system that produces one out of four high school seniors who can't read at a basic level is just not working.

For example, here's the assessment example book for NAEP 12th-grade reading. That exam is a 50-minute exam composed of multiple-choice and short and extended open-ended items. Students have 25 minutes to read a story, article, or document and answer questions about it.

Interestingly, the first example is a tax form. Seriously. We're not talking lyrical clarity, but we're also not talking dense prose. It's a legal document, and the questions students have to answer are along the lines of:

Give one reason why you would not use the 1040EZ form, even if you were single.

Name one place where you can find the instructions for completing the 1040EZ tax return.

In order to find the amount of your taxable income, you must
A multiply the state sales tax by your gross income
B subtract line 4 from line 3 on the tax return
C add line 6 and line 7 on the tax return
D ask your employer for the amount of your adjusted income

It ain't Shakespeare - but it is a document most adults use and must understand at some point in their lives. Because all of the information is given, the item doesn't rely on prior knowledge, and it does measure how well you can understand and follow written directions.

More examples are shown in the report. In one case, test takers read a speech by one Mr. Newton Minow, given in 1961 to the National Association of Broadcasters, in which he criticizes American television programming.
The first sample question:

Mr. Minow mainly supported his position with
A personal opinions
B rating statistics
C recommendations from advertisers
D newspaper articles

Only 72% got this item right, but this shouldn't have been a hard item. No interpretation was required - the student just had to be able to locate where in the passage Mr. Minow explained his argument. This item is located on NAEP's scale within the "Basic" group, and over a quarter of the high school seniors who were tested missed it.

The 12th-grade breakdowns can be found on page 24 of this document. Only 6% of test takers read at an Advanced level, 35% at Proficient, 36% at Basic, and 23% at Below Basic - up from 20% 9 years ago.

"Below Basic" readers are defined as having mastered at most only the following skills:

Use task directions and prior knowledge to make a comparison. Describe main action of story. Identify explicitly stated reason for article event. Identify explicitly stated description from text.

That's it. The ability to restate exactly what the reading passage says is all that the Below Basic test takers - almost a quarter of the sample - have managed to glean from 12 years of reading instruction. And these are kids who haven't dropped out, who have remained in the system. What good will a high school diploma do them at this point?

Update: A friend sent me this story from New Zealand. Give 'em a few years and we'll see how they do on NAEP...

Update #2: Scrappleface has the story on the new "Leave No Dollar Behind" educational plan...

Posted by kswygert at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

Graduation Day!

Today is June 19th, the eagerly-anticipated Graduation Day for Moorestown (NJ) High School. Of course, sole valedictorian, known plagiarist, and general object of scorn Blair Hornstine won't be attending. The senior class has prepared a resume celebrating the 278-member class, and singling out 22 seniors for special recognition. Blair isn't on that list. I assume that, in her absence, the festivities stand little chance of degenerating into this. Given that her fellow classmates are now being subjected to some insulting generalizations for their presumed envy of Blair, I hope they behave respectfully and prove their detractors wrong.

So, where's Blair? Taking a relaxing vacation in the Caribbean? Or gearing up for college by settling early in Cambridge? Some little birdies (one is shown below) are sending interesting rumors my way regarding Harvard's newest occupant, but I can't print anything until I find some verification online (or see it in print). You'll know the story as soon as I do.

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Posted by kswygert at 06:15 AM | Comments (13)

The right to bear water pistols

You can't fault Annapolis (MD) lawmaker Cynthia Carter for not caring about her constituents, especially the children. Why, she cares so much that she wants a new law to ban most toy guns within city limits, with provisions for fining parents whose children play with the toys outdoors. Such toys "glamorize" guns, don't you know.

Clear or brightly-colored guns are off the hook, and alderman Carter insists that this solves the problem of all those bank robbers who use toy guns to hold up banks. Um, how often does that happen? And if a guy steals $10,000 using a fake Uzi, are there really no other felony charges that can stick to him? If someone's already committing a felony, what's so great about being able to slap a toy-gun misdemeanor charge on him? Does Carter really think this will deter crime?

And what prompted this boneheaded suggestion? Well, back in April, a 7-year-old boy marched into a Hollywood video store with a toy pistol and told employees he was there to hold up the store. The gun looked real, and the employees responded as though it were. Is it obvious to anyone other than me that the problem here is not with the toy gun? Where were this kid's parents? Why was he alone in a video store at such a young age? Where did he get the idea to hold up a store? Why should the kid's parents get fined if they didn't give him the gun, or thought he was in school? What good is it for the kid to learn that he shouldn't use a toy gun, when he should be learning not to be in a video store by himself, and not to pull pranks that resemble felonies?

If toy guns are now verboten, does this mean that real guns that resemble toy guns will soon be illegal?

This part is just hilarious:

Mrs. Carter is known for her efforts on toy guns. In 2000, Mrs. Carter organized a toy-gun buyback that yielded 12 toy guns.
Mrs. Carter said she anticipates full support from all council members. The council is made up of two Republicans and seven Democrats. She speculates that her greatest obstacle will be fathers, who she believes encourage their sons to play with guns and take them to target practice
.

Oh no, those terrible Fathers! How dare they try to safely initiate their kids into the world of sharpshooting and hunting with toy guns? Don't they know they should be overreacting when the kid buys a cheap cap gun? Why, they're well on the road to "robbing" video stores already!

Geez.

(Thansk to OpinionJournal's Best of the Web for the link.)

Posted by kswygert at 06:00 AM | Comments (5)

June 18, 2003

No we won't! Yes we will!

Five hours ago - Florida's State Board of Education on Tuesday rejected a proposal to allow other standardized tests to be used in place of the FCAT to decide if a high school student can graduate this year.

One hour ago - The Florida House and the Senate Education Committee in Tallahassee both approved bills that would permit the SAT or ACT to be used as an FCAT alternative to decide if a high school student can graduate this year.

Tomorrow? Who knows?

Posted by kswygert at 12:35 PM | Comments (4)

Louisiana kids no longer LEAPing

What happens when a fourth-grade schoolkid in Louisiana fails the LEAP exam? Why, they repeat the fourth grade - and then leap directly into sixth grade. How does this differ from simply being promoted into fifth grade after failing the exam? And how does it benefit those kids?

It doesn't:

According to an analysis released Tuesday, students who skipped the fifth grade scored at the 15th percentile in reading, the 24th in language and the 16th in math. The highest possible score is the 99th percentile. By contrast, students who were moved to the fifth grade after repeating fourth scored higher on the fifth-grade Iowa test: 24th percentile in reading, 31st in language and 23rd in math.

A proposed new rule states that students who fail LEAP and repeat the fourth grade then go into fifth grade, which makes much more sense. The scores are still pretty abysmal for those kids who repeated the fourth grade, though, which suggests that the "accelerated learning" in place in the repeated fourth grade (aka "4.5") isn't working too well.

Posted by kswygert at 12:28 PM | Comments (6)

More test scoring errors?

A new study released by the National Board for Educational Testing and Public Policy claims that the number of human scoring errors reported by testing companies has risen to an indefensibly high number. The report, not surprisingly, cautions against the use of exam scores in high-stakes decisions, and bemoans the lack of an overseeing US agency to audit and regulate testing processes and products.

The authors point out that all test scores contain some form of error, if only random measurement error; that both random and human error should be considered when using test scores for high-stakes decisions; and that forcing companies to produce high-stakes tests without sufficient development time is asking for disaster. These points are correct. However, I don't feel the authors really convey any useful solutions.

For one, the question of what to use for high-stakes assessments, if not tests, is left unanswered. The usual suspects - grades, performance assessments, holistic judgements, and the like - are not only no less likely to be error-prone than test scores, but are more difficult to assess for error in the first place. Using them to compare schools within states, or states within the country, is not feasible. Schools may decide to use a combination of assessments for exit exam purposes, but the standardized tests were often chosen specifically because, due to their objective nature, they do reduce the random measurement error.

Does it improve matters if a school tries to balance out a standardized test, which is objectively scored but may have human error, with a performance assessment, which is guaranteed to contain more random measurement error than the standardized test, and perhaps more human scoring error as well? The authors warn against using a single score to make a decision - but what if the other possible scores for that decision are less reliable and more subjective? It might be appropriate to use these scores in conjunction with the objective test, but that's by no mean a given.

One of the testing errors listed in this study (page 36 (19-1999)) is an example of this. This error is essentially a training error for human scorers - an error that is all too common in performance assessments, and one that could have been avoided with a more standardized, objective judgment.

It bothers me as well that the authors don't distinguish between degrees of errors. For example, of the 78 errors listed in Appendices A and B, 17 of them are situations that involve only one or two miskeyed, typographically-incorrect, or otherwise-flawed items on a test. Errors, yes; indications that the testing company is going to hell in a handbasket, no. Lumping these smaller, well-nigh-inevitable flubs in with the more substantial equating and scoring problems dilutes the impact of the bigger problems.

The authors also fudge the numbers a bit by counting some errors more than once if they affected more than one state. For example, TerraNova's massive miscalculation of percentile scores is counted four times in the Appendix (p. 37). Is an error more than one error if it affects more than one set of tests? In one sense, perhaps, but in another sense, if it's all one root cause, then it shouldn't be counted as multiple errors.

And in two cases, the authors have labeled something that was not under the control of the testing company as an error. On page 44, error (3)1980, we see that in 1980 ETS informed 163 students that tests were lost. This could have been ETS's error; more likely, the person at the other end who was responsible for shipping the tests did not follow directions - or the tests were lost (or stolen) through the mail. I can personally vouch for the fact that this has happened at companies other than ETS.

And speaking of stolen tests, check out page 47, error (19)2001. In this situation, someone stole a test form, and ETS, after suspecting cheating, demanded a retest at that high school. That's NOT a testing error. People steal test forms all the time, and test companies are forced to declare the forms and items missing. They may choose to do a retest, and if the scores soar upwards, it's perfectly legitimate for them to suspect cheating. If they catch the thieves, they can slap them with theft and copyright violation charges.

Can the amazing proliferation of testing in the late 90's explain some of these errors? It certainly can, in more ways than one. For starters, more tests mean more errors. It's also possible that testing errors which would not have been discovered before are being discovered now, because of the increasingly-high-stakes nature of many of these new exams. With the big, established testing companies, more quality assurance checks are in place now, and so more errors are being caught. This doesn't necessarily mean more errors are occurring. I think the numbers from 1976 are impossibly low, and that there were some errors back then that went undiscovered.

It's probably true, though, that not only are there more tests, but some of them have been rushed into production and administration, at speeds that would not have previously been acceptable. New testing companies have also sprung up to meet the need, and not all of these companies follow good quality assurance guidelines.

Some of the errors reported in this study are indeed problematic, and could have been avoided with better quality assurance systems (and more time for test development). The states and school districts have their roles to play as well, in choosing testing companies carefully and following standard procedures. As for the suggestion of a US agency to oversee testing, well, I'm skeptical about the potential of a federal agency to streamline the situation. Is the testing industry really analogous to the airline industry, in which a much-needed reduction in fatalities was acheived through federal intervention? Or would futher meddling from Washington DC only exacerbate the problem?

Posted by kswygert at 11:55 AM | Comments (5)

June 17, 2003

My reputation as a fashion plate precedes me....

Today, two different readers, Mike M. and Richard H., who often send me juicy testing-related news, both sent fashion-related news. Among my psychometric friends, I definitely have a reputation as a fashion plate, but I had no idea that my snazzy rep had spread to the blogosphere.

Anyway, Richard sent a link to this eighth-grade graduation in Tennesee, in which some students were barred from marching due to their attire. Too skimpy, you think? Perhaps too revealing? Nope - as the photos show, these kids were duded up beyond all belief, in snazzy suits and long white gowns. I personally think these outfits weren't entirely appropriate for kids so young, but then, I'm old-fashioned and don't believe in formal attire for K-8 kids, except as part of a wedding party. However, their outfits were by no means outrageous or disrespectful of the occasion. The principal who barred students from marching was dead wrong - and let's not even go into the "pimp" comments.

Besides, you want pimping? Go fling that allegation at whoever is convincing young girls to wear Playboy Bunny attire. That Tennessee principal should be thanking her lucky stars that her hopeful graduates weren't duded up in bunny earring and bunny shortshorts. Young girls these days are all about claiming "power" over their sexuality, you know, and want to make sure guys notice them. As one bunny fanatic says, "Once boys notice, they can get to know the real me" - assuming the type of guy attracted to a 16-year-old with the Playboy logo emblazoned on her chest would ever want to know the "real" girl inside.

Posted by kswygert at 08:43 PM | Comments (2)

An innovative new form of fundraising?

Or every student's worst nightmare?

You be the judge.

Posted by kswygert at 03:36 PM | Comments (8)

June 16, 2003

But one more quick thing....

Where have all my commenters gone? I figured the new blog would be swamped with comments, critical or otherwise, of the new layout and functions if nothing else. C'mon, guys. The comments now WORK. Consistently. They even remember who you are (if you allow cookies). Speak up!

Pretty please?

Posted by kswygert at 09:58 PM | Comments (14)

Busy, busy, busy

Work is going to be pretty insane for the next couple of days, so I've dug up a few links for you to chomp on while I'm out pondering the mysteries of equating, rater training, and automated essay scoring.

There's a person linking to me of whom I was previously unaware - it's Tim Stahmer of the blog Assorted Stuff. I'm fascinated to discover that I am on his "Regular Stops on the Web" list, seeing as how he is a former teacher who is extremely skeptical of testing and the NCLB act. Wonder if he's been lurking on here. Someone modest enough to name his blog "Assorted Stuff" could very well post under the name, "nobody important," hmm? Sue, what do you think?

Here's a new way to boost test scores - let children learn under natural lighting, not artificial lighting. One study which involved 20,000 students showed that standardized test scores among comparable groups of students could be as much as 26 percent higher for the students who attended classes in buildings which primarily had natural lighting, as compared to students who studied under artificial light.

Opinion Journal's Best of the Web has an "explanation" of what Sacramento Councilwoman Hammond must have meant when she complained about half of Sacramento's schoolchildren being below the 50th percentile. OpinionJournal is of the opinion, as am I, that Councilwoman Hammond was either being dense, unclear, or mean - after all, if all of Sacramento's kids were above the state median, then the kids in some other city might all be below the median, and you know, that's just not fair. We think.

Teachers in Alabama are scrambling to become "highly-qualified", which the NCLB Act requires of them by the 2005 school year. One wrinkle in assessing qualifications is that Alabama doesn't test its teachers - testing was suspended 15 years ago after a group of black teachers sued the state, claiming the test was biased. The federal definition of highly-qualified is deliberately fuzzy, and Alabama's teachers are discovering that, despite being certified and having experience, the state is asking them to re-take classes as well. To simplify things in time to meet the deadline, the Alabama Department of Education is “very close" to - surprise! - creating a new test for qualification. Wonder if this one will be challenged in court as well?

Uh-oh, despite the fact that students and teachers seem to love them, the standardized test scores for New Jersey's charter schools aren't so great. The charter schools are quick to point out that they have to raise their own funding, and need more time to prove their capabilities.

Last but definitely not least, our favorite little Harvard-bound chickadee, Blair Hornstine, was honored with a very sympathetic feature on MSNBC. The article is along the lines of, well, everybody was really awful to her, and if she's an overacheiver, well, so is everyone in Moorestown, so they should really shut up and let her continue her "fight", because they're all just as egotistical as she is. And all the parents are at fault. Or something to that effect.

Enjoy your Tuesday. I'm off to work...
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Posted by kswygert at 09:48 PM | Comments (11)

A new definition of school "violence"

Reader Bas Braams sent along an interesting tidbit about a little-known segment of the NCLB act, known as the Unsafe School Choice Provision. Under this provision of the NCLB, if a school is persistently violent for two years in a row, parents can transfer their kids to other non-persistently violent schools. This is meant to give parents more freedom to protect their children.

New York, though, seems to be doing its best to stymie these opportunities. This month, the New York State Education Department submitted a new proposal to the NYS Board of Regents with new definitions of a "persistently violent" educational environment. This proposal re-defines in-school "violence" in such a way as to leave out many violent and criminal acts from which parents would want to protect their children. Under the proposals the schools are complying with NCLB (which gives them great latitude in definining "violence), but parents would find it very difficult to actually transfer their child.

Dee Alpert, a NY lawyer, describes the proposal in an email:

Under this proposal, only weapons offenses count as crimes. If a 12 year old is raped in school by a fellow who just beats her unconscious first with his fists, it doesn't count. If he rapes her at knife point, it does. A homicide does not count if it's done with fists, or by banging the victim's head into a wall or throwing him/her down a flight of stairs. Gotta be a gun, knife, etc. involved!

And they make it plain that bullying and intimidation are the big problem in the State of NY. Now, every research paper in the world has shown that kids with disabilities get bullied, physically intimidated, beat on, at a far higher rate than any other kids.

So . . . one more time when NYS Ed. is looking to count disabled kids out. But this is so bad for every child in school, or who wants to attend school but can't because it's just too dangerous, it's really hard to stomach no matter which kids you're looking out for. It's a short and sweet memo. Read it for yourself, if you can stomach getting past the first half. The NYS Ed. Dept. will do anything it can to insure that parents cannot exercise parental decision-making authority by being able to force their kids' transfers to other public schools in a district. But really, this goes just too far. Except in New York.

Posted by kswygert at 09:44 AM | Comments (5)

"Among the worst in the nation"

Journalist Jill Tucker wonders why, after the rural South, some of California's public schools have become the worst-performing schools in the country. The gap between good schools and poor schools seems to be widening in California as well:

California's schools -- like those across the country -- typically reflect the condition of their communities. Students in poor communities enter dilapidated classrooms where uncredentialed teachers with inadequate materials await -- and where parent involvement is limited or nonexistent. In better-off neighborhoods, sometimes just a few miles away, the schools nearly sparkle, sporting the latest facility upgrades, top-notch equipment and the most experienced teachers...

While politicians have loudly touted expensive education reforms, they have lacked the real political will to reform the system. Instead, they simply raise the bar on the schools and the students...

In California, schools with the highest poverty and minority enrollment have on average 20 percent uncredentialed teachers on staff compared with 5 to 6 percent of teachers at the schools with the lowest percentages of poor and minority students, according to a 2002 study by The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit...
With the exception of the rural South, California's low-performing schools are among the worst in the nation, said Linda Darling-Hammond, of the Stanford University of education and a national expert on education reform. "I personally had never seen kids receive as low-quality an education as I found in districts like Oakland, Ravenswood, San Francisco and Compton," she added. "It's just really tragic."

Part of the problem may be that funding in California is an archaic mess that doesn't help divert money to the schools that really need it. There's more than $1 billion of federal Title I money available annually for the state's low-income students, but that money doesn't appear to be closing the gap. Another part of the problem is that Californian teachers don't get paid based on quality, but rather on credentials and number of years of service.

The test score discrepancies emphasize the problem. At one low-performing school, the Academic Performance Index is almost half of what it is at some of the better schools.

Some say money is not the answer, and that the educational system cannot help children achieve if those children come from broken homes without adequate food, shelter, and medical care. Educational activists say that's no reason for the state not to step in and afford more money to the schools with the largest number of poor, minority, or under-performing children.

Posted by kswygert at 09:30 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2003

For those of you with teenagers...

Only a teenager could use a solid education to be this annoying...

Zits 06/01/06 by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman


Posted by kswygert at 06:29 PM | Comments (2)

June 13, 2003

And now for something completely different...

The Onion's story about disadvantaged teens, caring social workers, and the bling-bling factor - "Troubled teens mock social worker's car".

Everybody have a good weekend. I'm outta here!

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Posted by kswygert at 04:09 PM | Comments (2)

A followup to the post on desegregation

Earlier this week, I gave a quick link to the story about Boston's governmental integration plan. I didn't have that much to say about it - but John Rosenberg of Discriminations has much, much more on the story:

I find two things noteworthy about cases of this sort. First, they reveal quite clearly that minorities are used -- often, in fact, held hostage -- to provide "diversity" to others. Several of the cases linked above involve Asian-American students who were not allowed to transfer to another school because it would have reduced the number of Asian-American students at their base schools, thus depriving the other students there of a sufficient number of Asian-Americans to whom to be exposed.

The second thing I find noteworthy are the differing responses to the first thing. To me, those "diversity"-based transfer policies are thoroughly obnoxious, the essence of racialism run rampant, a reductio ad absurdam of race-based "diversity." And yet they are applauded and defended as embodying and implementing "civil rights."

Good stuff. I've always thought the "diversity" angle was a bit condescending to minorities - the implication is always that non-diverse folks (i.e., whites) benefit from "exposure" to minorities, but you rarely see anyone suggest that it should work the same the other way 'round.

And don't miss the comments on his site, either.

Posted by kswygert at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

Yo-Yos for Peace

How have the left-wing ideologues been able to infiltrate our schools so silently and pervasively? Blogs of War has the answer:

You've wondered how the far Left gained a foothold in our schools and now I've discovered their secret.
-----
Go to your student government and all the clubs and groups (yes, even the Yo-Yo and chess clubs). Bring literature and ask them to endorse and promote the day.
-Not In Our Name
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They're shooting straight for the conservative underbelly, the Yo-Yo club. This strategy has paid off nicely for the Left and has resulted in a frustrating lack of high school Yo-Yo club endorsements for Bush's conservative agenda.

It doesn't look good for the Right...

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Posted by kswygert at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

Oh, for Pete's sake....

A student at Jackson High (WA) learned the hard way that, nowadays, all students are presumed to be violent criminals until proven innocent. When it doubt, it's better to assume that a student is openly carrying a huge rifle to class, rather than a classroom prop for a Civil War presentation:

A prop designed to look like a 19th century musket for a Civil War presentation resulted in a lockdown at Jackson High and Heatherwood Middle schools, officials said. The lockdown began about 7:30 a.m. Monday after a parent reported seeing a normally attired 14-year-old boy carrying the prop on his way to Heatherwood in this suburb north of Seattle, police spokeswoman Becky Erk said.

What the parent thought was a gun had a barrel made from two broomsticks painted black with foil at the end and a block of wood covered in wood-grain paper to resemble the butt.

Police immediately began a search...The lockdown ended after about half an hour when Heatherwood officials reported finding the fake musket, which was confiscated by police.

Perhaps one can understand the observer's alarm, but why did police confiscate the prop? And why has the student been temporarily suspended? Because he appeared to be violating the no-weapons rule - but didn't actually possess a real weapon?

Posted by kswygert at 10:43 AM | Comments (3)

Teacher sues over violent kindergarten student

One teacher in Orange County (FL) is fed up with the refusal of her school district to remove a disruptive student from her class, so she's suing the district for the humiliation and distress that this student has caused. The St. Petersburg Times calls it the case of the "Kindergarten Terrorist":

Cheri Dean is a schoolteacher who's had enough. She is suing the Orange County School Board for "negligently" failing to remove an unruly student from her kindergarten class at Lockhart Elementary. Such removal was required under Florida Statute Section 232.271, she alleges...Dean, who had been teaching in Orange County for 18 years, seeks damages of at least $15,000.

She also described 65 episodes of disruptive or violent behavior from the student in question, including striking a teacher (several incidents), stabbing another child with a fork, and spitting in Ms. Dean's face. What's more, she alleges that her complaints brought only a "retaliatory" transfer to another school - for her, not the violent kid.

Posted by kswygert at 10:27 AM | Comments (6)

Can graduation exams be "refined"?

The Education Gadfly warns against "the siren's song" of believing that graduation standards and exit exams should be "refined" with more flexible standards. He notes that the real problem with those "heart-wrenching tales of 'B' students" who flunk graduation exams is that the schools have either inflated the grades or failed to teach the necessary content:

...these exit exams are pitched at a rather modest level and offer students multiple chances to pass, which leads to an entirely different explanation: perhaps a nontrivial number of students actually lack mastery of essential knowledge and skills. If "B" students are failing, either their school grades are too high or they have not learned basic content...

...Standards-based reform is alluring because it promises that all graduates will master critical knowledge and skills. Setting bona fide performance standards makes it inevitable that some students (and schools) will fail to meet them. This poses a daunting political challenge in a democratic society where those who fail have specific incentives to challenge the legitimacy of the system...

He also notes that the testing critics will soon find themselves in the "unenviable", and presumably untenable, position of attacking established standards that are good indicators of how well our schools are teaching and how well our students are learning. I believe he gives testing opponents too much credit, though, in this assumption that they will shy away from this approach. Too many test critics, such as the group in Florida, have bought into the "all tests are biased/racist/sexist" mindset, and they believe that certain kids should be exempt from the objective standards measured by such exams.

Joanne Jacobs has more on this.

Posted by kswygert at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 12, 2003

Welcome, everybody

Well, when Joanne Jacobs tells the world you have a new site, you have to start using it!

But first, go over to Dean Esmay's page and marvel at the number of bloggers he's personally moved off Blogspot/Blogger and onto MT in the last week. And I wasn't a low-maintenence blogger for him, no sirree. He had to send me reassuring emails every 20 minutes as I managed to screw up just about every step of my domain registry, my shift to Verve Hosting, and my editing of the new blog in MT.

But hey, I didn't screw up when I entered my credit card number, and I suppose that's the most important step.

Dean - you ROCK!

happy_team.gif

Posted by kswygert at 10:46 PM | Comments (10)

Gearing up for graduation

Moorestown salutatorian Kenneth Mirkin is readying his speech for graduation. Since Blair won't be attending, he gets a chance to shine, and I believe he intends to focus the audience's attention on all the students other than Blair, which is where it belongs.

But hey, since I know you guys love this story, here are all the links back to all my postings on it.

Hell no, she won't go!
The Blair Hornstine Project
The accomplished (but strangely familiar) prose of Blair Hornstine
Sharing the spotlight - update!
Sharing the spotlight

Posted by kswygert at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

Category Archives SNAFUed

Yes, I know I can't get the Category Archives to work correctly. I'll work on it tonight and see how far I get. If anyone has tips, let me know!

Update: Ha-HA! Now they work, and all because I was able to access a - Blogger, are you listening? - HELP file. One that was easy to search and find code to cut and paste.

Posted by kswygert at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

Number 2 Pencil has moved!Well,

Number 2 Pencil has moved!

Well, I was just informed by EduBlog Goddess Joanne Jacobs that if I have a new site, I must post there! What's more, I spent today fixing the site up, and it looks ready to go! So no more Blogger Pro - go on over to my new site!

It's at kimberlyswygert.com.

Before you go, though, go drop Dean Esmay a line. He is 95% responsible for the change (it was my credit card that paid Verve, and will pay Moveable Type, so I get to take a little bit of credit. But only a little bit.) Thanks to his Blogspot/Blogger jihad, I've got some swanky new digs. The archives work! The comments will stay functional! Yahoo! He's a lifesave, and you can tell him I said so. He's recently helped 22 bloggers move off of Blogspot/Blogger and onto MT. What a man.

Most of my archives, however, will stay here for now, simply because I haven't figured out quite how to port 'em over.

Posted by kswygert at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

Number 2 Pencil has moved!Well,

Number 2 Pencil has moved!

Well, I was just informed by EduBlog Goddess Joanne Jacobs that if I have a new site, I must post there! What's more, I spent today fixing the site up, and it looks ready to go! So no more Blogger Pro - go on over to my new site!

It's at kimberlyswygert.com.

Before you go, though, go drop Dean Esmay a line. He is 95% responsible for the change (it was my credit card that paid Verve, and will pay Moveable Type, so I get to take a little bit of credit. But only a little bit.) Thanks to his Blogspot/Blogger jihad, I've got some swanky new digs. The archives work! The comments will stay functional! Yahoo! He's a lifesave, and you can tell him I said so. He's recently helped 22 bloggers move off of Blogspot/Blogger and onto MT. What a man.

Most of my archives, however, will stay here for now, simply because I haven't figured out quite how to port 'em over.

Posted by kswygert at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

Number 2 Pencil has moved!Well,

Number 2 Pencil has moved!

Well, I was just informed by EduBlog Goddess Joanne Jacobs that if I have a new site, I must post there! What's more, I spent today fixing the site up, and it looks ready to go! So no more Blogger Pro - go on over to my new site!

It's at kimberlyswygert.com.

Before you go, though, go drop Dean Esmay a line. He is 95% responsible for the change (it was my credit card that paid Verve, and will pay Moveable Type, so I get to take a little bit of credit. But only a little bit.) Thanks to his Blogspot/Blogger jihad, I've got some swanky new digs. The archives work! The comments will stay functional! Yahoo! He's a lifesave, and you can tell him I said so. He's recently helped 22 bloggers move off of Blogspot/Blogger and onto MT. What a man.

Most of my archives, however, will stay here for now, simply because I haven't figured out quite how to port 'em over.

Posted by kswygert at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

Department of Alarming Statistics

The malcontents at Fark have uncovered a SacBee education article containing a priceless little nugget of wisdom. It seems Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond isn't happy with School Superintendent Jim Sweeney, despite the fact that, during his tenure, the number of low-performing Sacramento schools has dropped from 18 to 1. It seems, however, that there's this one little problem that he hasn't been able to fix:

"I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," [Hammond] said. "The school district has done some wonderful things ... but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."

Please tell me that at least the reporter understood the idiocy of this statement, and managed to stifle her laughter when Hammond made the comment. The Farksters certainly understood it, as one can tell from the label they slapped on the story.

Posted by kswygert at 03:40 PM | Comments (7)

Education and testing news roundup from across the nation

I'm swamped again today, so I've decided to combine a few stories into one posting.

In Washington DC, the battle for vouchers has begun. Two proposals have been submitted to allocate federal funds for DC students trapped in poor schools, but DC's congressional representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, vows to fight any voucher program.

In Florida, educators are "concerned" about the ease with which a student who failed the FCAT was able to obtain a diploma. The student in question, Attica Hadju, earned "more than 800 out of 1,600 points on the SAT", and some felt this should have qualified him for a diploma, despite his inability to pass the FCAT's reading portion. Given the description, I'd say his combined score was less than 900 (possibly less than 850), which is well below the national average (which hovers around 1000).

Baltimore's schoolchildren continue to show gains on standardized exams. These results make Baltimore one of the few large cities to show an increase in sustained five-year increase in scores. Low-performing schools had been targeted and changes implemented, including more training for teachers and a longer school day.

A new study from the National Institute for Early Education Research and Rutgers University (NJ) suggests that phonics are essential for reading instruction. Programs which used systematic phonics instruction were significantly better at teaching children to read than programs with less-systematic phonics instruction.

Can a government-based desegregation program be a success? Apparently so. Under a "voluntary integration" plan that has been in place for the last 15 years, students in Lynn (MA) are guaranteed spots in their neighborhood schools and may only transfer to other schools if the "racial imbalance" at either school is not increased. According to the Boston Globe, this has resulted in a decrease in racial tensions and "white flight", and a corresponding increase in school attendance and standardized test scores. A group of plaintiffs, however, continue to allege that the program is unconstitutional.

Posted by kswygert at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

Switching entries over

I've decided to double-post, just to make sure things on my old blog look okay on here as well. So no, you're not seeing things when you see some of the same posts in both places.

Posted by kswygert at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

Going through changes

As some of you can tell, the blog keeps changing its appearance, and it's certainly going to be a little wonky for the first few weeks. I'm trying to do as much tinkering as possible before I begin posting. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Posted by kswygert at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

Um, you're a little early...

Howdy, folks. I have not yet actually begun to publish on here - well, I mean, I have, but I haven't transferred everything over, so I was going to stick with the old site for another few days...

Anyway, click here for the old blog, which will still be updated at least through this weekend.

Posted by kswygert at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

I've been outed!Joanne Jacobs has

I've been outed!

Joanne Jacobs has discovered my new domain, but hang on! I'm not publishing there yet! I'll provide a link from this site when I switch over (and I'll go ahead and post a link there now, back to here, in case anyone else discovers it).

Posted by kswygert at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

I've been outed!Joanne Jacobs has

I've been outed!

Joanne Jacobs has discovered my new domain, but hang on! I'm not publishing there yet! I'll provide a link from this site when I switch over (and I'll go ahead and post a link there now, back to here, in case anyone else discovers it).

Posted by kswygert at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

I've been outed!Joanne Jacobs has

I've been outed!

Joanne Jacobs has discovered my new domain, but hang on! I'm not publishing there yet! I'll provide a link from this site when I switch over (and I'll go ahead and post a link there now, back to here, in case anyone else discovers it).

Posted by kswygert at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

Department of Alarming StatisticsThe malconents

Department of Alarming Statistics

The malconents at Fark have uncovered a SacBee education article containing a priceless little nugget of wisdom. It seems Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond isn't happy with School Superintendent Jim Sweeney, despite the fact that, during his tenure, the number of low-performing Sacramento schools has dropped from 18 to 1. It seems, however, that there's this one little problem that he hasn't been able to fix:

"I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," [Hammond] said. "The school district has done some wonderful things ... but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."

Please tell me that at least the reporter understood the idiocy of this statement, and managed to stifle her laughter when Hammond made the comment. The Farksters certainly understood it, as one can tell from the label they slapped on the story.

Posted by kswygert at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Department of Alarming StatisticsThe malconents

Department of Alarming Statistics

The malconents at Fark have uncovered a SacBee education article containing a priceless little nugget of wisdom. It seems Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond isn't happy with School Superintendent Jim Sweeney, despite the fact that, during his tenure, the number of low-performing Sacramento schools has dropped from 18 to 1. It seems, however, that there's this one little problem that he hasn't been able to fix:

"I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," [Hammond] said. "The school district has done some wonderful things ... but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."

Please tell me that at least the reporter understood the idiocy of this statement, and managed to stifle her laughter when Hammond made the comment. The Farksters certainly understood it, as one can tell from the label they slapped on the story.

Posted by kswygert at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Department of Alarming StatisticsThe malconents

Department of Alarming Statistics

The malconents at Fark have uncovered a SacBee education article containing a priceless little nugget of wisdom. It seems Sacramento City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond isn't happy with School Superintendent Jim Sweeney, despite the fact that, during his tenure, the number of low-performing Sacramento schools has dropped from 18 to 1. It seems, however, that there's this one little problem that he hasn't been able to fix:

"I don't doubt that Jim Sweeney loves children and had dedicated his life's career to improving education," [Hammond] said. "The school district has done some wonderful things ... but (on state tests) half the students are still below the 50th percentile. That's a problem."

Please tell me that at least the reporter understood the idiocy of this statement, and managed to stifle her laughter when Hammond made the comment. The Farksters certainly understood it, as one can tell from the label they slapped on the story.

Posted by kswygert at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Education and testing news roundup

Education and testing news roundup from across the nation

I'm swamped again today, so I've decided to combine a few stories into one posting.

In Washington DC, the battle for vouchers has begun. Two proposals have been submitted to allocate federal funds for DC students trapped in poor schools, but DC's congressional representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, vows to fight any voucher program.

In Florida, educators are "concerned" about the ease with which a student who failed the FCAT was able to obtain a diploma. The student in question, Attica Hadju, earned "more than 800 out of 1,600 points on the SAT", and some felt this should have qualified him for a diploma, despite his inability to pass the FCAT's reading portion. Given the description, I'd say his combined score was less than 900 (possibly less than 850), which is well below the national average (which hovers around 1000).

Baltimore's schoolchildren continue to show gains on standardized exams. These results make Baltimore one of the few large cities to show an increase in sustained five-year increase in scores. Low-performing schools had been targeted and changes implemented, including more training for teachers and a longer school day.

A new study from the National Institute for Early Education Research and Rutgers University (NJ) suggests that phonics are essential for reading instruction. Programs which used systematic phonics instruction were significantly better at teaching children to read than programs with less-systematic phonics instruction.

Can a government-based desegregation program be a success? Apparently so. Under a "voluntary integration" plan that has been in place for the last 15 years, students in Lynn (MA) are guaranteed spots in their neighborhood schools and may only transfer to other schools if the "racial imbalance" at either school is not increased. According to the Boston Globe, this has resulted in a decrease in racial tensions and "white flight", and a corresponding increase in school attendance and standardized test scores. A group of plaintiffs, however, continue to allege that the program is unconstitutional.

Posted by kswygert at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

Education and testing news roundup

Education and testing news roundup from across the nation

I'm swamped again today, so I've decided to combine a few stories into one posting.

In Washington DC, the battle for vouchers has begun. Two proposals have been submitted to allocate federal funds for DC students trapped in poor schools, but DC's congressional representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, vows to fight any voucher program.

In Florida, educators are "concerned" about the ease with which a student who failed the FCAT was able to obtain a diploma. The student in question, Attica Hadju, earned "more than 800 out of 1,600 points on the SAT", and some felt this should have qualified him for a diploma, despite his inability to pass the FCAT's reading portion. Given the description, I'd say his combined score was less than 900 (possibly less than 850), which is well below the national average (which hovers around 1000).

Baltimore's schoolchildren continue to show gains on standardized exams. These results make Baltimore one of the few large cities to show an increase in sustained five-year increase in scores. Low-performing schools had been targeted and changes implemented, including more training for teachers and a longer school day.

A new study from the National Institute for Early Education Research and Rutgers University (NJ) suggests that phonics are essential for reading instruction. Programs which used systematic phonics instruction were significantly better at teaching children to read than programs with less-systematic phonics instruction.

Can a government-based desegregation program be a success? Apparently so. Under a "voluntary integration" plan that has been in place for the last 15 years, students in Lynn (MA) are guaranteed spots in their neighborhood schools and may only transfer to other schools if the "racial imbalance" at either school is not increased. According to the Boston Globe, this has resulted in a decrease in racial tensions and "white flight", and a corresponding increase in school attendance and standardized test scores. A group of plaintiffs, however, continue to allege that the program is unconstitutional.

Posted by kswygert at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

Education and testing news roundup

Education and testing news roundup from across the nation

I'm swamped again today, so I've decided to combine a few stories into one posting.

In Washington DC, the battle for vouchers has begun. Two proposals have been submitted to allocate federal funds for DC students trapped in poor schools, but DC's congressional representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, vows to fight any voucher program.

In Florida, educators are "concerned" about the ease with which a student who failed the FCAT was able to obtain a diploma. The student in question, Attica Hadju, earned "more than 800 out of 1,600 points on the SAT", and some felt this should have qualified him for a diploma, despite his inability to pass the FCAT's reading portion. Given the description, I'd say his combined score was less than 900 (possibly less than 850), which is well below the national average (which hovers around 1000).

Baltimore's schoolchildren continue to show gains on standardized exams. These results make Baltimore one of the few large cities to show an increase in sustained five-year increase in scores. Low-performing schools had been targeted and changes implemented, including more training for teachers and a longer school day.

A new study from the National Institute for Early Education Research and Rutgers University (NJ) suggests that phonics are essential for reading instruction. Programs which used systematic phonics instruction were significantly better at teaching children to read than programs with less-systematic phonics instruction.

Can a government-based desegregation program be a success? Apparently so. Under a "voluntary integration" plan that has been in place for the last 15 years, students in Lynn (MA) are guaranteed spots in their neighborhood schools and may only transfer to other schools if the "racial imbalance" at either school is not increased. According to the Boston Globe, this has resulted in a decrease in racial tensions and "white flight", and a corresponding increase in school attendance and standardized test scores. A group of plaintiffs, however, continue to allege that the program is unconstitutional.

Posted by kswygert at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2003

Grrrr...Comments are down again. I'm

Grrrr...

Comments are down again. I'm really sorry, you guys. The new blog is up but I haven't migrated everything over to it. When we make the switch to the new site, comments are guaranteed to work. I promise!

Posted by kswygert at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

Grrrr...Comments are down again. I'm

Grrrr...

Comments are down again. I'm really sorry, you guys. The new blog is up but I haven't migrated everything over to it. When we make the switch to the new site, comments are guaranteed to work. I promise!

Posted by kswygert at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

Grrrr...Comments are down again. I'm

Grrrr...

Comments are down again. I'm really sorry, you guys. The new blog is up but I haven't migrated everything over to it. When we make the switch to the new site, comments are guaranteed to work. I promise!

Posted by kswygert at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

Vouchers helpful for special education

Vouchers helpful for special education students

A new study shows that Florida's McKay Scholarship Program - the second-largest voucher program in the nation - helps provide special education students with a better education than do the public schools. The study, a telephone survey of parents currently and formerly enrolled in the McKay scholarship program, was conducted by Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., and Greg Forster, Ph.D., both of the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research. Highlights include:

• 92.7% of current McKay participants are satisfied or very satisfied with their McKay schools; only 32.7% were similarly satisfied with their public schools;
• Participating students were victimized far less by other students because of their disabilities in McKay schools. In public schools, 46.8% were bothered often and 24.7% were physically assaulted, while in McKay schools 5.3% were bothered often and 6.0% were assaulted;
• McKay schools also outperformed public schools on our measurement of accountability for services provided. Only 30.2% of current participants say they received all services required under federal law from their public school, while 86.0% report their McKay school has provided all the services they promised to provide.
• This superior performance by McKay schools was largely provided for the same or only slightly more money per pupil than is spent in public schools. Even though the McKay program allows participants to choose schools that charge tuition above the amount of the voucher, 71.7% of current participants and 75.8% of former participants report paying either nothing at all or less than $1,000 per year above the voucher;
• Perhaps the strongest evidence regarding the McKay program’s performance is that over 90% of parents who have left the program believe it should continue to be available to those who wish to use it.

Update: Reader Kevin S. makes a very good point, which is the following:

the reason for vouchers is to allow movement from poorly performing schools (measured via test performance) to an environment where kids can perform better. This paper sheds no light on that topic, although it gives the appearance of doing so. Even the introductory write-up on the blog says "...provides students with a better education than do the public schools". My point is that the questions that were asked don't support that claim, unless you define a better education as parental satisfaction with non-academic components.

He's right. While I do consider the study to be one piece of evidence showing that vouchers may ultimately be a successful way to reform education, the study results do not specifially address any cognitive or academic outcomes of Florida's voucher program, and so I was incorrect to state that the study showed that "better education" resulted. Thanks, Kev.

Posted by kswygert at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

Vouchers helpful for special education

Vouchers helpful for special education students

A new study shows that Florida's McKay Scholarship Program - the second-largest voucher program in the nation - helps provide special education students with a better education than do the public schools. The study, a telephone survey of parents currently and formerly enrolled in the McKay scholarship program, was conducted by Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., and Greg Forster, Ph.D., both of the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research. Highlights include:

• 92.7% of current McKay participants are satisfied or very satisfied with their McKay schools; only 32.7% were similarly satisfied with their public schools;
• Participating students were victimized far less by other students because of their disabilities in McKay schools. In public schools, 46.8% were bothered often and 24.7% were physically assaulted, while in McKay schools 5.3% were bothered often and 6.0% were assaulted;
• McKay schools also outperformed public schools on our measurement of accountability for services provided. Only 30.2% of current participants say they received all services required under federal law from their public school, while 86.0% report their McKay school has provided all the services they promised to provide.
• This superior performance by McKay schools was largely provided for the same or only slightly more money per pupil than is spent in public schools. Even though the McKay program allows participants to choose schools that charge tuition above the amount of the voucher, 71.7% of current participants and 75.8% of former participants report paying either nothing at all or less than $1,000 per year above the voucher;
• Perhaps the strongest evidence regarding the McKay program’s performance is that over 90% of parents who have left the program believe it should continue to be available to those who wish to use it.

Update: Reader Kevin S. makes a very good point, which is the following:

the reason for vouchers is to allow movement from poorly performing schools (measured via test performance) to an environment where kids can perform better. This paper sheds no light on that topic, although it gives the appearance of doing so. Even the introductory write-up on the blog says "...provides students with a better education than do the public schools". My point is that the questions that were asked don't support that claim, unless you define a better education as parental satisfaction with non-academic components.

He's right. While I do consider the study to be one piece of evidence showing that vouchers may ultimately be a successful way to reform education, the study results do not specifially address any cognitive or academic outcomes of Florida's voucher program, and so I was incorrect to state that the study showed that "better education" resulted. Thanks, Kev.

Posted by kswygert at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

Vouchers helpful for special education

Vouchers helpful for special education students

A new study shows that Florida's McKay Scholarship Program - the second-largest voucher program in the nation - helps provide special education students with a better education than do the public schools. The study, a telephone survey of parents currently and formerly enrolled in the McKay scholarship program, was conducted by Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., and Greg Forster, Ph.D., both of the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research. Highlights include:

• 92.7% of current McKay participants are satisfied or very satisfied with their McKay schools; only 32.7% were similarly satisfied with their public schools;
• Participating students were victimized far less by other students because of their disabilities in McKay schools. In public schools, 46.8% were bothered often and 24.7% were physically assaulted, while in McKay schools 5.3% were bothered often and 6.0% were assaulted;
• McKay schools also outperformed public schools on our measurement of accountability for services provided. Only 30.2% of current participants say they received all services required under federal law from their public school, while 86.0% report their McKay school has provided all the services they promised to provide.
• This superior performance by McKay schools was largely provided for the same or only slightly more money per pupil than is spent in public schools. Even though the McKay program allows participants to choose schools that charge tuition above the amount of the voucher, 71.7% of current participants and 75.8% of former participants report paying either nothing at all or less than $1,000 per year above the voucher;
• Perhaps the strongest evidence regarding the McKay program’s performance is that over 90% of parents who have left the program believe it should continue to be available to those who wish to use it.

Update: Reader Kevin S. makes a very good point, which is the following:

the reason for vouchers is to allow movement from poorly performing schools (measured via test performance) to an environment where kids can perform better. This paper sheds no light on that topic, although it gives the appearance of doing so. Even the introductory write-up on the blog says "...provides students with a better education than do the public schools". My point is that the questions that were asked don't support that claim, unless you define a better education as parental satisfaction with non-academic components.

He's right. While I do consider the study to be one piece of evidence showing that vouchers may ultimately be a successful way to reform education, the study results do not specifially address any cognitive or academic outcomes of Florida's voucher program, and so I was incorrect to state that the study showed that "better education" resulted. Thanks, Kev.

Posted by kswygert at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

School art projects - or

School art projects - or fire hazard?

Posted by kswygert at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

School art projects - or

School art projects - or fire hazard?

Posted by kswygert at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

School art projects - or

School art projects - or fire hazard?

Posted by kswygert at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

Hell no, she won't go!Blair

Hell no, she won't go!

Blair Hornstine, the poor little thing, has been so traumatized by all the media attention from her victorious lawsuit (and alleged plagiarism), that she won't be attending Moorestown's graduation ceremony. Her lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., informed the school district of this on Monday:

The announcement came in the form of a letter sent Monday ...

"... The hostile environment at the school has traumatized Blair both physically and emotionally, to the point that she cannot and will not attend the graduation ceremonies," states Jacobs' letter to John B. Comegno II, lawyer for the board. "Please arrange to have the valedictorian award made to her in absentia"... Hornstine, who finished school early, is believed to have left town and was not available for comment.

Skipped town, eh? I hate to say it, but this seems like more evidence that her perceptive abilities aren't too impressive. Not only was she previously unaware that citing without footnoting was wrong, it appears she also failed to anticipate that suing her school district might make her somewhat, er, unpopular among her classmates. The State College (PA) online paper thinks this development is "poignant". I disagree.

Update: I found an interesting Harvard Crimson article by Elizabeth Green. This is one of the few articles I've seen online where a Moorestown High student is quoted, and Pappa Hornstine does not escape criticism:

Blair Hornstine’s father Louis, a New Jersey Superior Court judge, has also become the target of derision. In the local paper, an editorial cartoon printed May 15 depicted a grinning Louis Hornstine using the dress of a statue of Justice to polish his shoes...

Allie McGuigan, a high school senior who said she was close to Hornstine until the two grew apart, said she is not inclined to believe Hornstine’s denial. “The whole time I was friends with [Blair] I never heard word of any physical problems. From what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t believe she has a disability that really prohibits her from going to school,” McGuigan said. “And I’m not sure whether it’s all her, or whether it’s her father. Knowing her and knowing her father, I think he owns this situation as much as she does.”

The article also notes that Moorestown students met to decide how to act during Blair's speech at graduation, which is obviously a moot point. I expect there still to be some uproar during the evening, though.

Update: Fellow blogger Adam Tow sent a link to the Fark message board that contains a, er, lively discussion about Blair.

Posted by kswygert at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

Hell no, she won't go!Blair

Hell no, she won't go!

Blair Hornstine, the poor little thing, has been so traumatized by all the media attention from her victorious lawsuit (and alleged plagiarism), that she won't be attending Moorestown's graduation ceremony. Her lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., informed the school district of this on Monday:

The announcement came in the form of a letter sent Monday ...

"... The hostile environment at the school has traumatized Blair both physically and emotionally, to the point that she cannot and will not attend the graduation ceremonies," states Jacobs' letter to John B. Comegno II, lawyer for the board. "Please arrange to have the valedictorian award made to her in absentia"... Hornstine, who finished school early, is believed to have left town and was not available for comment.

Skipped town, eh? I hate to say it, but this seems like more evidence that her perceptive abilities aren't too impressive. Not only was she previously unaware that citing without footnoting was wrong, it appears she also failed to anticipate that suing her school district might make her somewhat, er, unpopular among her classmates. The State College (PA) online paper thinks this development is "poignant". I disagree.

Update: I found an interesting Harvard Crimson article by Elizabeth Green. This is one of the few articles I've seen online where a Moorestown High student is quoted, and Pappa Hornstine does not escape criticism:

Blair Hornstine’s father Louis, a New Jersey Superior Court judge, has also become the target of derision. In the local paper, an editorial cartoon printed May 15 depicted a grinning Louis Hornstine using the dress of a statue of Justice to polish his shoes...

Allie McGuigan, a high school senior who said she was close to Hornstine until the two grew apart, said she is not inclined to believe Hornstine’s denial. “The whole time I was friends with [Blair] I never heard word of any physical problems. From what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t believe she has a disability that really prohibits her from going to school,” McGuigan said. “And I’m not sure whether it’s all her, or whether it’s her father. Knowing her and knowing her father, I think he owns this situation as much as she does.”

The article also notes that Moorestown students met to decide how to act during Blair's speech at graduation, which is obviously a moot point. I expect there still to be some uproar during the evening, though.

Update: Fellow blogger Adam Tow sent a link to the Fark message board that contains a, er, lively discussion about Blair.

Posted by kswygert at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

Hell no, she won't go!Blair

Hell no, she won't go!

Blair Hornstine, the poor little thing, has been so traumatized by all the media attention from her victorious lawsuit (and alleged plagiarism), that she won't be attending Moorestown's graduation ceremony. Her lawyer, Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., informed the school district of this on Monday:

The announcement came in the form of a letter sent Monday ...

"... The hostile environment at the school has traumatized Blair both physically and emotionally, to the point that she cannot and will not attend the graduation ceremonies," states Jacobs' letter to John B. Comegno II, lawyer for the board. "Please arrange to have the valedictorian award made to her in absentia"... Hornstine, who finished school early, is believed to have left town and was not available for comment.

Skipped town, eh? I hate to say it, but this seems like more evidence that her perceptive abilities aren't too impressive. Not only was she previously unaware that citing without footnoting was wrong, it appears she also failed to anticipate that suing her school district might make her somewhat, er, unpopular among her classmates. The State College (PA) online paper thinks this development is "poignant". I disagree.

Update: I found an interesting Harvard Crimson article by Elizabeth Green. This is one of the few articles I've seen online where a Moorestown High student is quoted, and Pappa Hornstine does not escape criticism:

Blair Hornstine’s father Louis, a New Jersey Superior Court judge, has also become the target of derision. In the local paper, an editorial cartoon printed May 15 depicted a grinning Louis Hornstine using the dress of a statue of Justice to polish his shoes...

Allie McGuigan, a high school senior who said she was close to Hornstine until the two grew apart, said she is not inclined to believe Hornstine’s denial. “The whole time I was friends with [Blair] I never heard word of any physical problems. From what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t believe she has a disability that really prohibits her from going to school,” McGuigan said. “And I’m not sure whether it’s all her, or whether it’s her father. Knowing her and knowing her father, I think he owns this situation as much as she does.”

The article also notes that Moorestown students met to decide how to act during Blair's speech at graduation, which is obviously a moot point. I expect there still to be some uproar during the evening, though.

Update: Fellow blogger Adam Tow sent a link to the Fark message board that contains a, er, lively discussion about Blair.

Posted by kswygert at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

Florida diplomas for sale -

Florida diplomas for sale - cheap!

Ever wonder what a Florida high school diploma is worth? Oh, about $70. That was the tuition charged by the Belz Academy for one foreign student, Attila Hajdu, who decided to circumvent the FCAT. It seems Hajdu has limited English skills, despite his 3.3 Seminole High GPA, and this proved to be a stumbling block on the FCAT. Luckily for him, a loophole was available for a relatively low price:

Hajdu was among the nearly 13,000 seniors who failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which this year replaced a less-rigorous exam as a requirement for graduation. Hajdu discovered another option. At the Belz Academy in Fort Myers, he earned a diploma without passing the FCAT, or even attending classes there...

Hajdu's situation highlights a loophole in Florida's exit-exam requirement for public schools. Students in private schools are not required to take the FCAT. Although the state does not license private schools and exercises little control over them, many colleges accept their diplomas...

A Hungarian government contact directed Hajdu to the Belz Academy, a private nondenominational Christian school with about 150 pupils -- some of them foreign students. Last week, he made the four-hour drive to the school carrying his transcript from Seminole High, score reports on the SAT and ACT exams, and an Orlando Sentinel article describing his situation and pending legislative efforts. He qualified for a diploma in about two hours, he said.

Interesting loophole, that. Hajdu sounds very happy with his diploma, so I suppose it would be rude to suggest that perhaps the public school he actually attended failed in its attempt to teach him English. I bet it was a shock when his FCAT score contradicted the B-plus grades that he was earning, especially considering that FCAT items are at the 10th-grade level. Grade inflation, anyone?

This comment is also priceless:

"This FCAT is causing desperation for our students," state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, a boycott organizer, said. "It's unfair to the majority of parents and students who have to go to public schools and can't afford private schools."

No, the crappy public schools are causing desperation for the students, and the FCAT is causing desperation for those schools. The test is not unfair; the school system is. Too bad Senator Siplin's party refuses to endorse school vouchers, which would allow parents to escape failing public school systems.

Posted by kswygert at 10:40 AM | Comments (1)

Florida diplomas for sale -

Florida diplomas for sale - cheap!

Ever wonder what a Florida high school diploma is worth? Oh, about $70. That was the tuition charged by the Belz Academy for one foreign student, Attila Hajdu, who decided to circumvent the FCAT. It seems Hajdu has limited English skills, despite his 3.3 Seminole High GPA, and this proved to be a stumbling block on the FCAT. Luckily for him, a loophole was available for a relatively low price:

Hajdu was among the nearly 13,000 seniors who failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which this year replaced a less-rigorous exam as a requirement for graduation. Hajdu discovered another option. At the Belz Academy in Fort Myers, he earned a diploma without passing the FCAT, or even attending classes there...

Hajdu's situation highlights a loophole in Florida's exit-exam requirement for public schools. Students in private schools are not required to take the FCAT. Although the state does not license private schools and exercises little control over them, many colleges accept their diplomas...

A Hungarian government contact directed Hajdu to the Belz Academy, a private nondenominational Christian school with about 150 pupils -- some of them foreign students. Last week, he made the four-hour drive to the school carrying his transcript from Seminole High, score reports on the SAT and ACT exams, and an Orlando Sentinel article describing his situation and pending legislative efforts. He qualified for a diploma in about two hours, he said.

Interesting loophole, that. Hajdu sounds very happy with his diploma, so I suppose it would be rude to suggest that perhaps the public school he actually attended failed in its attempt to teach him English. I bet it was a shock when his FCAT score contradicted the B-plus grades that he was earning, especially considering that FCAT items are at the 10th-grade level. Grade inflation, anyone?

This comment is also priceless:

"This FCAT is causing desperation for our students," state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, a boycott organizer, said. "It's unfair to the majority of parents and students who have to go to public schools and can't afford private schools."

No, the crappy public schools are causing desperation for the students, and the FCAT is causing desperation for those schools. The test is not unfair; the school system is. Too bad Senator Siplin's party refuses to endorse school vouchers, which would allow parents to escape failing public school systems.

Posted by kswygert at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

Florida diplomas for sale -

Florida diplomas for sale - cheap!

Ever wonder what a Florida high school diploma is worth? Oh, about $70. That was the tuition charged by the Belz Academy for one foreign student, Attila Hajdu, who decided to circumvent the FCAT. It seems Hajdu has limited English skills, despite his 3.3 Seminole High GPA, and this proved to be a stumbling block on the FCAT. Luckily for him, a loophole was available for a relatively low price:

Hajdu was among the nearly 13,000 seniors who failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which this year replaced a less-rigorous exam as a requirement for graduation. Hajdu discovered another option. At the Belz Academy in Fort Myers, he earned a diploma without passing the FCAT, or even attending classes there...

Hajdu's situation highlights a loophole in Florida's exit-exam requirement for public schools. Students in private schools are not required to take the FCAT. Although the state does not license private schools and exercises little control over them, many colleges accept their diplomas...

A Hungarian government contact directed Hajdu to the Belz Academy, a private nondenominational Christian school with about 150 pupils -- some of them foreign students. Last week, he made the four-hour drive to the school carrying his transcript from Seminole High, score reports on the SAT and ACT exams, and an Orlando Sentinel article describing his situation and pending legislative efforts. He qualified for a diploma in about two hours, he said.

Interesting loophole, that. Hajdu sounds very happy with his diploma, so I suppose it would be rude to suggest that perhaps the public school he actually attended failed in its attempt to teach him English. I bet it was a shock when his FCAT score contradicted the B-plus grades that he was earning, especially considering that FCAT items are at the 10th-grade level. Grade inflation, anyone?

This comment is also priceless:

"This FCAT is causing desperation for our students," state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, a boycott organizer, said. "It's unfair to the majority of parents and students who have to go to public schools and can't afford private schools."

No, the crappy public schools are causing desperation for the students, and the FCAT is causing desperation for those schools. The test is not unfair; the school system is. Too bad Senator Siplin's party refuses to endorse school vouchers, which would allow parents to escape failing public school systems.

Posted by kswygert at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

Sabotaging the teacher certification examA

Sabotaging the teacher certification exam

A proposed teacher certification exam could help remove the stranglehold that schools of education have on the teaching field. The proposed exam is the Passport to Teaching certification, created by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. The reaction of the teaching establishment? Well, for starters, David G. Imig (president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education) distributed a copy of the confidential exam at a meeting of education professionals last month, in an "effort to rally criticism" against the exam.

As one observer put it, this step was necessary to force discussion of the exam, which "had running through its bones the ideology of traditionalists ... the framework of direct instruction." Horror of horrors! Teachers being tested on their ability to directly instruct children? Say it's not so!

Joanne Jacobs wonder if this underhanded method of fomenting discussion was actually deliberate sabotage. If so, it was successful - Imig's little stunt may have set the field test back six months. The American Board has also severed ties with the test developer, ACT Inc., over the security breach.

Update: The Washington Times has some more information on the story. Thanks to Imig's stunt, around one million dollars worth of ACT time and effort have been wasted. The American Board isn't going to reimburse ACT for that. It would be nice if Imig were forced to do so.

Posted by kswygert at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

Sabotaging the teacher certification examA

Sabotaging the teacher certification exam

A proposed teacher certification exam could help remove the stranglehold that schools of education have on the teaching field. The proposed exam is the Passport to Teaching certification, created by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. The reaction of the teaching establishment? Well, for starters, David G. Imig (president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education) distributed a copy of the confidential exam at a meeting of education professionals last month, in an "effort to rally criticism" against the exam.

As one observer put it, this step was necessary to force discussion of the exam, which "had running through its bones the ideology of traditionalists ... the framework of direct instruction." Horror of horrors! Teachers being tested on their ability to directly instruct children? Say it's not so!

Joanne Jacobs wonder if this underhanded method of fomenting discussion was actually deliberate sabotage. If so, it was successful - Imig's little stunt may have set the field test back six months. The American Board has also severed ties with the test developer, ACT Inc., over the security breach.

Update: The Washington Times has some more information on the story. Thanks to Imig's stunt, around one million dollars worth of ACT time and effort have been wasted. The American Board isn't going to reimburse ACT for that. It would be nice if Imig were forced to do so.

Posted by kswygert at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

Sabotaging the teacher certification examA

Sabotaging the teacher certification exam

A proposed teacher certification exam could help remove the stranglehold that schools of education have on the teaching field. The proposed exam is the Passport to Teaching certification, created by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. The reaction of the teaching establishment? Well, for starters, David G. Imig (president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education) distributed a copy of the confidential exam at a meeting of education professionals last month, in an "effort to rally criticism" against the exam.

As one observer put it, this step was necessary to force discussion of the exam, which "had running through its bones the ideology of traditionalists ... the framework of direct instruction." Horror of horrors! Teachers being tested on their ability to directly instruct children? Say it's not so!

Joanne Jacobs wonder if this underhanded method of fomenting discussion was actually deliberate sabotage. If so, it was successful - Imig's little stunt may have set the field test back six months. The American Board has also severed ties with the test developer, ACT Inc., over the security breach.

Update: The Washington Times has some more information on the story. Thanks to Imig's stunt, around one million dollars worth of ACT time and effort have been wasted. The American Board isn't going to reimburse ACT for that. It would be nice if Imig were forced to do so.

Posted by kswygert at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

A NYT reporter struggles with

A NYT reporter struggles with the SAT II

New York Times reporter Tamar Lewin discovers that grading SAT II essays isn't as easy as it looks. She entered the training seminar with some skepticism:

Given 25 years making a living writing for newspapers, I came in thinking that I, too, would know good writing. I also came in quite skeptical that readers could be trained to adhere to objective grading standards on something as emotionally subjective as writing. That will soon be a crucial question for millions of high school students: starting in two years, the two million college applicants who take the SAT each year will be required to produce a sample essay...

At my grading session, about 100 teachers from across the country are being paid $22 an hour to grade the 33,000 essays produced at the May 3 SAT II writing test. Each essay is read by at least two graders, so over the five days, each one will be plowing through some 660 essays...

As the day goes on, she discovers that, while she is able to detect a bad essay as well as the trained raters, her standards for a good essay are inconsistent with the others' viewpoints:

I give the same bad grades as everybody else. But I am way off on the good ones. I give a 3 to the paper that the experienced readers saw as the model of 6-ness. It begins with the sentence, "The world has taken a turn for the worst." I am put off by "worst" where it should have said "worse" — and by the way the writer talks about political correctness and homogenization, without ever explaining how they make the world worse...I sit down with the trainers to see if I can discover the error of my ways.

They explain that I should not have been put off by the first sentence, that it's just a beginning stutter, to be overlooked. And, they say, what makes it a 6 is the sophisticated use of language, the organization and the lively, detailed examples, one about Clear Channel Communications and how it prevented its radio stations from broadcasting Rage Against the Machine after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the other about how the New York Regents exams had been sanitized for political correctness.

They go back over the standards with me: a 6 demonstrates clear and consistent competence, and is well organized and fully developed, with a variety of sentence structures, a range of vocabulary and only occasional errors. A 4 shows adequate competence, with some errors in grammar or diction and minimal sentence variety.

Her conclusion is a little weird, though. Learning how to rate SAT II essays resulted in her losing "all memory of my old criteria for judging writing," as though learning to grade SAT II essays is more brainwashing than training.

Posted by kswygert at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

A NYT reporter struggles with

A NYT reporter struggles with the SAT II

New York Times reporter Tamar Lewin discovers that grading SAT II essays isn't as easy as it looks. She entered the training seminar with some skepticism:

Given 25 years making a living writing for newspapers, I came in thinking that I, too, would know good writing. I also came in quite skeptical that readers could be trained to adhere to objective grading standards on something as emotionally subjective as writing. That will soon be a crucial question for millions of high school students: starting in two years, the two million college applicants who take the SAT each year will be required to produce a sample essay...

At my grading session, about 100 teachers from across the country are being paid $22 an hour to grade the 33,000 essays produced at the May 3 SAT II writing test. Each essay is read by at least two graders, so over the five days, each one will be plowing through some 660 essays...

As the day goes on, she discovers that, while she is able to detect a bad essay as well as the trained raters, her standards for a good essay are inconsistent with the others' viewpoints:

I give the same bad grades as everybody else. But I am way off on the good ones. I give a 3 to the paper that the experienced readers saw as the model of 6-ness. It begins with the sentence, "The world has taken a turn for the worst." I am put off by "worst" where it should have said "worse" — and by the way the writer talks about political correctness and homogenization, without ever explaining how they make the world worse...I sit down with the trainers to see if I can discover the error of my ways.

They explain that I should not have been put off by the first sentence, that it's just a beginning stutter, to be overlooked. And, they say, what makes it a 6 is the sophisticated use of language, the organization and the lively, detailed examples, one about Clear Channel Communications and how it prevented its radio stations from broadcasting Rage Against the Machine after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the other about how the New York Regents exams had been sanitized for political correctness.

They go back over the standards with me: a 6 demonstrates clear and consistent competence, and is well organized and fully developed, with a variety of sentence structures, a range of vocabulary and only occasional errors. A 4 shows adequate competence, with some errors in grammar or diction and minimal sentence variety.

Her conclusion is a little weird, though. Learning how to rate SAT II essays resulted in her losing "all memory of my old criteria for judging writing," as though learning to grade SAT II essays is more brainwashing than training.

Posted by kswygert at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

A NYT reporter struggles with

A NYT reporter struggles with the SAT II

New York Times reporter Tamar Lewin discovers that grading SAT II essays isn't as easy as it looks. She entered the training seminar with some skepticism:

Given 25 years making a living writing for newspapers, I came in thinking that I, too, would know good writing. I also came in quite skeptical that readers could be trained to adhere to objective grading standards on something as emotionally subjective as writing. That will soon be a crucial question for millions of high school students: starting in two years, the two million college applicants who take the SAT each year will be required to produce a sample essay...

At my grading session, about 100 teachers from across the country are being paid $22 an hour to grade the 33,000 essays produced at the May 3 SAT II writing test. Each essay is read by at least two graders, so over the five days, each one will be plowing through some 660 essays...

As the day goes on, she discovers that, while she is able to detect a bad essay as well as the trained raters, her standards for a good essay are inconsistent with the others' viewpoints:

I give the same bad grades as everybody else. But I am way off on the good ones. I give a 3 to the paper that the experienced readers saw as the model of 6-ness. It begins with the sentence, "The world has taken a turn for the worst." I am put off by "worst" where it should have said "worse" — and by the way the writer talks about political correctness and homogenization, without ever explaining how they make the world worse...I sit down with the trainers to see if I can discover the error of my ways.

They explain that I should not have been put off by the first sentence, that it's just a beginning stutter, to be overlooked. And, they say, what makes it a 6 is the sophisticated use of language, the organization and the lively, detailed examples, one about Clear Channel Communications and how it prevented its radio stations from broadcasting Rage Against the Machine after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the other about how the New York Regents exams had been sanitized for political correctness.

They go back over the standards with me: a 6 demonstrates clear and consistent competence, and is well organized and fully developed, with a variety of sentence structures, a range of vocabulary and only occasional errors. A 4 shows adequate competence, with some errors in grammar or diction and minimal sentence variety.

Her conclusion is a little weird, though. Learning how to rate SAT II essays resulted in her losing "all memory of my old criteria for judging writing," as though learning to grade SAT II essays is more brainwashing than training.

Posted by kswygert at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

Is This Thing On?

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3....

Looks like we're live!

Posted by kswygert at 08:32 AM | Comments (5)

June 10, 2003

Leave No Child Behind -

Leave No Child Behind - to mow our lawns

John Derbyshire has a thought-provoking article up on NRO about what it really means to "leave no child behind". It means, in one sense, that we've decided everyone must be shifted up in the meritocracy, which leaves only non-Americans to be shifted downward for menial jobs. This results in an interesting situation in which American society must adopt affirmative action (to make sure no American child fails), and must turn a blind eye to illegal immigration (to make sure the manual labor gets done):

(3) Our very best efforts at creating a meritocratic education system always turn up the same unhappy results: students of Ashkenazi-Jewish and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented among the educational successes, while students of West African ancestry are over-represented among the educational failures.

(4) All sorts of theories are available to explain...Unfortunately we don't know which theory is true. Possibly just one of the theories is true. Possibly the true cause is something nobody has thought of yet. More likely the truth contains elements, in different proportions, from several theories.

(5) Until we understand the causes of (3), the most meritocratic system of education we can devise will produce a society with a highly paid cognitive elite in which persons of Ashkenazi-Jewish and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented, a class of manual and service workers in which black people are over-represented, and a clerical or small-entrepreneurial class in which white gentiles are over-represented.

(6) Such a society would be grossly offensive to American sensibilities. (See (2) above.) It would also, in all probability, be unhappy and unstable.

(7) Adjustments to the meritocratic principle therefore need to be made: "affirmative action," imposed "diversity" quotas in businesses, anti-discrimination laws, and so on. We must trade off some meritocracy for social harmony.

(8) The effect of these adjustments is — as it is intended to be! — to move up into the clerical class people who, in a pure-meritocratic system, would be in the manual class. (And, to a less significant degree, to move up into the cognitive-elite class people who would otherwise be clerks.)

(9) Corresponding adjustments to shift down into the manual class people who would, on a pure-meritocratic principle, be in the clerical class, are politically impossible.

(10) Therefore the manual class is seriously under-staffed.

(11) Millions of third-worlders are only too glad to come to the USA to do manual or low-level service work.

(12) Unfortunately the immigration laws do not allow them to come here.

(13) The immigration laws should therefore be changed to permit a large inflow of unskilled aliens from the third world.

(14) Such changes are unpopular with large parts of the American public, who fear the cultural and economic consequences.

(15) Politicians know (14) and therefore will not change the immigration laws. And so:

(16) For the sake of social harmony, we have no choice but to turn a blind eye while several million unskilled aliens enter our country and stay here illegally.

As I said, thought-provoking.

Posted by kswygert at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

Leave No Child Behind -

Leave No Child Behind - to mow our lawns

John Derbyshire has a thought-provoking article up on NRO about what it really means to "leave no child behind". It means, in one sense, that we've decided everyone must be shifted up in the meritocracy, which leaves only non-Americans to be shifted downward for menial jobs. This results in an interesting situation in which American society must adopt affirmative action (to make sure no American child fails), and must turn a blind eye to illegal immigration (to make sure the manual labor gets done):

(3) Our very best efforts at creating a meritocratic education system always turn up the same unhappy results: students of Ashkenazi-Jewish and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented among the educational successes, while students of West African ancestry are over-represented among the educational failures.

(4) All sorts of theories are available to explain...Unfortunately we don't know which theory is true. Possibly just one of the theories is true. Possibly the true cause is something nobody has thought of yet. More likely the truth contains elements, in different proportions, from several theories.

(5) Until we understand the causes of (3), the most meritocratic system of education we can devise will produce a society with a highly paid cognitive elite in which persons of Ashkenazi-Jewish and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented, a class of manual and service workers in which black people are over-represented, and a clerical or small-entrepreneurial class in which white gentiles are over-represented.

(6) Such a society would be grossly offensive to American sensibilities. (See (2) above.) It would also, in all probability, be unhappy and unstable.

(7) Adjustments to the meritocratic principle therefore need to be made: "affirmative action," imposed "diversity" quotas in businesses, anti-discrimination laws, and so on. We must trade off some meritocracy for social harmony.

(8) The effect of these adjustments is — as it is intended to be! — to move up into the clerical class people who, in a pure-meritocratic system, would be in the manual class. (And, to a less significant degree, to move up into the cognitive-elite class people who would otherwise be clerks.)

(9) Corresponding adjustments to shift down into the manual class people who would, on a pure-meritocratic principle, be in the clerical class, are politically impossible.

(10) Therefore the manual class is seriously under-staffed.

(11) Millions of third-worlders are only too glad to come to the USA to do manual or low-level service work.

(12) Unfortunately the immigration laws do not allow them to come here.

(13) The immigration laws should therefore be changed to permit a large inflow of unskilled aliens from the third world.

(14) Such changes are unpopular with large parts of the American public, who fear the cultural and economic consequences.

(15) Politicians know (14) and therefore will not change the immigration laws. And so:

(16) For the sake of social harmony, we have no choice but to turn a blind eye while several million unskilled aliens enter our country and stay here illegally.

As I said, thought-provoking.

Posted by kswygert at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

Leave No Child Behind -

Leave No Child Behind - to mow our lawns

John Derbyshire has a thought-provoking article up on NRO about what it really means to "leave no child behind". It means, in one sense, that we've decided everyone must be shifted up in the meritocracy, which leaves only non-Americans to be shifted downward for menial jobs. This results in an interesting situation in which American society must adopt affirmative action (to make sure no American child fails), and must turn a blind eye to illegal immigration (to make sure the manual labor gets done):

(3) Our very best efforts at creating a meritocratic education system always turn up the same unhappy results: students of Ashkenazi-Jewish and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented among the educational successes, while students of West African ancestry are over-represented among the educational failures.

(4) All sorts of theories are available to explain...Unfortunately we don't know which theory is true. Possibly just one of the theories is true. Possibly the true cause is something nobody has thought of yet. More likely the truth contains elements, in different proportions, from several theories.

(5) Until we understand the causes of (3), the most meritocratic system of education we can devise will produce a society with a highly paid cognitive elite in which persons of Ashkenazi-Jewish and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented, a class of manual and service workers in which black people are over-represented, and a clerical or small-entrepreneurial class in which white gentiles are over-represented.

(6) Such a society would be grossly offensive to American sensibilities. (See (2) above.) It would also, in all probability, be unhappy and unstable.

(7) Adjustments to the meritocratic principle therefore need to be made: "affirmative action," imposed "diversity" quotas in businesses, anti-discrimination laws, and so on. We must trade off some meritocracy for social harmony.

(8) The effect of these adjustments is — as it is intended to be! — to move up into the clerical class people who, in a pure-meritocratic system, would be in the manual class. (And, to a less significant degree, to move up into the cognitive-elite class people who would otherwise be clerks.)

(9) Corresponding adjustments to shift down into the manual class people who would, on a pure-meritocratic principle, be in the clerical class, are politically impossible.

(10) Therefore the manual class is seriously under-staffed.

(11) Millions of third-worlders are only too glad to come to the USA to do manual or low-level service work.

(12) Unfortunately the immigration laws do not allow them to come here.

(13) The immigration laws should therefore be changed to permit a large inflow of unskilled aliens from the third world.

(14) Such changes are unpopular with large parts of the American public, who fear the cultural and economic consequences.

(15) Politicians know (14) and therefore will not change the immigration laws. And so:

(16) For the sake of social harmony, we have no choice but to turn a blind eye while several million unskilled aliens enter our country and stay here illegally.

As I said, thought-provoking.

Posted by kswygert at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

Comments are backThe comment functionality

Comments are back

The comment functionality seems to have returned (and some of you jumped to it right away, I'm happy to see). Don't hold back - tell us your thoughts on goat-kissing, IQ tests for Death Row inmates, and the latest evidence of Blair Hornstine's "unoriginal" thinking!

Posted by kswygert at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

Comments are backThe comment functionality

Comments are back

The comment functionality seems to have returned (and some of you jumped to it right away, I'm happy to see). Don't hold back - tell us your thoughts on goat-kissing, IQ tests for Death Row inmates, and the latest evidence of Blair Hornstine's "unoriginal" thinking!

Posted by kswygert at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

Comments are backThe comment functionality

Comments are back

The comment functionality seems to have returned (and some of you jumped to it right away, I'm happy to see). Don't hold back - tell us your thoughts on goat-kissing, IQ tests for Death Row inmates, and the latest evidence of Blair Hornstine's "unoriginal" thinking!

Posted by kswygert at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

Reading skills optionalThe Petersburg (VA)

Reading skills optional

The Petersburg (VA) School Board may soon be altering the requirements for grade promotion, but not for the better. Students seeking promotion in grades 1 through 5 may be required to show proficiency in language arts, mathematics, social studies and science - but not reading. The middle school requirements may be even more lax. Parents are up-in-arms about the proposed change:

The School Board's Curriculum Committee has come up with a recommendation that would alter the current promotion policy so that...students in grades one through five would need only pass four of the five academic core subjects - language arts, mathematics, social studies and science - to be promoted to the next grade level. The fifth core subject - reading - would be removed from the requirement list for grade promotion.

Also under the proposal, middle school students would need only pass three of four core academic areas to be promoted and each student would earn a verified credit for passing the applicable end-of-course state Standards of Learning tests...

The School Board initially approved the policy on a first reading at its May 21 work session, but rescinded the vote late last week in order to allow for public input on the policy change. And last night, they got an earful. Not one of the more than 100 people who gathered in the audience and crowded the hallway at last night's meeting spoke in favor of the proposal...The School Board voted unanimously to table the matter until more input and research could be completed. They set no date as to when they may readdress the issue.

"I'm appalled that so-called educated people are telling me to lower the standards for my child. These are the reasons you people need to vote," parent Akua Burns said to the audience as she motioned toward the School Board. "We was duped right here in Petersburg."

"You all disgust me," she said turning her attention back to the School Board table.

Sheryl Murdaugh has two children in the Petersburg school division and said last night that her children must be taught that expectations are high, not that the expectation is "if they haven't learned it, you can still go on." Murdaugh voiced disgust at a system that would "lower the standards" for her children and not encourage them to be the best they can be. "How much remedial training will I have to pay for when they get to college because they didn't get it here when the education was free?" she asked. "We want you to not accept less. We want our children to be something."

William Presley has five children in the Petersburg school system and said one is getting ready to graduate from high school when she probably shouldn't be, all the more reason why he said the standards are already too low. "I know she can't do math but she's graduating anyway," Presley said. "Maybe a community college might be able to do what you couldn't."

A parent who believes his child doesn't deserve that diploma? Imagine that. A refreshing change from the anti-testing activists in Florida, isn't it?

Posted by kswygert at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Reading skills optionalThe Petersburg (VA)

Reading skills optional

The Petersburg (VA) School Board may soon be altering the requirements for grade promotion, but not for the better. Students seeking promotion in grades 1 through 5 may be required to show proficiency in language arts, mathematics, social studies and science - but not reading. The middle school requirements may be even more lax. Parents are up-in-arms about the proposed change:

The School Board's Curriculum Committee has come up with a recommendation that would alter the current promotion policy so that...students in grades one through five would need only pass four of the five academic core subjects - language arts, mathematics, social studies and science - to be promoted to the next grade level. The fifth core subject - reading - would be removed from the requirement list for grade promotion.

Also under the proposal, middle school students would need only pass three of four core academic areas to be promoted and each student would earn a verified credit for passing the applicable end-of-course state Standards of Learning tests...

The School Board initially approved the policy on a first reading at its May 21 work session, but rescinded the vote late last week in order to allow for public input on the policy change. And last night, they got an earful. Not one of the more than 100 people who gathered in the audience and crowded the hallway at last night's meeting spoke in favor of the proposal...The School Board voted unanimously to table the matter until more input and research could be completed. They set no date as to when they may readdress the issue.

"I'm appalled that so-called educated people are telling me to lower the standards for my child. These are the reasons you people need to vote," parent Akua Burns said to the audience as she motioned toward the School Board. "We was duped right here in Petersburg."

"You all disgust me," she said turning her attention back to the School Board table.

Sheryl Murdaugh has two children in the Petersburg school division and said last night that her children must be taught that expectations are high, not that the expectation is "if they haven't learned it, you can still go on." Murdaugh voiced disgust at a system that would "lower the standards" for her children and not encourage them to be the best they can be. "How much remedial training will I have to pay for when they get to college because they didn't get it here when the education was free?" she asked. "We want you to not accept less. We want our children to be something."

William Presley has five children in the Petersburg school system and said one is getting ready to graduate from high school when she probably shouldn't be, all the more reason why he said the standards are already too low. "I know she can't do math but she's graduating anyway," Presley said. "Maybe a community college might be able to do what you couldn't."

A parent who believes his child doesn't deserve that diploma? Imagine that. A refreshing change from the anti-testing activists in Florida, isn't it?

Posted by kswygert at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Reading skills optionalThe Petersburg (VA)

Reading skills optional

The Petersburg (VA) School Board may soon be altering the requirements for grade promotion, but not for the better. Students seeking promotion in grades 1 through 5 may be required to show proficiency in language arts, mathematics, social studies and science - but not reading. The middle school requirements may be even more lax. Parents are up-in-arms about the proposed change:

The School Board's Curriculum Committee has come up with a recommendation that would alter the current promotion policy so that...students in grades one through five would need only pass four of the five academic core subjects - language arts, mathematics, social studies and science - to be promoted to the next grade level. The fifth core subject - reading - would be removed from the requirement list for grade promotion.

Also under the proposal, middle school students would need only pass three of four core academic areas to be promoted and each student would earn a verified credit for passing the applicable end-of-course state Standards of Learning tests...

The School Board initially approved the policy on a first reading at its May 21 work session, but rescinded the vote late last week in order to allow for public input on the policy change. And last night, they got an earful. Not one of the more than 100 people who gathered in the audience and crowded the hallway at last night's meeting spoke in favor of the proposal...The School Board voted unanimously to table the matter until more input and research could be completed. They set no date as to when they may readdress the issue.

"I'm appalled that so-called educated people are telling me to lower the standards for my child. These are the reasons you people need to vote," parent Akua Burns said to the audience as she motioned toward the School Board. "We was duped right here in Petersburg."

"You all disgust me," she said turning her attention back to the School Board table.

Sheryl Murdaugh has two children in the Petersburg school division and said last night that her children must be taught that expectations are high, not that the expectation is "if they haven't learned it, you can still go on." Murdaugh voiced disgust at a system that would "lower the standards" for her children and not encourage them to be the best they can be. "How much remedial training will I have to pay for when they get to college because they didn't get it here when the education was free?" she asked. "We want you to not accept less. We want our children to be something."

William Presley has five children in the Petersburg school system and said one is getting ready to graduate from high school when she probably shouldn't be, all the more reason why he said the standards are already too low. "I know she can't do math but she's graduating anyway," Presley said. "Maybe a community college might be able to do what you couldn't."

A parent who believes his child doesn't deserve that diploma? Imagine that. A refreshing change from the anti-testing activists in Florida, isn't it?

Posted by kswygert at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Best. Student. Reward. For Reading

Best. Student. Reward. For Reading Accomplishments. Ever.

Posted by kswygert at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

Best. Student. Reward. For Reading

Best. Student. Reward. For Reading Accomplishments. Ever.

Posted by kswygert at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

Best. Student. Reward. For Reading

Best. Student. Reward. For Reading Accomplishments. Ever.

Posted by kswygert at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

A bad use for IQ

A bad use for IQ tests

Almost a year ago, I had this to say about the Supreme Court decision stating that it was "crual and unusual punishment" to execute a mentally-retarded criminal. Best of intentions, I suppose, but I foresaw several problems that could result from this decision:

...setting a cutpoint for IQ scores and excusing everyone below it...[is]..extremely careless, in fact, to the point of being meaningless. IQ tests were not designed to keep people from being put to death, and if they are heavily relied on for selecting that outcome, we'll gradually move towards the time when only someone with a college degree, or some other obvious past testament to intelligence, will face the death penalty.

I also find it interesting that I didn't see mentioned anywhere just how many mentally retarded inmates get put to death each year - is it 10%? Less than 1%? Are the inmates in the 20 states that currently do not have laws against executing the mentally retarded going to clamor for retests, or will their current IQ scores stand? The potential for abuse is astounding here, and I wouldn't want to be the clinician in charge of testing individuals, knowing that a difference of a few points is indeed a matter of life and death.

Looks like I was right about the uproar and confusion over this "uncharted territory":

At least 18 [of Ohio's] death-row inmates have filed appeals in courts across the state in hopes of halting their executions on the grounds they are mentally retarded. Yesterday marked the six-month deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court for current death row inmates to make such claims in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional...

"It’s very frustrating in that we are faced with a situation in which science has no experience," said Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, who predicted that as many as 37 claims could be filed. "Mental retardation has always been done in the present tense," he said. "What we’re asking under [the court rulings] is whether someone was mentally retarded 20 years ago."

James W. Canepa, chief deputy for criminal justice for Attorney General Jim Petro, said he does not accept the suggestion that tests might have to retroactively diagnose retardation. "There isn’t a cure for mental retardation," said Mr. Canepa. "Either they had it and have it, or they don’t. That argument is disingenuous. All of us ... have standardized testing from grade school through college. If you commit a crime, you’re tested in the institution"...

"This is uncharted territory," said Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates. "Are we looking at a bright-line number or conduct? Could someone have an IQ of 69, but still be able to steal a handgun, purchase ammunition, load the gun, institute a plan with an accomplice to commit armed robbery, take the gun, shoot someone between the eyes, flee, hide, and spend the money - all consistent with someone who knows exactly what he’s doing?"

Anti-testing activists often insist that children be judged not by just one test score, but by a more synthesized and integrated set of measures. These activists also insist that many tests, including IQ tests, are unreliable and invalid, especially for certain subpopulations. It won't surprise me, though, if anti-death-penalty activists completely contradict the anti-testers, in their attempts to convince us that one test score - that IQ measure - should be enough to keep a brutal criminal off Death Row.

Posted by kswygert at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

A bad use for IQ

A bad use for IQ tests

Almost a year ago, I had this to say about the Supreme Court decision stating that it was "crual and unusual punishment" to execute a mentally-retarded criminal. Best of intentions, I suppose, but I foresaw several problems that could result from this decision:

...setting a cutpoint for IQ scores and excusing everyone below it...[is]..extremely careless, in fact, to the point of being meaningless. IQ tests were not designed to keep people from being put to death, and if they are heavily relied on for selecting that outcome, we'll gradually move towards the time when only someone with a college degree, or some other obvious past testament to intelligence, will face the death penalty.

I also find it interesting that I didn't see mentioned anywhere just how many mentally retarded inmates get put to death each year - is it 10%? Less than 1%? Are the inmates in the 20 states that currently do not have laws against executing the mentally retarded going to clamor for retests, or will their current IQ scores stand? The potential for abuse is astounding here, and I wouldn't want to be the clinician in charge of testing individuals, knowing that a difference of a few points is indeed a matter of life and death.

Looks like I was right about the uproar and confusion over this "uncharted territory":

At least 18 [of Ohio's] death-row inmates have filed appeals in courts across the state in hopes of halting their executions on the grounds they are mentally retarded. Yesterday marked the six-month deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court for current death row inmates to make such claims in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional...

"It’s very frustrating in that we are faced with a situation in which science has no experience," said Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, who predicted that as many as 37 claims could be filed. "Mental retardation has always been done in the present tense," he said. "What we’re asking under [the court rulings] is whether someone was mentally retarded 20 years ago."

James W. Canepa, chief deputy for criminal justice for Attorney General Jim Petro, said he does not accept the suggestion that tests might have to retroactively diagnose retardation. "There isn’t a cure for mental retardation," said Mr. Canepa. "Either they had it and have it, or they don’t. That argument is disingenuous. All of us ... have standardized testing from grade school through college. If you commit a crime, you’re tested in the institution"...

"This is uncharted territory," said Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates. "Are we looking at a bright-line number or conduct? Could someone have an IQ of 69, but still be able to steal a handgun, purchase ammunition, load the gun, institute a plan with an accomplice to commit armed robbery, take the gun, shoot someone between the eyes, flee, hide, and spend the money - all consistent with someone who knows exactly what he’s doing?"

Anti-testing activists often insist that children be judged not by just one test score, but by a more synthesized and integrated set of measures. These activists also insist that many tests, including IQ tests, are unreliable and invalid, especially for certain subpopulations. It won't surprise me, though, if anti-death-penalty activists completely contradict the anti-testers, in their attempts to convince us that one test score - that IQ measure - should be enough to keep a brutal criminal off Death Row.

Posted by kswygert at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

A bad use for IQ

A bad use for IQ tests

Almost a year ago, I had this to say about the Supreme Court decision stating that it was "crual and unusual punishment" to execute a mentally-retarded criminal. Best of intentions, I suppose, but I foresaw several problems that could result from this decision:

...setting a cutpoint for IQ scores and excusing everyone below it...[is]..extremely careless, in fact, to the point of being meaningless. IQ tests were not designed to keep people from being put to death, and if they are heavily relied on for selecting that outcome, we'll gradually move towards the time when only someone with a college degree, or some other obvious past testament to intelligence, will face the death penalty.

I also find it interesting that I didn't see mentioned anywhere just how many mentally retarded inmates get put to death each year - is it 10%? Less than 1%? Are the inmates in the 20 states that currently do not have laws against executing the mentally retarded going to clamor for retests, or will their current IQ scores stand? The potential for abuse is astounding here, and I wouldn't want to be the clinician in charge of testing individuals, knowing that a difference of a few points is indeed a matter of life and death.

Looks like I was right about the uproar and confusion over this "uncharted territory":

At least 18 [of Ohio's] death-row inmates have filed appeals in courts across the state in hopes of halting their executions on the grounds they are mentally retarded. Yesterday marked the six-month deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court for current death row inmates to make such claims in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional...

"It’s very frustrating in that we are faced with a situation in which science has no experience," said Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker, who predicted that as many as 37 claims could be filed. "Mental retardation has always been done in the present tense," he said. "What we’re asking under [the court rulings] is whether someone was mentally retarded 20 years ago."

James W. Canepa, chief deputy for criminal justice for Attorney General Jim Petro, said he does not accept the suggestion that tests might have to retroactively diagnose retardation. "There isn’t a cure for mental retardation," said Mr. Canepa. "Either they had it and have it, or they don’t. That argument is disingenuous. All of us ... have standardized testing from grade school through college. If you commit a crime, you’re tested in the institution"...

"This is uncharted territory," said Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates. "Are we looking at a bright-line number or conduct? Could someone have an IQ of 69, but still be able to steal a handgun, purchase ammunition, load the gun, institute a plan with an accomplice to commit armed robbery, take the gun, shoot someone between the eyes, flee, hide, and spend the money - all consistent with someone who knows exactly what he’s doing?"

Anti-testing activists often insist that children be judged not by just one test score, but by a more synthesized and integrated set of measures. These activists also insist that many tests, including IQ tests, are unreliable and invalid, especially for certain subpopulations. It won't surprise me, though, if anti-death-penalty activists completely contradict the anti-testers, in their attempts to convince us that one test score - that IQ measure - should be enough to keep a brutal criminal off Death Row.

Posted by kswygert at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

An apology...Sorry for the lack

An apology...

Sorry for the lack of bloggage today. Work was busy to begin with, and then I had to go drive to Hell and back to rescue my boyfriend when his 10-year-old Ford Taurus left him stranded alongside the road on the way to work. It's not that I'm ignoring you guys; I just haven't been at my desk much today!

Rest assured, interesting things are waiting in the wings. Dean Esmay, in particular, is helping me round-the-clock to get ready for my transfer to a new domain and a new look. Can't wait until I'm off Blogger!

Posted by kswygert at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

An apology...Sorry for the lack

An apology...

Sorry for the lack of bloggage today. Work was busy to begin with, and then I had to go drive to Hell and back to rescue my boyfriend when his 10-year-old Ford Taurus left him stranded alongside the road on the way to work. It's not that I'm ignoring you guys; I just haven't been at my desk much today!

Rest assured, interesting things are waiting in the wings. Dean Esmay, in particular, is helping me round-the-clock to get ready for my transfer to a new domain and a new look. Can't wait until I'm off Blogger!

Posted by kswygert at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

An apology...Sorry for the lack

An apology...

Sorry for the lack of bloggage today. Work was busy to begin with, and then I had to go drive to Hell and back to rescue my boyfriend when his 10-year-old Ford Taurus left him stranded alongside the road on the way to work. It's not that I'm ignoring you guys; I just haven't been at my desk much today!

Rest assured, interesting things are waiting in the wings. Dean Esmay, in particular, is helping me round-the-clock to get ready for my transfer to a new domain and a new look. Can't wait until I'm off Blogger!

Posted by kswygert at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2003

The Blair Hornstine ProjectI've been

The Blair Hornstine Project

I've been sniffing about on the web for more stories about our favorite little plaintiff/lagiarist, Blair Hornstine. To start with, Metafilter has a huge thread entitled The Blair Hornstine Project. The links are the same as the ones that I've posted, and the comments are similar in nature (although perhaps a bit more deliciously nasty). The suggestion that Harvard should rescind her acceptance due to the plagiarized articles in the Courier-Post is bandied about here as well - the online petition urging Harvard to do so is still active, with over 2100 signatures, and yes, Harvard knows about the plagiarism, and the petition.

Turns out, too, that despite Blair's claim that she was unaware failing to footnote was wrong, she had signed a work agreement with the Courier-Post which stated that she would submit only original work. So, did she not pay attention to what she was signing, or did she earn a straight-A average without ever learning what the word "original" meant? While we all know that she paid close attention to the section of the Moorestown High School Handbook which states that, "The senior student with the highest seventh (7th) semester WGPA will be named the valedictorian," she seems to have missed this part altogether:

Academic Dishonesty / Cheating
Learning requires that students assume full and personal responsibility for their work. Unless otherwise directed, all assignments must be independently completed. Any student identified as having or using unauthorized aid, falsifying or providing false information and or copying other’s work will receive a grade of “O” for that assignment and/or may lose credit for the entire course at the discretion of the teacher and administration...

Students found to have cheated on any school exams, term papers, research assignments or class projects will face loss of credit for the assignment, out-of-school suspensions and/or loss of credit for the course...

Plagiarism, the failure to acknowledge the ideas of someone else, and submitting work that is not your own is considered cheating. It will not be tolerated in any school work...

Emphasis mine. Good thing for her that those Courier-Post articles weren't considered schoolwork, eh? Or were they?

In other Blair-related writings, Barry Lank wonders why we care who Moorestown's valedictorian is. DashSlot anticipates another lawsuit. And the BunkoSquad figures Blair's victory proves some people were born to be lawyers.

That last point is particularly interesting. After all, by attending Harvard, she's following in older brother Adam's footsteps. He graduated from there this past week, with a degree in history. (He's quite a cutie, isn't he?)

And, by declaring her major as pre-law, she's following in the footsteps of her father, New Jersey state Superior Court Judge Louis F. Hornstine. Right now, he's declining to comment on the plagiarism charges, which, considering that other people apparently lied about his previous statements, seems the wisest thing to do. Given his willingness to support his daughter's litiguous nature, I'd be surprised if Harvard refused to let Blair in. Harvard may be well-endowed, but I'm sure they're not willing to risk losing $2.7 million as well.

My comments appear to be down; as always, if you have any tips or info about this or any other education- and testing-related news, send it to number2pencilblog at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Update: Blogger Adam Tow has created a spoof trailer of "The Blair Hornstine Project" for you to watch! It requires QuickTime, which I don't have on this computer, so I'll have to wait a while to watch it. You can also go here for his most excellent summary of Blair's legal and educational adventures, including a detailed table of GPA analysis and the telling observation that signatures for the online petition to rescind her Harvard application surged after the plagiarism story broke.

Update #2: Turns out that the inspiration for Blair's "non-apology" wasn't all that original either. Reader Cameron did some Googling and discovered a 1997 article about footnoting that closes with the same Isaac Newton quote that Blair uses to introduce her explanation:

Blair Hornstine (opening lines):

"If I see further," wrote scientist Isaac Newton to his colleague Robert Hooke, "it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants."

This statement, meant to suggest that Newton's achievement had been predicated upon the discoveries and findings of his predecessors, underscores a fundamental academic truism that remains true even in our time. All knowledge is constructed upon scholarship bequeathed to us by past generations. Newton's statement, therefore, captures the very essence of academia, and it simultaneously highlights an often-overlooked, sometimes invisible, but tremendously significant part of scholarly research: the footnote.

"The Decline and Fall of Footnotes" in Stanford Magazine (last two paragraphs):

Ideally, footnotes are also a graceful acknowledgement that today's community of scholars is linked to and dependent on yesterday's community.As Sir Isaac Newton modestly noted in a letter to Robert Hooke, "If I have seen further [than you and Descartes] it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants." If Newton can be so generous, it should be easy for the modern scholar to acknowledge his or her intellectual debts.

The very word "scholar" has its root in the Latin "schola" or "school" and bespeaks a community or network of people striving together for understanding. "Footnotes are reminders that scholarship is an intrinsically communal enterprise--building on, revising or replacing the work of predecessors," noted Kenneth L. Woodward in Newsweek. Scholars are not "Lone Rangers going it alone.”

Posted by kswygert at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

The Blair Hornstine ProjectI've been

The Blair Hornstine Project

I've been sniffing about on the web for more stories about our favorite little plaintiff/lagiarist, Blair Hornstine. To start with, Metafilter has a huge thread entitled The Blair Hornstine Project. The links are the same as the ones that I've posted, and the comments are similar in nature (although perhaps a bit more deliciously nasty). The suggestion that Harvard should rescind her acceptance due to the plagiarized articles in the Courier-Post is bandied about here as well - the online petition urging Harvard to do so is still active, with over 2100 signatures, and yes, Harvard knows about the plagiarism, and the petition.

Turns out, too, that despite Blair's claim that she was unaware failing to footnote was wrong, she had signed a work agreement with the Courier-Post which stated that she would submit only original work. So, did she not pay attention to what she was signing, or did she earn a straight-A average without ever learning what the word "original" meant? While we all know that she paid close attention to the section of the Moorestown High School Handbook which states that, "The senior student with the highest seventh (7th) semester WGPA will be named the valedictorian," she seems to have missed this part altogether:

Academic Dishonesty / Cheating
Learning requires that students assume full and personal responsibility for their work. Unless otherwise directed, all assignments must be independently completed. Any student identified as having or using unauthorized aid, falsifying or providing false information and or copying other’s work will receive a grade of “O” for that assignment and/or may lose credit for the entire course at the discretion of the teacher and administration...

Students found to have cheated on any school exams, term papers, research assignments or class projects will face loss of credit for the assignment, out-of-school suspensions and/or loss of credit for the course...

Plagiarism, the failure to acknowledge the ideas of someone else, and submitting work that is not your own is considered cheating. It will not be tolerated in any school work...

Emphasis mine. Good thing for her that those Courier-Post articles weren't considered schoolwork, eh? Or were they?

In other Blair-related writings, Barry Lank wonders why we care who Moorestown's valedictorian is. DashSlot anticipates another lawsuit. And the BunkoSquad figures Blair's victory proves some people were born to be lawyers.

That last point is particularly interesting. After all, by attending Harvard, she's following in older brother Adam's footsteps. He graduated from there this past week, with a degree in history. (He's quite a cutie, isn't he?)

And, by declaring her major as pre-law, she's following in the footsteps of her father, New Jersey state Superior Court Judge Louis F. Hornstine. Right now, he's declining to comment on the plagiarism charges, which, considering that other people apparently lied about his previous statements, seems the wisest thing to do. Given his willingness to support his daughter's litiguous nature, I'd be surprised if Harvard refused to let Blair in. Harvard may be well-endowed, but I'm sure they're not willing to risk losing $2.7 million as well.

My comments appear to be down; as always, if you have any tips or info about this or any other education- and testing-related news, send it to number2pencilblog at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Update: Blogger Adam Tow has created a spoof trailer of "The Blair Hornstine Project" for you to watch! It requires QuickTime, which I don't have on this computer, so I'll have to wait a while to watch it. You can also go here for his most excellent summary of Blair's legal and educational adventures, including a detailed table of GPA analysis and the telling observation that signatures for the online petition to rescind her Harvard application surged after the plagiarism story broke.

Update #2: Turns out that the inspiration for Blair's "non-apology" wasn't all that original either. Reader Cameron did some Googling and discovered a 1997 article about footnoting that closes with the same Isaac Newton quote that Blair uses to introduce her explanation:

Blair Hornstine (opening lines):

"If I see further," wrote scientist Isaac Newton to his colleague Robert Hooke, "it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants."

This statement, meant to suggest that Newton's achievement had been predicated upon the discoveries and findings of his predecessors, underscores a fundamental academic truism that remains true even in our time. All knowledge is constructed upon scholarship bequeathed to us by past generations. Newton's statement, therefore, captures the very essence of academia, and it simultaneously highlights an often-overlooked, sometimes invisible, but tremendously significant part of scholarly research: the footnote.

"The Decline and Fall of Footnotes" in Stanford Magazine (last two paragraphs):

Ideally, footnotes are also a graceful acknowledgement that today's community of scholars is linked to and dependent on yesterday's community.As Sir Isaac Newton modestly noted in a letter to Robert Hooke, "If I have seen further [than you and Descartes] it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants." If Newton can be so generous, it should be easy for the modern scholar to acknowledge his or her intellectual debts.

The very word "scholar" has its root in the Latin "schola" or "school" and bespeaks a community or network of people striving together for understanding. "Footnotes are reminders that scholarship is an intrinsically communal enterprise--building on, revising or replacing the work of predecessors," noted Kenneth L. Woodward in Newsweek. Scholars are not "Lone Rangers going it alone.”

Posted by kswygert at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

The Blair Hornstine ProjectI've been

The Blair Hornstine Project

I've been sniffing about on the web for more stories about our favorite little plaintiff/lagiarist, Blair Hornstine. To start with, Metafilter has a huge thread entitled The Blair Hornstine Project. The links are the same as the ones that I've posted, and the comments are similar in nature (although perhaps a bit more deliciously nasty). The suggestion that Harvard should rescind her acceptance due to the plagiarized articles in the Courier-Post is bandied about here as well - the online petition urging Harvard to do so is still active, with over 2100 signatures, and yes, Harvard knows about the plagiarism, and the petition.

Turns out, too, that despite Blair's claim that she was unaware failing to footnote was wrong, she had signed a work agreement with the Courier-Post which stated that she would submit only original work. So, did she not pay attention to what she was signing, or did she earn a straight-A average without ever learning what the word "original" meant? While we all know that she paid close attention to the section of the Moorestown High School Handbook which states that, "The senior student with the highest seventh (7th) semester WGPA will be named the valedictorian," she seems to have missed this part altogether:

Academic Dishonesty / Cheating
Learning requires that students assume full and personal responsibility for their work. Unless otherwise directed, all assignments must be independently completed. Any student identified as having or using unauthorized aid, falsifying or providing false information and or copying other’s work will receive a grade of “O” for that assignment and/or may lose credit for the entire course at the discretion of the teacher and administration...

Students found to have cheated on any school exams, term papers, research assignments or class projects will face loss of credit for the assignment, out-of-school suspensions and/or loss of credit for the course...

Plagiarism, the failure to acknowledge the ideas of someone else, and submitting work that is not your own is considered cheating. It will not be tolerated in any school work...

Emphasis mine. Good thing for her that those Courier-Post articles weren't considered schoolwork, eh? Or were they?

In other Blair-related writings, Barry Lank wonders why we care who Moorestown's valedictorian is. DashSlot anticipates another lawsuit. And the BunkoSquad figures Blair's victory proves some people were born to be lawyers.

That last point is particularly interesting. After all, by attending Harvard, she's following in older brother Adam's footsteps. He graduated from there this past week, with a degree in history. (He's quite a cutie, isn't he?)

And, by declaring her major as pre-law, she's following in the footsteps of her father, New Jersey state Superior Court Judge Louis F. Hornstine. Right now, he's declining to comment on the plagiarism charges, which, considering that other people apparently lied about his previous statements, seems the wisest thing to do. Given his willingness to support his daughter's litiguous nature, I'd be surprised if Harvard refused to let Blair in. Harvard may be well-endowed, but I'm sure they're not willing to risk losing $2.7 million as well.

My comments appear to be down; as always, if you have any tips or info about this or any other education- and testing-related news, send it to number2pencilblog at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Update: Blogger Adam Tow has created a spoof trailer of "The Blair Hornstine Project" for you to watch! It requires QuickTime, which I don't have on this computer, so I'll have to wait a while to watch it. You can also go here for his most excellent summary of Blair's legal and educational adventures, including a detailed table of GPA analysis and the telling observation that signatures for the online petition to rescind her Harvard application surged after the plagiarism story broke.

Update #2: Turns out that the inspiration for Blair's "non-apology" wasn't all that original either. Reader Cameron did some Googling and discovered a 1997 article about footnoting that closes with the same Isaac Newton quote that Blair uses to introduce her explanation:

Blair Hornstine (opening lines):

"If I see further," wrote scientist Isaac Newton to his colleague Robert Hooke, "it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants."

This statement, meant to suggest that Newton's achievement had been predicated upon the discoveries and findings of his predecessors, underscores a fundamental academic truism that remains true even in our time. All knowledge is constructed upon scholarship bequeathed to us by past generations. Newton's statement, therefore, captures the very essence of academia, and it simultaneously highlights an often-overlooked, sometimes invisible, but tremendously significant part of scholarly research: the footnote.

"The Decline and Fall of Footnotes" in Stanford Magazine (last two paragraphs):

Ideally, footnotes are also a graceful acknowledgement that today's community of scholars is linked to and dependent on yesterday's community.As Sir Isaac Newton modestly noted in a letter to Robert Hooke, "If I have seen further [than you and Descartes] it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants." If Newton can be so generous, it should be easy for the modern scholar to acknowledge his or her intellectual debts.

The very word "scholar" has its root in the Latin "schola" or "school" and bespeaks a community or network of people striving together for understanding. "Footnotes are reminders that scholarship is an intrinsically communal enterprise--building on, revising or replacing the work of predecessors," noted Kenneth L. Woodward in Newsweek. Scholars are not "Lone Rangers going it alone.”

Posted by kswygert at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

High School Confidential High school

High School Confidential

High school blogger Lone Dissenter thought the SAT II's were "loads of fun", but came away from the multiple-choice items wondering if there was some subtle political brainwashing going on. She also believes that her school has made some changes in an effort to preserve the students' self-esteem, such as cutting the Junior Book Awards (that way, those who don't receive it won't feel bad) and removing the index page from the annual (so students who are only a few pages won't feel bad). Joanne Jacob's rejoinder is priceless:

"Perhaps they should run the same yearbook photo for every student to protect the unattractive from ego-shattering comparisons."

Man, I would have preferred that back then.

Rachel Lucas is on the warpath against a family that beat a teacher unconscious - because the teacher dared to discipline her student. For her, the feeling is somewhat personal:

...let me comment upon something. I used to do medical transcription for physical medicine doctors - they mostly treated people who'd been injured. At least twice a week, I'd come across a dictation for a teacher in one of those "alternative" schools, teachers who'd been attacked by the little punks they were trying to help...

It's not surprising that teachers in an alternative school program for troubled youngsters might be more at risk - terrible, but not surprising. The presence of the parent in all this, though, is just despicable. I'm glad that the courts are throwing the books at all three perpetrators.

Posted by kswygert at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

High School Confidential High school

High School Confidential

High school blogger Lone Dissenter thought the SAT II's were "loads of fun", but came away from the multiple-choice items wondering if there was some subtle political brainwashing going on. She also believes that her school has made some changes in an effort to preserve the students' self-esteem, such as cutting the Junior Book Awards (that way, those who don't receive it won't feel bad) and removing the index page from the annual (so students who are only a few pages won't feel bad). Joanne Jacob's rejoinder is priceless:

"Perhaps they should run the same yearbook photo for every student to protect the unattractive from ego-shattering comparisons."

Man, I would have preferred that back then.

Rachel Lucas is on the warpath against a family that beat a teacher unconscious - because the teacher dared to discipline her student. For her, the feeling is somewhat personal:

...let me comment upon something. I used to do medical transcription for physical medicine doctors - they mostly treated people who'd been injured. At least twice a week, I'd come across a dictation for a teacher in one of those "alternative" schools, teachers who'd been attacked by the little punks they were trying to help...

It's not surprising that teachers in an alternative school program for troubled youngsters might be more at risk - terrible, but not surprising. The presence of the parent in all this, though, is just despicable. I'm glad that the courts are throwing the books at all three perpetrators.

Posted by kswygert at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

High School Confidential High school

High School Confidential

High school blogger Lone Dissenter thought the SAT II's were "loads of fun", but came away from the multiple-choice items wondering if there was some subtle political brainwashing going on. She also believes that her school has made some changes in an effort to preserve the students' self-esteem, such as cutting the Junior Book Awards (that way, those who don't receive it won't feel bad) and removing the index page from the annual (so students who are only a few pages won't feel bad). Joanne Jacob's rejoinder is priceless:

"Perhaps they should run the same yearbook photo for every student to protect the unattractive from ego-shattering comparisons."

Man, I would have preferred that back then.

Rachel Lucas is on the warpath against a family that beat a teacher unconscious - because the teacher dared to discipline her student. For her, the feeling is somewhat personal:

...let me comment upon something. I used to do medical transcription for physical medicine doctors - they mostly treated people who'd been injured. At least twice a week, I'd come across a dictation for a teacher in one of those "alternative" schools, teachers who'd been attacked by the little punks they were trying to help...

It's not surprising that teachers in an alternative school program for troubled youngsters might be more at risk - terrible, but not surprising. The presence of the parent in all this, though, is just despicable. I'm glad that the courts are throwing the books at all three perpetrators.

Posted by kswygert at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

Who does better on high-stakes

Who does better on high-stakes exams?

A little while back, blogger Garett Moritz outlined Claude Steel's stereotype threat theory, and expressed his concern that the presence of stereotype threat might hinder minority test takers on such high-stakes exams as the LSAT. Edublogger John Rosenberg replied with an alternative take on Steele's theories (I'd linked to it previously), and Joanne Jacobs noted a Stanford experiment that seemed to indicate a beneficial effect of high-stakes exams on minority students. So Garrett's prepared a summary of the various takes on the stereotype threat theories, and explains why he thinks the Stanford study doesn't actually address test psychology:

I don't think Carnoy's study actually goes that far -- it's not really about the psychology of testing at all...If one looks beyond the headline of the Carnoy study to its mechanics, it turns out, I think, to be largely irrelevant to the Steele debate...The reason the white students didn't do better under "do or die" regimes than those without "do or die" competency testing is likely because such tests don't put as much pressure on them as a group. Generally attending better-funded schools in higher-property-tax areas, passing minimal competency "do or die" tests was a breeze for a higher proportion of white students -- after all, there is no such thing as a "pass plus" on a test where you either "do" or "die" -- so the imposition of that test had much less of an impact on them than those who actually had to work and learn new things in order to be prepared for the test. On my reading, Carnoy's study is about the effectiveness of educational incentive structures in states with schools and school systems of varying quality, not the psychology of testing and the effect of race on it at all.

Garrett also makes this statement:

The fact that certain testing regimes can benefit blacks and hispanics more than whites (Rosenberg's point in his comment) seems just as troubling to me as the fact that other testing regimes can trigger stereotype threat in blacks but not whites (or, in some math experiments, in whites but not in asians). The fact that different tests have differing impacts on various races is a cause for concern no matter who benefits....

Garrett believes the Carnoy study is still useful because it may be showing that poorly-performing schools, and the students in them, can indeed benefit from high-stakes testing. This interpretation of Carnoy's study suggests that tests may be race-neutral, but are still most likely not class- or income-neutral, and presumably students at poor schools will benefit from high-stakes exams no matter their skin color. However, I don't know if the Carnoy study separated out race and SES. Did minority students at those "better-funded schools in higher-property-tax areas" do the same as white students, or did they perform more like their counterparts at badly-funded schools? I'd need to know that before agreeing with Garett's conclusions.

Posted by kswygert at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

Who does better on high-stakes

Who does better on high-stakes exams?

A little while back, blogger Garett Moritz outlined Claude Steel's stereotype threat theory, and expressed his concern that the presence of stereotype threat might hinder minority test takers on such high-stakes exams as the LSAT. Edublogger John Rosenberg replied with an alternative take on Steele's theories (I'd linked to it previously), and Joanne Jacobs noted a Stanford experiment that seemed to indicate a beneficial effect of high-stakes exams on minority students. So Garrett's prepared a summary of the various takes on the stereotype threat theories, and explains why he thinks the Stanford study doesn't actually address test psychology:

I don't think Carnoy's study actually goes that far -- it's not really about the psychology of testing at all...If one looks beyond the headline of the Carnoy study to its mechanics, it turns out, I think, to be largely irrelevant to the Steele debate...The reason the white students didn't do better under "do or die" regimes than those without "do or die" competency testing is likely because such tests don't put as much pressure on them as a group. Generally attending better-funded schools in higher-property-tax areas, passing minimal competency "do or die" tests was a breeze for a higher proportion of white students -- after all, there is no such thing as a "pass plus" on a test where you either "do" or "die" -- so the imposition of that test had much less of an impact on them than those who actually had to work and learn new things in order to be prepared for the test. On my reading, Carnoy's study is about the effectiveness of educational incentive structures in states with schools and school systems of varying quality, not the psychology of testing and the effect of race on it at all.

Garrett also makes this statement:

The fact that certain testing regimes can benefit blacks and hispanics more than whites (Rosenberg's point in his comment) seems just as troubling to me as the fact that other testing regimes can trigger stereotype threat in blacks but not whites (or, in some math experiments, in whites but not in asians). The fact that different tests have differing impacts on various races is a cause for concern no matter who benefits....

Garrett believes the Carnoy study is still useful because it may be showing that poorly-performing schools, and the students in them, can indeed benefit from high-stakes testing. This interpretation of Carnoy's study suggests that tests may be race-neutral, but are still most likely not class- or income-neutral, and presumably students at poor schools will benefit from high-stakes exams no matter their skin color. However, I don't know if the Carnoy study separated out race and SES. Did minority students at those "better-funded schools in higher-property-tax areas" do the same as white students, or did they perform more like their counterparts at badly-funded schools? I'd need to know that before agreeing with Garett's conclusions.

Posted by kswygert at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

Who does better on high-stakes

Who does better on high-stakes exams?

A little while back, blogger Garett Moritz outlined Claude Steel's stereotype threat theory, and expressed his concern that the presence of stereotype threat might hinder minority test takers on such high-stakes exams as the LSAT. Edublogger John Rosenberg replied with an alternative take on Steele's theories (I'd linked to it previously), and Joanne Jacobs noted a Stanford experiment that seemed to indicate a beneficial effect of high-stakes exams on minority students. So Garrett's prepared a summary of the various takes on the stereotype threat theories, and explains why he thinks the Stanford study doesn't actually address test psychology:

I don't think Carnoy's study actually goes that far -- it's not really about the psychology of testing at all...If one looks beyond the headline of the Carnoy study to its mechanics, it turns out, I think, to be largely irrelevant to the Steele debate...The reason the white students didn't do better under "do or die" regimes than those without "do or die" competency testing is likely because such tests don't put as much pressure on them as a group. Generally attending better-funded schools in higher-property-tax areas, passing minimal competency "do or die" tests was a breeze for a higher proportion of white students -- after all, there is no such thing as a "pass plus" on a test where you either "do" or "die" -- so the imposition of that test had much less of an impact on them than those who actually had to work and learn new things in order to be prepared for the test. On my reading, Carnoy's study is about the effectiveness of educational incentive structures in states with schools and school systems of varying quality, not the psychology of testing and the effect of race on it at all.

Garrett also makes this statement:

The fact that certain testing regimes can benefit blacks and hispanics more than whites (Rosenberg's point in his comment) seems just as troubling to me as the fact that other testing regimes can trigger stereotype threat in blacks but not whites (or, in some math experiments, in whites but not in asians). The fact that different tests have differing impacts on various races is a cause for concern no matter who benefits....

Garrett believes the Carnoy study is still useful because it may be showing that poorly-performing schools, and the students in them, can indeed benefit from high-stakes testing. This interpretation of Carnoy's study suggests that tests may be race-neutral, but are still most likely not class- or income-neutral, and presumably students at poor schools will benefit from high-stakes exams no matter their skin color. However, I don't know if the Carnoy study separated out race and SES. Did minority students at those "better-funded schools in higher-property-tax areas" do the same as white students, or did they perform more like their counterparts at badly-funded schools? I'd need to know that before agreeing with Garett's conclusions.

Posted by kswygert at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

City of Brotherly Love? Non!A

City of Brotherly Love? Non!

A group of French teenagers have been told they cannot visit Philadelphia as a student exchange group this summer, because four of the US families withdrawn their offers to host the kids, and other host families could not guarantee that the children would not be greeted with "unpleasantness". The French kids are very upset, and a teacher at their school, the Jules-Fil Lycée is shocked and ashamed:

She said: "I couldn't believe it when I read the message. It took me a week to tell the children and their parents because I was so ashamed. The parents are frankly scandalised by this xenophobic view. We don't understand it. We have been friends with this school for many years and I am disappointed with their attitude and the fact that they cancelled the visit without any consultation or discussion and informed me in an email."

The email notification is a bit tacky, and it sounds like the whole thing may have been handled too brusquely. I can understand how some host parents feel that perhaps this summer is not the optimal one for French students to be visiting (especially when French wines may soon be banned from PA's state-run liquor stores). On the other hand, the kids are missing an opportunity to meet Americans and perhaps learn to understand the "xenophobia" that some Americans might have in response to the outrageous foreign policies of the French government.

Posted by kswygert at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

City of Brotherly Love? Non!A

City of Brotherly Love? Non!

A group of French teenagers have been told they cannot visit Philadelphia as a student exchange group this summer, because four of the US families withdrawn their offers to host the kids, and other host families could not guarantee that the children would not be greeted with "unpleasantness". The French kids are very upset, and a teacher at their school, the Jules-Fil Lycée is shocked and ashamed:

She said: "I couldn't believe it when I read the message. It took me a week to tell the children and their parents because I was so ashamed. The parents are frankly scandalised by this xenophobic view. We don't understand it. We have been friends with this school for many years and I am disappointed with their attitude and the fact that they cancelled the visit without any consultation or discussion and informed me in an email."

The email notification is a bit tacky, and it sounds like the whole thing may have been handled too brusquely. I can understand how some host parents feel that perhaps this summer is not the optimal one for French students to be visiting (especially when French wines may soon be banned from PA's state-run liquor stores). On the other hand, the kids are missing an opportunity to meet Americans and perhaps learn to understand the "xenophobia" that some Americans might have in response to the outrageous foreign policies of the French government.

Posted by kswygert at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

City of Brotherly Love? Non!A

City of Brotherly Love? Non!

A group of French teenagers have been told they cannot visit Philadelphia as a student exchange group this summer, because four of the US families withdrawn their offers to host the kids, and other host families could not guarantee that the children would not be greeted with "unpleasantness". The French kids are very upset, and a teacher at their school, the Jules-Fil Lycée is shocked and ashamed:

She said: "I couldn't believe it when I read the message. It took me a week to tell the children and their parents because I was so ashamed. The parents are frankly scandalised by this xenophobic view. We don't understand it. We have been friends with this school for many years and I am disappointed with their attitude and the fact that they cancelled the visit without any consultation or discussion and informed me in an email."

The email notification is a bit tacky, and it sounds like the whole thing may have been handled too brusquely. I can understand how some host parents feel that perhaps this summer is not the optimal one for French students to be visiting (especially when French wines may soon be banned from PA's state-run liquor stores). On the other hand, the kids are missing an opportunity to meet Americans and perhaps learn to understand the "xenophobia" that some Americans might have in response to the outrageous foreign policies of the French government.

Posted by kswygert at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2003

Number 2 Pencil Official Merchandise

Number 2 Pencil Official Merchandise Dept.

Devoted Reader and all-around sweetie Robin just sent me a mug. A mug festooned with No. 2 pencils, in fact, that Robin discovered at a yard sale. I don't have a digital camera with me so I don't have a photo to upload - but it's really cool. One of those super-tall ceramic coffee mugs that is better for holding pens and pencils than for drinking coffee. A digital photo of it would be really cool for my new site design, come to think of it.

Thanks, Robin. Your generosity is much appreciated.

Posted by kswygert at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

Number 2 Pencil Official Merchandise

Number 2 Pencil Official Merchandise Dept.

Devoted Reader and all-around sweetie Robin just sent me a mug. A mug festooned with No. 2 pencils, in fact, that Robin discovered at a yard sale. I don't have a digital camera with me so I don't have a photo to upload - but it's really cool. One of those super-tall ceramic coffee mugs that is better for holding pens and pencils than for drinking coffee. A digital photo of it would be really cool for my new site design, come to think of it.

Thanks, Robin. Your generosity is much appreciated.

Posted by kswygert at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

Number 2 Pencil Official Merchandise

Number 2 Pencil Official Merchandise Dept.

Devoted Reader and all-around sweetie Robin just sent me a mug. A mug festooned with No. 2 pencils, in fact, that Robin discovered at a yard sale. I don't have a digital camera with me so I don't have a photo to upload - but it's really cool. One of those super-tall ceramic coffee mugs that is better for holding pens and pencils than for drinking coffee. A digital photo of it would be really cool for my new site design, come to think of it.

Thanks, Robin. Your generosity is much appreciated.

Posted by kswygert at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

California school board votes against

California school board votes against advanced English class

The Mt. Diablo, CA, school board has voted down a ninth-grade pre-honors course in English, and those voting against the course did so because they don't believe in separating students based on academic ability. In other words, they don't believe in that evil tracking philosophy, in which students receive instruction that is better tailored to their abilities. They'll give students remedial courses if they require extra help - but the smarter students don't get the extra stimulation that they would enjoy:

Parents and students upset about that decision, showed up at the board meeting June 3 to speak during the public comment period, asking for reconsideration of the class. Sandy Walters, a Concord parent, said the district should provide courses that meet the needs of both remedial and advanced students. "We need to give students as diverse options as possible," she said

Pleasant Hill parent Lauren Unruh and daughter Julie said some bored advanced students are disruptive if not challenged. "It's basically a fallacy that kids who are little faster are going to make a class better," Unruh said. "I have experience with gifted failures. A significant amount of intelligent kids drop out of school because they think it's stupid." She said bright kids often feel isolated in basic classes, yet thrive when they are grouped with students who enjoy intellectual stimulation.

And Julie said advanced students can sometimes intimidate students who don't catch on quickly, by rushing the teacher and implying that the material is easy.

Although board president Gary Eberhart is quoted as opposing tracking, he also claimed that the real reason the class was voted down was so that the school could focus more on improving the skills of the poor performers. It's also clear that the only sort of advanced class that he would have approved would have been a class open to everyone - rather than a truly advanced class that students are tracked into based on prior performance.

Eberhart doesn't seem to be grasping the true meaning of "advanced" here. If the "advanced" class is made open to anyone, with no prerequisites, some students who are unqualified for it will get in, while other students who are qualified will be forced out. What will result is either a large number of unqualified students flunking out, or the course material being slowed down so everyone can grasp it, or both. At that point, it's no longer an advanced class - which is what Eberhart prefers, it seems.

Rachel Lucas has a much more satisfying rant on the topic. Category: Wankers.

Posted by kswygert at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

California school board votes against

California school board votes against advanced English class

The Mt. Diablo, CA, school board has voted down a ninth-grade pre-honors course in English, and those voting against the course did so because they don't believe in separating students based on academic ability. In other words, they don't believe in that evil tracking philosophy, in which students receive instruction that is better tailored to their abilities. They'll give students remedial courses if they require extra help - but the smarter students don't get the extra stimulation that they would enjoy:

Parents and students upset about that decision, showed up at the board meeting June 3 to speak during the public comment period, asking for reconsideration of the class. Sandy Walters, a Concord parent, said the district should provide courses that meet the needs of both remedial and advanced students. "We need to give students as diverse options as possible," she said

Pleasant Hill parent Lauren Unruh and daughter Julie said some bored advanced students are disruptive if not challenged. "It's basically a fallacy that kids who are little faster are going to make a class better," Unruh said. "I have experience with gifted failures. A significant amount of intelligent kids drop out of school because they think it's stupid." She said bright kids often feel isolated in basic classes, yet thrive when they are grouped with students who enjoy intellectual stimulation.

And Julie said advanced students can sometimes intimidate students who don't catch on quickly, by rushing the teacher and implying that the material is easy.

Although board president Gary Eberhart is quoted as opposing tracking, he also claimed that the real reason the class was voted down was so that the school could focus more on improving the skills of the poor performers. It's also clear that the only sort of advanced class that he would have approved would have been a class open to everyone - rather than a truly advanced class that students are tracked into based on prior performance.

Eberhart doesn't seem to be grasping the true meaning of "advanced" here. If the "advanced" class is made open to anyone, with no prerequisites, some students who are unqualified for it will get in, while other students who are qualified will be forced out. What will result is either a large number of unqualified students flunking out, or the course material being slowed down so everyone can grasp it, or both. At that point, it's no longer an advanced class - which is what Eberhart prefers, it seems.

Rachel Lucas has a much more satisfying rant on the topic. Category: Wankers.

Posted by kswygert at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

California school board votes against

California school board votes against advanced English class

The Mt. Diablo, CA, school board has voted down a ninth-grade pre-honors course in English, and those voting against the course did so because they don't believe in separating students based on academic ability. In other words, they don't believe in that evil tracking philosophy, in which students receive instruction that is better tailored to their abilities. They'll give students remedial courses if they require extra help - but the smarter students don't get the extra stimulation that they would enjoy:

Parents and students upset about that decision, showed up at the board meeting June 3 to speak during the public comment period, asking for reconsideration of the class. Sandy Walters, a Concord parent, said the district should provide courses that meet the needs of both remedial and advanced students. "We need to give students as diverse options as possible," she said

Pleasant Hill parent Lauren Unruh and daughter Julie said some bored advanced students are disruptive if not challenged. "It's basically a fallacy that kids who are little faster are going to make a class better," Unruh said. "I have experience with gifted failures. A significant amount of intelligent kids drop out of school because they think it's stupid." She said bright kids often feel isolated in basic classes, yet thrive when they are grouped with students who enjoy intellectual stimulation.

And Julie said advanced students can sometimes intimidate students who don't catch on quickly, by rushing the teacher and implying that the material is easy.

Although board president Gary Eberhart is quoted as opposing tracking, he also claimed that the real reason the class was voted down was so that the school could focus more on improving the skills of the poor performers. It's also clear that the only sort of advanced class that he would have approved would have been a class open to everyone - rather than a truly advanced class that students are tracked into based on prior performance.

Eberhart doesn't seem to be grasping the true meaning of "advanced" here. If the "advanced" class is made open to anyone, with no prerequisites, some students who are unqualified for it will get in, while other students who are qualified will be forced out. What will result is either a large number of unqualified students flunking out, or the course material being slowed down so everyone can grasp it, or both. At that point, it's no longer an advanced class - which is what Eberhart prefers, it seems.

Rachel Lucas has a much more satisfying rant on the topic. Category: Wankers.

Posted by kswygert at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

Jumping shipThis story by Steven

Jumping ship

This story by Steven den Beste has finally scared me enough that I'm going to get off of Blogger. If they can manage to lose the entire archives of the Chicago Boyz during the upgrade, they can lose mine. Dean Esmay has been very helpful and generous with his time and information, and hopefully, before long, Number 2 Pencil will move to a different domain and will be programmed in Moveable Type.

Better archives, better graphics, better name. Let's hope everything goes smoothly.

Posted by kswygert at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Jumping shipThis story by Steven

Jumping ship

This story by Steven den Beste has finally scared me enough that I'm going to get off of Blogger. If they can manage to lose the entire archives of the Chicago Boyz during the upgrade, they can lose mine. Dean Esmay has been very helpful and generous with his time and information, and hopefully, before long, Number 2 Pencil will move to a different domain and will be programmed in Moveable Type.

Better archives, better graphics, better name. Let's hope everything goes smoothly.

Posted by kswygert at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Jumping shipThis story by Steven

Jumping ship

This story by Steven den Beste has finally scared me enough that I'm going to get off of Blogger. If they can manage to lose the entire archives of the Chicago Boyz during the upgrade, they can lose mine. Dean Esmay has been very helpful and generous with his time and information, and hopefully, before long, Number 2 Pencil will move to a different domain and will be programmed in Moveable Type.

Better archives, better graphics, better name. Let's hope everything goes smoothly.

Posted by kswygert at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2003

The accomplished (but strangely familiar)

The accomplished (but strangely familiar) prose of Blair Hornstine

Oh my, looks like our favorite senior, Blair Hornstine, is in the news again - and not in a good way, either! This Newsday article compares various samples of Ms. Hornstine's writings, published in the Cherry Hill Courier-Times, with other essays and proclamation, each of which preceded her columns. The similarities are remarkable. All great minds think alike? Or is something more sinister at work? The comparison of the two essays on North Korea alone is startling.

Thanks to Devious Reader Matt B. for the link.

Update: Here's the link to her explanatory (as others have noted, not apologetic) comments related to the alleged plagiarism (thanks, Adam). In her comments she cites Isaac Newton (giving him full credit - at least this time) and babbles on about footnotes and how she is "not a professional journalist" but instead "a 17-year-old with no experience in writing newspaper articles." A 17-year-old valedictorian, in fact, who is just now realizing that lifting material without citing sources is plagiarism. I fail to see why we should appreciate her now-excellent grasp of why and how footnotes are used, given that she needed Newsday to point this out to her.

Does anyone else recognize the delicious irony in her statement that:

I am now cognizant that proper citation allows scholars of the future to constantly reevaluate and reexamine academic works. Footnotes provide not only an outline of the logic of the author, but also a detailed road map to the past. Like bread crumbs dropped along a path, footnotes and citations allow aspiring academics to follow previous scholarship to better enhance our general knowledge.

Just like, say, comparing her writings with near-identical sources allows us to "reevaluate and reexamine" her academic works, and better "enhance our general knowledge" about her true writing ability and academic honesty? Wonder what Harvard will think of this, given that (as Sean points out), an acceptance offer can be withdrawn if plagiarism is discovered? Wonder if Harvard is now taking a closer look at her application?

Update: Here's the Philadelphia Daily News summary of the plagiarism scandal, which also notes that Blair was not apologetic. And students at Harvard are already squabbling with each other over Blair's actions (and their right to judge them). Between Blair's zeal for legal action and her stickyfingered writing style, she's ensured that she will not enter Harvard as just another "face in the crowd".

While I'm on the topic, I do hate to see that the Daily News article mentions that Blair's house has been vandalized, and that the family has received death threats. Anyone who has nothing better to do with their time than phone in a death threat to the Hornstines is far, far more pathetic than the family they're threatening. I know none of my readers would ever consider doing anything that stupid (or immoral), but still.

Update: Blogger Adam of Throwing Things noted earlier today that Blair has notified Harvard of her plagiarism. The family's lawyer feels there is "nothing problematic" about her writings from Moorestown High. Will the Harvard admissions office agree?

Posted by kswygert at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

The accomplished (but strangely familiar)

The accomplished (but strangely familiar) prose of Blair Hornstine

Oh my, looks like our favorite senior, Blair Hornstine, is in the news again - and not in a good way, either! This Newsday article compares various samples of Ms. Hornstine's writings, published in the Cherry Hill Courier-Times, with other essays and proclamation, each of which preceded her columns. The similarities are remarkable. All great minds think alike? Or is something more sinister at work? The comparison of the two essays on North Korea alone is startling.

Thanks to Devious Reader Matt B. for the link.

Update: Here's the link to her explanatory (as others have noted, not apologetic) comments related to the alleged plagiarism (thanks, Adam). In her comments she cites Isaac Newton (giving him full credit - at least this time) and babbles on about footnotes and how she is "not a professional journalist" but instead "a 17-year-old with no experience in writing newspaper articles." A 17-year-old valedictorian, in fact, who is just now realizing that lifting material without citing sources is plagiarism. I fail to see why we should appreciate her now-excellent grasp of why and how footnotes are used, given that she needed Newsday to point this out to her.

Does anyone else recognize the delicious irony in her statement that:

I am now cognizant that proper citation allows scholars of the future to constantly reevaluate and reexamine academic works. Footnotes provide not only an outline of the logic of the author, but also a detailed road map to the past. Like bread crumbs dropped along a path, footnotes and citations allow aspiring academics to follow previous scholarship to better enhance our general knowledge.

Just like, say, comparing her writings with near-identical sources allows us to "reevaluate and reexamine" her academic works, and better "enhance our general knowledge" about her true writing ability and academic honesty? Wonder what Harvard will think of this, given that (as Sean points out), an acceptance offer can be withdrawn if plagiarism is discovered? Wonder if Harvard is now taking a closer look at her application?

Update: Here's the Philadelphia Daily News summary of the plagiarism scandal, which also notes that Blair was not apologetic. And students at Harvard are already squabbling with each other over Blair's actions (and their right to judge them). Between Blair's zeal for legal action and her stickyfingered writing style, she's ensured that she will not enter Harvard as just another "face in the crowd".

While I'm on the topic, I do hate to see that the Daily News article mentions that Blair's house has been vandalized, and that the family has received death threats. Anyone who has nothing better to do with their time than phone in a death threat to the Hornstines is far, far more pathetic than the family they're threatening. I know none of my readers would ever consider doing anything that stupid (or immoral), but still.

Update: Blogger Adam of Throwing Things noted earlier today that Blair has notified Harvard of her plagiarism. The family's lawyer feels there is "nothing problematic" about her writings from Moorestown High. Will the Harvard admissions office agree?

Posted by kswygert at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

The accomplished (but strangely familiar)

The accomplished (but strangely familiar) prose of Blair Hornstine

Oh my, looks like our favorite senior, Blair Hornstine, is in the news again - and not in a good way, either! This Newsday article compares various samples of Ms. Hornstine's writings, published in the Cherry Hill Courier-Times, with other essays and proclamation, each of which preceded her columns. The similarities are remarkable. All great minds think alike? Or is something more sinister at work? The comparison of the two essays on North Korea alone is startling.

Thanks to Devious Reader Matt B. for the link.

Update: Here's the link to her explanatory (as others have noted, not apologetic) comments related to the alleged plagiarism (thanks, Adam). In her comments she cites Isaac Newton (giving him full credit - at least this time) and babbles on about footnotes and how she is "not a professional journalist" but instead "a 17-year-old with no experience in writing newspaper articles." A 17-year-old valedictorian, in fact, who is just now realizing that lifting material without citing sources is plagiarism. I fail to see why we should appreciate her now-excellent grasp of why and how footnotes are used, given that she needed Newsday to point this out to her.

Does anyone else recognize the delicious irony in her statement that:

I am now cognizant that proper citation allows scholars of the future to constantly reevaluate and reexamine academic works. Footnotes provide not only an outline of the logic of the author, but also a detailed road map to the past. Like bread crumbs dropped along a path, footnotes and citations allow aspiring academics to follow previous scholarship to better enhance our general knowledge.

Just like, say, comparing her writings with near-identical sources allows us to "reevaluate and reexamine" her academic works, and better "enhance our general knowledge" about her true writing ability and academic honesty? Wonder what Harvard will think of this, given that (as Sean points out), an acceptance offer can be withdrawn if plagiarism is discovered? Wonder if Harvard is now taking a closer look at her application?

Update: Here's the Philadelphia Daily News summary of the plagiarism scandal, which also notes that Blair was not apologetic. And students at Harvard are already squabbling with each other over Blair's actions (and their right to judge them). Between Blair's zeal for legal action and her stickyfingered writing style, she's ensured that she will not enter Harvard as just another "face in the crowd".

While I'm on the topic, I do hate to see that the Daily News article mentions that Blair's house has been vandalized, and that the family has received death threats. Anyone who has nothing better to do with their time than phone in a death threat to the Hornstines is far, far more pathetic than the family they're threatening. I know none of my readers would ever consider doing anything that stupid (or immoral), but still.

Update: Blogger Adam of Throwing Things noted earlier today that Blair has notified Harvard of her plagiarism. The family's lawyer feels there is "nothing problematic" about her writings from Moorestown High. Will the Harvard admissions office agree?

Posted by kswygert at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

A compilation of depressing statistics...for

A compilation of depressing statistics

...for anyone who cares about the state of writing in education, that is. Using a variety of sources (including Public Agenda surveys, an ACT survey, a nationwide survey of high school teachers, and the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges report), The Heartland Institute has painted a mighty poor picture of the writing skills of U.S. students, and the even-more depressing reasons for it:

Most fourth-grade students spend less than three hours a week writing, which is approximately the same amount of time per day they spend watching television.

Nearly 66 percent of high school seniors do not write a three-page paper as often as once a month for their English teachers.

An overwhelming majority (95 percent) of teachers surveyed believe that writing a research term paper is important or very important; but three out of five (62 percent) never assign a paper of 3,000-5,000 words.

Out of six writing skills categories, grammar and usage rank first in importance at the college level [according to college faculty members], but last in importance at the high school level [by high school teachers], where they receive the least instructional attention.

...Half of today’s college freshmen must take at least one remedial course in college, with more than four in 10 of these taking a remedial course in writing. A 2002 Public Agenda survey reported three out of four employers and college professors rated public school graduates as having only “fair” or “poor” skills with regard to grammar, spelling, and writing clearly.

Only one in five professors of education said it is “absolutely essential” to produce teachers who stress correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Posted by kswygert at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

A compilation of depressing statistics...for

A compilation of depressing statistics

...for anyone who cares about the state of writing in education, that is. Using a variety of sources (including Public Agenda surveys, an ACT survey, a nationwide survey of high school teachers, and the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges report), The Heartland Institute has painted a mighty poor picture of the writing skills of U.S. students, and the even-more depressing reasons for it:

Most fourth-grade students spend less than three hours a week writing, which is approximately the same amount of time per day they spend watching television.

Nearly 66 percent of high school seniors do not write a three-page paper as often as once a month for their English teachers.

An overwhelming majority (95 percent) of teachers surveyed believe that writing a research term paper is important or very important; but three out of five (62 percent) never assign a paper of 3,000-5,000 words.

Out of six writing skills categories, grammar and usage rank first in importance at the college level [according to college faculty members], but last in importance at the high school level [by high school teachers], where they receive the least instructional attention.

...Half of today’s college freshmen must take at least one remedial course in college, with more than four in 10 of these taking a remedial course in writing. A 2002 Public Agenda survey reported three out of four employers and college professors rated public school graduates as having only “fair” or “poor” skills with regard to grammar, spelling, and writing clearly.

Only one in five professors of education said it is “absolutely essential” to produce teachers who stress correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Posted by kswygert at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

A compilation of depressing statistics...for

A compilation of depressing statistics

...for anyone who cares about the state of writing in education, that is. Using a variety of sources (including Public Agenda surveys, an ACT survey, a nationwide survey of high school teachers, and the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges report), The Heartland Institute has painted a mighty poor picture of the writing skills of U.S. students, and the even-more depressing reasons for it:

Most fourth-grade students spend less than three hours a week writing, which is approximately the same amount of time per day they spend watching television.

Nearly 66 percent of high school seniors do not write a three-page paper as often as once a month for their English teachers.

An overwhelming majority (95 percent) of teachers surveyed believe that writing a research term paper is important or very important; but three out of five (62 percent) never assign a paper of 3,000-5,000 words.

Out of six writing skills categories, grammar and usage rank first in importance at the college level [according to college faculty members], but last in importance at the high school level [by high school teachers], where they receive the least instructional attention.

...Half of today’s college freshmen must take at least one remedial course in college, with more than four in 10 of these taking a remedial course in writing. A 2002 Public Agenda survey reported three out of four employers and college professors rated public school graduates as having only “fair” or “poor” skills with regard to grammar, spelling, and writing clearly.

Only one in five professors of education said it is “absolutely essential” to produce teachers who stress correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Posted by kswygert at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

Texas: Good elementary schools, bad

Texas: Good elementary schools, bad high schools?

High schools in Texas are under-performing the elementary schools, according to this report in the Dallas Morning News. Writer Joshua Benton reports on the latest TAAS/TAKS scores, which show the high schools with passing rates 10 or 20 points lower than the elementary schools. He begins with some background on the two Texas exams:

To understand why high schools' problems have been hidden, you have to understand the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS, which debuted in 1990. TAAS measured only a basic set of skills – more basic than what most educators would consider "on grade level."

With each grade, the TAAS fell a little bit further behind grade level. The third-grade test, for instance, was a close approximation of what kids should know. But the high school test measured skills that students should have mastered in middle school. "The old 10th-grade TAAS test, I think everyone pretty much admitted, was roughly an eighth-grade test of basic math and reading skills," said Sandy Kress, a former Dallas school board president and Bush education adviser.

Since the high school TAAS expected less from students, it was easier for them to pass. Plus, students had to pass the high school TAAS to graduate, so students had a strong incentive to do well. The result: Under TAAS, passing rates looked about the same in every grade. The passing rates in high schools, middle schools and elementary schools were within 2 percentage points of each other in 2002, TAAS' final year...

So, on the TAAS, what was considered to be grade-level dropped over time, so that by the time a student was in 10th-grade, the grade level being measured (as compared to national standards, I assume) was the eighth grade. Let's move on...

The TAKS – the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – is a different matter. It's meant to be on grade level. For the first time, high school students are being tested on high school material, such as biology, American history and algebra.

Implication here being that the TAAS did not test any of those constructs? Interesting. Sad, but interesting.

As a result, the TAKS is harder than the TAAS at all grade levels – but for high schoolers, it's much harder. Last week's statewide scores bore this out. On the TAKS reading, writing and math tests, the average passing rate for students in grades three to five was 86.4 percent. In grades six to eight, it dropped to 81.6 percent. And in high schools, it was 70.8 percent.

Those scores match up with criticism that, despite rapidly climbing TAAS scores over the last decade, Texas' SAT scores are still low. Texas' average SAT score last year (991) ranked 48th of the 50 states.

So we've got an external validity measure - the correlation between reduced TAKS scores and the low average SAT scores. Although high school exams are usually not meant to measure college-entrance material, an true increase on high school exams often correlates with an increase in average SAT scores.

So why is this happening? Assuming for the moment that the TAKS standards are correctly set, and that the elementary standards are not too low, it does seem that the high schools in Texas might not be doing their job as well as the elementary schools. Joshua lists a few reasons, only one of which I disagree with. He states:

There's too much tracking. Unlike in lower grades where most students take similar classes, some high schoolers get put in boring, low-level classes with minimal expectations. It's tough for those kids to pass a more strenuous test such as the TAKS.

Yes, but what's the alternative? If all students are grouped together, the teacher will sacrifice spending more time with the gifted kids in order to spend more time with the poor performers. The problem isn't tracking; it's where the standards are set for the lowest track. And we seem to be willing to set the bar very, very low for our worst-performing high school students. Putting them into classes with the best students isn't a magic formula for improved performance; refusing to set pathetically-low standards, on the other, can do some good.

Posted by kswygert at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Texas: Good elementary schools, bad

Texas: Good elementary schools, bad high schools?

High schools in Texas are under-performing the elementary schools, according to this report in the Dallas Morning News. Writer Joshua Benton reports on the latest TAAS/TAKS scores, which show the high schools with passing rates 10 or 20 points lower than the elementary schools. He begins with some background on the two Texas exams:

To understand why high schools' problems have been hidden, you have to understand the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS, which debuted in 1990. TAAS measured only a basic set of skills – more basic than what most educators would consider "on grade level."

With each grade, the TAAS fell a little bit further behind grade level. The third-grade test, for instance, was a close approximation of what kids should know. But the high school test measured skills that students should have mastered in middle school. "The old 10th-grade TAAS test, I think everyone pretty much admitted, was roughly an eighth-grade test of basic math and reading skills," said Sandy Kress, a former Dallas school board president and Bush education adviser.

Since the high school TAAS expected less from students, it was easier for them to pass. Plus, students had to pass the high school TAAS to graduate, so students had a strong incentive to do well. The result: Under TAAS, passing rates looked about the same in every grade. The passing rates in high schools, middle schools and elementary schools were within 2 percentage points of each other in 2002, TAAS' final year...

So, on the TAAS, what was considered to be grade-level dropped over time, so that by the time a student was in 10th-grade, the grade level being measured (as compared to national standards, I assume) was the eighth grade. Let's move on...

The TAKS – the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – is a different matter. It's meant to be on grade level. For the first time, high school students are being tested on high school material, such as biology, American history and algebra.

Implication here being that the TAAS did not test any of those constructs? Interesting. Sad, but interesting.

As a result, the TAKS is harder than the TAAS at all grade levels – but for high schoolers, it's much harder. Last week's statewide scores bore this out. On the TAKS reading, writing and math tests, the average passing rate for students in grades three to five was 86.4 percent. In grades six to eight, it dropped to 81.6 percent. And in high schools, it was 70.8 percent.

Those scores match up with criticism that, despite rapidly climbing TAAS scores over the last decade, Texas' SAT scores are still low. Texas' average SAT score last year (991) ranked 48th of the 50 states.

So we've got an external validity measure - the correlation between reduced TAKS scores and the low average SAT scores. Although high school exams are usually not meant to measure college-entrance material, an true increase on high school exams often correlates with an increase in average SAT scores.

So why is this happening? Assuming for the moment that the TAKS standards are correctly set, and that the elementary standards are not too low, it does seem that the high schools in Texas might not be doing their job as well as the elementary schools. Joshua lists a few reasons, only one of which I disagree with. He states:

There's too much tracking. Unlike in lower grades where most students take similar classes, some high schoolers get put in boring, low-level classes with minimal expectations. It's tough for those kids to pass a more strenuous test such as the TAKS.

Yes, but what's the alternative? If all students are grouped together, the teacher will sacrifice spending more time with the gifted kids in order to spend more time with the poor performers. The problem isn't tracking; it's where the standards are set for the lowest track. And we seem to be willing to set the bar very, very low for our worst-performing high school students. Putting them into classes with the best students isn't a magic formula for improved performance; refusing to set pathetically-low standards, on the other, can do some good.

Posted by kswygert at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Texas: Good elementary schools, bad

Texas: Good elementary schools, bad high schools?

High schools in Texas are under-performing the elementary schools, according to this report in the Dallas Morning News. Writer Joshua Benton reports on the latest TAAS/TAKS scores, which show the high schools with passing rates 10 or 20 points lower than the elementary schools. He begins with some background on the two Texas exams:

To understand why high schools' problems have been hidden, you have to understand the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS, which debuted in 1990. TAAS measured only a basic set of skills – more basic than what most educators would consider "on grade level."

With each grade, the TAAS fell a little bit further behind grade level. The third-grade test, for instance, was a close approximation of what kids should know. But the high school test measured skills that students should have mastered in middle school. "The old 10th-grade TAAS test, I think everyone pretty much admitted, was roughly an eighth-grade test of basic math and reading skills," said Sandy Kress, a former Dallas school board president and Bush education adviser.

Since the high school TAAS expected less from students, it was easier for them to pass. Plus, students had to pass the high school TAAS to graduate, so students had a strong incentive to do well. The result: Under TAAS, passing rates looked about the same in every grade. The passing rates in high schools, middle schools and elementary schools were within 2 percentage points of each other in 2002, TAAS' final year...

So, on the TAAS, what was considered to be grade-level dropped over time, so that by the time a student was in 10th-grade, the grade level being measured (as compared to national standards, I assume) was the eighth grade. Let's move on...

The TAKS – the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – is a different matter. It's meant to be on grade level. For the first time, high school students are being tested on high school material, such as biology, American history and algebra.

Implication here being that the TAAS did not test any of those constructs? Interesting. Sad, but interesting.

As a result, the TAKS is harder than the TAAS at all grade levels – but for high schoolers, it's much harder. Last week's statewide scores bore this out. On the TAKS reading, writing and math tests, the average passing rate for students in grades three to five was 86.4 percent. In grades six to eight, it dropped to 81.6 percent. And in high schools, it was 70.8 percent.

Those scores match up with criticism that, despite rapidly climbing TAAS scores over the last decade, Texas' SAT scores are still low. Texas' average SAT score last year (991) ranked 48th of the 50 states.

So we've got an external validity measure - the correlation between reduced TAKS scores and the low average SAT scores. Although high school exams are usually not meant to measure college-entrance material, an true increase on high school exams often correlates with an increase in average SAT scores.

So why is this happening? Assuming for the moment that the TAKS standards are correctly set, and that the elementary standards are not too low, it does seem that the high schools in Texas might not be doing their job as well as the elementary schools. Joshua lists a few reasons, only one of which I disagree with. He states:

There's too much tracking. Unlike in lower grades where most students take similar classes, some high schoolers get put in boring, low-level classes with minimal expectations. It's tough for those kids to pass a more strenuous test such as the TAKS.

Yes, but what's the alternative? If all students are grouped together, the teacher will sacrifice spending more time with the gifted kids in order to spend more time with the poor performers. The problem isn't tracking; it's where the standards are set for the lowest track. And we seem to be willing to set the bar very, very low for our worst-performing high school students. Putting them into classes with the best students isn't a magic formula for improved performance; refusing to set pathetically-low standards, on the other, can do some good.

Posted by kswygert at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

"Test phobic" students out of

"Test phobic" students out of luck in New Jersey

For the past 12 years, students that repeatedly failed the HSPA, the required high school exit exam, in New Jersey had an alternate exam available to them. The exam, the SRA, was designed as an alternate for small numbers of students who had passed all their coursework yet were too "test phobic" (not a recognized disability, by the way) to pass the HSPA. However, this alternate pathway may soon be eliminated because the SRA was being - surprise! - overused:

The state may discontinue the use of an alternate exam...Students who fail the High School Proficiency Assessment test three times would [instead] receive a "certificate of attainment" instead of a diploma under a proposal announced Wednesday by Education Commissioner William Librera.

It would create a two-tiered diploma system that would recognize whether the student passed the HSPA, and includes more remedial programs to help students who fail the test..

In 2002, nearly 9,500 students - about 10 percent of those enrolled in New Jersey schools - were approved to use the SRA in their bid to graduate. Education officials suggested that cutting the test might motivate schools to work harder at teaching and encourage students to learn more about math and language arts, the subjects tested on the exams.

An alternate pathway that made allowances for "test phobia" being overused. Imagine that. Hard to believe that "test phobia" went from a tiny percentage to 10% of New Jersey's students, isn't it?

I want to know what criteria were used to determine if a student was phobic about tests. A psychologist's report? A self-report by the student? Or were passing scores on coursework coupled with lousy scores on the HSPA alone considered evidence? Any sort of disability allowance is open to abuse; in this case, even more so. I also want to know more about the SRA, and how the exam was designed to reduce "test phobia". Certainly, good test developers design tests that are not overly stressful for examinees, but I have a suspicion that the SRA was (a) pathetically easy, (b) allowed for reference book use, (c) given under no time limits, or (d) all of the above.

Update: Hey, why rest on suspicion? I decided to do some digging on the two Jersey exams. The administration manuals for both can be found here. The steps to bypass the HSPA and take the SRA are:

School personnel use the content and cluster information on the ISRs [Individual Student Reports] to determine if students are eligible for the SRA process. A student who receives a score of partially proficient in one or more HSPA content areas and is expected to complete all state and local graduation requirements in the twelfth grade (for a June or summer graduation) may take the SRA Performance Assessment Tasks (PATs) for those content areas.

Similarly, high school students enrolled in special programs for at risk, non-classified students or other non-graded categories, who have not passed one or more HSPA content areas may participate in the SRA process if they are expected to complete all state and local graduation requirements for a June or summer graduation when they reach twelfth grade status.

The SRA is an open-ended, panel-scored assessment. Interestingly, there's nothing about test phobias anywhere in this document. And it looks like the only real qualification allowing a student to take the SRA is ....failure to the pass the HSPA. So it's not so much an alternate path as a safety net (or loophole). What's more, if a disabled student is required to pass the HSPA, and they don't, they can take the SRA. SRA sections are untimed, and the student may take parts in multiple sessions.

Given this, I understand why the state might want to get rid of SRA. It's simply an easier exam - possibly a less stressful one - that's an option for any kid who doesn't pass the HSPA. It's not surprising that the number of students taking the SRA has risen. Who wouldn't rather take this option? This safety net calls the HSPA into question - after all, is isn't really a high-stakes exit exam if there's a solid alternative path in place, available to everyone, that allows the school to grant diplomas without passing HSPA scores.

I also found this set of recommendations from the New Jersey School Boards Association 2000 Ad Hoc Committee Meeting On Assessment. The association strongly recommends keeping the SRA - but they also suggest reducing the number of students who take that track. In particular, they suggest that ESL or LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students should be required to take the more challenging HSPA, but with extra time.

The document also notes that there weren't any guidelines in place at the time (nine years after the test became operational) to assess "the authenticity of the test administration, scoring, or, if appropriate, or the accuracy of any translation skills, etc". The result was that "virtually all SRAs [were] approved," which I mean believes that pretty much individual SRA that was developed for use was allowed.

Posted by kswygert at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

"Test phobic" students out of

"Test phobic" students out of luck in New Jersey

For the past 12 years, students that repeatedly failed the HSPA, the required high school exit exam, in New Jersey had an alternate exam available to them. The exam, the SRA, was designed as an alternate for small numbers of students who had passed all their coursework yet were too "test phobic" (not a recognized disability, by the way) to pass the HSPA. However, this alternate pathway may soon be eliminated because the SRA was being - surprise! - overused:

The state may discontinue the use of an alternate exam...Students who fail the High School Proficiency Assessment test three times would [instead] receive a "certificate of attainment" instead of a diploma under a proposal announced Wednesday by Education Commissioner William Librera.

It would create a two-tiered diploma system that would recognize whether the student passed the HSPA, and includes more remedial programs to help students who fail the test..

In 2002, nearly 9,500 students - about 10 percent of those enrolled in New Jersey schools - were approved to use the SRA in their bid to graduate. Education officials suggested that cutting the test might motivate schools to work harder at teaching and encourage students to learn more about math and language arts, the subjects tested on the exams.

An alternate pathway that made allowances for "test phobia" being overused. Imagine that. Hard to believe that "test phobia" went from a tiny percentage to 10% of New Jersey's students, isn't it?

I want to know what criteria were used to determine if a student was phobic about tests. A psychologist's report? A self-report by the student? Or were passing scores on coursework coupled with lousy scores on the HSPA alone considered evidence? Any sort of disability allowance is open to abuse; in this case, even more so. I also want to know more about the SRA, and how the exam was designed to reduce "test phobia". Certainly, good test developers design tests that are not overly stressful for examinees, but I have a suspicion that the SRA was (a) pathetically easy, (b) allowed for reference book use, (c) given under no time limits, or (d) all of the above.

Update: Hey, why rest on suspicion? I decided to do some digging on the two Jersey exams. The administration manuals for both can be found here. The steps to bypass the HSPA and take the SRA are:

School personnel use the content and cluster information on the ISRs [Individual Student Reports] to determine if students are eligible for the SRA process. A student who receives a score of partially proficient in one or more HSPA content areas and is expected to complete all state and local graduation requirements in the twelfth grade (for a June or summer graduation) may take the SRA Performance Assessment Tasks (PATs) for those content areas.

Similarly, high school students enrolled in special programs for at risk, non-classified students or other non-graded categories, who have not passed one or more HSPA content areas may participate in the SRA process if they are expected to complete all state and local graduation requirements for a June or summer graduation when they reach twelfth grade status.

The SRA is an open-ended, panel-scored assessment. Interestingly, there's nothing about test phobias anywhere in this document. And it looks like the only real qualification allowing a student to take the SRA is ....failure to the pass the HSPA. So it's not so much an alternate path as a safety net (or loophole). What's more, if a disabled student is required to pass the HSPA, and they don't, they can take the SRA. SRA sections are untimed, and the student may take parts in multiple sessions.

Given this, I understand why the state might want to get rid of SRA. It's simply an easier exam - possibly a less stressful one - that's an option for any kid who doesn't pass the HSPA. It's not surprising that the number of students taking the SRA has risen. Who wouldn't rather take this option? This safety net calls the HSPA into question - after all, is isn't really a high-stakes exit exam if there's a solid alternative path in place, available to everyone, that allows the school to grant diplomas without passing HSPA scores.

I also found this set of recommendations from the New Jersey School Boards Association 2000 Ad Hoc Committee Meeting On Assessment. The association strongly recommends keeping the SRA - but they also suggest reducing the number of students who take that track. In particular, they suggest that ESL or LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students should be required to take the more challenging HSPA, but with extra time.

The document also notes that there weren't any guidelines in place at the time (nine years after the test became operational) to assess "the authenticity of the test administration, scoring, or, if appropriate, or the accuracy of any translation skills, etc". The result was that "virtually all SRAs [were] approved," which I mean believes that pretty much individual SRA that was developed for use was allowed.

Posted by kswygert at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

"Test phobic" students out of

"Test phobic" students out of luck in New Jersey

For the past 12 years, students that repeatedly failed the HSPA, the required high school exit exam, in New Jersey had an alternate exam available to them. The exam, the SRA, was designed as an alternate for small numbers of students who had passed all their coursework yet were too "test phobic" (not a recognized disability, by the way) to pass the HSPA. However, this alternate pathway may soon be eliminated because the SRA was being - surprise! - overused:

The state may discontinue the use of an alternate exam...Students who fail the High School Proficiency Assessment test three times would [instead] receive a "certificate of attainment" instead of a diploma under a proposal announced Wednesday by Education Commissioner William Librera.

It would create a two-tiered diploma system that would recognize whether the student passed the HSPA, and includes more remedial programs to help students who fail the test..

In 2002, nearly 9,500 students - about 10 percent of those enrolled in New Jersey schools - were approved to use the SRA in their bid to graduate. Education officials suggested that cutting the test might motivate schools to work harder at teaching and encourage students to learn more about math and language arts, the subjects tested on the exams.

An alternate pathway that made allowances for "test phobia" being overused. Imagine that. Hard to believe that "test phobia" went from a tiny percentage to 10% of New Jersey's students, isn't it?

I want to know what criteria were used to determine if a student was phobic about tests. A psychologist's report? A self-report by the student? Or were passing scores on coursework coupled with lousy scores on the HSPA alone considered evidence? Any sort of disability allowance is open to abuse; in this case, even more so. I also want to know more about the SRA, and how the exam was designed to reduce "test phobia". Certainly, good test developers design tests that are not overly stressful for examinees, but I have a suspicion that the SRA was (a) pathetically easy, (b) allowed for reference book use, (c) given under no time limits, or (d) all of the above.

Update: Hey, why rest on suspicion? I decided to do some digging on the two Jersey exams. The administration manuals for both can be found here. The steps to bypass the HSPA and take the SRA are:

School personnel use the content and cluster information on the ISRs [Individual Student Reports] to determine if students are eligible for the SRA process. A student who receives a score of partially proficient in one or more HSPA content areas and is expected to complete all state and local graduation requirements in the twelfth grade (for a June or summer graduation) may take the SRA Performance Assessment Tasks (PATs) for those content areas.

Similarly, high school students enrolled in special programs for at risk, non-classified students or other non-graded categories, who have not passed one or more HSPA content areas may participate in the SRA process if they are expected to complete all state and local graduation requirements for a June or summer graduation when they reach twelfth grade status.

The SRA is an open-ended, panel-scored assessment. Interestingly, there's nothing about test phobias anywhere in this document. And it looks like the only real qualification allowing a student to take the SRA is ....failure to the pass the HSPA. So it's not so much an alternate path as a safety net (or loophole). What's more, if a disabled student is required to pass the HSPA, and they don't, they can take the SRA. SRA sections are untimed, and the student may take parts in multiple sessions.

Given this, I understand why the state might want to get rid of SRA. It's simply an easier exam - possibly a less stressful one - that's an option for any kid who doesn't pass the HSPA. It's not surprising that the number of students taking the SRA has risen. Who wouldn't rather take this option? This safety net calls the HSPA into question - after all, is isn't really a high-stakes exit exam if there's a solid alternative path in place, available to everyone, that allows the school to grant diplomas without passing HSPA scores.

I also found this set of recommendations from the New Jersey School Boards Association 2000 Ad Hoc Committee Meeting On Assessment. The association strongly recommends keeping the SRA - but they also suggest reducing the number of students who take that track. In particular, they suggest that ESL or LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students should be required to take the more challenging HSPA, but with extra time.

The document also notes that there weren't any guidelines in place at the time (nine years after the test became operational) to assess "the authenticity of the test administration, scoring, or, if appropriate, or the accuracy of any translation skills, etc". The result was that "virtually all SRAs [were] approved," which I mean believes that pretty much individual SRA that was developed for use was allowed.

Posted by kswygert at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

California exit exam one step

California exit exam one step closer to moving two steps back

The students of 2004 are soon to be off the hook. The California High School Exit Exam will not be required of students until the class of 2006 if the state senate passes a bill that just cleared the assembly:

It's a movement that has delighted state union leaders pushing for fewer tests, but it's not making legislators from North County and Southwest Riverside County very happy.

"There are tests in life that you have to pass, and this is just one of them," said Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, who represents Carmel Valley, Escondido, Poway, Rancho Bernardo and other parts of inland North County. "If you're a senior, you're becoming an adult and are about to enter the real world. The real world won't wait for you to pass its tests, so why should the schools?"

Leaders of the state's largest teachers union, which co-wrote the bill and originally tried to get rid of the exit exam requirement entirely, said they are pleased the Assembly voted late Tuesday to delay the test's do-or-die consequences. "Denying a student the right to graduate from high school based on one test is just wrong," said David Sanchez, vice president-elect of the California Teachers Association, speaking from Sacramento on his cell phone Wednesday.

The article mentions the usual suspects blathering about how the test is "unfair" to groups on which it has more of a negative impact, and the lawmakers' responses that any group differences which appear may be meaningful, and are in fact the point of the exam. Students have nine chances to pass this exam over four years. If they can't manage to do master reading, writing, and math in that time, something's broke, and it ain't the exam. If more Latinos than whites are failing the exam, something's broke, and it ain't the exam or the students. It's the school system that allows students to mark time in high school, with a diploma being awarded at the end regardless of effort or acheivement.

The bill also pushes testing back to third grade (it now begins in second grade) and would end cash awards for improved test scores. No information, though, about what changes are on tap to make the test more palatable - or more passable - by 2006. LA Times journalist Patt Morrison, though, has a witty and thoughtful take on how the test could be improved:

If America is so rich, why aren't we smart? Why can't we graduate students who can do percentages, figure out the meaning of a few paragraphs and have a clue how their own government operates?

And why can't anybody figure out how to figure out whether kids are learning anything in school?

The prospect of the test sent students and parents swarming out to picket high schools and chant, "Hey hey, ho ho, exit exams have got to go." (At least they have a grasp of the jingle.)

...Not all students are created equal, and neither are the tests. But that's hardly a reason to get rid of tests, or of standards. Tests should gauge the quality of the schools as much as the competence of the students. Better to find out at 16 that you need to work on your basic math or reading, than to wake up at 40 and realize that you're getting taken to the cleaners by your credit card interest rate, or that you still having trouble reading TV Guide.

...Houghton Mifflin has published a list of the 100 words every high school student should know. Antebellum, chromosome, hypotenuse, gerrymander, laissez faire, photosynthesis, suffragist — these are words that show the student has learned something about government, math, biology, history and economics.

The state Board of Education should have a look at this list. Forget the exit exam. If California's seniors understood three-quarters of these words, the state could congratulate itself on a job well done.

Posted by kswygert at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

California exit exam one step

California exit exam one step closer to moving two steps back

The students of 2004 are soon to be off the hook. The California High School Exit Exam will not be required of students until the class of 2006 if the state senate passes a bill that just cleared the assembly:

It's a movement that has delighted state union leaders pushing for fewer tests, but it's not making legislators from North County and Southwest Riverside County very happy.

"There are tests in life that you have to pass, and this is just one of them," said Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, who represents Carmel Valley, Escondido, Poway, Rancho Bernardo and other parts of inland North County. "If you're a senior, you're becoming an adult and are about to enter the real world. The real world won't wait for you to pass its tests, so why should the schools?"

Leaders of the state's largest teachers union, which co-wrote the bill and originally tried to get rid of the exit exam requirement entirely, said they are pleased the Assembly voted late Tuesday to delay the test's do-or-die consequences. "Denying a student the right to graduate from high school based on one test is just wrong," said David Sanchez, vice president-elect of the California Teachers Association, speaking from Sacramento on his cell phone Wednesday.

The article mentions the usual suspects blathering about how the test is "unfair" to groups on which it has more of a negative impact, and the lawmakers' responses that any group differences which appear may be meaningful, and are in fact the point of the exam. Students have nine chances to pass this exam over four years. If they can't manage to do master reading, writing, and math in that time, something's broke, and it ain't the exam. If more Latinos than whites are failing the exam, something's broke, and it ain't the exam or the students. It's the school system that allows students to mark time in high school, with a diploma being awarded at the end regardless of effort or acheivement.

The bill also pushes testing back to third grade (it now begins in second grade) and would end cash awards for improved test scores. No information, though, about what changes are on tap to make the test more palatable - or more passable - by 2006. LA Times journalist Patt Morrison, though, has a witty and thoughtful take on how the test could be improved:

If America is so rich, why aren't we smart? Why can't we graduate students who can do percentages, figure out the meaning of a few paragraphs and have a clue how their own government operates?

And why can't anybody figure out how to figure out whether kids are learning anything in school?

The prospect of the test sent students and parents swarming out to picket high schools and chant, "Hey hey, ho ho, exit exams have got to go." (At least they have a grasp of the jingle.)

...Not all students are created equal, and neither are the tests. But that's hardly a reason to get rid of tests, or of standards. Tests should gauge the quality of the schools as much as the competence of the students. Better to find out at 16 that you need to work on your basic math or reading, than to wake up at 40 and realize that you're getting taken to the cleaners by your credit card interest rate, or that you still having trouble reading TV Guide.

...Houghton Mifflin has published a list of the 100 words every high school student should know. Antebellum, chromosome, hypotenuse, gerrymander, laissez faire, photosynthesis, suffragist — these are words that show the student has learned something about government, math, biology, history and economics.

The state Board of Education should have a look at this list. Forget the exit exam. If California's seniors understood three-quarters of these words, the state could congratulate itself on a job well done.

Posted by kswygert at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

California exit exam one step

California exit exam one step closer to moving two steps back

The students of 2004 are soon to be off the hook. The California High School Exit Exam will not be required of students until the class of 2006 if the state senate passes a bill that just cleared the assembly:

It's a movement that has delighted state union leaders pushing for fewer tests, but it's not making legislators from North County and Southwest Riverside County very happy.

"There are tests in life that you have to pass, and this is just one of them," said Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, who represents Carmel Valley, Escondido, Poway, Rancho Bernardo and other parts of inland North County. "If you're a senior, you're becoming an adult and are about to enter the real world. The real world won't wait for you to pass its tests, so why should the schools?"

Leaders of the state's largest teachers union, which co-wrote the bill and originally tried to get rid of the exit exam requirement entirely, said they are pleased the Assembly voted late Tuesday to delay the test's do-or-die consequences. "Denying a student the right to graduate from high school based on one test is just wrong," said David Sanchez, vice president-elect of the California Teachers Association, speaking from Sacramento on his cell phone Wednesday.

The article mentions the usual suspects blathering about how the test is "unfair" to groups on which it has more of a negative impact, and the lawmakers' responses that any group differences which appear may be meaningful, and are in fact the point of the exam. Students have nine chances to pass this exam over four years. If they can't manage to do master reading, writing, and math in that time, something's broke, and it ain't the exam. If more Latinos than whites are failing the exam, something's broke, and it ain't the exam or the students. It's the school system that allows students to mark time in high school, with a diploma being awarded at the end regardless of effort or acheivement.

The bill also pushes testing back to third grade (it now begins in second grade) and would end cash awards for improved test scores. No information, though, about what changes are on tap to make the test more palatable - or more passable - by 2006. LA Times journalist Patt Morrison, though, has a witty and thoughtful take on how the test could be improved:

If America is so rich, why aren't we smart? Why can't we graduate students who can do percentages, figure out the meaning of a few paragraphs and have a clue how their own government operates?

And why can't anybody figure out how to figure out whether kids are learning anything in school?

The prospect of the test sent students and parents swarming out to picket high schools and chant, "Hey hey, ho ho, exit exams have got to go." (At least they have a grasp of the jingle.)

...Not all students are created equal, and neither are the tests. But that's hardly a reason to get rid of tests, or of standards. Tests should gauge the quality of the schools as much as the competence of the students. Better to find out at 16 that you need to work on your basic math or reading, than to wake up at 40 and realize that you're getting taken to the cleaners by your credit card interest rate, or that you still having trouble reading TV Guide.

...Houghton Mifflin has published a list of the 100 words every high school student should know. Antebellum, chromosome, hypotenuse, gerrymander, laissez faire, photosynthesis, suffragist — these are words that show the student has learned something about government, math, biology, history and economics.

The state Board of Education should have a look at this list. Forget the exit exam. If California's seniors understood three-quarters of these words, the state could congratulate itself on a job well done.

Posted by kswygert at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

Tougher teacher standards in the

Tougher teacher standards in the works

It's called the Ready to Teach Act of 2003, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), and it aims to improve education by toughening the requirements for states and teacher-preparation programs in their reporting of certification test passing rates. The goal is to get the teacher-certification programs in line with the federal requirements included in the NCLB act:

In a report released last year, Secretary of Education Rod Paige pronounced the nation's system for certifying teachers "broken"—undone by state standards that the agency said were both too lax academically, and saddled with unnecessarily burdensome licensing requirements.

In recent months, congressional lawmakers have reiterated those charges, voicing worries about high failure rates on state teacher-certification exams—and about whether schools were reporting scores accurately...that new requirement would bring more uniformity in how states and colleges report scores, supporters of the bill contend, and allow federal officials to more accurately judge the performance of teachers' colleges. Moreover, the bill would require states and institutions to offer far more detailed comparisons of the passing rates of different education schools and colleges.

Posted by kswygert at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Tougher teacher standards in the

Tougher teacher standards in the works

It's called the Ready to Teach Act of 2003, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), and it aims to improve education by toughening the requirements for states and teacher-preparation programs in their reporting of certification test passing rates. The goal is to get the teacher-certification programs in line with the federal requirements included in the NCLB act:

In a report released last year, Secretary of Education Rod Paige pronounced the nation's system for certifying teachers "broken"—undone by state standards that the agency said were both too lax academically, and saddled with unnecessarily burdensome licensing requirements.

In recent months, congressional lawmakers have reiterated those charges, voicing worries about high failure rates on state teacher-certification exams—and about whether schools were reporting scores accurately...that new requirement would bring more uniformity in how states and colleges report scores, supporters of the bill contend, and allow federal officials to more accurately judge the performance of teachers' colleges. Moreover, the bill would require states and institutions to offer far more detailed comparisons of the passing rates of different education schools and colleges.

Posted by kswygert at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Tougher teacher standards in the

Tougher teacher standards in the works

It's called the Ready to Teach Act of 2003, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), and it aims to improve education by toughening the requirements for states and teacher-preparation programs in their reporting of certification test passing rates. The goal is to get the teacher-certification programs in line with the federal requirements included in the NCLB act:

In a report released last year, Secretary of Education Rod Paige pronounced the nation's system for certifying teachers "broken"—undone by state standards that the agency said were both too lax academically, and saddled with unnecessarily burdensome licensing requirements.

In recent months, congressional lawmakers have reiterated those charges, voicing worries about high failure rates on state teacher-certification exams—and about whether schools were reporting scores accurately...that new requirement would bring more uniformity in how states and colleges report scores, supporters of the bill contend, and allow federal officials to more accurately judge the performance of teachers' colleges. Moreover, the bill would require states and institutions to offer far more detailed comparisons of the passing rates of different education schools and colleges.

Posted by kswygert at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Teachers' conflicted viewpoints about testingToday's

Teachers' conflicted viewpoints about testing

Today's teacher's are feeling like scapegoats, says a new survey by the opinion research organization Public Agenda. While that group sense of frustration may not be surprising (or unjustified), what is surprising is the amount of support among teachers for high-stakes tests and high standards - coupled, of course, with a healthy amount of skepticism:

Teachers voice strong support for high academic standards and 87% say students should pass a standardized test to be promoted.

But they are clearly grappling with the pros and cons of current testing policies. Most (53%) say that standardized tests are "seriously flawed," and 1 in 6 would abandon testing completely. Just 18% say tests are meaningful and their district uses them well. But in the end, most agree that schools need at least some kind of standardized assessment.

Teachers worry about how tests are currently being used. A St. Louis teacher complained, "…we’ll have students who will come into the high school with an inability to read—-they can’t add or subtract-—and we’re supposed to perform miracles…"

"It’s just not possible," according to the teachers in the study "to single-handedly overcome all of the hurdles that invariably seep into their classroom." Only 11% of teachers are very confident that their hardest-to-reach students will be successful by the end of the year.

Posted by kswygert at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

Teachers' conflicted viewpoints about testingToday's

Teachers' conflicted viewpoints about testing

Today's teacher's are feeling like scapegoats, says a new survey by the opinion research organization Public Agenda. While that group sense of frustration may not be surprising (or unjustified), what is surprising is the amount of support among teachers for high-stakes tests and high standards - coupled, of course, with a healthy amount of skepticism:

Teachers voice strong support for high academic standards and 87% say students should pass a standardized test to be promoted.

But they are clearly grappling with the pros and cons of current testing policies. Most (53%) say that standardized tests are "seriously flawed," and 1 in 6 would abandon testing completely. Just 18% say tests are meaningful and their district uses them well. But in the end, most agree that schools need at least some kind of standardized assessment.

Teachers worry about how tests are currently being used. A St. Louis teacher complained, "…we’ll have students who will come into the high school with an inability to read—-they can’t add or subtract-—and we’re supposed to perform miracles…"

"It’s just not possible," according to the teachers in the study "to single-handedly overcome all of the hurdles that invariably seep into their classroom." Only 11% of teachers are very confident that their hardest-to-reach students will be successful by the end of the year.

Posted by kswygert at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

Teachers' conflicted viewpoints about testingToday's

Teachers' conflicted viewpoints about testing

Today's teacher's are feeling like scapegoats, says a new survey by the opinion research organization Public Agenda. While that group sense of frustration may not be surprising (or unjustified), what is surprising is the amount of support among teachers for high-stakes tests and high standards - coupled, of course, with a healthy amount of skepticism:

Teachers voice strong support for high academic standards and 87% say students should pass a standardized test to be promoted.

But they are clearly grappling with the pros and cons of current testing policies. Most (53%) say that standardized tests are "seriously flawed," and 1 in 6 would abandon testing completely. Just 18% say tests are meaningful and their district uses them well. But in the end, most agree that schools need at least some kind of standardized assessment.

Teachers worry about how tests are currently being used. A St. Louis teacher complained, "…we’ll have students who will come into the high school with an inability to read—-they can’t add or subtract-—and we’re supposed to perform miracles…"

"It’s just not possible," according to the teachers in the study "to single-handedly overcome all of the hurdles that invariably seep into their classroom." Only 11% of teachers are very confident that their hardest-to-reach students will be successful by the end of the year.

Posted by kswygert at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

Kindergarden teacher resigns over testingMs.

Kindergarden teacher resigns over testing

Ms. Laurin MacLeish is a former kindergarden teacher at Lake Silver Elementary in Orange County, Florida. In 1998, she was named Orange County teacher of the year; in 2003, after 32 years of teaching, she is retiring in protest of state testing (free registration may be required):

Through it all, no one has a better time than Ms. MacLeish. In the video highlights, the person with the biggest smile at the field trip to the zoo, at the Halloween party ("Look at Ms. MacLeish! She's a butterfly!"), at the 100th-day-of-school celebration, is Ms. MacLeish...Being in Ms. MacLeish's class is like living in a Broadway musical where people walking down the street routinely burst into song...If someone wears new shoes, they sing the New Shoe song. "Would you rather read this or sing it?" Ms. MacLeish asked, pointing to the board, and — with Ms. MacLeish leading on the autoharp — the children burst out singing "K Is for Kindergarten Hip Hip Hooray."

...so it is easy to imagine all the broken hearts this spring when Ms. MacLeish, 53, sent a letter home saying this would be her last year teaching kindergarten. It was no ordinary goodbye letter. Ms. MacLeish was m-a-d... "A single high-stakes test score is now measuring Florida's children, leaving little time to devote to their character or potential or talents or depth of knowledge," she wrote. "Kindergarten teachers throughout the state have replaced valued learning centers (home center, art center, blocks, dramatic play) with paper and pencil tasks, dittos, coloring sheets, scripted lessons, workbook pages."

The breaking point for Ms. MacLeish was an article in the paper praising a kindergarten teacher who had eliminated her play centers and was doing reading drills, all part of a push to help her school get a higher grade on the annual state report card...

...she's never seen so much state and federal intrusion into the classroom and can watch the testing moving her way. The fourth-grade test used to be the big deal for Florida school report cards. Now it is the third-grade test, used to determine retention. This year, for the first time, Ms. MacLeish had to spend two days giving state tests to kindergartners to establish base-line scores. "The wolf is at the door," she said. "I must get out before it gets me."

Ms. MacLeish sounds like a fine teacher, someone with the energy and innovation - and intelligence - to focus children into productive play time (and allow some silly play time as well). It's understandable that she would be frustrated, but it seems that she's been able to teach her kids to read just fine without eliminating play centers. If some teachers are indeed focusing more on reading drills in kindergarden, it's understandable, because we've discovered how many of Florida's children have already fallen behind by the third grade. Teachers who never really focused on teaching reading are now having to scramble to develop a change in curriculum.

I don't mean to be unsympathetic - but two days of testing in the entire year of kindergarden, just to establish some baseline scores, really doesn't sound that demanding. It doesn't appear that testing schedule is forcing teachers to remove play time, but rather, now that the standards have been changed, kindergarden teachers who were never really taught how to teach kids to read are now panicking and trying to focus on reading. The standards are driving this change, not the testing (although the NYT article focuses only on the tests).

Ms. MacLeish seems to be so great with kids that it's a shame to see her resign over this. Perhaps she could teach other kindergarden teachers to be as effective as she was, so that kids who spend a great deal of time playing also learn to read.

Posted by kswygert at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

Kindergarden teacher resigns over testingMs.

Kindergarden teacher resigns over testing

Ms. Laurin MacLeish is a former kindergarden teacher at Lake Silver Elementary in Orange County, Florida. In 1998, she was named Orange County teacher of the year; in 2003, after 32 years of teaching, she is retiring in protest of state testing (free registration may be required):

Through it all, no one has a better time than Ms. MacLeish. In the video highlights, the person with the biggest smile at the field trip to the zoo, at the Halloween party ("Look at Ms. MacLeish! She's a butterfly!"), at the 100th-day-of-school celebration, is Ms. MacLeish...Being in Ms. MacLeish's class is like living in a Broadway musical where people walking down the street routinely burst into song...If someone wears new shoes, they sing the New Shoe song. "Would you rather read this or sing it?" Ms. MacLeish asked, pointing to the board, and — with Ms. MacLeish leading on the autoharp — the children burst out singing "K Is for Kindergarten Hip Hip Hooray."

...so it is easy to imagine all the broken hearts this spring when Ms. MacLeish, 53, sent a letter home saying this would be her last year teaching kindergarten. It was no ordinary goodbye letter. Ms. MacLeish was m-a-d... "A single high-stakes test score is now measuring Florida's children, leaving little time to devote to their character or potential or talents or depth of knowledge," she wrote. "Kindergarten teachers throughout the state have replaced valued learning centers (home center, art center, blocks, dramatic play) with paper and pencil tasks, dittos, coloring sheets, scripted lessons, workbook pages."

The breaking point for Ms. MacLeish was an article in the paper praising a kindergarten teacher who had eliminated her play centers and was doing reading drills, all part of a push to help her school get a higher grade on the annual state report card...

...she's never seen so much state and federal intrusion into the classroom and can watch the testing moving her way. The fourth-grade test used to be the big deal for Florida school report cards. Now it is the third-grade test, used to determine retention. This year, for the first time, Ms. MacLeish had to spend two days giving state tests to kindergartners to establish base-line scores. "The wolf is at the door," she said. "I must get out before it gets me."

Ms. MacLeish sounds like a fine teacher, someone with the energy and innovation - and intelligence - to focus children into productive play time (and allow some silly play time as well). It's understandable that she would be frustrated, but it seems that she's been able to teach her kids to read just fine without eliminating play centers. If some teachers are indeed focusing more on reading drills in kindergarden, it's understandable, because we've discovered how many of Florida's children have already fallen behind by the third grade. Teachers who never really focused on teaching reading are now having to scramble to develop a change in curriculum.

I don't mean to be unsympathetic - but two days of testing in the entire year of kindergarden, just to establish some baseline scores, really doesn't sound that demanding. It doesn't appear that testing schedule is forcing teachers to remove play time, but rather, now that the standards have been changed, kindergarden teachers who were never really taught how to teach kids to read are now panicking and trying to focus on reading. The standards are driving this change, not the testing (although the NYT article focuses only on the tests).

Ms. MacLeish seems to be so great with kids that it's a shame to see her resign over this. Perhaps she could teach other kindergarden teachers to be as effective as she was, so that kids who spend a great deal of time playing also learn to read.

Posted by kswygert at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

Kindergarden teacher resigns over testingMs.

Kindergarden teacher resigns over testing

Ms. Laurin MacLeish is a former kindergarden teacher at Lake Silver Elementary in Orange County, Florida. In 1998, she was named Orange County teacher of the year; in 2003, after 32 years of teaching, she is retiring in protest of state testing (free registration may be required):

Through it all, no one has a better time than Ms. MacLeish. In the video highlights, the person with the biggest smile at the field trip to the zoo, at the Halloween party ("Look at Ms. MacLeish! She's a butterfly!"), at the 100th-day-of-school celebration, is Ms. MacLeish...Being in Ms. MacLeish's class is like living in a Broadway musical where people walking down the street routinely burst into song...If someone wears new shoes, they sing the New Shoe song. "Would you rather read this or sing it?" Ms. MacLeish asked, pointing to the board, and — with Ms. MacLeish leading on the autoharp — the children burst out singing "K Is for Kindergarten Hip Hip Hooray."

...so it is easy to imagine all the broken hearts this spring when Ms. MacLeish, 53, sent a letter home saying this would be her last year teaching kindergarten. It was no ordinary goodbye letter. Ms. MacLeish was m-a-d... "A single high-stakes test score is now measuring Florida's children, leaving little time to devote to their character or potential or talents or depth of knowledge," she wrote. "Kindergarten teachers throughout the state have replaced valued learning centers (home center, art center, blocks, dramatic play) with paper and pencil tasks, dittos, coloring sheets, scripted lessons, workbook pages."

The breaking point for Ms. MacLeish was an article in the paper praising a kindergarten teacher who had eliminated her play centers and was doing reading drills, all part of a push to help her school get a higher grade on the annual state report card...

...she's never seen so much state and federal intrusion into the classroom and can watch the testing moving her way. The fourth-grade test used to be the big deal for Florida school report cards. Now it is the third-grade test, used to determine retention. This year, for the first time, Ms. MacLeish had to spend two days giving state tests to kindergartners to establish base-line scores. "The wolf is at the door," she said. "I must get out before it gets me."

Ms. MacLeish sounds like a fine teacher, someone with the energy and innovation - and intelligence - to focus children into productive play time (and allow some silly play time as well). It's understandable that she would be frustrated, but it seems that she's been able to teach her kids to read just fine without eliminating play centers. If some teachers are indeed focusing more on reading drills in kindergarden, it's understandable, because we've discovered how many of Florida's children have already fallen behind by the third grade. Teachers who never really focused on teaching reading are now having to scramble to develop a change in curriculum.

I don't mean to be unsympathetic - but two days of testing in the entire year of kindergarden, just to establish some baseline scores, really doesn't sound that demanding. It doesn't appear that testing schedule is forcing teachers to remove play time, but rather, now that the standards have been changed, kindergarden teachers who were never really taught how to teach kids to read are now panicking and trying to focus on reading. The standards are driving this change, not the testing (although the NYT article focuses only on the tests).

Ms. MacLeish seems to be so great with kids that it's a shame to see her resign over this. Perhaps she could teach other kindergarden teachers to be as effective as she was, so that kids who spend a great deal of time playing also learn to read.

Posted by kswygert at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

June 03, 2003

BleaghSomething must be going around.

Bleagh

Something must be going around. A mild gastroenteritis, a baby version of SARS, something. Whatever it is, I have it. My friends have been sick. Coworkers have been sick. Even other bloggers are falling ill. I don't have the coughing fits that Steven Den Beste is enduring, but I do have some rather uncontrollable expectorations of a, um, slightly more disgusting nature.

Blogging will resume once I get well, or RCN installs an internet connection in my bathroom, whichever comes first.

Posted by kswygert at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

BleaghSomething must be going around.

Bleagh

Something must be going around. A mild gastroenteritis, a baby version of SARS, something. Whatever it is, I have it. My friends have been sick. Coworkers have been sick. Even other bloggers are falling ill. I don't have the coughing fits that Steven Den Beste is enduring, but I do have some rather uncontrollable expectorations of a, um, slightly more disgusting nature.

Blogging will resume once I get well, or RCN installs an internet connection in my bathroom, whichever comes first.

Posted by kswygert at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

BleaghSomething must be going around.

Bleagh

Something must be going around. A mild gastroenteritis, a baby version of SARS, something. Whatever it is, I have it. My friends have been sick. Coworkers have been sick. Even other bloggers are falling ill. I don't have the coughing fits that Steven Den Beste is enduring, but I do have some rather uncontrollable expectorations of a, um, slightly more disgusting nature.

Blogging will resume once I get well, or RCN installs an internet connection in my bathroom, whichever comes first.

Posted by kswygert at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2003

The rise of the academic bloggers

There's a nifty article over on the freebie page of the Chronicle of Higher Education about scholars who have become bloggers. Law prof Glenn Reynolds, of course, gets a mention (thanks to that six-figure daily hit count), but it's good to see The OxBlog students and local professor Erin O'Connor get a mention.

Posted by kswygert at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

The rise of the academic

The rise of the academic bloggers

There's a nifty article over on the freebie page of the Chronicle of Higher Education about scholars who have become bloggers. Law prof Glenn Reynolds, of course, gets a mention (thanks to that six-figure daily hit count), but it's good to see The OxBlog students and local professor Erin O'Connor get a mention.

Posted by kswygert at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

The rise of the academic

The rise of the academic bloggers

There's a nifty article over on the freebie page of the Chronicle of Higher Education about scholars who have become bloggers. Law prof Glenn Reynolds, of course, gets a mention (thanks to that six-figure daily hit count), but it's good to see The OxBlog students and local professor Erin O'Connor get a mention.

Posted by kswygert at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

And now for something completely different

Umf. Monday afternoon. Brain already dead. Weird fatigue setting in. Coffee not working. This is not good.

Good thing my salve for wandering brain is right at hand - eBay. It's a way to sit back and ponder the oddness of the universe, one auction at a time.

Did you know that Mattel once made a carrying case just for Ken? Can you explain to me why they made it in lilac?

Update: Well, this mental fatigue was obviously the preliminary stages of the yucky stomach virus that I caught. I still think there's no excuse for that carrying case, though.

Posted by kswygert at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

And now for something completely

And now for something completely different

Umf. Monday afternoon. Brain already dead. Weird fatigue setting in. Coffee not working. This is not good.

Good thing my salve for wandering brain is right at hand - eBay. It's a way to sit back and ponder the oddness of the universe, one auction at a time.

Did you know that Mattel once made a carrying case just for Ken? Can you explain to me why they made it in lilac?

Update: Well, this mental fatigue was obviously the preliminary stages of the yucky stomach virus that I caught. I still think there's no excuse for that carrying case, though.

Posted by kswygert at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

And now for something completely

And now for something completely different

Umf. Monday afternoon. Brain already dead. Weird fatigue setting in. Coffee not working. This is not good.

Good thing my salve for wandering brain is right at hand - eBay. It's a way to sit back and ponder the oddness of the universe, one auction at a time.

Did you know that Mattel once made a carrying case just for Ken? Can you explain to me why they made it in lilac?

Update: Well, this mental fatigue was obviously the preliminary stages of the yucky stomach virus that I caught. I still think there's no excuse for that carrying case, though.

Posted by kswygert at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Make the punishment fit the crime

A group of seniors in a Denver high school, which includes the class valedictorian, have been banned from their graduation ceremony. Drug use? Violence on school grounds? Making threatening statements?

Nope - for tossing water balloons at fellow students after a school assembly. This apparently stirred up quite a bit of trouble, as later in the day someone let loose some white mice, and some "dog doo" was smeared on a vending machine.

Principal Barrows rejected the offer of the guilty parties to "publicly apologize, clean the school and do community service to pay for what they admit was a mistake." Apparently, that's not enough, so they'll miss their once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. For tossing water balloons. And some contend that students who weren't even there are being unjustly punished. Good grief.

I remember at my high school, every year, there was a senior prank, and as far as I know, no guilty parties were ever punished (perhaps they were never caught, or were not as honest as the Denver students, some of whom volunteered incriminating evidence). One memorable year, a Hefty bag full of crickets was deposited beneath the teacher's table in the cafeteria during lunch hour. How the pranksters did this without being detected, I don't know, but I sure lost my appetite for my lunch that day (others lost their lunch altogether).

I was seated right next to this table, and I still have this picture in my mind of a few stalwart teachers patiently finishing their lunches, refusing to rise to the bait (heh), with looks on their faces like, "Ah, kids, maybe if we ignore their immature games, they'll grow out of it." As if ignoring a metric ton of chirping insects right under their feet, on the table, and in their food were possible. And no one sued the school. Imagine that.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how it was possible to obtain that many crickets, the school was near a huge lake with a lot of fishing supply and bait stores. Crickets were available by the gallon. And thanks to Daryl, who posted this before I did.

Posted by kswygert at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

Make the punishment fit the

Make the punishment fit the crime

A group of seniors in a Denver high school, which includes the class valedictorian, have been banned from their graduation ceremony. Drug use? Violence on school grounds? Making threatening statements?

Nope - for tossing water balloons at fellow students after a school assembly. This apparently stirred up quite a bit of trouble, as later in the day someone let loose some white mice, and some "dog doo" was smeared on a vending machine.

Principal Barrows rejected the offer of the guilty parties to "publicly apologize, clean the school and do community service to pay for what they admit was a mistake." Apparently, that's not enough, so they'll miss their once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. For tossing water balloons. And some contend that students who weren't even there are being unjustly punished. Good grief.

I remember at my high school, every year, there was a senior prank, and as far as I know, no guilty parties were ever punished (perhaps they were never caught, or were not as honest as the Denver students, some of whom volunteered incriminating evidence). One memorable year, a Hefty bag full of crickets was deposited beneath the teacher's table in the cafeteria during lunch hour. How the pranksters did this without being detected, I don't know, but I sure lost my appetite for my lunch that day (others lost their lunch altogether).

I was seated right next to this table, and I still have this picture in my mind of a few stalwart teachers patiently finishing their lunches, refusing to rise to the bait (heh), with looks on their faces like, "Ah, kids, maybe if we ignore their immature games, they'll grow out of it." As if ignoring a metric ton of chirping insects right under their feet, on the table, and in their food were possible. And no one sued the school. Imagine that.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how it was possible to obtain that many crickets, the school was near a huge lake with a lot of fishing supply and bait stores. Crickets were available by the gallon. And thanks to Daryl, who posted this before I did.

Posted by kswygert at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

Make the punishment fit the

Make the punishment fit the crime

A group of seniors in a Denver high school, which includes the class valedictorian, have been banned from their graduation ceremony. Drug use? Violence on school grounds? Making threatening statements?

Nope - for tossing water balloons at fellow students after a school assembly. This apparently stirred up quite a bit of trouble, as later in the day someone let loose some white mice, and some "dog doo" was smeared on a vending machine.

Principal Barrows rejected the offer of the guilty parties to "publicly apologize, clean the school and do community service to pay for what they admit was a mistake." Apparently, that's not enough, so they'll miss their once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. For tossing water balloons. And some contend that students who weren't even there are being unjustly punished. Good grief.

I remember at my high school, every year, there was a senior prank, and as far as I know, no guilty parties were ever punished (perhaps they were never caught, or were not as honest as the Denver students, some of whom volunteered incriminating evidence). One memorable year, a Hefty bag full of crickets was deposited beneath the teacher's table in the cafeteria during lunch hour. How the pranksters did this without being detected, I don't know, but I sure lost my appetite for my lunch that day (others lost their lunch altogether).

I was seated right next to this table, and I still have this picture in my mind of a few stalwart teachers patiently finishing their lunches, refusing to rise to the bait (heh), with looks on their faces like, "Ah, kids, maybe if we ignore their immature games, they'll grow out of it." As if ignoring a metric ton of chirping insects right under their feet, on the table, and in their food were possible. And no one sued the school. Imagine that.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how it was possible to obtain that many crickets, the school was near a huge lake with a lot of fishing supply and bait stores. Crickets were available by the gallon. And thanks to Daryl, who posted this before I did.

Posted by kswygert at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

The rising tide of exit exam anger

The exit exams in place across much of the U.S. are generating a backlash of anti-testing activism, and it's not just happening in Florida. The story opens with a tear-jerking tale of Robyn Collins, a frustrated high school senior in Nevada, who is being thwarted in her goals of military service and college because she can't pass the state exit exam. In fact, 12% of Nevada's class of 2003 who completed all other requirements for a high school diploma failed to pass the exit exam.

Twenty-four states either have operational exit exams or ones in the works, and most of the exams cover only the basics - reading, writing, 'rithmetic. However, despite my earlier suspicion that the exams were being made less rigorous, journalist Michael Fletcher notes that the exams are becoming more difficult, at least in terms of the content. Problem is, the curriculum being taught may not always connect with the constructs being measured by the exams, which sets students up for failure:

...with thousands of students being denied high school diplomas they would have otherwise received, the reform has ignited opposition from students and parents who believe the tests do not reflect the curriculum covered in school.

"There is definitely a disconnect," agreed Nevada State School Superintendent Jack McLaughlin. "I believe students will give you back what they're taught. But when this many students haven't passed a test after numbers of tries, something is not right."

I agree with this statement 100%. Something is wrong. I disagree with the anti-testing activists, though, when they jump to the conclusions that it must be the tests that are wrong, and often that the tests are racist or sexist. If the test content does not match the school curricula, it's not a useful exit exam, and that has nothing to do with race or sex of the test taker.

Florida gets mentioned early on, of course:

Florida community leaders and legislators launched a series of protests in April aimed at forcing a moratorium on the tests after state officials announced that nearly 13,000 students...would not graduate as scheduled this year because they had not passed at least one of the exams. The protesters are calling for a boycott of the state's lottery, major theme parks and the citrus industry unless the state backs off the exams...

A boycott of the lottery? Hey, that's something I can agree to, given that lotteries are essentially a tax on those who are bad at math, have never understood the concept of probabilities, or both. Activists, here's your chance to teach those kids some mathematical theories that are genuinely useful. Don't pass it up.

And what about the situation in Nevada, where that luckless 12% is having such a hard time?

Nevada students are required to pass tests in reading, writing and math as a condition for graduation. Officials said that fewer than 2 percent of the state's seniors have failed the reading and writing portions. But the 60-question math exam has proven much more difficult...

In fast-growing Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, almost a quarter of the high school seniors had not passed the exam before the most recent round of testing on May 20. Part of the problem is that many students -- as many as 40 percent statewide -- have never taken algebra or geometry, which are included on the test...

Okay, that's really a problem. Why isn't this getting as much news attention as the cries of "racist" exams? If algebra and geometry are on the state exam, and if it's nigh impossible to pass it without understanding those concepts, then those must be mandatory high school courses (in fact, I thought they were. Or once were). If those courses aren't mandatory, how can an exit exam require them? It's a simple disconnect of test content and class material, and as such this should be an easy thing to fix.

(Note: Reader, early riser, and fellow blogger Daryl Cobranchi rightly points out that some of those 40 percent, if not seniors, just may not have yet taken the required algebra and geometry courses. In that case, taking the exam early wasn't of real benefit to them, and this exemplifies the problems with interpreting exit exam score distributions when students other than seniors are included).

Of course, one issue in Nevada is, as one superintendent puts it, the fact that many jobs in the casinos pay as much or more as teaching positions. And even if your students all do well on the exit exam, you still don't get tipped.

Here's one editorial that admonishes the education world to "grow a backbone" and not give in to the anti-testing backlash in California:

...it's hardly surprising to hear board President Reed Hastings suggest the test be postponed as a graduation requirement until, say, 2006...The high school exit exam has been through a tortuous path since its birth four years ago. Hailed as a motivator for high school students, the test was meant to ensure that graduates, beginning with the class of 2004, possess certain basic skills before being granted diplomas...

The key is expecting far more of students than just seat time over the course of their high school years. Sadly, far too many schools settle for students simply putting in their time. Which helps explain why just 62 percent of the class of 2004 have passed the math portion of the exam, and why a recent study predicted that 20 percent of the class ultimately could be denied diplomas, based on their test results...

Fearing a large parental backlash, not to mention a flurry of lawsuits if thousands of students are denied diplomas, the state school board is looking for an escape hatch. Several options have been suggested by an independent research group that just evaluated the exam. Its recommendations include lowering the passing score, dumbing down the test or permitting students to pass even if they fail one portion of the exam.

None of these solutions makes sense. Better to stick with the test, but defer the consequences to a later date.

Yes, but then the test will only be useful if the curriculum changes are made now, so that by the time the high stakes return, kids will have been exposed to the right material.

Daniel Weintraub writes that the California exit exam is fair, and that the high-stakes nature of the exam is its greatest strength. The stakes, in fact, are necessary for education reform:

The test, given in two parts, is difficult but by no means impossible. It measures students' skills in language and math, including algebra. While it is known as an exit exam, it is given first in the ninth grade, and any ninth-grader who has been taught the material in the state standards ought to be able to pass it. Those who fail can take it several more times throughout their high school career.

So far, 81 percent of the members of the class of 2004 have passed the English portion of the test, and 62 percent have passed the math. Only about half have passed both the English and the math, which is what is required to succeed...

An independent review of the test recently concluded that the exam was well developed and fairly reflects the contents of the state's standards. It also found encouraging evidence that the test has prompted schools to align their course work to the standards. And the study reported that the exam has triggered an explosion of remedial and supplemental courses targeting students who failed the test the first time around. That's precisely what it was designed to do.

The current exit exam controversy is thus an example of the old cliche, "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." You can't implement a high-stakes test to drive reform without sacrificing a few kids. Little consolation to those students trying to get out of poor school systems that never couldn't or didn't teach them the material.

Posted by kswygert at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

The rising tide of exit

The rising tide of exit exam anger

The exit exams in place across much of the U.S. are generating a backlash of anti-testing activism, and it's not just happening in Florida. The story opens with a tear-jerking tale of Robyn Collins, a frustrated high school senior in Nevada, who is being thwarted in her goals of military service and college because she can't pass the state exit exam. In fact, 12% of Nevada's class of 2003 who completed all other requirements for a high school diploma failed to pass the exit exam.

Twenty-four states either have operational exit exams or ones in the works, and most of the exams cover only the basics - reading, writing, 'rithmetic. However, despite my earlier suspicion that the exams were being made less rigorous, journalist Michael Fletcher notes that the exams are becoming more difficult, at least in terms of the content. Problem is, the curriculum being taught may not always connect with the constructs being measured by the exams, which sets students up for failure:

...with thousands of students being denied high school diplomas they would have otherwise received, the reform has ignited opposition from students and parents who believe the tests do not reflect the curriculum covered in school.

"There is definitely a disconnect," agreed Nevada State School Superintendent Jack McLaughlin. "I believe students will give you back what they're taught. But when this many students haven't passed a test after numbers of tries, something is not right."

I agree with this statement 100%. Something is wrong. I disagree with the anti-testing activists, though, when they jump to the conclusions that it must be the tests that are wrong, and often that the tests are racist or sexist. If the test content does not match the school curricula, it's not a useful exit exam, and that has nothing to do with race or sex of the test taker.

Florida gets mentioned early on, of course:

Florida community leaders and legislators launched a series of protests in April aimed at forcing a moratorium on the tests after state officials announced that nearly 13,000 students...would not graduate as scheduled this year because they had not passed at least one of the exams. The protesters are calling for a boycott of the state's lottery, major theme parks and the citrus industry unless the state backs off the exams...

A boycott of the lottery? Hey, that's something I can agree to, given that lotteries are essentially a tax on those who are bad at math, have never understood the concept of probabilities, or both. Activists, here's your chance to teach those kids some mathematical theories that are genuinely useful. Don't pass it up.

And what about the situation in Nevada, where that luckless 12% is having such a hard time?

Nevada students are required to pass tests in reading, writing and math as a condition for graduation. Officials said that fewer than 2 percent of the state's seniors have failed the reading and writing portions. But the 60-question math exam has proven much more difficult...

In fast-growing Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, almost a quarter of the high school seniors had not passed the exam before the most recent round of testing on May 20. Part of the problem is that many students -- as many as 40 percent statewide -- have never taken algebra or geometry, which are included on the test...

Okay, that's really a problem. Why isn't this getting as much news attention as the cries of "racist" exams? If algebra and geometry are on the state exam, and if it's nigh impossible to pass it without understanding those concepts, then those must be mandatory high school courses (in fact, I thought they were. Or once were). If those courses aren't mandatory, how can an exit exam require them? It's a simple disconnect of test content and class material, and as such this should be an easy thing to fix.

(Note: Reader, early riser, and fellow blogger Daryl Cobranchi rightly points out that some of those 40 percent, if not seniors, just may not have yet taken the required algebra and geometry courses. In that case, taking the exam early wasn't of real benefit to them, and this exemplifies the problems with interpreting exit exam score distributions when students other than seniors are included).

Of course, one issue in Nevada is, as one superintendent puts it, the fact that many jobs in the casinos pay as much or more as teaching positions. And even if your students all do well on the exit exam, you still don't get tipped.

Here's one editorial that admonishes the education world to "grow a backbone" and not give in to the anti-testing backlash in California:

...it's hardly surprising to hear board President Reed Hastings suggest the test be postponed as a graduation requirement until, say, 2006...The high school exit exam has been through a tortuous path since its birth four years ago. Hailed as a motivator for high school students, the test was meant to ensure that graduates, beginning with the class of 2004, possess certain basic skills before being granted diplomas...

The key is expecting far more of students than just seat time over the course of their high school years. Sadly, far too many schools settle for students simply putting in their time. Which helps explain why just 62 percent of the class of 2004 have passed the math portion of the exam, and why a recent study predicted that 20 percent of the class ultimately could be denied diplomas, based on their test results...

Fearing a large parental backlash, not to mention a flurry of lawsuits if thousands of students are denied diplomas, the state school board is looking for an escape hatch. Several options have been suggested by an independent research group that just evaluated the exam. Its recommendations include lowering the passing score, dumbing down the test or permitting students to pass even if they fail one portion of the exam.

None of these solutions makes sense. Better to stick with the test, but defer the consequences to a later date.

Yes, but then the test will only be useful if the curriculum changes are made now, so that by the time the high stakes return, kids will have been exposed to the right material.

Daniel Weintraub writes that the California exit exam is fair, and that the high-stakes nature of the exam is its greatest strength. The stakes, in fact, are necessary for education reform:

The test, given in two parts, is difficult but by no means impossible. It measures students' skills in language and math, including algebra. While it is known as an exit exam, it is given first in the ninth grade, and any ninth-grader who has been taught the material in the state standards ought to be able to pass it. Those who fail can take it several more times throughout their high school career.

So far, 81 percent of the members of the class of 2004 have passed the English portion of the test, and 62 percent have passed the math. Only about half have passed both the English and the math, which is what is required to succeed...

An independent review of the test recently concluded that the exam was well developed and fairly reflects the contents of the state's standards. It also found encouraging evidence that the test has prompted schools to align their course work to the standards. And the study reported that the exam has triggered an explosion of remedial and supplemental courses targeting students who failed the test the first time around. That's precisely what it was designed to do.

The current exit exam controversy is thus an example of the old cliche, "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." You can't implement a high-stakes test to drive reform without sacrificing a few kids. Little consolation to those students trying to get out of poor school systems that never couldn't or didn't teach them the material.

Posted by kswygert at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

The rising tide of exit

The rising tide of exit exam anger

The exit exams in place across much of the U.S. are generating a backlash of anti-testing activism, and it's not just happening in Florida. The story opens with a tear-jerking tale of Robyn Collins, a frustrated high school senior in Nevada, who is being thwarted in her goals of military service and college because she can't pass the state exit exam. In fact, 12% of Nevada's class of 2003 who completed all other requirements for a high school diploma failed to pass the exit exam.

Twenty-four states either have operational exit exams or ones in the works, and most of the exams cover only the basics - reading, writing, 'rithmetic. However, despite my earlier suspicion that the exams were being made less rigorous, journalist Michael Fletcher notes that the exams are becoming more difficult, at least in terms of the content. Problem is, the curriculum being taught may not always connect with the constructs being measured by the exams, which sets students up for failure:

...with thousands of students being denied high school diplomas they would have otherwise received, the reform has ignited opposition from students and parents who believe the tests do not reflect the curriculum covered in school.

"There is definitely a disconnect," agreed Nevada State School Superintendent Jack McLaughlin. "I believe students will give you back what they're taught. But when this many students haven't passed a test after numbers of tries, something is not right."

I agree with this statement 100%. Something is wrong. I disagree with the anti-testing activists, though, when they jump to the conclusions that it must be the tests that are wrong, and often that the tests are racist or sexist. If the test content does not match the school curricula, it's not a useful exit exam, and that has nothing to do with race or sex of the test taker.

Florida gets mentioned early on, of course:

Florida community leaders and legislators launched a series of protests in April aimed at forcing a moratorium on the tests after state officials announced that nearly 13,000 students...would not graduate as scheduled this year because they had not passed at least one of the exams. The protesters are calling for a boycott of the state's lottery, major theme parks and the citrus industry unless the state backs off the exams...

A boycott of the lottery? Hey, that's something I can agree to, given that lotteries are essentially a tax on those who are bad at math, have never understood the concept of probabilities, or both. Activists, here's your chance to teach those kids some mathematical theories that are genuinely useful. Don't pass it up.

And what about the situation in Nevada, where that luckless 12% is having such a hard time?

Nevada students are required to pass tests in reading, writing and math as a condition for graduation. Officials said that fewer than 2 percent of the state's seniors have failed the reading and writing portions. But the 60-question math exam has proven much more difficult...

In fast-growing Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, almost a quarter of the high school seniors had not passed the exam before the most recent round of testing on May 20. Part of the problem is that many students -- as many as 40 percent statewide -- have never taken algebra or geometry, which are included on the test...

Okay, that's really a problem. Why isn't this getting as much news attention as the cries of "racist" exams? If algebra and geometry are on the state exam, and if it's nigh impossible to pass it without understanding those concepts, then those must be mandatory high school courses (in fact, I thought they were. Or once were). If those courses aren't mandatory, how can an exit exam require them? It's a simple disconnect of test content and class material, and as such this should be an easy thing to fix.

(Note: Reader, early riser, and fellow blogger Daryl Cobranchi rightly points out that some of those 40 percent, if not seniors, just may not have yet taken the required algebra and geometry courses. In that case, taking the exam early wasn't of real benefit to them, and this exemplifies the problems with interpreting exit exam score distributions when students other than seniors are included).

Of course, one issue in Nevada is, as one superintendent puts it, the fact that many jobs in the casinos pay as much or more as teaching positions. And even if your students all do well on the exit exam, you still don't get tipped.

Here's one editorial that admonishes the education world to "grow a backbone" and not give in to the anti-testing backlash in California:

...it's hardly surprising to hear board President Reed Hastings suggest the test be postponed as a graduation requirement until, say, 2006...The high school exit exam has been through a tortuous path since its birth four years ago. Hailed as a motivator for high school students, the test was meant to ensure that graduates, beginning with the class of 2004, possess certain basic skills before being granted diplomas...

The key is expecting far more of students than just seat time over the course of their high school years. Sadly, far too many schools settle for students simply putting in their time. Which helps explain why just 62 percent of the class of 2004 have passed the math portion of the exam, and why a recent study predicted that 20 percent of the class ultimately could be denied diplomas, based on their test results...

Fearing a large parental backlash, not to mention a flurry of lawsuits if thousands of students are denied diplomas, the state school board is looking for an escape hatch. Several options have been suggested by an independent research group that just evaluated the exam. Its recommendations include lowering the passing score, dumbing down the test or permitting students to pass even if they fail one portion of the exam.

None of these solutions makes sense. Better to stick with the test, but defer the consequences to a later date.

Yes, but then the test will only be useful if the curriculum changes are made now, so that by the time the high stakes return, kids will have been exposed to the right material.

Daniel Weintraub writes that the California exit exam is fair, and that the high-stakes nature of the exam is its greatest strength. The stakes, in fact, are necessary for education reform:

The test, given in two parts, is difficult but by no means impossible. It measures students' skills in language and math, including algebra. While it is known as an exit exam, it is given first in the ninth grade, and any ninth-grader who has been taught the material in the state standards ought to be able to pass it. Those who fail can take it several more times throughout their high school career.

So far, 81 percent of the members of the class of 2004 have passed the English portion of the test, and 62 percent have passed the math. Only about half have passed both the English and the math, which is what is required to succeed...

An independent review of the test recently concluded that the exam was well developed and fairly reflects the contents of the state's standards. It also found encouraging evidence that the test has prompted schools to align their course work to the standards. And the study reported that the exam has triggered an explosion of remedial and supplemental courses targeting students who failed the test the first time around. That's precisely what it was designed to do.

The current exit exam controversy is thus an example of the old cliche, "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." You can't implement a high-stakes test to drive reform without sacrificing a few kids. Little consolation to those students trying to get out of poor school systems that never couldn't or didn't teach them the material.

Posted by kswygert at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

Problematic commentsHowdy, everyone. I just

Problematic comments

Howdy, everyone. I just noticed that all the comments previously left by you guys seem to have...disappeared. A free application is always worth what you pay for it, I suppose. Hopefully the Haloscan server will soon be restored, although it's doubtful the previous messages will be restored with it...

Posted by kswygert at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Problematic commentsHowdy, everyone. I just

Problematic comments

Howdy, everyone. I just noticed that all the comments previously left by you guys seem to have...disappeared. A free application is always worth what you pay for it, I suppose. Hopefully the Haloscan server will soon be restored, although it's doubtful the previous messages will be restored with it...

Posted by kswygert at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Problematic commentsHowdy, everyone. I just

Problematic comments

Howdy, everyone. I just noticed that all the comments previously left by you guys seem to have...disappeared. A free application is always worth what you pay for it, I suppose. Hopefully the Haloscan server will soon be restored, although it's doubtful the previous messages will be restored with it...

Posted by kswygert at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

FCAT news roundupAs Joanne Jacobs

FCAT news roundup

As Joanne Jacobs notes in today's Jewish World Review, civil rights leaders in Florida are urging minority youngsters to skip the FCAT. Last Friday, a group of FCAT foes descended on Orlando to demand the removal of what they're calling "the Florida Catastrophic Asinine Test." This last article mentions something of which I had been unaware:

At the moment, those who enter community college without a regular or equivalent diploma are limited generally to vocational and technical programs.

You can enter community college without any sort of diploma in Florida? That's interesting. This policy seems to weaken the testing opponents claim that every kid who fails to pass the FCAT is guaranteed to be "left behind." What's more, the legislation to provide an FCAT alternative for seniors has apparently been put on the back burner, although this article says the issue is in the lineup for the next special legislative session. In addition, one Democrat is fighting to require the FCAT for all students, not just those in public schools.

Devoted Reader Darren M. sends along this Fox News story about alleged cultural bias on the FCAT. It's not surprising that the FCAT opponents are making this claim; what is surprising is that Fox is publishing without comment the claim that most tests are culturally biased:

“I call it a testocracy,” said Ron Walters, the director of the African-American Leadership Institute (search) at the University of Maryland. He said that the tests used for high school graduation in Florida are culturally biased, as are most tests across the country now being used to measure the performance of schools, teachers and pupils. “The sum total of these tests is that they are a strong reflection of the white Anglo-American-European experience in American culture,” and unfair to Hispanic and black test-takers..."

The article then goes on to quote the leader of the FCAT boycott, who has apparently referred to President Bush as a neo-Nazi, which is odd. After all, the claim that black and Hispanic youngsters are not equipped to understand the "culture" of reading, writing, and arithmetic is much closer to the Nazi school of thought than, say, the claim that all students in Florida can and should be judged by one standard. How, exactly, is the true "color-blindness" of President Bush's NCLB Act synonymous with the extremely color-sensitive Nazi ideology? His critics never manage to address this point.

Oh, and this is what they are claiming as proof of bias, I suppose; the near-doubling of the number of African-American students passing is ignored, while the gap between those students and others is emphasized:

Earlier this month, the state announced that 41 percent of African-American students scored at or above grade level in 2003, compared to 23 percent in 1998. At the same time, 51 percent of Hispanic students scored at or above grade level in 2003, compared to 38 percent two years before; and 73 percent of white students scored at or above grade level, compared to 65 percent in 1998.

Of course, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that group means differences are neither necessary nor sufficient indicators of bias. What's more, at least 40% of those failing to pass the FCAT haven't got the grades or credit hours to justify a diploma, so the test can hardly be called "unfair" to them.

...critics say many of the minority students taking the so-called “high-stakes” test have already achieved good grades and SAT scores and would be going on to college if it were not for failing the FCAT.

Soooo...the SAT is a legitimate indicator of intellectual ability for minority students? That's funny. Last year, the Florida NAACP was among the groups who claimed that scholarships based on SAT scores were unfair because the SAT is biased. But now that the FCAT is being bashed, the SAT is okay? I wish these activists would make up their minds.

And then there's columnist Marion Brady (thanks to Peter M. for the link), who criticizes the FCAT not for racial bias but because the test allegedly only measures "remembering secondhand information". Testing is somehow incapable of measuring "categorizing, drawing inferences, generating hypotheses, generalizing, seeing relationships in seemingly unrelated aspects of reality, making value judgments," according to Mr. Brady.

It's interesting to see facts redefined as "secondhand information," as though the only information that could be of any use to a youngster is what they figure out on their own, and that such facts aren't necessary for inferential thinking or creating hypotheses. Interesting, too, to see the claim that standardized tests can't precisely measure any sort of useful, adaptive thinking.

It's true that open-ended and portfolio-based assessments are less reliable than multiple-choice items - but they can be used to measure the kinds of intellectual analysis listed by Mr. Brady. Richard Phelps, in his article, Why Testing Experts Hate Testing, notes that testing opponents seem to deliberately redefine intellectual challenges so that multiple-choice exams cannot possibly measure up. He also rightly asks the question:

If you were about to go under the knife, which kind of surgeon would you want? Perhaps one who used only "higher-order thinking," only "creative and innovative" techniques, and "constructed her own meaning" from every operation she performed?

Or, would you prefer a surgeon who had passed her "lower-order thinking" exams -- on the difference, say, between a spleen and a kidney -- and used tried-and-true methods with a history of success: methods that other surgeons had used successfully? Certainly, there would be some situations where one could benefit from an innovative surgeon. If no aspect whatsoever of the study or practice of surgery were standardized, however, there would be nothing to teach in medical school, and your regular barber or beautician would be as well qualified to "creatively" excise your appendix as anyone else. Ideally, most of us would want a surgeon who possesses both "lower" and "higher" abilities.

What testing critics like Marion Brady would have you forget is that, without mastery of those "lower-order" skills and that "secondhand knowledge," higher-order skills aren't very useful. For example, the United States Medical Licensure Exam (USMLE, otherwise known as the medical boards) is a three-part assessment for graduates of U.S. medical schools. A passing score is required in order to practice medicine in the U.S. And, parts 1 and 2 of the exam are - surprise! - composed of multiple-choice items, because the test developers rightly understand that "critical thinking skills" aren't going to do a potential doctor much good if said candidate doesn't understand the difference between the spleen and the kidneys.

Here are a few interesting FCAT letters and opinions recently:

Hurrah for the FCAT!
We need better FCAT items
Hit the books, not the beach

And, finally, what do you get if you make a perfect score on the third-grade FCAT? An interview published in the paper, an award from the school - and a little stuffed animal from your teacher. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

Posted by kswygert at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

FCAT news roundupAs Joanne Jacobs

FCAT news roundup

As Joanne Jacobs notes in today's Jewish World Review, civil rights leaders in Florida are urging minority youngsters to skip the FCAT. Last Friday, a group of FCAT foes descended on Orlando to demand the removal of what they're calling "the Florida Catastrophic Asinine Test." This last article mentions something of which I had been unaware:

At the moment, those who enter community college without a regular or equivalent diploma are limited generally to vocational and technical programs.

You can enter community college without any sort of diploma in Florida? That's interesting. This policy seems to weaken the testing opponents claim that every kid who fails to pass the FCAT is guaranteed to be "left behind." What's more, the legislation to provide an FCAT alternative for seniors has apparently been put on the back burner, although this article says the issue is in the lineup for the next special legislative session. In addition, one Democrat is fighting to require the FCAT for all students, not just those in public schools.

Devoted Reader Darren M. sends along this Fox News story about alleged cultural bias on the FCAT. It's not surprising that the FCAT opponents are making this claim; what is surprising is that Fox is publishing without comment the claim that most tests are culturally biased:

“I call it a testocracy,” said Ron Walters, the director of the African-American Leadership Institute (search) at the University of Maryland. He said that the tests used for high school graduation in Florida are culturally biased, as are most tests across the country now being used to measure the performance of schools, teachers and pupils. “The sum total of these tests is that they are a strong reflection of the white Anglo-American-European experience in American culture,” and unfair to Hispanic and black test-takers..."

The article then goes on to quote the leader of the FCAT boycott, who has apparently referred to President Bush as a neo-Nazi, which is odd. After all, the claim that black and Hispanic youngsters are not equipped to understand the "culture" of reading, writing, and arithmetic is much closer to the Nazi school of thought than, say, the claim that all students in Florida can and should be judged by one standard. How, exactly, is the true "color-blindness" of President Bush's NCLB Act synonymous with the extremely color-sensitive Nazi ideology? His critics never manage to address this point.

Oh, and this is what they are claiming as proof of bias, I suppose; the near-doubling of the number of African-American students passing is ignored, while the gap between those students and others is emphasized:

Earlier this month, the state announced that 41 percent of African-American students scored at or above grade level in 2003, compared to 23 percent in 1998. At the same time, 51 percent of Hispanic students scored at or above grade level in 2003, compared to 38 percent two years before; and 73 percent of white students scored at or above grade level, compared to 65 percent in 1998.

Of course, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that group means differences are neither necessary nor sufficient indicators of bias. What's more, at least 40% of those failing to pass the FCAT haven't got the grades or credit hours to justify a diploma, so the test can hardly be called "unfair" to them.

...critics say many of the minority students taking the so-called “high-stakes” test have already achieved good grades and SAT scores and would be going on to college if it were not for failing the FCAT.

Soooo...the SAT is a legitimate indicator of intellectual ability for minority students? That's funny. Last year, the Florida NAACP was among the groups who claimed that scholarships based on SAT scores were unfair because the SAT is biased. But now that the FCAT is being bashed, the SAT is okay? I wish these activists would make up their minds.

And then there's columnist Marion Brady (thanks to Peter M. for the link), who criticizes the FCAT not for racial bias but because the test allegedly only measures "remembering secondhand information". Testing is somehow incapable of measuring "categorizing, drawing inferences, generating hypotheses, generalizing, seeing relationships in seemingly unrelated aspects of reality, making value judgments," according to Mr. Brady.

It's interesting to see facts redefined as "secondhand information," as though the only information that could be of any use to a youngster is what they figure out on their own, and that such facts aren't necessary for inferential thinking or creating hypotheses. Interesting, too, to see the claim that standardized tests can't precisely measure any sort of useful, adaptive thinking.

It's true that open-ended and portfolio-based assessments are less reliable than multiple-choice items - but they can be used to measure the kinds of intellectual analysis listed by Mr. Brady. Richard Phelps, in his article, Why Testing Experts Hate Testing, notes that testing opponents seem to deliberately redefine intellectual challenges so that multiple-choice exams cannot possibly measure up. He also rightly asks the question:

If you were about to go under the knife, which kind of surgeon would you want? Perhaps one who used only "higher-order thinking," only "creative and innovative" techniques, and "constructed her own meaning" from every operation she performed?

Or, would you prefer a surgeon who had passed her "lower-order thinking" exams -- on the difference, say, between a spleen and a kidney -- and used tried-and-true methods with a history of success: methods that other surgeons had used successfully? Certainly, there would be some situations where one could benefit from an innovative surgeon. If no aspect whatsoever of the study or practice of surgery were standardized, however, there would be nothing to teach in medical school, and your regular barber or beautician would be as well qualified to "creatively" excise your appendix as anyone else. Ideally, most of us would want a surgeon who possesses both "lower" and "higher" abilities.

What testing critics like Marion Brady would have you forget is that, without mastery of those "lower-order" skills and that "secondhand knowledge," higher-order skills aren't very useful. For example, the United States Medical Licensure Exam (USMLE, otherwise known as the medical boards) is a three-part assessment for graduates of U.S. medical schools. A passing score is required in order to practice medicine in the U.S. And, parts 1 and 2 of the exam are - surprise! - composed of multiple-choice items, because the test developers rightly understand that "critical thinking skills" aren't going to do a potential doctor much good if said candidate doesn't understand the difference between the spleen and the kidneys.

Here are a few interesting FCAT letters and opinions recently:

Hurrah for the FCAT!
We need better FCAT items
Hit the books, not the beach

And, finally, what do you get if you make a perfect score on the third-grade FCAT? An interview published in the paper, an award from the school - and a little stuffed animal from your teacher. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

Posted by kswygert at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

FCAT news roundupAs Joanne Jacobs

FCAT news roundup

As Joanne Jacobs notes in today's Jewish World Review, civil rights leaders in Florida are urging minority youngsters to skip the FCAT. Last Friday, a group of FCAT foes descended on Orlando to demand the removal of what they're calling "the Florida Catastrophic Asinine Test." This last article mentions something of which I had been unaware:

At the moment, those who enter community college without a regular or equivalent diploma are limited generally to vocational and technical programs.

You can enter community college without any sort of diploma in Florida? That's interesting. This policy seems to weaken the testing opponents claim that every kid who fails to pass the FCAT is guaranteed to be "left behind." What's more, the legislation to provide an FCAT alternative for seniors has apparently been put on the back burner, although this article says the issue is in the lineup for the next special legislative session. In addition, one Democrat is fighting to require the FCAT for all students, not just those in public schools.

Devoted Reader Darren M. sends along this Fox News story about alleged cultural bias on the FCAT. It's not surprising that the FCAT opponents are making this claim; what is surprising is that Fox is publishing without comment the claim that most tests are culturally biased:

“I call it a testocracy,” said Ron Walters, the director of the African-American Leadership Institute (search) at the University of Maryland. He said that the tests used for high school graduation in Florida are culturally biased, as are most tests across the country now being used to measure the performance of schools, teachers and pupils. “The sum total of these tests is that they are a strong reflection of the white Anglo-American-European experience in American culture,” and unfair to Hispanic and black test-takers..."

The article then goes on to quote the leader of the FCAT boycott, who has apparently referred to President Bush as a neo-Nazi, which is odd. After all, the claim that black and Hispanic youngsters are not equipped to understand the "culture" of reading, writing, and arithmetic is much closer to the Nazi school of thought than, say, the claim that all students in Florida can and should be judged by one standard. How, exactly, is the true "color-blindness" of President Bush's NCLB Act synonymous with the extremely color-sensitive Nazi ideology? His critics never manage to address this point.

Oh, and this is what they are claiming as proof of bias, I suppose; the near-doubling of the number of African-American students passing is ignored, while the gap between those students and others is emphasized:

Earlier this month, the state announced that 41 percent of African-American students scored at or above grade level in 2003, compared to 23 percent in 1998. At the same time, 51 percent of Hispanic students scored at or above grade level in 2003, compared to 38 percent two years before; and 73 percent of white students scored at or above grade level, compared to 65 percent in 1998.

Of course, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that group means differences are neither necessary nor sufficient indicators of bias. What's more, at least 40% of those failing to pass the FCAT haven't got the grades or credit hours to justify a diploma, so the test can hardly be called "unfair" to them.

...critics say many of the minority students taking the so-called “high-stakes” test have already achieved good grades and SAT scores and would be going on to college if it were not for failing the FCAT.

Soooo...the SAT is a legitimate indicator of intellectual ability for minority students? That's funny. Last year, the Florida NAACP was among the groups who claimed that scholarships based on SAT scores were unfair because the SAT is biased. But now that the FCAT is being bashed, the SAT is okay? I wish these activists would make up their minds.

And then there's columnist Marion Brady (thanks to Peter M. for the link), who criticizes the FCAT not for racial bias but because the test allegedly only measures "remembering secondhand information". Testing is somehow incapable of measuring "categorizing, drawing inferences, generating hypotheses, generalizing, seeing relationships in seemingly unrelated aspects of reality, making value judgments," according to Mr. Brady.

It's interesting to see facts redefined as "secondhand information," as though the only information that could be of any use to a youngster is what they figure out on their own, and that such facts aren't necessary for inferential thinking or creating hypotheses. Interesting, too, to see the claim that standardized tests can't precisely measure any sort of useful, adaptive thinking.

It's true that open-ended and portfolio-based assessments are less reliable than multiple-choice items - but they can be used to measure the kinds of intellectual analysis listed by Mr. Brady. Richard Phelps, in his article, Why Testing Experts Hate Testing, notes that testing opponents seem to deliberately redefine intellectual challenges so that multiple-choice exams cannot possibly measure up. He also rightly asks the question:

If you were about to go under the knife, which kind of surgeon would you want? Perhaps one who used only "higher-order thinking," only "creative and innovative" techniques, and "constructed her own meaning" from every operation she performed?

Or, would you prefer a surgeon who had passed her "lower-order thinking" exams -- on the difference, say, between a spleen and a kidney -- and used tried-and-true methods with a history of success: methods that other surgeons had used successfully? Certainly, there would be some situations where one could benefit from an innovative surgeon. If no aspect whatsoever of the study or practice of surgery were standardized, however, there would be nothing to teach in medical school, and your regular barber or beautician would be as well qualified to "creatively" excise your appendix as anyone else. Ideally, most of us would want a surgeon who possesses both "lower" and "higher" abilities.

What testing critics like Marion Brady would have you forget is that, without mastery of those "lower-order" skills and that "secondhand knowledge," higher-order skills aren't very useful. For example, the United States Medical Licensure Exam (USMLE, otherwise known as the medical boards) is a three-part assessment for graduates of U.S. medical schools. A passing score is required in order to practice medicine in the U.S. And, parts 1 and 2 of the exam are - surprise! - composed of multiple-choice items, because the test developers rightly understand that "critical thinking skills" aren't going to do a potential doctor much good if said candidate doesn't understand the difference between the spleen and the kidneys.

Here are a few interesting FCAT letters and opinions recently:

Hurrah for the FCAT!
We need better FCAT items
Hit the books, not the beach

And, finally, what do you get if you make a perfect score on the third-grade FCAT? An interview published in the paper, an award from the school - and a little stuffed animal from your teacher. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

Posted by kswygert at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)
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