November 30, 2005

"The Year of the Tests"

Testing marches onwards, as 23 states expand their testing programs:

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia will give standards-based tests in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school this school year, as required by the nearly 4-year-old federal law, according to a survey by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

The holdouts are Iowa and Nebraska. Districts in Iowa give the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, a national test not designed to measure state or local content standards, while districts in Nebraska craft their own tests, except for a state writing exam.

In devising the new tests, most states have defied predictions and chosen to go beyond multiple-choice items, by including questions that ask students to construct their own responses.

Hoo boy. Could be good, could be very problematic (and expensive) to score. The entire article is worth a read.

Posted by kswygert at 10:33 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Carding the teacher

Philadelphia teachers are asking their students to give 'em more feedback:

Almost daily, Haverford Middle School science teacher Theresa D'Andrea asks for feedback about how she is doing. And her students answer with a wave of brightly colored index cards.

Green means yes, the student understands the lesson. Yellow means maybe, sorta, kinda. And a red card held aloft is a signal that a student needs an extra dose of instruction. Some days, just a few cards are in the air, and D'Andrea offers a quick refresher and also reminds her students that they can get extra help after school.

The cards function as an early warning system that alerts D'Andrea and her students to lapses in learning.

Nifty (thought this method will be pretty funny to any student who plays soccer). Other examples of "formative assessments" in Philly schools:

At Upper Merion Area High School and elsewhere, for instance, students use handheld clickers to answer a teacher's question, and the instant record of responses shows the entire class whether some, most or all students got the lesson.

And teachers in the Garnet Valley School District use Palm Pilots to take in-class notes on student achievement. Moving from desk to desk, the teacher can observe and record whether a student is at an entry level or advanced understanding of a particular math or reading concept.

Posted by kswygert at 07:56 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

It gets funnier the longer you think about it

Ha ha ha ha ha!

If you think that shirt if offensive, I suggest you NOT click on the "Baby Hell" link.

Posted by kswygert at 07:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Teaching kids to take it

Fellow blogger and Devoted Reader Darren encounters zero-tolerance idiocy at his son's school:

Yesterday I was talking to a man who is pretty involved at my son's school. We were talking about the school principal and he relayed the following story.

He and [the principal] were talking about fighting, and he said that if his son were attacked, he'd expect the boy to defend himself. She replied that the boy would be suspended or perhaps expelled if he did; rather, he should curl up on the ground in a ball and hope someone else runs to get help.

Dear Lord. That's the most obnoxious thing I've ever heard of. I can't think of any situation in which I'd hope a child of mine would go into a fetal position and wait for someone to come to his aid - especially if he's at risk of danger.

Darren also notes that the school in which he teaches treats aggressor and victim alike, punishment-wise, after fights, and one of his commenters wisely points out the unintended consequences of this:

Our school hands out a 10 day suspension, no questions asked, for anybody involved in a fight. It doesn't matter who started it and who is defending himself. One consequence of this rule is that kids who are defending themselves see no reason to refrain from beating the crap out of the other kid. Once you have been goaded into taking a swing, you are suspended anyway, so why not really let loose?

That's a great system, isn't it?

What's the old saying? In for a penny, in for a pound?

Posted by kswygert at 05:50 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Is the SAT not necessary for predicting two years into the future?

I never knew that Georgia and Wisconsin were the only two states that required SAT or ACT scores for admission to two-year colleges. Now, it looks like it'll be only Wisconsin:

Georgia is looking to lure more high school students into college with a pilot program that waives SAT or ACT scores as a requirement for admission to many of the state's two-year and smaller four-year colleges...

The experimental program was spurred by three developments, said Daniel S. Papp, the University System of Georgia's senior vice chancellor for academics and fiscal affairs:

• A Board of Regents recommendation to increase access to higher education in the state, particularly at two-year colleges...

• A national study showed that Georgia and Wisconsin were the only states that used the admissions tests at two-year colleges.

• An analysis of academic performance concluded a student's high-school grade-point average was a more accurate predictor of a college freshman's grades in two-year colleges than the student's SAT or ACT scores.

"If the SAT or ACT doesn't add anything to our decision regarding who to admit at our two-year colleges, then why require it?" Papp said.

Why, indeed? I'd be more interested in asking the question of why it doesn't add anything over and above grades, since it usually does (to my knowledge). Certainly, the SAT loses predictability when the college class is relatively homogenous, so if the typical two-year college freshman class is of a fairly narrow range of ability, the SAT would have less predictive power. I think it's certainly possible that many of the high-SAT folks go to four-year colleges, even if they have mediocre grades.

Also, two-year college courses could be fairly similar in structure and to high-school courses, so there might be a higher correlation than you see with four-year colleges.

Posted by kswygert at 05:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Regulations for homeschooling?

Isn't it funny the way school administrators are all for increased regulation and reliance on standardized tests when it's homeschooling parents in question?

Indiana University Education Professor Dr. Robert Kunzman has studied home schooling for years. “The anecdotal evidence suggests that the large majority of them are doing quite an impressive job with their students and children,” he said...

Critics are skeptical. Dr. Kunzman recently surveyed Indiana public school superintendents. Of those who responded, 96 percent said home schoolers are not sufficiently regulated and 54 percent said home schooled students should be required to take ISTEP, Indiana's standardized test.

“I think they see that they are losing students from their school systems and they perceive home schoolers as a threat,” said Kelly Wright, a parent who home schools.

I think they do, too.

Posted by kswygert at 05:28 PM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

A loophole in NC

North Carolina gives new teachers an out:

Legislators and North Carolina state education leaders reached an agreement Monday over how to ease teacher licensing rules and allow local schools to hire more out-of-state candidates. A 26-member panel of lawmakers, teachers and administrators agreed to recommend making it easier for teachers with less than three years of experience to receive permanent licenses as long as they earn positive evaluations from supervisors.

How did they make it easier? By changing one thing -

The final step for a state license has been requiring a teacher to pass a standardized test or complete a standardized evaluation program. Monday's recommendation would create a third option: a positive evaluation from a supervisor that reflects the teacher's ability to "impact student learning" and that the school district has offered to continue employing the teacher.

Despite all the hooha about how this "expands the options" of school districts and "emphasizes a standard" for new teachers, all they've done here is make it possible for a teacher to be offered a permanent position even if they can't pass the Praxis II and specialty exams, and satisfy all the administrators who need to fill teaching slots and aren't worried that these new folks can't pass these tests.

Posted by kswygert at 12:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Nasty, Nutty Professor

I caught this story at the tail end, which was (thankfully) a sane and appropriate conclusion to a sad tale.

Warren County Community College adjunct English professor, John Daly resigned last night before the school’s board of trustees began an emergency meeting to discuss the professor’s fate. On November 13, Daly sent an email to student Rebecca Beach vowing “to expose [her] right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like [Rebecca’s] won’t dare show their face on a college campus.” In addition, Daly said that “Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors.”

Beach's "anti-people politics" include being a member of the Young America's Foundation, the purpose of which is to provide American college students with a balanced education. Beach's apparent violation of the campus PC code was to send an email to professors announcing the upcoming speech of decorated war hero Lt. Col. Scott Rutter and his topic, American accomplishments in Iraq.

This was too much for Professor's Daly's sanity, as evidenced by the reply he sent to Ms. Beach:

...I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive...If you want to count the number of deaths based on political systems, you can begin with the more than a million children who have died in Iraq from U.S.-imposed sanctions and war. Or the million African American people who died from lack of access to healthcare in the US over the last 10 years.

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors...

The college tried to defend Daly's nasty email as "free speech," but it was apparently pointed out to them that it might be a tad hypocritical to censure students who violate campus speech codes, while defending professors who threaten students that "groups like your [sic]" would be removed from campus entirely. Good for Warren County Community College for finally taking the steps to defend students from this kind of professorial misbehavior.

(Via Michelle, and others like SingleMind.Net, who notes that "...Daly is hardly a lone voice in academia.")

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Hitting the books doesn't mean being rude

First we have stores posting etiquette rules for children and parents, and now even the NYTimes wonders if kids are going too far:

CHILDREN should be seen and not heard" may be due for a comeback. After decades of indulgence, American society seems to have reached some kind of tipping point, as far as tolerance for wild and woolly kid behavior is concerned.

Are children ruder now than in the past? Do parents care? Last month, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans said they believed that people are ruder now than they were 20 or 30 years ago, and that children are among the worst offenders. (As annoyances, they tied with obnoxious cellphone users.)

The conservative child psychologist John Rosemond recently denounced in his syndicated column the increasing presence of "disruptive urchins" who "obviously have yet to have been taught the basic rudiments of public behavior," as he related the wretched experience of dining in a four-star restaurant in the company of one child roller skating around his table and another watching a movie on a portable DVD player.

To begin with, if you can afford a four-star restaurant, you can afford a babysitter, so this is not a "the kid has to come along" situation. We have worse problems than manners here; we have affluent parents who apparently see no distinction between what's appropriate for adults and what's appropriate for children. How can society possibly help correct these kids if the parents are so blind?

...what seems to have changed recently, according to childrearing experts, is parental behavior - particularly among the most status-conscious and ambitious - along with the kinds of behavior parents expect from their kids. The pressure to do well is up. The demand to do good is down, way down, particularly if it's the kind of do-gooding that doesn't show up on a college application.

I suppose the roller-skating in ritzy restaurants counts as "extracurricular activities."

Once upon a time, parenting was largely about training children to take their proper place in their community, which, in large measure, meant learning to play by the rules and cooperate...Rude behavior, particularly toward adults, was something for which children had to be chastised, even punished. That has also now changed...

Educators feel helpless, too: Nearly 8 in 10 teachers, according to the 2004 Public Agenda report, said their students were quick to remind them that they had rights or that their parents could sue if they were too harshly disciplined. More than half said they ended up being soft on discipline "because they can't count on parents or schools to support them."

I agree entirely that teachers feel like they have their hands tied with brattish behavior in schools. However, I find it very hard to believe that the new pressure to achieve in schools is partly the cause of this:

Parents who want their children to succeed more than anything, Dr. Kindlon said, teach them to value and prioritize achievement above all else - including other people.

"We're insane about achievement," he said. "Schoolwork is up 50 percent since 1981, and we're so obsessed with our kids getting into the right school, getting the right grades, we let a lot of things slide. Kids don't do chores at home anymore because there isn't time."

Bullspit. Children can learn manners without having to do chores, and hitting the books does not mean parents have no available time left to teach proper behavior. It's hard to believe that there are scores of parents out there who value education so highly that they place it above all else, even table manners.

I think what we're seeing is a new influx parents who don't believe in discipline, who want to be "friends" with their kids, and who don't teach them any useful skills at all. These kids would be doing poorly in school except that now there is pressure on school to raise test scores, so the teachers are trying to make that happen. I doubt that the focus on higher achievement is causing parents to cut back on lessons in manners; the high achievement is most likely happening despite the lack of etiquette training, thanks to NCLB. And if teachers had the clout to allow them to discipline the brats and louts, I bet they'd find it easier to comply with all the new rules and regulations.

At least one new study, in fact, says the way to improving test scores might be tackling behavior issues, at least for the most severely-affected students. Smart parents already knew that in order for their children to succeed, a foundation of good behavior is required.

Posted by kswygert at 11:18 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

NCLB lawsuit thrown out in Michigan

Well, this is big news:

A federal judge in Michigan on Wednesday dismissed a major challenge to the Bush administration's signature education program, No Child Left Behind, saying the federal government had the right to require states to spend their own money to comply with the law.

The action came in the first lawsuit that tried to block the education law on the ground that it imposed requirements on states and school districts that were not paid for by the federal government. A handful of states have complained that the law forces them to spend millions of dollars they do not have, and one, Connecticut, has sued the Department of Education in a separate federal action.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, not surprisingly, is happy with these results. She's also got big plans for NCLB:

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced Friday that states will be able to apply to switch from the current model that examines successive classes to a newly proposed growth model.

Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, an organization that conducts nationwide studies on NCLB, said he favors experimenting with the growth model.

“What we’ve heard consistently is that a value-added system would be a much better way to measure student progress,” he said. Current NCLB guidelines track progress from one year’s class to the next. The growth model will modify this system, allowing states to track the progress of individual students from year to year. “It’s a fairer system. You’re judging what a school adds to a child’s education, not the fluctuation between one third grade class and another third grade class,” Jennings said.

Posted by kswygert at 11:06 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Breaking in

Sorry for the extended hiatus. In addition to work worries, we took some time off to drive to SC over Thanksgiving (which was very nice, thanks, and I hope you had a good time as well).

Dave and I arrived back in PA after a long and frustrating 11-hour drive on Sunday to discover that the kittysitters (a) put the latch on the door leading down to the basement, so that we couldn’t get into the house from the basement, and (b) locked the front door lock (we usually lock only the deadbolt), and we don’t have a key for that, so we couldn’t get into our house at all.

Luckily, we had a big ladder in the basement and got in the kitchen window, which is never locked. Here are the photos I took of Dave doing that (with Alice supervising). Hee.



Posted by kswygert at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2005

Parents take umbrage at enforcement of proper behavior

Oh dear Lord.

Bridget Dehl shushed her 21-month-old son Gavin, then clapped a hand over his mouth to squelch his tiny screams amid the Sunday brunch bustle. When Gavin kept yelping "yeah, yeah, yeah," Dehl quickly whisked him from his highchair and out the door.

Right past the sign warning the cafe's customers that "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven," and right into a nasty spat roiling the stroller set in Chicago's changing Andersonville neighborhood.

The owner of A Taste of Heaven, Dan McCauley, said he posted the sign -- at child level, with playful handprints -- in the hope of quieting his tin-ceilinged cafe, where toddlers have been known to sprawl between tables and hurl themselves at display cases for sport.

But many neighborhood mothers took umbrage at the implied criticism of how they handle their children.

Note: He's not telling them how to rear their children. He's not trying to pass laws that affect how they rear their children. He's telling them that when they're in his restaurant, he expects everyone - even precious Taylor and Maximillian - to conduct themselves in such a way that everyone is comfortable.

Here in Chicago, parents have denounced Toast, a popular Lincoln Park breakfast spot, as unwelcoming since a note about using inside voices appeared on the menu six months ago. The owner of John's Place established a separate "family-friendly" room a year ago, only to face parental threats of lawsuits. When a retail clerk in Andersonville asked a woman to stop breast-feeding last spring, "the neighborhood set him straight real fast," said Mary Ann Smith, the area's alderwoman.

Because, as we all know, children cannot be expected to learn inside voices, and breast-feeding women cannot be expected to consider the comfort level of anyone else around them. These kinds of comments are so insulting to parents who DO control their kids and DO teach them manners and DO take the feelings of everyone else into account. I, for one, make sure to compliment every parent who does a great job of keeping their kids occupied on plane trips. I know that can't be easy.

Kudos to the stores who reach out to upset children, and there should be no sarcastic remarks from staff about "screamers," but restaurants should be free to set the general tone of their place and ask anyone whose behavior is out of line to leave. If you ask me, they should also ban loud/stupid cell phone conversations, people who wave their cigarettes around, and customers who substitute bathing in Axe or Giorgio for actual bathing.

I'm also waiting for a bright entrepreneur to open a cinema that is 21-and-up only, but with no alcohol or fattening food served. That way, the audience will consist only of adults who haven't drunk so much they've lost their inside voice. Heaven.

Update: The Ace of Spades offers his take on the controversy:

Don't you even dare suggest that a child's public behavior should meet any sort of standard, oh dear me, no. You see, if you quietly suggest that perhaps children should not run around like Speedy Gonzales whilst screaming at the top of their lungs and bouncing off display cases, then some parents take that as a personal attack and start returning fire.

I can understand Ace's perspective, but I can also understand the feelings of some Devoted Readers who teach their children proper manners but would still feel a bit, well, paranoid in stores that post signs about proper behavior. Ultimately, a lot would rest on how staff members deal with parents whose children are misbehaving. A parent who is trying to get their kid under control deserves sympathy and patience, while those who ignore their child's tantrums can be asked to remove the kid at once.

Posted by kswygert at 05:31 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Here's what my fiance said, after he was stuck at the mall sitting in the food court next to three 10th-grade girls:

"You know you're getting old when you overhear a group of teenagers bitching about their teacher in public - and the more you listen, the more you agree with the teacher.

That's when you know - your parents' job is complete."

Posted by kswygert at 05:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 19, 2005

Loooong week, finally over

Boy, it's been a tough week. I had a nice little bout of sinusitis in the middle, just in time to have me lose my voice right before my two-hour presentation on equating and scoring. Egh.

However, I feel a bit better this morning. The cats report that lying in sunshine might help.

"Really, sun is a good thing!"


"Doesn't my white belly look shiny and enticing in the bright light? Note, however, that any attempts to rub said belly may still result in scratching and clawing and amputation of the offending limb."


Posted by kswygert at 10:22 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

When doing well might be a dangerous act

Well, this is one of the more depressing things I've seen in a while (Warning - disturbing photo):

Police are investigating after a teenager from Neath was attacked in school hours after receiving two academic awards. Danielle Price, 15, was treated in hospital for facial injuries after the assault at Llangatwg Comprehensive. Her mother reported the school yard assault to South Wales Police who have launched an investigation.

Another girl, also 15, was suspended from lessons for a week. The school said it had taken "appropriate action"...

The attack happened during morning break earlier this month when Danielle, a Year 10 pupil who hopes to become a solicitor, was celebrating being presented for awards for achievements in German and Humanities in assembly.

It would be nice to think there is no relation between Danielle's being singled out for academic awards and the attack. However, this comes on the heels of disturbing reports like this one:

Smart black students being accused of "acting too white" is an issue Triangle educators are debating at a youth and race conference this week. Students say the stigma is keeping some of their peers from doing well in school.

Tenth grader Anais Guzman is on the honor roll. She says some of her peers see the achievement as acting too "white". "They can get high grades but they don't want to because they'll be considered as acting white, so they put white people down,” Guzman said.

Note that not only is high academic achievement seen as being "white" - a pernicious racist idea if there ever was one, on par with anything the KKK ever theorized - but "being white" isn't considered to be a good thing. Neither, possibly, is being given awards in German and the humanities.

P.S. There are those on the web who dispute that African-American students disparage high achievement. And I know of at least one study suggesting that, while there are those who spread the nasty "acting white" accusations, many African-American students are able to ignore such bad ideas.

I also know that the victim of the attack in Wales is white, so the "acting white" issue isn't what's going on there (if indeed the attack has anything at all to do with her awards). However, seeing these two stories close together led me to ponder how both could be the result of same underlying issue - the emergence of an ideology of victimhood and outcast status, where anyone's efforts to achieve "within the system" would be derided and attacked.

Update: And then there's this (Hat tip: Henry Cate).

Posted by kswygert at 04:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 13, 2005

The parents' fight against fuzziness

The NYTimes opens an article about the new "innovative" math with a provocative anecdote:

LAST spring, when he was only a sophomore, Jim Munch received a plaque honoring him as top scorer on the high school math team here. He went on to earn the highest mark possible, a 5, on an Advanced Placement exam in calculus. His ambition is to become a theoretical mathematician.

So Jim might have seemed the veritable symbol for the new math curriculum installed over the last seven years in this ambitious, educated suburb of Rochester. Since seventh grade, he had been taking the "constructivist" or "inquiry" program, so named because it emphasizes pupils' constructing their own knowledge through a process of reasoning.

Jim, however, placed the credit elsewhere. His parents, an engineer and an educator, covertly tutored him in traditional math. Several teachers, in the privacy of their own classrooms, contravened the official curriculum to teach the problem-solving formulas that constructivist math denigrates as mindless memorization.

The article does a nice job of capturing the frustration parents feel with math instruction so "progressive" and devoid of "mindless memorization" that their sixth-graders are unable to make change from a $20 bill. What's more, the parents who are helping their children memorize multiplication tables are derided as "helicopter parents":

Susan Gray, the superintendent, attributed the criticism of the math program to "helicopter parents" who are accustomed to being deeply involved in all aspects of their children's lives. "Because the pedagogy has changed, the parents who knew the old ways didn't know how to help their children," she said. "They didn't have the knowledge and skills to support their children at home. There's a security in memorization of math facts, and that security is gone now."

Um, is that supposed to be an advantage of constructivist math? That engineers, scientists, and doctors who used to be able to expect their kids to make change can no longer do so? And I'd like to point out to Ms. Gray that the term "helicopter parents" was developed to mock those overprotective souls who keep a close eye on kids who've left the nest and moved on to college. Applying the term to parents who are horrified at how handicapped their young kids are by lack of "drill and kill" math knowledge is condescending and nasty.

The article's primary shortcoming is its lack of links to bloggers, educators, and teachers who have been fighting this battle for quite some time. At the very least, the author should have linked to Bas Braams and Mike McKeown for their tireless work in this area. To get the best sense of the ongoing battle to return common sense and multiplication tables back to public school math, you can also click on over to the NYHOLD site and just keep scrolling. A recent paper by Stanley Ocken, a professor of mathematics at CUNY-NY, sums things up nicely:

...the New York State 4th and 8th grade assessments are weak in computational and pre-algebra skills. Those exams include lots of word problems dealing with everyday situations, but the actual math skills required are minimal [What's more, such items place a heavy reading load on students, and often end up measuring more reading comprehension than math skills]. That’s a direct result of the vision described in the NCTM Standards: computation with standard algorithms must be removed from its dominant place in the elementary curriculum. After all, you can get the answer with a calculator.

The problem with that recommendation is its effect on students’ future ability to handle algebraic symbolism efficiently, fluently, accurately. It’s necessary, but not sufficient, that kids learn the multiplication table cold. Once that's done, they need to assemble basic operations into more complex tasks. That’s why they still need to practice standard algorithms for multi-digit multiplication and division. It is the experience of sustained number manipulation, with fluency and accuracy as the goal, that establishes a foundation for future success with lengthy algebraic symbol manipulation tasks that are critical in mathematics and science, beginning with a good Algebra II course. And it is the importance of sustained number manipulation that is categorically rejected by the NCTM Standards and by elementary math programs, including Everyday Math, that share the NCTM vision.

This fuzzy math has been lauded by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics for years as more inclusive and beneficial to students in a high-tech age, and a cursory read of their mathematics standards would seem to support their claims. However, the careful reader will note that, despite their claims that there's no one "right" way to teach math, the NCTM pushes collaborative learning over solitary work, and they present "conceptual understanding" as something that contrasts to, rather than results from, the learning of basic skills. Calculators are also a integral (ha) part of their brave new vision.

For more criticism of the NCTM and their plan for teaching "conceptual understanding" without having to memorize any formulas, you can click back to old links of mine here, here, here, and here.

And to end with my own anecdotal evidence of sorts, let's just say that everyone I know who tutors high school math, either on the side or as a full-time job, is not having to hunt for pupils, even in the best school districts where the public schools are considered to be very good. The tutors I've spoken with don't describe their pupils as being pushed by "helicopter parents," either, but say that the outside is tutoring is a necessity to balance the undemanding school curricula.

Posted by kswygert at 03:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

Buy Our School Day

Joanne Jacobs' new book is finally available for preorder! It ships November 24, and it looks fascinating:

Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds (Palgrave Macmillan) tells the story of a San Jose charter school that prepares students who are “failing but not in jail” for four-year colleges.

It really is an inspiring story. The average Downtown College Prep
student comes from a Mexican immigrant family and enters ninth grade
reading at a fifth grade level; 100 percent of graduates have been
accepted at four-year colleges and 97 percent are on track to earn a
bachelor's degree. DCP now scores well above the state average on
the Academic Performance Index, ranking in the top third compared to
all high schools, including affluent suburban schools. DCP follows
what I call the work-your-butt-off philosophy of education. Its
leaders analyze what's not working, adapt quickly and waste no time
on esteem inflation or excuses.

Joanne has asked edubloggers to spread the word, and see if we can't make book sales soar on November 10th (rank as of 6:45 am EST is 6807). Don't miss the raves by such luminaries as Jay Mathews and Abigail Thernstrom as well.

Posted by kswygert at 06:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 08, 2005

An obscene lack of judgment

I keep trying to find time to post either a bunch of links on recent testing-related news, or a nice in-depth discussion of the tests our students now face, or an amusing discursion on NCLB.

But not only do I not have enough time, I keep getting distracted by tales of adults, left in charge of children, who just don't have the common sense that God gave a jar of mayonnaise:

Marsha Ann Williams, 45, posted a $1,000 bond Saturday after her arrest last Friday. She is under investigation for contributing to the delinquency of minors, according to police. Williams is a former coach at Mitchell High School.

About 10 girls between the ages of 14 and 16 attended the Jan. 21 part at Williams' Colorado Springs home, according to an arrest affidavit. According to Detective Brian Steckler, Williams made sexual party favors, including penis-shaped suckers, and a cake shaped like male genitalia.

At least one of the teens used a camera cell phone to photograph some of the girls performing simulated sexual acts on the party favors, according to the affidavit.

Is this child pornography? I would say no, especially given that there was no nudity or actual sex, the photographic images were most likely created by a teen who didn't understand the legal ramifications of such photos, and penis-shaped cakes are possibly far too stupid to be considered pornographic objects.

But was this an incredibly dumb move for someone who was left in charge of a bunch of teenage girls for an evening? Yes, yes it was. What in the name of Jeebus could have made this woman think that it was suitable for an adult, at what sounds like was a party related to a school team or function, to supply sex-related food and toys for girls who were under the age of consent? Did she think it was okay because they were all just being "girlish" together? Did she not realize how easy it is to take photos and beam them to the Internet these days?

It never fails to amaze me how many adults these days assume that sex jokes are proper fun and games and always good for a laugh, even around impressionable, modest or mortified young teenagers that, by the way, aren't their young teenagers.

Posted by kswygert at 04:00 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

November 07, 2005

A professor fights back - against free speech for graduate students

On the one hand, any intelligent person should realize that anything they post on the web under their real name could be read by anyone, even those to whom the remarks/arguments were not addressed.

On the other hand, if I made a reasonable and rational set of statements, such as those made by Purdue University grad student Paul Deignan made in a thread about confirming Judge Alito, and the result was that another commenter decided to throw his educational weight around and contact my dissertation advisor with a great deal of defamatory words, I'd be pretty ticked.

You'll need to follow this link to read Paul's statements, because the site on which he posted decided, after nastily calling him names, to delete the whole thread. If that's what bitchPHD considers "trolling", I find it hard to understand how she functions in the real world, unless she's managed to create one where everyone worships her perfect little self. Here's hoping Paul's advisor will be smart enough to call everyone involved in this little brouhaha - except Paul himself - an idiot.

Dean's World calls the Professor Hettle "vicious and childish." My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy uses stronger language. Considering how quick Professor Hettle was to resort to insults, I hope he can take them as well. I also hope he's ready for the legal and verbal onslaught that's coming from Paul, who's a student of game theory and doesn't back down easily.

Posted by kswygert at 05:36 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Halloween and cats - A photo album

The sparkly wig, suitable for metal shows on Halloween:


The pregnant redneck getup, which pretty much guaranteed that I will never again wear (a) white lace or (b) dark wigs (the camera phone wasn't doing a great job):


One of the cats that used to belong to some friends of mine, now available with his best buddy at the Devon (PA) Petsmart. More information on him here.


Finally, The Last Word Bookshop in West Philly has not one but two store cats. One is shy and babyish; the other is a ham who likes to sleep in the front window:


Posted by kswygert at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bizarro World

I find it hard to believe that skipping school to protest is all that much fun when you have the permission of the grown-ups to do so. The professional protesters go to a lot of trouble to round up high school students, but - teenagers being teenagers - those who show up look bored and apathetic. Perhaps the real way to rebel these days is to ignore the moonbats and stay in school?

A Canadian high school cafeteria sees sales drop when healthy fare is on the menu. I'm wondering why they sell food at all if they let even the middle-schoolers leave campus at lunchtime.

Carlisle High School (PA) has discovered a magic wand that sniffs BAC from the air and transports students on a magic carpet straight from the dance floor to drug and alcohol counseling. Allegedly there are no "false positives" from this type of gadget, which would make it very different from every other alcohol test on the market.

Fort Lewis College (CO) students are living in the 70's. How long until 8-track tapes and vans with shag carpeting come back?

In the US, students who are caught cheating are often punished. Over in Russia, they get to brag that their innovative implements are now museum pieces. Women's panties with logarithms on them? That sounds less like a cheating tool and more like fetish gear for a lovesick mathematician.

Finally, do NOT miss the chance to see the photo of Victoria University students who reacted in ass-inine ways when university officials raised tuition fees (I love newspapers Down Under). Note to Victoria University council secretary Christine Turner: Hold the meetings in rooms above the first floor from now on. That won't completely stop the mooners, but it'll make it a bit tougher for them to plant their behinds so close to you. As for the students, it's hard to understand what they're getting for all that money if this was the most effective way they could think of to protest.

Posted by kswygert at 09:53 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 06, 2005

New responsibilities

Apologies for the lack of blogging, everyone. My job has recently become more demanding - and more enjoyable - and daily blogging is starting to seem like an unrealistic goal. I had been pondering for a while if N2P would benefit from a change in schedule, and now it seems necessary.

One possibility is one post each workday that contains multiple links, on related topics if possible. This method seems like it would push me far over onto the "linker" side of the "linker vs. thinker" continuum, but that may be what my Devoted Readers would enjoy.

On the other hand, if folks are more interested in long, thoughtful posts, it's become apparent that I can manage those only on the weekends.

So please enter a comment or two and let me know what you think would be a good direction for N2P. I think either of the above approaches would be feasible, but I'd like to do whatever will keep my readers satisfied. Thanks!

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