April 17, 2006

A new direction, a new location

Greetings and salutations, Devoted Readers.

As you've probably noticed, my posting on Number 2 Pencil has been sporadic as of late. Actually, "sporadic" is pretty generous; "non-existent" seems more accurate. I've been given the opportunity to follow an ambitious career path, and thanks to that (and other desirable life-altering opportunities, such as deciding how much of a Bridezilla to be this time around), I've had very little time to blog.

When I began N2P, my life was very, very different; in fact, I think the only constants in my life since that time are this blog and Alice the cat. In the four years and change since then, life has become much fuller and much more complicated (Alice has even had to learn to deal with a silly baby brother). I'm certainly not complaining - the changes have been almost all good. However, each new step seems to make it that much more difficult to create what I consider to be the minimal amount of blogging that is due my readers. N2P was intended to be a place where readers could come to peruse, at a leisurely pace but a reasonable depth, discussions of the basics of psychometrics and statistics, the myths and realities of testing, and the media's attitude towards testing at the K-12 and college level. I always believed that N2P should be a combination of a "linking" and a "thinking" blog; it never felt quite right to put up lots of quick links to education stories, but it also didn't feel that I was moving at quite the right tempo if I only managed, as has been the case lately, one day of blogging a week, or only one link with commentary every few days.

You can probably guess where I'm headed with all this, and you'd be right. After much thought, I've decided to cease production on Number 2 Pencil. I'm keeping the domain, the site, and the archives active, so that my posts are still out there for the reader's enjoyment, but I don't intend for there to be any future posts in this location. As much as I would like to keep this blog active, I don't feel it's the right thing to do, given the limitations of my time.

However, I do still have some time to lend my expertise and opinions to the lively discussions in the edublogging world, and I would like to stay involved as much as my life and time permit. Thus, I’ve decided to join the staff of The Education Wonks as a guest blogger. I feel very honored that they've agreed to have me in a guest spot on their site, which I consider to be one of the brighter new stars in the edublogging world. My psychometric knowledge and my general opinions will, I hope, add something meaningful to the discussion there.

Thank you to all my Devoted Readers for making N2P the lively place that is has been for the last four years. This blog has benefitted mightily from your input and would never have been anything close to a success were it not for those of you who emailed me, who started engaging debates in the comments section, and who just generally made this a more interesting place for everyone involved.

Special thanks go to Joanne, for inspiring me and giving endless good advice, and to Dean, for helping me migrate N2P to its current format, to John and Chett for displaying endless hospitality to a fellow blogger, and to those who just had to comment on everything I said (and sometimes catch me in error). Meep, Reginleif, Brian, Michael, Quincy, Walter, Chris, Triticale, DrLiz, LibraryGryffon, Mike, Stephanie, Tracy, Dr Weevil - I hope to see you all over at the Wonks blog.

(I'm going to leave comments active for a short while, so that if anyone wants to leave any general thoughts on this post, be it "N2P will be missed," or, "Don't let the door hit you on the ass," you can do so. After a while, I'll be completely deactiviting the comment/trackback functions for the blog; the existing comments will remain for future generations to enjoy. Also, I'll keep the kimberly at kimberly swygert dot com email address active for a while, but I'll be publishing my address on the Education Wonks website as swygert at gmail dot com.)

Posted by kswygert at 02:39 PM | Comments (1000)

April 08, 2006

San Francisco, here I am

I'm currently at the annual meeting of the National Council for Measurement in Education in San Francisco. I have my laptop with me but I also have a full schedule of presentations to attend (and one to give), so bloggage probably won't resume for the next couple of days.

Posted by kswygert at 10:32 AM | Comments (113)

February 21, 2006

Trackbacks are back

Trackbacks have been reinstated. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Posted by kswygert at 08:14 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 15, 2006

And here I just thought you guys were being quiet

If you couldn't access my blog over the past couple of days, there was a good reason. Thanks to a comedy of errors (on my part, not Verve's - they're frickin' awesome), I lost my domain name for a couple of days. As you can see, there was no one else itching to get it, so it's back under my command.

Posted by kswygert at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Good lumbar support, but not machine-washable

Apologies for non-bloggage this week. Workdays were hectic, and when I came home and sat down in my favorite chair, I ended up passing out on my purring pillow:

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I'll catch up on Sunday.

Posted by kswygert at 08:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2006

The spammers continue

Trackbacks have been temporarily disabled to foil the latest onslaught of spammers. I'll let you know when they're back up. Feel free to shoot me an email or leave in the comments that you've linked to me, and I can always put up a new post with your link in it.

Posted by kswygert at 08:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 21, 2005

Critiquing the tests

Jay Mathews reviews Gerald Bracey's new book, Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered:

As a popular writer and speaker, with regular columns in two monthly education magazines, the Phi Delta Kappan and Principal Leadership, and acidic annual reports on the condition of public education, Bracey has been exposing statistics abuse for years. But I have never seen him put together all that he knows as well as he has in this book...

Here is a good example of the Bracey passion for clarity. He is addressing the difficult concept of correlation, a key to many misunderstandings of educational statistics and to most bad education stories, including some written by me:

"We can correlate any two variables. Whether or not the resulting correlation makes sense is another question. Before everyone started wearing jeans, the Dow Jones stock market index correlated with skirt length. Shorter skirts were associated with good economic times and a rising market. Longer skirts were correlated with recessions. To the best of my knowledge, no one suggested raising hemlines as a means to boost the stock market. Similarly, there is a correlation between arm length and shirtsleeve length. Given ONLY a correlation coefficient, though, it makes as much sense to think that increasing sleeve length will make arms grow longer as it does to think that longer arms will mean longer sleeves. In this case other information could be adduced to assist in determining which way the causal relationship would operate"...

Bracey is a prolific and aggressive critic of No Child Left Behind and the rising use of standardized tests to assess schools and students, but he is too careful an analyst to embrace the most popular alternatives to testing without also giving them the third degree. One favorite of the anti-testing movement, portfolios (samples of student work), is seen by Bracey has just another idea with problems. So you have a nice big portfolio envelope, Bracey says. What do you put in it? "Typical work or the best work?" Bracey asks. "Who decides what is best? Teacher or student?" What do you do, he asks, when teachers disagree about the quality of the work?

All excellent points. Sounds like a good read to me.

His best suggestion is adding courses in what he calls "consumer-oriented probability and statistics" to our curriculums.

Hey, he stole my idea! I always thought a statistics course would go over quite well in high school, if it were retitled to be, "Bulls**t Detection 101."

Posted by kswygert at 10:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

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.


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

September 30, 2005

Happy Birthday to me

Whee! Tomorrow I will be 37, which is, I'm sure, a milestone of some sort. I just don't know which sort yet. Perhaps it's the "I've finally got my head together but my body hasn't completely fallen apart yet" milestone?

Gifties: A new laptop from my parents, a new mouse, battery, and computer game from my fiance, and from myself, a new kickass red lipstick (Red Attitude). Just call me a downtown chick with self-confidence.

On the agenda for the today and tomorrow: Tutoring a friend of a friend in college algebra, getting the brakes on my car fixed, admiring the huge bouquet of roses that a co-worker sent to me, going out to see Serenity with Dave, going out with a big group tomorrow night for dinner at the Iron Hill Brewery.

On the agenda for Sunday: Sleeping.

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Posted by kswygert at 11:34 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

September swampland

Sorry for the lack of bloggage; I've been out of town on business and am a bit swamped at work. Be back soon.

Posted by kswygert at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Misplaced efforts

Jay at Wizbang is inspired by a Michael Jordan poster:

A while ago, I saw a Michael Jordan poster that had the following quote on it:

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

That crystallized a sentiment I've had for years, and touched on briefly yesterday:

One of the most valuable things in life is failure.

Nobody's perfect, and only one person in the world can be the best. Everyone, eventually, will fail at something. And the quicker and better someone learns how to deal with that, the better their chances of success in life will be...

This should be intuitively obvious to most people, but a good chunk of them (mostly liberal, and often involved in education) want to "protect" children from learning this harsh reality. They ban competitive sports, outlaw keeping score, and suppress the notion of "failing" grades in the name of "protecting their self-esteem."

I've said it for years: attempting to give someone self-esteem is, in the long run, the most damaging thing you can do to someone. Anything someone else gives you, someone else can take away. The only self-esteem that counts is that which you earn, which you get honestly from your own efforts. "A for effort" is an obscenity.

I can't agree enough. It amazes me to see the number of people involved in the education field, or the journalistic field, who believe that effort should be involved when grading students, teachers, or schools. That isn't how life works. Michael Jordan might be working in Kmart today if his basketball coaches had said that his missed baskets were "good enough."

If you are in the real world and you are responsible for doing something right, the results from trying real hard, but not quite getting there, can range from personally disastrous (you get fired) to disaster on a truly large scale (the space shuttle blows up). Why should schools be exempt?

Giving A's for effort is not only dishonest, but cruel. If a person, or an institution, is putting a lot of effort towards a goal, and is still failing at it, the most useful and humane feedback they can recieve is an honest and timely description of their failure. Otherwise, how will they ever learn to try something else?

Posted by kswygert at 04:22 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Un-lovely Rita

Lawrence Simon has the Hurricane Rita roundup. He and his family may decide to evacuate tonight.

He's the brains behind Carnival of the Cats; don't miss his homegrown version of the hurricane categorizing system.

Me, I'm just thinking about Michele's drive to send all those school supplies to Houston. Now where do we go?

Posted by kswygert at 07:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

Carnival of Hurricane Relief

Update, yet again: Houston donations address:

HISD is coordinating donations of school supplies and school uniforms for the evacuee students who will be educated during the next few months. We are asking donors to send donations to:

HISD Warehouse
Central Receiving
228 McCarty
Houston, TX 77029
ATTN. Anne Silver

Email Gwendolyn Samples (gsamples at houstonisd dot org) if you have questions. Michele has commandeered a truck and is moving supplies on down!

Update, again: Wow. A blogger (whom I worship, incidentally), Michele Catalano, is already organizing school supplies and volunteers to help out Houston's newest students. She started on Tuesday looking for volunteers. It's not just Houston - Baton Rouge and Lafayette have volunteered to take refugee kids into their school as well. Please visit Michele's site if you have time, supplies, or trucks to offer.

One of her commenters also notes the United Methodist Committee on Relief has a general advisory for creating School Kits, although their main Katrina page is asking for Health Kits and Flood Buckets at the moment.

If you're in the Houston area, go here to learn how to donate school supplies.

Update: Avon has teamed up with Gifts in Kind—the world’s leading charity in product philanthropy—to send disaster relief kits to people across the U.S. whose lives have been disrupted by disasters, both natural and man-made. I'm an Avon representative, so if you would like to sponsor the $10.00 gift (which contains five personal necessities and includes a $4.00 donation to Gifts in Kind), please contact me at kimberly at kimberlyswygert dot com.

I'm participating in the Hurricane Katrina Blog for Relief day. My charity of choice was the American Red Cross, but I admit the Humane Society was a close second. It tore my heart up to hear that those stranded in New Orleans seeking shelter at the Superdome were told they could not bring their pets along. Here's to both organizations as they move their disaster-relief teams into the stricken areas.

Instapundit has all the links here. The list of participating blogs who signed up wtih NZ Bear is here; feel free to add yours to the list. Also, Michelle Malkin has tons of links; start here and keep scrolling.

In an education-related vein, young refugees stuck in Houston are welcomed into the system there. There's a huge drive for refugee resettlement in that area. Perhaps someone should start a drive to send school supplies to the newly-homeless sending their kids to school in Houston? There's a drive for sleeping bags; surely there's one for educational supplies somewhere. I've emailed the information person for HISD, Diana Perez, to ask. (Update: Ms. Perez has forwarded my offer for help to their Community Relations Department. I'll keep you posted).

Update: If N2P inspired you to donate, NZBear has a page tracking donations by weblog. Thanks! And do read what Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters has to say:

Instead of our distant cousins of the Indian Ocean, we now watch as our American brothers and sisters suffer through the destruction of perhaps the best-loved hometown in America, New Orleans. The devastation will go on for years. The entire community has disappeared under water -- not just homes, but the businesses that employ the people who live there, the shops that fed and clothed them, the services that give Americans the high standard of living that we enjoy and take for granted.

They have nothing left. It goes beyond homelessness. It goes beyond unemployment. Our brothers and sisters have gone through the looking glass -- and as Americans, we need to step up to bring them back.

This post will stay at the top of N2P all day on Sept. 1.

Posted by kswygert at 01:00 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Open thread for email list

Anyone who would like their email added to my email notification list can either (a) add it in the comments to this post, or (b) send me an email at kimberly at kimberlyswygert dot com. I've never used the email notification tool on MT before, but I think you might like it.

Posted by kswygert at 01:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Katrina

If I have any readers in Louisiana and Mississippi, I hope you're okay.

Michelle Malkin has a roundup of online news related to the hurricane. The American Red Cross has a form set up for donations. On Fark, one commenter gives sensible advice:

A few notes from a Red Cross veteran:

Please don't try to drive to Louisiana "just to help out". It's a very sweet idea, but for at least the first few weeks, disaster management is a huge logistical clusterfark without random people showing up. You are much more likely to end up a victim yourself than you are to save/assist somebody. Donate money instead!

Alternatively, sign up with your local Red Cross, church, or community group as a volunteer. You'll recieve training in a necessary field (disaster assessment, family services, shelter management) as well as food money and local housing. Don't worry--relief operations will probably be going on to a greater or lesser extent for a year. You're not gonna miss it if you take the time to sign up. My last posting was for six weeks.

Also, don't think of this as a good time to donate last year's clothes or a huge box of random cleaning supplies. I worked at a logistics center and we would recieve boxes of this stuff from churches. Once again, it's a nice sentiment, but your old sheets, batteries, canned peas, and winter coats (it's summer! in the South!) basically just sit on a shelf in some warehouse until the operation closes down and we throw them away. Seriously, the most helpful thing you can do is give money, even if it feels cheap.

A cash donation means we can buy as many cots, first aid kits, cleaning kits, teddy bears, etc. as we need. It also means the stuff we buy is organized, professionally packed, and clearly marked so we can count it. It doesn't matter what you gave if it can't be counted! Cleaning stuff that isn't professionally packed is also a hazard to warehouse workers.

Thanks for the help everyone and good luck.

Posted by kswygert at 01:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Breathing easy

No bloggage today; work is hectic.

I also - finally - hope to get my health issues under control. I've just been diagnosed with asthma, which explains quite a few of the problems I've been having. I'll start treatments this week, so I hope to have more energy for the blog, not to mention the rest of my life.

I'm sure I'll still be hyperventilating in the future when I read about Alfie Kohn and his ilk off on another rampage against testing, but it'll be due only to disbelief, not to disease.

Posted by kswygert at 11:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Goths roaming the streets of NYC

A friend of mine just sent along a NYTimes multimedia feature entitled, "Tribes of New York: The Goth Girls." This caught his eye, because this is how I refer to my gang of girlfriends. Except for the black-dyed hair, I've certainly dressed up like some of these girls before (although the more extreme stuff I've worn only for Dracula's Balls.) I'd say my style, and that of my local friends, tend much more towards Comfy Goth (black Converse sneakers with spiders painted on them) or RomantiGoth (nix on the facial piercings, dreadlocks, extensions, and uncomfortable bondage gear). The NYT got the background/intro music right, I'll say that, and every goth girl I know - myself included - got into it for the music, just as one girl is quoted as saying in this piece.

(My friend couldn't resist this comment when sending me the link - "Have you been to the NY Times web site today? I know you wouldn’t normally read such a liberal rag, and that you probably stick to “objective” sources like Fox news, but today there’s a multimedia piece..." Heh. I read the NYTimes often. True, it's often for the express purpose of finding an education piece that I can fisk, but I do read it.)

Posted by kswygert at 05:19 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

What's Dutch for "'til we meet again"?

Tomorrow I catch a flight to Amsterdam to attend the International Meeting of the Psychometric Society. The Palm Pilot is charged, the shampoo is packed, my pashmina and Bucky pillow are in my carry-on - I think I'm almost ready.

Actually, I'm completely ready, except for, you know, the talk I'm supposed to give next Tuesday. That's still taking shape. As in, I'll probably be doing frantic revisions on the laptop Monday night. No matter - IMPS is a fairly laid-back conference, and research that's "in progress" is always welcome. I'm hoping to get some helpful feedback during the talk.

Anyway, I'll be back home next Thursday. May you all have a joyous and food/flag/fireworks-filled 4th of July.

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Posted by kswygert at 08:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

Bits and pieces

A couple of quick links, before I crawl back into bed and whimper, my sinuses ravaged by the recent onslaught of pollen and the sudden 30-degree change in average temperature outside...

From today's Onion sidebar: "PETA Complains As Revised SAT Tested On Chimpanzees" (thanks, Mike M).

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Devoted Reader Tracy A. notes that the AJC previously published a criticism-free article on the state exams; her theory is that this explains the subsequent article in which non-substantive criticism was shoehorned in. I think she's right.

Anyone ever hear of the Waldorf schools? This article is thought-provoking. The school philosophy sounds about as hippie and touchy-feely as one can get. I would think it'd be difficult to catch students up in later grades after they fall behind early on.

A cheating scandal unfolds in Louisiana. Obligatory quote about how there's too much pressure on teachers these days is included. I'd just like to say that I'd love to be in a field where, if I was caught breaking the rules, the newspapers would rush to make excuses for me.

The Nyquil is kicking in. Goodnight.

Update:Awww. In my allergic misery, I have company:

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Posted by kswygert at 07:33 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Off for the holidays

I'll be busy getting work done today and tomorrow, and then Thursday we head to South Carolina for the Memorial Day weekend. I'll try to log back on this Friday or so, but no bloggage until then.

Posted by kswygert at 10:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Moving day(s)

Bloggage will be light for the next three days, as I'm in the middle of moving offices. Dang, but I've collected a lot of junk in my current-soon-to-be-former office. I'm such a packrat.

Posted by kswygert at 12:06 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Comments

Comments are down again, and I'm not sure why. I haven't changed anything in the templates lately. It might just be an issue with Verve.

Update: They seem to be operational now.

Posted by kswygert at 07:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

Carnival Week 7

The Carnival of Education, Week 7, is up, with Jenny D guest-hosting.

Every week, I am amazed at the amount of quality output from edubloggers out there. But I guess I shouldn't be.

Posted by kswygert at 09:30 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

Something different: Vampire Bat Research

Last night, high on cold medicine, I was researching vampire bats online. I love bats, period, and vampire bats definitely have some unique qualities apart from the whole sanguivorous diet. Did you know they're the only bats that can run and jump? They're also very social, and will regurgitate blood to help save unrelated blood-buddies from starvation.

Best of all, their saliva contains extremely powerful anticoagulants (the better to keep the cow blood flowing as they feed). A blood-thinning drug has been derived from their saliva, and it's been delightfully named Draculin (as has the anticoagulant factor in the wild).

Update: Hee hee hee hee. Comment from Triticale:

If, as legend has it, being bitten by a vampire bat causes one to turn into a vampire, then would would happen to a person bitten by a fruit bat?

Behold!

Posted by kswygert at 10:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

Om Om Om

My gym workouts are really having an effect. Tonight, I was able to hold vasisthasana (sideways plank), kataranga (bending the elbows backwards in plank pose), and urdhva muhka svanasana (upward-facing dog) much longer than ever before.

Bear in mind that as I try to hold difficult poses, I have two cats swarming around my body, brushing up against me, and licking my fingers (Pippin has a thing for fingers) when I'm trying to balance on two fingers and one toe.

Posted by kswygert at 09:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Mysterious visitors from Oz

All of a sudden, I'm seeing a spike of referrals from Tim Blair's site. I love his stuff and read him daily, but I can't find, for the life of me, anywhere over there that is linking back to here. I haven't commented on there lately, and he doesn't have a permalink to me.

If you're visiting from there, would you mind dropping a comment here to let me know what led you this way? Thanks!

Posted by kswygert at 07:09 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

I'd like to ping them upside the head

I got hit hard by spammers in the middle of the night last night - hundreds of pings to some useless website selling some useless product. Apparently the MT code that prevents multiple comments from being made within a short period of time doesn't do the same thing with trackback pings.

So if the webpage was down, or you were trying to ping me and couldn't, I apologize.

Posted by kswygert at 01:59 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

EWF, 36, seeks advice

According to my Control Panel stats (my Sitemeter stats aren't yet accurate, since I forgot to put the meter code on my archive pages until today), there were 50 visitors today who spent over an hour on this page.

My, but you Devoted Readers need a life.

However, seeing as how some of you are parking here pretty much permanently, I could use some advice. I'd like to increase my traffic. Sure, an Instalink is always good for an extra 5000 visitors or so, but most of his readers are more interested in political blogs (as am I).

Things I've done before and will probably try again: paying for monthly ads (mainly on right-of-center political websites), commenting on other blogs, sending link suggestions to other bloggers, and so on. I was just wondering if any of you out there had any additional ideas for what else I could do. I'd be willing to put together a monthly or weekly summary page, and perhaps a column or two (a la Joanne's sweet - and entirely deserved - deals with Fox News and Jewish World Review), if I knew who might be interested.

Any suggestions, short of actually putting photos on here of the "nak3d t3achers" for whom so many surfers are searching, are welcome.

Posted by kswygert at 08:49 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 07, 2005

Comments are back up

Comments are now active, and I posted a whole buncha stuff last night. Go ahead and give me you $.02. For two of you, I've taken the liberty of posting comments that you emailed to me.

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

February 06, 2005

Let's hope the Eagles perform better than my blog

Comments are currently farked, and I've no idea why. Last week trackbacks were shut down due to a spammer attack, and this may have the same cause. Thanks to MT Blacklist, I don't see all that much spam, but that doesn't mean a lot of it isn't trying to get in.

I need to get off the computer anyway, because it's kickoff time. Keep trying on the comments, and if there's no improvement in the am I'll check with my hosts.

Posted by kswygert at 06:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2005

Updates

Not a lot of time to post today, so I thought I'd add a few updates to previous popular posts:

* Great comments for the post about the spelling bee. My two favorites are the suggestion that some educators must believe in No Child Gets Ahead (by Alessandra), and the theory that spelling bees are necessary because in addition to learning to be winners, kids need to learn how to be graceful losers (by ricki).

Also, the bee might not be extinct after all. But who knew that spelling bees took "several months" of preparation? Think there's a bit of inefficiency in there?

* My comments filter out the words "sports" because I was hit by spammers who had that in their URLs. I'll see if I can go back and un-ban that URL now.

* Reader Alice E noted in the post about the immodest prom dress that one solution is to hold a pre-prom fashion show featuring pretty yet modest gowns, so that young girls do have a choice. Not surprisingly, the Mormons have some experience in dealing with this problem. Of course, for all you parents on a budget, you should know that while modest can mean "pretty," it can also still mean "expensive."

* I discovered last weekend that certain of my coworkers have been sneaking in my office after hours and breaking off hunks of my Ghirardelli bar by slamming the bar down on my desk (it's in a plastic bag). I had already used up about 4 pounds of it for a fondue party and thus didn't notice that more had disappeared. Work is going to continue to get more stressful, so I guess I don't have to worry about what to do with all that chocolate.

Posted by kswygert at 12:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 10, 2005

Quick hits

Lotsa good comments on this Joanne Jacobs post about merit pay for teachers. Maybe if the good teachers got paid well enough, they wouldn't have to strip kids to find $10.

How are we going to convince kids that it's fair for us to take away all the sweets from their school vending machines when Mom is downing one of these every morning?

Um, honey, we may want to keep the kids away from the "bunny trails" this week.

Dan Flynn says, "Return the money!" It won't make everything OK again, but it would be a start.

What's wrong with American high schools, you ask? Erin O'Connor and her commenters answer.

Daryl C - like, fer sure, dude! - finds a homeschooling article that's not only positive but reveals that homeschooled kids actually appear normal, too. And can you believe that a recent study suggests over a third of college admin officers still think that homeschooled kids aren't "socialized" enough for college? Yeeks.

Posted by kswygert at 07:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2004

Rotting my teeth

Bloggage will resume when I return from vacation on January 11th. I expect blogging to be frequent and somewhat spacey at that point, given that I'll be trying to catch up on all that I missed and I'll be experiencing quite the sugar high:

choc.jpg

(Yes, this was an Xmas gift. Yes, it weighs ten pounds. The writing implement is there to show the scale.)

Update: This is a list I sent out to coworkers of what I've thought of to do with this chocolate beast:

1. Keep it in my office for when I want to bludgeon someone (probably an annoying coworker) into submission.

2. Melt it down in a small swimming pool and have a chocolate wrestling match.

3. Invite people to come by with hammers and break off as much of it as they desire.

4. Bake about 10,000 chocolate chip cookies.

Let me know if you can think of any others!

Posted by kswygert at 02:39 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004

Apologies for my absence

Here are the reasons I've not been blogging, should you care:

1. I now get up at 6 am so that I can get to the gym (at work) by 6:45 am. My calves already look better, but my late-night blogging has predictably dwindled.

2. I have a new job, as of January 1st. It's within the same company, but represents a substantial shift in responsibilities. Therefore, I've lately been spending time preparing, interviewing, and discussing my new tasks with all and sundry. Interestingly, this is the first time that my business card will actually read, "Psychometrician."

3. Just got my copy of the Extended Release DVD of The Return of the King, so there go about 20 hours of free time right there.

4. I'm only halfway through my shopping list, and now my Christmas card list has all my fiance's family and in-laws on it. If anyone knows where I can get a Darth Vader Voice Changer helmet - before next Wednesday - please let me know. And no, it's not for my fiance.

5. I've only gotten two Christmas gifts from friends, but both gifts were large bottles of liquor. Probably not a wise idea to chug Nocello (my favorite) and blog at the same time.

Did I mention I'll also be on vacation from December 22nd - 28th and January 1st - 10th? I'll try to squeeze some bloggage in around Christmas (including photos of my fiance and me), but I won't be anywhere near a computer the first week of January. So let's hope it's a slow news week for testing. And don't stop the email and comments - even if you don't hear back from me, I read everything, and I love to see energetic comment debates such as the ones here and here.

Update: Just got another Christmas gift. Wheeee! And my fiance's boss bought him this as a gift. How apropos.

wreath_lights_sm_nwm.gif

Posted by kswygert at 05:02 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 30, 2004

Feeling appreciated

From a new Devoted Reader who shall remain nameless (for now) comes this lovely email:

Ms. Swygert,

I stumbled upon your blog several weeks ago and I definitely liked what I found. In fact, I must admit that going through the archives to catch up on old entries has become a favorite method of procrastination. :)

Anyway, I thought I would share a story that appeared in my hometown newspaper that would be perfect for your site....

Take notes, people. THIS is the way to send email to bloggers. If you ever want to send me a link and aren't sure what to say in the email, just cut and paste this and insert your name at the end. Seriously, there's not much more you can do to make a blogger feel good than to write emails like this. Makes it all worthwhile.

Posted by kswygert at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you and yours are all having a restful, food-full day. I'm looking forward to catching up to blogging this weekend, as this is the first time in a month that I've had more than one day in a row off from work.

Hope all my Devoted Readers are well, and I'll be posting soon. Until then, here's a long list of things you can do this Thanksgiving to help our military members, and those who love them.

Posted by kswygert at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

Too hot to handle

Thanks to the most recent wave of spammers, I've had to disable anyone with a Hotmail address from posting. If you have such an address and you're NOT a spammer, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience (and I'm afraid that two of you who are legit commenters had recent comments removed during my housecleaning). I'll let you know when I can restore access to these addresses.

Posted by kswygert at 11:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 07, 2004

I really should buy Red Sox caps for all of you

Once again, I disappoint my loyal readers by not posting enough. Heck, I didn't even manage a catblogging photo on Friday, much less the Cheating In The News roundup! I know, I'm lame. I have no excuse other than an insane workweek (let's put it this way, on Monday night I had to take my analysts out for drinks, because the week was already that hellish) and the fact that I am now in Boston for a conference. Which requires a lot of networking. And 7:00 AM business breakfasts. And moving hotel rooms, because they couldn't get me into a non-smoking room last night, thus ensuring that I would wake up this morning totally snotty and with bloodshot eyes. Gah.

I'll make it up to you sometime this week, I promise. And if any of my Devoted Readers are in the downtown Boston area and you can email me in time, I'll be happy to buy you a drink.

Posted by kswygert at 10:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 16, 2004

When life interferes with blogging

No, I'm not dead. But thanks for asking!

Seriously, I'm up to my armpits in work, and that's not going to change over the next couple of months. What free time I have is spent eating, sleeping, and surfing the non-testing news on the web. Like most of the rest of you, I too have been constantly clicking through news/blog links to see what gets destroyed first - Alabama's coastline or Dan Rather's credibility.

I hate to say it, but it looks like N2P is going to have to go weekly, rather than daily, for a little while. Weekends are probably going to be my only chances to catch up, and hopefully I can squeeze a week's worth of material in for those days. For those of you who used N2P to kill time at work (and I know you're out there), here's a list of sites that are entertaining time-wasters, one and all:

Defamer, FuggingItUp, and AwfulPlasticSurgery - The best way to feel good about yourself is to observe how badly celebrities act, dress, and surgically "enhance" themselves when their handlers aren't around.

Movie Review Query Engine and Rotten Tomatoes - I'm an obsessive movie review fan and these sites allow you to read tons of review on any movie you choose. The MRQE site in particular is easy to use, and has reviews on obscure/old movies as well.

Crimelibrary, The Worldwide Serial Killer Homepage, Cult Killers, and Violent Kids - Because a day without a juicy forensic interview of a serial killer is like a day without sunshine.

If you've got money to burn, these are very cute bags (I ordered a couple in purple), this is a GREAT shoe store (kudos to the Devoted Reader who told me about it), and this site can handle all your dragon-related needs. If you'd rather laugh at the spendthrifts than part with cash yourself, there's always Who Would Buy That?

Favorite kitty-related site: MeanKitty.com. Be sure to read the descriptions in the galleries. This cat is apparently my Alice's twin sister in spirit. Heck, if you feel like admiring photos of my kitties too, admire away.

Check back this weekend for more news!

Posted by kswygert at 03:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 23, 2004

Oh, and one more thing...

..if you like handmade jewelry, my friend Jenn has finally got a store up on eBay. It's Freya's Fire, and I can personally vouch for the quality of her jewelry and the care that goes into making every piece. She recently made me a great black crystal necklace with this little guy hanging upside-down at the bottom of it. If you buy anything, tell her I sent you!

Posted by kswygert at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Movin' on up (in the blogosphere)

Woo hoo! Michelle Malkin, for whom I have tremendous respect, knows I exist! I'm thrilled to see a link to N2P from her blog - and thrilled to know she's not singling me out for skanky behavior (though that would get me another Insty link). She doesn't pull any punches.

Posted by kswygert at 07:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

What's going through my head today

Busy at work, so here's my roundup of, well, just about everything I'm thinking about, not all of which is related to testing.

Today, I was able to convince a colleague (just in time) that the story alleging a huge IQ gap between the Bush and Gore 2000 states is a hoax. I have great Googling skills, a good memory for what I read online - and Devoted Readers who send me every possible IQ story on earth.

Got kitties? Got a ShopRite near you? This week is ShopRite's can sale. Get 24 cans of Friskies wet food for $5 with your ShopRite card, limit of 96 cans. As God is my witness, my kitties will never go hungry again. (And for those of you who teach elementary school math, time to turn this into a good word problem! "Kimberly has two kitties who each eat one can of food a day. 24 cans of food cost $5. How much would six cans cost? How much does she need to spend to keep her kitties fed for 48 days?")

My boss bought in fresh cilantro from his garden. Pasta with cilantro pesto is on the menu tonight.

This kinda changes the idea of what "volunteering" is, doesn't it?

Sephora.com took in its usual infusion of cash from me this week. I am an unrepentant skin-care-product junkie, yes I am.

I don't have to defend tests anymore; Joanne Jacobs, Bill Evers, and Jay Mathews have done it for me.

Can I get one that says, "Hands off, I'm taken"?

Want to know more about value-added testing? The Pacific Institute's new research report, Putting Education to the Test: A Value-Added Model for California, is out. Also, the entire Spring 2004 issue of the Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics is devoted to this topic.

Jonah Goldberg provides a link to a cemetery for "Dogs of War". I love this comment: "If you search for Dogs of War on the web you get all sorts of sites like this, about dogs of war. If you search for cats of war the internet laughs at you."

And while we're talking about cemeteries, I learned two cool new words this week, both of which describe those who love these creepy, historic, unique places: taphophile and necrolithologist. The second term, believe it or not, is not anywhere on the web, but was mentioned in Cemetery Stories. Regardless, it's safe to say that buying a house because there's a graveyard behind it earns me these labels.

Posted by kswygert at 03:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Get 'em while they're hot

Dean Esmay has graciously helped me battle the Spambots by changing my comment specifics. Comments for posts over 30 days old are now closed, and in the future comments functionality will be closed once a post is over 30 days old. So if you have something to say, do it quickly; otherwise you'll have to send me an email and let me post an update.

And speaking of comments, I found this post on blog civility fascinating. I certainly have noticed the influx and effect of trolls elsewhere, but N2P has remained refreshingly free of them. Perhaps it's because of my civil tone (usually) and the fact that I don't post rash statements just to get readers riled up (though I loved the whole Blair Hornstine controversy). Perhaps it's because readership is below the danger point (10,000 - 20,000 a day).

Or perhaps it's because anyone commenting here probably knows they're dealing with a blogger with a Ph.D. and regular readers who are quite educated, and to leave ridiculous, nasty, incendiary comments here instead of thoughtful ones is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. You'll just get your tail whupped and your profanity (which doesn't impress us) deleted.

Posted by kswygert at 01:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

Final Test

From Dean: "I believe the blog is now working as it should, and our spam problem should be fixed. Stay tuned...."

And it does appear to be. Regular bloggage should resume over the holidays. And a big smooch to Dean for upgrading my site and getting rid of all that nasty spam.

Posted by kswygert at 04:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Warning - Hard Hat Area

Comments are still out, and I'm still working 11-hour days with no time to blog, and Dean Esmay is graciously helping me resolve some MT and MT Blacklist issues (N2P was one of the sites he so kindly switched from Blogger to MT about a year or so ago). So, consider this site "Under Construction" for a few more days. Hopefully everything will be back up and running after the July 4th holiday.

So get up from the computer and go eat a hot dog (or tofu dog) and watch some fireworks, will you?

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

June 29, 2004

No posts, and fewer comments

Just wanted to let you know I'm still alive, and not to be alarmed by the lack of posts on the site. I've been at work, oh, 11 hours already today, and haven't quite finished up. Not a lot of time to blog, there is.

Also, don't be alarmed by the sudden misfunctions of the comments, either. Right now, when I barely have time to link to the briefest of Fark articles, I've been getting hammered by the nastiest, vilest spammers possible, to the tune of 750+ spammed comments a day. The URLs and keywords keep shifting and permutating through various spellings of gross and illegal acts, so it would take constant vigilance to keep MT Blacklist on top of it. And I don't have that right now.

So, much as I love to read the comments and the interplay amongst my visitors, I've had to briefly disable comment functionality (it will appear to you like the comments, and comment functionality, are still there, but if you try to click on the comments link, you'll get an error). Even if I hadn't thought this was the best thing to do, this email from my hosting company would have spurred me to action:

Your site was under attack by numerous "spammers" who left links to porn sites in the comments they left on your blog...There were so many that it increased the load on the server to an unacceptable level. You should consider upgrading to the latest version of Moveable Type, which prevents this kind of spamming.

So I'll upgrade. And hopefully will have comments back someday. And if you have something you really want to say, and want everyone to know, email me, and I'll attach it as an update on the end of the post in question (a la Instapundit).

Posted by kswygert at 06:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2004

Education news round-up

It's still work=insane, me=slammed around here. I'll be in meetings all day today and tomorrow. This weekend, I may be drinking heavily. Caveat emptor on any postings from Saturday, in other words.

But I do have a few quick things to put up..

-----

A Man Bites Dog story: An African American mother is fighting to rescind a rule that prevents her child from being given an IQ test. The rule follows from a a 1979 case in which "a judge decided IQ tests could not be used to determine children’s placement in special education classes in California," and the mother in question, Ms. Lewis, believes the assumption behind this is that all black children are dumb:

The ruling sought to address the overabundance of African-American students who were placed in special education classes after performing poorly on the IQ test, Lewis said.

Lewis doesn't deny that the test may have been discriminatory toward African-American children in the past. She's just convinced that the educational playing field is more level today.

"This is closet racism within the school district and the courts," she said. "Basically they're saying if you're black, you're dumb."

Others are urging Ms. Lewis not to open the door for minority kids to take such a "racially biased" test, thus reaffirming her assertion that a whole lot of people out there think all African American kids are too dumb to take IQ tests. She's right to call this "racism."

(Thanks to Devoted Reader Linda S. for the story.)
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THIS is why we need a sounder math curriculum in schools:

Confused about how to divide "kilos" of cocaine into ounces for sale, two teens from a Saanich private school turned to their math teacher for help, provincial court heard Monday.

An 18-year-old woman testified that a classmate -- when they were both Grade 11 students at St. Margaret's School for girls -- returned from the Thanksgiving holiday with a large quantity of cocaine which she intended to sell. But the two girls, who cannot be named because they were under age 18 at the time of the alleged incident, were unsure of its value since neither knew how many ounces there are in a kilogram.

"She asked me and I didn't know. We were in math class so the teacher would know. So I asked," said the testifying student.

The other student, now 18, is on trial in B.C. provincial court for possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking.

It's sad to see a promising enteprenurial career stalled by a inadequate math education, isn't it?

-----

She could have gotten 15 days in jail, but the cheatin' teacher from South Carolina chose the $800 fine:

A Columbia woman is the first teacher to be convicted of helping students cheat on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, the state’s high-stakes standardized test...Deborah Primus, 32, a math teacher at Southeast Middle School in Richland 1, pleaded guilty to violating mandatory test security Tuesday, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Circuit Judge Ernest Kinard Jr. offered Primus a choice of 15 days in jail or an $800 fine. Primus, who has been teaching for more than 10 years — first in Orangeburg 5, then in Richland 1 — chose the fine.

A state Department of Education committee will review the case and may decide to suspend or revoke her teaching license.

The "pressure" of testing is cited as a possible cause for her behavior. Here's a tip - if you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.

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Students who rank low in good high schools are catching a break, as colleges are relying on such rankings less and less.

According to a survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, colleges and universities across the country are paying less attention to rank and placing more emphasis on good grades, application essays and standardized test scores, such as the SAT and ACT.

Among the 595 schools polled last year, 33 percent reported that class rank is of "considerable importance," down from 42 percent in 1993. At the same time, 61 percent said standardized test scores were an important factor in admitting students, up from 46 percent a decade ago. And 54 percent of schools surveyed said grades were a key factor, up from 39 percent in 1993.

"Finishing first or fifth at your high school doesn't tell a college as much about you as your standardized test scores or the strength of your curriculum because that they can compare to students at other schools," said David Hawkins, director of public policy for Alexandria, Va.-based National Association for College Admission Counseling.

In other words, if you're in the bottom half of a great (and competitive) school, and you have good grades and high SAT scores, your low ranking won't hurt you as much. Which is as it should be.

-----

Finally, here's an advice column for worried parents whose kids get straight A's but rock-bottom scores on standardized tests. The advice? Hey, lighten up! - the teacher's grades must be the more accurate assessment!

Q: My daughter's final report card puzzles me. She is a fifth-grader and received all A's this year. However, she had very low scores in math, social studies and spelling on a standardized achievement test given to her class. I am thinking that maybe her teacher was just handing out A's. How concerned should I be about the discrepancies between my child's report-card grades and her achievement-test scores?

A: To put your mind at rest that the teacher was not handing out too many A grades, consider your daughter's past grades on report cards. If she has been an A student in earlier grades, you should expect this pattern to continue...

Typically, teachers' grades give a good picture of how children are doing in school, because the teachers observe how the children are doing every day on a wide range of tasks. On the other hand, standardized tests are a one-time reading of students' abilities. One of the problems with these tests is that many students are not good test-takers. Others can get low scores because they were sick, did not try to do their best, or had some test anxiety. Also, standardized tests are considered to be especially unreliable in assessing the achievement of students of very high and very low ability.

Not necessarily - and they're certainly not "unreliable" to the point where a true A student will be bombing them. And while we're talking about "reliability," standardized exams are almost always more reliable than teacher grades, which can include inflation due to the teacher's assessment of "effort" rather than achievement.

When there is a discrepancy between a child's grades and standardized-test scores, there is always the possibility that the material on the test has not been covered adequately in the classroom. In this case, most of the other students in a class will also have low scores. Why don't you try to talk to a school counselor or psychometrist before school begins again to learn more about what your child's low standardized-test scores probably mean and how they can be improved?

It's "psychometrician," not "psychometrist." Why shouldn't the parent be urged to confront the teacher with the scores, rather than a counselor? And while parents should indeed find out as much as possible about the tests, they shouldn't start with the assumption that the test scores are more likely to be inaccurate.

Posted by kswygert at 08:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 20, 2004

From the N2P mailbox

Got more reader mail than usual lately, and I thought all my Devoted Readers might be interested in some of it.

Devoted Reader Ed N. notes that critics of Virginia's SOLs will have to find something else to carp about, now that only 74 students in Hampton Roads were denied diplomas due to a failing score on the exam. Ed claims the area contains urban and suburban kids. Note that in some districts, students can take the tests "indefinitely," which may lead to some wobbly, grey-haired graduates in years to come.

Devoted Reader Justine is in high dudgeon after a discussion in her AP History class turned ugly. It seems Justine and her friend Kelly tried to argue against AA, and they even mentioned SAT scores. Kelly decompresses with a rant here. All I can say is, man, if I had had a blog in high school, certain "popular" kids would still feel their ears burning from my invective.

Devoted Reader Kevin S., who is apparently has nothing better to do with his time than send me each and every education-related article from Louisiana - Kev, you know I love you - sends along yet another article in which the PRAXIS is debated and degraded by educators. The article is relatively balanced, though, and the real sticking point seems to be that teachers must be judged competent in each subject area they teach (if it's considered a core skill).

The article concludes with the tale of this kindergarten teacher; her story is intended to be sympathetic, I'm sure, but it doesn't quite come off that way:

Kelly, the teacher at Brusly Elementary, said she has earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education, a master's degree in education, and has completed more than 30 hours of college course work beyond her master's degree. Kelly said she also is certified in kindergarten and early childhood education and is certified in supervision and administration.

Still, she does not meet the definition of "highly qualified," and received a letter from West Baton Rouge Parish school officials telling her so.

"We're doing the work. We're bringing the children where they need to be, and we're constantly bashed," Kelly said in an interview at the school with several other faculty members.

Results from the National Teacher Exam would have helped in Kelly's situation, she said.

"I may have taken it and don't even remember it," she said.

Uh-huh. She doesn't remember? And she's contesting this entirely on principle, too, since kindergarten teachers are exempt from the requirements of the legislation.

Finally, Devoted Reader Henry C. submits the perfect example of a short-and-sweet letter of praise:

I recently came across your web site, and just wanted to let you know that I check it out every day now. Keep up the good work.

If you ever want to email me but aren't sure what to say, just say what Henry said.

Posted by kswygert at 10:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 15, 2004

The comment section is for comments only.

Another friendly reminder, folks: If you need information from me, please put your request into an email, and not into a comment. If it's on an old post, I may never see it, and it's much easier for me to reply to an email.

Also, spamming my comments sections in a request for information, or attempting to use the comments as a chat room, will get you banned. Don't force me to do that.

Posted by kswygert at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2004

Back in the saddle again

A roundup of the interesting, absurd, and eccentric stories that I missed while I was on vacation:

Just as journalists cannot write about John Kerry without mentioning Vietnam, nor the War on Terror without using the word "quagmire," any reporter covering the education beat can't talk about valedictorian controversies without muttering the sacred words of warning, "Blair Hornstine." I have to admit, though, to never having heard of her Massachusetts counterpart, Sharisse Kanet.

The Education Gadfly anticipates a tornado of biased reporting about NCLB in the upcoming months. The 2004 test results will be available this summer and schools that may be labeled as failing are already on the attack. The guidelines for producing a biased report about testing are extensive and 100% correct, from what I've seen, although "Stack the deck with experts" should be "Stack the deck with experts named and unnamed," thanks to the willingness of reporters to fall back on the common line, "Critics say...."

Behind every administrator condemning this action, there's an overburdened elementary teacher thinking, You go, girl. Unapologetically old-fashioned teacher Lori Thomas is still paying for that "drop of soap," though.

Devoted Reader Kevin S. has been bombarding me with emails about "the sorry state of education in Louisiana." The man's not exaggerating.

Thank God my parents went with the car for my 17th birthday. It certainly got me further than in life than a pair of fake boobies would have. Am I the only one who sees something tremendously icky about this?

Okay, this story is too much of a tease. They CAN'T just tell us "eight clicks" without giving us SOME indication of how this could possibly happen. Oh, and Fark's reference for this? Best. Headline. Ever.

I'll take this win, even if it is on a technicality.

What's saddest about this story is that there are probably multitudes of English teachers out there who actually didn't know why Shakespeare used that particular word. Teacher Jennifer, who sounds both engaging and knowledgeable, was probably reprimanded for making other teachers look dumb as well as for offending some highly contentious parents. As for the administrator who chastised Jennifer, I'd call him by his rightful name, but I don't want to go to Hell for it.

And people complain about the illogical items on American standardized tests. Sheesh. At least our questions don't seem like they were written by Monty Python (registration required). That much said, I'd love the chance to respond to any stuffy English professor who had the gall to ask me, "What is the point of me teaching you?"

The American Literary Society has come up with the ultimate plea for special treatment on behalf of all the literary "victims" in the world. The sacred arguments of disability, low-self-esteem, and immigration issues were all invoked in an attempt to convince us that the traumatic lives of bad spellers justifies changing the English language. I say, if you can't find anything better to do with your time than picket a spelling bee, you're living a pretty pathetic life, my friend.

But I'm not picking on those bad spellers. Some of my best friends are bad spellers (hee hee).

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

June 13, 2004

Back in PA

Well, I'm finally back home. The vacation was long enough that I was ready to leave by Saturday, so the drive home wasn't too bad. We forgot to bring our digital camera, but the Instapundit is already beach-blogging, so just look at his photos instead.

Ate a lot of shrimp. Wore a lot of sunscreen. Watched a lot of the Reagan funeral on TV. Wasted a whole lot of time, which was the purpose of the trip. During one excursion to a water park, I draped myself across an innertube and floated around a lazy "river" for about an hour-and-a-half, not moving, not speaking, barely even thinking. My boyfriend was much amused, and remarked that he'd never seen me not do something. I usually do two or three things at once - eat lunch and blog, cross-stitch while watching TV, talk on the phone while cleaning house - but I must say, I took to the habit of doing nothing like I was born to do so.

Too bad I won't see that state of mind again for a while. I'll be back in the saddle Monday, hopefully.

Posted by kswygert at 09:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 20, 2004

Summer reading list

Bloggage will be sporadic (perhaps one post per day) for the next two and a half weeks, and then will cease altogether for the week of June 5 - 12, when I will be at Myrtle Beach on vacation. I've been working out a great deal and plan to spend a lot of time kicking sand into the faces of 98-pound weaklings. I'll try to be nice enough in doing so, but if they call me "fatty," all bets are off.

I just ordered my beach-week reading list from Amazon:

The Myth of Repressed Memory : False Memories and Allegations of Sexual
Abuse
by Elizabeth Loftus

School Accountability (Hoover Institution Press Publication, 512.) by Williamson M. Evers

Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese by Michael J. Nelson

Everything You Need to Know About the Goth Scene (The Need to Know
Library)

In Search of Dracula : The History of Dracula and Vampires by Radu Florescu

Renaissance woman, that I am. Don't stop sending emails with links, by the way; I'll still have time for reader mail. But work and foster responsibilities mean I'll be spending far less time on the web than before.

Posted by kswygert at 10:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Survey Time!

A survey of the blogosphere and those who inhabit it. It'll take less than five minutes of your time. Enter "Number 2 Pencil" or "Kimberlyswygert.com" in box 22 so they'll know I sent ya.

(Note: It seems to be having trouble loading now, but it loaded earlier today. Go here and use Instapundit's link if you're having trouble on mine; it might work better).

Posted by kswygert at 04:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

Monday, Monday

Apologies for the lack of posting. I'll be working on other things until tomorrow afternoon, at which point I promise I'll post all the articles that have been sent along by my Devoted Readers.

Posted by kswygert at 02:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Friday education/testing news roundup

Remember a few days ago when I said my boyfriend Dave should have his own blog? Well, he's not blogging yet, but he is writing for a website. Scroll down on this page to see him featured as a new reviewer for The Agro, an underground metal website. What cracks me up about the grim photo of him is that I took that photo, in our hallway; he cropped out the floral border and the myriad cats circling around his feet. I guess those wouldn't have looked "metal" enough. I'm happy for him; it's nice to know that his ability to write an engaging and cogent review of a Polish Death Metal CD won't be going to waste.

As for today, I'm swamped, so I'm going to put up a few quick links. If I haven't sent a reply to your email, I apologize; I've been lax about email and it piled up while I was sick. I hope to get the inbox cleared out this weekend.

Remember the discussion a few days back about the possible link between Phys Ed and test score? A new study has linked heavier kids with lower-income homes - and lower test scores. Even if BMI is a useful predictor for test scores, that doesn't necessarily mean that a PE program would be helpful in raising mean test scores at the school level; one expert suggests that changes must be made within the family, not at school.

An Alabama school system has proposed tranferring kids within local apartments to schools outside their communities, the better to reduce the population of "transient" students in some schools. A ruckus has already begun about the bad public image of the "apartment people" and whether it's unfair to move these kids around.

More wiggle room in NCLB; schools will now be able to average student test participation rates over a three-year period, instead of being held responsible for testing 95% of kids every year. Kids who miss tests because of medical emergencies and "other problems" are also off the hook.

Southern University, which is the nation's largest historically black university, is facing a scandal. It was revealed yesterday that 541 past and current students paid a worker in the registrar's office to alter their grades, and this has been going on for nine year. Chancellor Edward R. Jackson is threatening to revoke the degrees of guilty graduates and expel those involved who are still enrolled. The LA Times is calling it the "Cash-for-Grades" scandal.

Finally, millions of dollars are at stake in an Orange County (CA) school district because the board members have taken a stand against a state anti-discrimination law. State education officials could withhold millions of dollars in funding as a sanction against the Westminster School District; the three board members are citing their Christianity as a reason to oppose a law that "immorally allows students and teachers to define their own gender and promotes alternative lifestyles". Zero Intelligence has more.

With that, ya'll have a great weekend!

Posted by kswygert at 10:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 31, 2004

My current reading list

Here's just the stuff on education that I'm plowing through:

The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem, by Maureen, Ph.D.

Losing Our Language: How Multiculturalism Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children's Ability to Read, Write, and Reason, by Sandra Stotsky

Kill the Messenger: The War on Standardized Testing, by Richard P. Phelps

Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe: Toward the Revival of Higher Education, by Jeffrey Peter Hart

I'm also rather obsessed with Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, and I have several books on those fine ladies awaiting me at home. But I'm going to read the education-related books first.

Posted by kswygert at 01:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004

*cough, cough*

Sorry for the lack of blogging. The sinus infection has turned into bronchitis and my motivation for doing anything other than sinking into a heap is rather low (I've managed to not miss any work before now, but I think tomorrow is a lost cause). I shall post again when the meds kick in.

Posted by kswygert at 04:33 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

Free video to a good home

For the first person (from Canada or the US) to email me at kimberly at kimberlyswygert dot com, I have a free VHS copy of "Multiplication Rock." It's in great shape; I just don't need it now that I've ordered the DVD collection that includes all 46 songs. I figured someone out there might want it for a classroom or for their kid's VCR. No charge to you for S&H; just shoot me an email with your address and I'll send it out.

Posted by kswygert at 08:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

Buried under the weight

Yet another good reason to get "back to basics:"

...Students and parents across the state have complained about the high weight of textbooks and backpacks. And lawmakers are listening. A proposal making its way through the General Assembly calls for the state to study — and set — textbook weight limits in elementary, middle and high school...

''Standards could be a good thing,'' said Larry Gregory, director of textbook services for the state Department of Education. ''What we want to avoid is rushing into those standards too quickly.''

If approved, weight limits could be set by July 1, 2005.

Many states, including Tennessee, are monitoring what happens in California, which studied textbook weights statewide and might be the first state to require lighter volumes.

Backpacks with wheels aren't a bad idea, either, although it would be illuminating if the "progressive education" crowd asked themselves why textbooks now weigh so much more than they used to. When a seventh-grade Algebra textbook can be 882 pages yet still provide an insufficient amount of content coverage and depth, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Posted by kswygert at 03:23 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

You mean there isn't such a thing as "duck tape?"

The 100 most often mispronounced words and phrases in the English language. Amusing and informative. Glad to know I'm not the only one driven mad by "axe," forte," and "realator."

Posted by kswygert at 01:34 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

GrrrRRR

THIS is the most retarded thing I've ever heard. I'm giving a "celebrate the Spring Equinox" party on Saturday, people! And now, this.

I'm going home. And I have to be here tomorrow, so the weather better not suck.

Grpmh.

Posted by kswygert at 04:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

TGIF, but I still have little time to blog

Since I'm still trying to catch up on work while recovering from The Sinus Infection That Ate My Brain, I'll post some links to other bloggers who, unlike me, have actually posted something worth reading recently:

Jim over at ZeroIntelligence has done a fine reporting job on a truly horrendous example of zero tolerance. Another example of insane rules being applied in a truly unfair fashion by a completely brain-dead administrator. I hope this story gets wider coverage in the press.

The Washington State Charter School Bill has passed and is expected to be signed by Governor Locke. Go say congrats to SharkBlog.

Reform K12 explains the power of standardized tests to sample knowledge domains in order to help a reader to understand that such tests aren't perfect - but they are the "least worst" way to get a feel for how every kid is doing in school.

Dean Esmay is appalled that people are the least bit "confused" about whether McDonald's food is healthy or not, and A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice wonders why lawsuits seem imminent when the free market is working just fine.

Discriminations has been all over the recent Duke symposium on political diversity in academia, where Duke concluded "they can be plenty diverse with almost no Republicans, thank you."

Jane Galt is confused. On the one hand, she gets press for being a successful female blogger; on the other hand, the Columbia Journalism Review sees her as a victim of discrimination in the blogosphere. The CJR article's whininess is not to be believed, as author Brian Montopoli does his best to convince us that women only blog when men allow them to. Guess I was lucky there weren't any men determined to control the flow of educational measurement information over the web.

Daryl Cobranchi has been busy lately - bashing insipid articles about homeschooling, pointing out a new blog by a former homeschooler, and reporting on the education understatement of the year.

Finally, I'm not the only one who wants to own, and fondle, one of those mini iPods. They come in pink!

Posted by kswygert at 02:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Non-bloggage and non-comments

Sorry for the non-bloggage; work and health issues were pretty demanding this week.

Also, thanks to the recent influx of new spam that seems to be trying to outwit MT-Blacklist, I have decided to close the comments on posts that are more than a few months old. If you read an old post and absolutely must comment, email me at kimberly at kimberlyswygert dot com and speak your mind. I can always post the information anew with an update.

Posted by kswygert at 10:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

Oh, those testing critics

There's a new blog in town - and I'm one of the contributors.

The legendary Sharkman has organized a blog entitled, Oh, That Liberal Media, and graciously invited me to contribute. My contributions will most likely be based on the unconscious media bias against testing that is cloaked in the disguise of unbiased reporting about education reform. This howler from last year is a prime, if minor, example of the attitude of "Testing is always bad" sneaking through in a basic news report.

Update: My first post is up. It's very similar (but not exactly the same) as this one from a few days ago.

Posted by kswygert at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

Short hiatus

Thanks, all you Devoted Readers, for bombarding me with story ideas and links. However, due to work and home constraints, a mini-blog-vacation is necessary right now. Hopefully by Thursday I'll be back to blogging things that are, by that point, out-of-date, but what can you do.

I might be able to put up more Pippin photos later. For now, two readers have suggested:

Ripley the Cat Blog

and

My Cat Hates You

To these, I can add Meankitty.com, Goth Cat Rescue online (to get around the rules of many shelters against adopting black cats in October), and ShopCat.com, "the complete guide to working cats."

Also, here's an archived link of mine where I linked to a Japanese shop that sells hats for kitties. Click here for a view of the hats. My favorite one is still the bandanna-and-curls look.

Posted by kswygert at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

You're not alone

Just in case all you Devoted Readers were wondering if there were enough of you to fill a minivan, or even a small restaurant, I thought I'd give you a look at my readership stats.

Average number of unique hits per day in Feb. 2004 - 1517
Average number of total hits per day in Feb. 2004 - 5442
Total hits overall for the month - 59,867

Unique hits ranged from a low of 897 on Sunday Feb 1st (I'm amazed anyone at all reads me on Sundays) to a high of 4980 on Tuesday February 10th (Instapundit link!). There were 24,389 total hits in January, so I'm on the way to beating that total. None of you are early birds; I get relatively few hits before 9 am (though I don't know for sure if that's Eastern Time or not) and a lot of readers show up at lunchtime and 4 pm.

After the US, the most hits are coming from the Netherlands (which has a very strong testing industry and multitudes of psychometricians), the US government, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. At some point this month, I also got hits from Singapore, Brazil, and Switzerland, among others.

Joanne Jacobs is my most common referrer (thanks, dear). People find this site by typing "pencil" and "number 2 pencil" into search engines (but also by typing "naked teacher" and "naked cheerleader" - eeew).

Unfortunately, about 1000 people this month tried to find archived files that were originally on Homestead. If you try to follow a link to a story with that URL, it isn't there, but if you enter the terms of interest into my search engine on this front page, you'll find it. They're all here, but the Homestead URL's don't work anymore.

All in all, not bad for a blog that, a little over two years ago, I figured no one other than myself and other testing wonks would ever read.

Posted by kswygert at 10:24 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

New blog!

Everyone go check out the new blog by Matt Rosenberg, Rosenblog. I discovered Matt last October when I linked to his Seattle Times review of the book No Excuses — Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. Now he's going to fill us in regularly on "Left Coast bulletins, politics, global democracy, education, culture and blogosphere musings." And he beat me to this story about upcoming shakeups in San Francisco's public education system. Matt comments:

San Francisco public schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman wants to make her system a lot better for under-achieving minority students - and that's got the teachers union in a dither.

The Chron reports Ackerman has unveiled plans for 15 "Dream Schools" in the next two years. Located in or near minority populations, they'll emphasize college prep courses. Students will wear uniforms, the school day will be longer, and (according to another story I've seen), parents will be required to sign contracts committing to serious involvement in their child's education.

Oh, and this, which has the union spitting nails: principals, teachers and teachers aides will have to re-apply for their jobs because Ackerman wants only the best, most committed educators at the Dream Schools.

He's not kidding about the nail-spitting:

...it wasn't until earlier this week that union leaders learned Ackerman wants all principals, teachers and classroom aides currently working at the schools to reapply for their jobs. Those who aren't selected would be employed elsewhere in the district.

"The teachers are not the problem, and that's the implication of this -- just get rid of the lousy teachers," said Linda Plack, vice president of United Educators of San Francisco. "It's such a slap in the face to all the dedicated people who go to those schools day in and day out and do a wonderful job."

Hey, if they're dedicated and good teachers, they'll get rehired. If they're dedicated idiots who do more harm than good, they'll have to make sure to not let the door hit them on the butt on the way out. No one can deny the importance of teacher quality when it comes to good education; the flip side of that is that teachers should be prepared to shoulder some of the responsibility for a school system that has gone downhill as much as San Francisco's has.

As Ackerman says:

"A teacher is not threatened by this if they focus on the fact that this is about young people, about improving achievemen...It's about putting children first and not the adults."

Another teacher gets it right, too:

Eric Walker, a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at Twenty-First Century, said he will gladly reapply for his job. He said he hopes the rigorous academics envisioned by Ackerman convince his students -- who are largely African American -- to dedicate themselves to school.

"It's beaten into them that the only way the can make it in life is to be able to carry a football or rap some verse. Academics haven't been emphasized, " Walker said. "My job isn't secure, but that isn't important to me now ... . The children come first."

Posted by kswygert at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

MyDoom and my inbox

If you've sent me email in the last week or so and not gotten a reply, I apologize. My email account has been completely slammed by this MyDoom virus and I've been spending all my time deleting infected emails that have been spammed to me (I also think that account was infected, but it's a web account, so there's nothing that I can do to protect it). I've probably deleted some real emails along with the infected ones (tip: Do not send me an email with "Hi" in the subject any time soon).

Hopefully, this will all calm down and I will have time to answer emails within a week or so.

Posted by kswygert at 09:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

(Sub)urban blight

Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster have concluded that problematic behaviors, like teenage pregancies and drug use, are just as rampant in suburbia as in the inner city:

Public high school students in suburbia are just as likely as students in urban schools to engage in sex, get pregnant, obtain an abortion, drink, use illegal drugs, steal and fight, according to a report released today by a New York think tank...The report also found that:

* About half of all public high school students, urban and suburban, have had sexual intercourse.

* 10.5 percent of female high school students in urban schools said they had become pregnant, compared to 9.1 percent of female students in suburban schools.

* Urban and suburban teen-age girls are almost equally as likely to obtain an abortion.

* About one out of seven urban and suburban students have used illegal drugs at school.

* More than one third of suburban high school students smoke regularly, defined as at least once a day in a 30-day period. Among urban students, one fourth smoke regularly.

* About one in five urban and suburban students said they stole something valued at less than $50 within the past 12 months.

The findings are based on surveys by the Department of Health and Human Services of 11,000 public high school students in 1995 and 1996.

Here's the report, by the way. Their summary paragraph:

Parental concern about the rising influence of sex, drugs, and delinquency in urban schools has long been recognized as a significant factor in the last few decades’ population flight from the cities to the suburbs. Parents are fleeing urban schools not just because of low academic performance but also because they believe suburban schools are safer and more wholesome. But the results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health suggest that fleeing from city to suburb doesn’t produce much difference in the level of these problems one finds at the local school. The desks may be newer, the paint may be fresher, and the faces may be whiter, but the students are just as likely to have sex, use controlled substances, and break the law. The comforting outward signs of order and decency—shiny new schools armed with expensive textbooks and staffed by teachers who have mastered the latest educational fads—don’t seem to be associated with substantial differences in student behavior.

I can already predict some of the comments to this post now - "Time to homeschool."

Posted by kswygert at 08:59 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

A-choo!

Welcome to all my visitors from Instapundit and Joanne Jacobs, as well as my regular Devoted Readers (you know who you are). I'd love to stay and chat with you, but my sneezing, wheezing, sore throat and fever have come on so intensely (and suddenly) that I'm worried I could infect you right through the blog. Mucus is a pretty dastardly thing.

I'm going to bed. Blogging will resume when I'm able to stop sneezing long enough to type properly.

Bleagh.

Posted by kswygert at 04:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Vacation

Hi folks, I'm off work today and won't be blogging. If you're interested, a list of my goings-on for yesterday and today are included below. Really, I do have a life outside of blogging. I DO!

1. Listening to Robert Rich's Bestiary while I do housework. The album's music is described by its creator as "rhythmic, energetic, bizarre and very glurpy." Click here to download a snippet of the title track. The perfect background track for disposing of ancient kitty litter and organizing books.

2. Sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and watching the Eagles lose. Enduring triumphant phone calls from all four parents of mine, who reside in SC and were rooting for the Panthers. The opening sentences of this article from the Philly Daily News say it all.

3. Drinking lots of coffee with Kahlua and eating omelets made with eggs from my friend M's chickens. Mmm, fresh eggs.

4. Working on two cross-stitch projects - one dragon, and one Buddha.

5. Talking with four friends on the phone, two of whom have the flu. Something reeeealy nasty is going around this winter. Thankfully my company offered free flu shots, and that seems to be protecting me so far.

6. Re-reading Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Finishing up Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs.

7. Watching some of the second season Simpsons DVD that I borrowed from a friend.

8. Braving the cold and poor driving conditions to go have some beers with a friend of mine who lives in Center City. Neither rain nor sleet, nor snow nor gloom of night can stay my from the completion of my appointed beer-drinking duty.

Oh, and I had my hair dyed platinum as a means of avoiding the January blahs. But that was Saturday.

Hope you're all warm and well; see you tomorrow!

Enjoy the Fox Trot for today:

ft040119.gif

Posted by kswygert at 10:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

The tip jar is now available

Well I've finally gone over to "the dark side" and joined those bloggers who have an Amazon Tip Jar prominently displayed on their front page (just kidding, Joanne). Number 2 Pencil is now, and always will be, a labor of love, and the content will always be free of charge. But now that I am spending a bit more time and money keeping the site running, I figured it was time to give my readers the option to be generous with any spare cash that's lying around. Just click on the icon on the right-hand-side menu and give to your heart's content.

I know in the past I've appreciated being able to buy a book or donate some dough to a favorite blogger, so I've decide to offer you the same opportunity. And you readers should know how much I appreciate you; without you, Number 2 Pencil wouldn't be very interesting or relevant. Keep up the good work, guys.

Posted by kswygert at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Spammers blocked (I hope)

Changes have been made the comment functionality. MT-Blacklist has been installed. If any of you non-spammers try to post a comment and can't do so, please email me at kimberly-at-kimberlyswygert-dot-com and let know.

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

Light bloggage today

Not sure how much I'll be able to post today. Not only is work piled up, but I might have to head home soon to meet a plumber. It seems there's a leak underneath my dishwasher - probably caused by the cold weather - that's dripping down through the basement ceiling, and now there's a skating rink in my garage. Gah. As though it wasn't bad enough that the below-zero temps have created negative humidity in my house. I've been slathering myself with body lotion, yet my skin is still so dry and pebbly that the mere sight of me is enough to cause lizards to become sexually aroused.

And speaking of reptiles, don't try to save money by doing this, okay? Snakes have a way of effecting instant karma.

Now THIS, on the other hand, is a smart way to save money.

Posted by kswygert at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 29, 2003

So, who else is sick of eggnog?

Man, I didn't think my sweet tooth could ever be deactivitated, but this holiday has just been insane, sugar-wise. I received gifts of M&M's (big containers), homemade fudge, two large boxes of mixed chocolates, a larger box of truffles, a box of praline sweets, homemade chocolate bark, a large tin of homemade cookies, a humongous bag of peanut brittle, gingerbread cake with frosting....even for me, that's too much sugar. I've been turning down cookies and dessert lately, so apparently my desire for sweetness does have an "Off" switch. Too bad it takes at least 12,000 calories' worth to activate it.

Anyway, I had a very lovely, if gluttonous, holiday, and I hope you enjoyed yours as well.

Posted by kswygert at 09:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

And a Merry Christmas to you, too

This morning, after I ran over to my friend's house to feed her three dogs and five cats, I woke up my boyfriend so that we could open our gifts. And then I poured a nice large shot of liqueur into my coffee. Boyfriend wondered aloud why I was hitting the booze so early; I reminded him that it was necessary because I was getting ready to open gifts from my family.

Now, before I go any further, let me state unequivocally that (a) I love my family dearly, and (b) I do appreciate their generosity and thoughtfulness. It's just that certain generous and thoughtful members of my family have an unerring instinct for buying me wholly inappropriate gifts.

Well, it's not an instinct, actually; it's a deliberate mindset, which is as wrongheaded as it is well-intentioned. Some of my family members just hope against hope that someday I will come to my senses and be a "normal" woman; meaning, a fully domesticated, demure, Christian wife. Thus, I received this morning:

(a) a crock-pot and a cookbook for it, despite the fact that I rarely cook and there's only two of us;
(b) a cake tester, from someone who knows that I've never baked a cake in my life;
(c) a religious Christmas tree ornament, from someone who knows that I don't consider myself Christian and I never put up a Christmas tree;
(d) Christmas china, from someone who knows that I don't own a china cabinet and don't even use my wedding china half the time, much less special china with Christmas trees all over it...

....and so forth. It's not like I won't ever use the Crockpot, but I find myself giggling over these gifts (and the more liqueur I put in my coffee, the more I giggle). These aren't gifts from strangers; they're from people who have known me all my life, and despite the fact that I've shown little sign of domesticity or Christianity in my 35 years, they're still trying to sneak it in there. Thank goodness they don't know how different my lifestyle really is from theirs.

The boyfriend and I have been having the best giggle over this gift. I got a version in light purple, and let me just say that it is the least erotic item of women's clothing that I've ever seen. Given that boyfriend and I are still in the honeymoon stage, I won't wear it much around him, not least because he has been mercilessly calling it a "onesie" all morning.

Granted, it's not supposed to be lingerie (every year, I ask for Victoria's Secret gift certificates, hoping they'll get the hint), but in some ways it doesn't even do what it's supposed to do. It's supposed to keep you warm by being "a blanket you wear", and it's heavy enough that you wouldn't wear anything under it. But the only zipper is at the top, which begs the question, "How do you go to the bathroom in this thing?"

The answer is, "You don't." At least, not without zipping it down and pulling it almost completely off, and given that the bathroom is one of the colder rooms in my house, an article of clothing that I have to almost entirely remove before I can take a whiz is not one I'm going to be wearing often.

But right now, the cat is snuggled up in my "onesie," the boyfriend is happily mulling over his new Final Fantasy game manual, and the liqueur is kicking in. I hope you're all having as happy and relaxed a day as I am.

(And if you're bored of opening presents and want a lot of stuff to read, the Christmas Carnival of the Vanities is up. Go and enjoy.)

Posted by kswygert at 12:13 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 23, 2003

Thanks again

Thanks to all of you who have sent messages of condolence for my dear departed python. If you tried to leave comments and could not, my apologies; that's because I've been futzing with the comment functionality in an attempt to foil the spammers. So far, nothing's working, so I'll be trying to install the MT patch over the holidays.

Thanks to the Devoted Readers, too, who are sending along suggested stories for me to blog. I'll try to get them up this week, but bloggage will be sporadic as I do last-minute shopping, wrapping, and eggnog-imbibing.

Posted by kswygert at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Not a Merry Hissmas after all

Remember a few posts back when I poked fun at a post on Joanne Jacob's site? The one where a reader of hers mentioned a ridiculous suggestion by her child's teacher to sing "Merry Hissmas" instead of "Merry Christmas"?

And I said, "As for me, my pet snakes and I will have a very Merry Hissmas this year, thank you very much."

I spoke too soon. I just got back from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School emergency room, where I've been all afternoon. My python, Dancer, who seemed fine a week ago, actually had an internal infection. Once it surfaced, it was too late for me to save him without radical surgery that would have seriously affected his quality of life. So he had to be euthanized. The UPenn people were very good, and very comforting, and I thank them for that.

I'm just very, very sad. His health was never perfect, and I figure the fact that he was originally bought (not by me) through a pet store was related to that. It's very difficult to tell when reptiles are sick, and pet stores are notorious for selling sick animals without giving much information as to the normal care and feeding of them. Case in point: One week ago, my python looked fine and was eating normally. Perhaps a breeder or a vet would have noticed signs of disease, but had he been in a pet store someone very well could have bought him, only to have him on the verge of death a week later.

One of my favorite experts on reptiles, Melissa Kaplan, has a page about why pet stores should not sell reptiles. I particularly like her list of changes that pet stores could make in order to make the trade of reptiles more humane. Snakes are not objects, and they're not pets for amateurs. They require a great deal of preventative medicine, but when they are not well taken care of early in life, it may be impossible for them to live long, healthy lives.

As for me, I'm going to make a donation to a local reptile rescue group in Dancer's name. It's the least I can do.

dancer1.jpg

Requiescat in pace, little Python regius.

Posted by kswygert at 05:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

Hectic Holidays

Bloggage will be sporadic from now through the holidays. I don't plan to take a hiatus and I'm not going anywhere, but (a) I'll still be working, so life will be busy at points, and (b) I just stocked up on mead, eggnog, brandy, and chocolate liqueur, so life will be blurry at points. :)

Also, the comment functionality may come and go. My little tricks haven't stopped the spammers so I may need to make bigger changes, and until I do so I might turn the comment functionality off. But email will always remain available, and I love getting email from my Devoted Readers.

Posted by kswygert at 07:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

New bloggers

Hey, I discovered two more bloggers (one of whom is already linking to me; quite flattering, that.)

The first is Winston's Diary; I excerpted his comments about ESL college students in my post on English as the official language, below.

The second is Conservative English Major, who is exactly who he claims to be. I was amused by this post (his archives are snafued):

So, here are a few lines from one of my favorite poems:

"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The Blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

This is from Yeats' "The Second Coming." Early drafts of the poem show he was referring to wars such as World War I, the Anglo-Irish War and the Bolshevik revolution. The lines are a pretty good description of a world that has war unleashed upon it, right?

Nope. This is a rape? Why? Because my professor says so. In fact, the one thing I have learned this semester is that everything is about sex. Eating is sexual because food penetrates your body. A nose is sexual because it extends from the body. All of my professors are literally obsessed with finding sex in everything - and especially rape.

Hey, I'll be the first to admit Shakespeare is full of bawdy jokes, and Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" is obviously about a rape, but please.

Let us not forget Dave Barry's immortal lines about professors with this strange obsession (from Dave Barry's Bad Habits):

"I had one [psychology] professor who claimed everything we dreamed about - tractors, Arizona, baseball, frogs - actually represented a sexual organ. He was very insistent about this. Nobody wanted to sit near him."

Conservative English Major - try not to sit too close to these professors, okay?

Posted by kswygert at 09:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

The spammers have discovered me

*Sigh*

The newest vile invention to come crawling out of the hell that is a spammer's mind is the spamming of comments on blogs. I've tried to be diligent in deleting them, but just tonight I got at least 10 more on older postings.

There's MT code available to stop these asshats, and I'll try to get it installed and working as soon as possible. If you have experience with this, let me know.

Update: Thanks for all the helpful advice, y'all. For now, I have temporarily disabled the ability to leave URLs in the comments (you can't leave your URL before the comment, and HTML is no longer enabled within comments). This may not stop the spammers, but it means that any who get through before I implement more thorough changes will not achieve their goal of artificially increasing the number of sites that link to them. The assratchets actually targeted old, archived comments of mine, obviously in the hopes that I would not notice.

Spammers are lower than dirt, if you ask me.

Update: YES!

Posted by kswygert at 07:40 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

The effect of "civil wars" in the classroom

The enormous cost to society when litigation runs rampant:

Playgrounds all over the country have been stripped of monkey bars, jungle gyms, high slides and swings, seesaws and other old-fashioned equipment once popularized by President John F. Kennedy’s physical-fitness campaign. The reason: thousands of lawsuits by people who hurt themselves at playgrounds. But some experts say that new, supposedly safer equipment is actually more dangerous because risk-loving kids will test themselves by, for instance, climbing across the top of a swing set. Other kids sit at home and get fat—and their parents sue McDonald’s.

Americans will sue each other at the slightest provocation. These are the sorts of stories that fill schoolteachers and doctors and Little League coaches with dread that the slightest mistake...will drag them into litigation hell, months or years of mounting legal fees and acrimony and uncertainty, with the remote but scary risk of losing everything....

...Americans don’t just sue big corporations or bad people. They sue doctors over misfortunes that no doctor could prevent. They sue their school officials for disciplining their children for cheating...Many of these cases do not belong in court. But clients and lawyers sue anyway, because they hope they will get lucky and win a jackpot...

Journalists Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas see a direct link between the craze for meaningless lawsuits and the decline of disclipline, order, and educational efforts in the public school system:

"Legal fear” is just as intense in the educational system. Many Americans sense that schools have become chaotic and undisciplined over time and the quality of teachers has declined. Many teachers say that the joy has gone out of their jobs.

What’s not generally known is the role of courts and Congress in creating these problems by depriving teachers and principals of the freedom to use their own common sense and best judgment. Thanks to judicial rulings and laws over the past four decades, parents can sue if their kids are suspended for even a single day—for any reason—without adequate “due process.” Well-intentioned federal disability laws have made it so difficult to suspend any emotionally disturbed student for more than 10 days—even if he is chronically violent and disruptive—that many schools don’t even try.

In Wisconsin, a chronic troublemaker was finally expelled from high school for his role in a $40,000 vandalism spree. The student’s mother hired a psychologist who diagnosed the boy with attention-deficit disorder and depressive moods. The courts ordered the school to let him return and graduate—follow the contorted logic here—because the school had failed to prove that these previously unknown disabilities had played no part in the vandalism.

School boards now fear that parents will sue for anything...Even if a school wins in court, these cases cast a pall...Unruly students sense the teachers’ fear and their own empowerment. “A kid will be acting out in class, and you touch his shoulder, and he’ll immediately come back with ‘Don’t touch me or I’ll sue'...

What the kid really means is, "Don't touch me or my parents will sue," because as others have noticed, parents are now less likely to admit to student misbehavior and will oppose even minor disciplines. This blend of parental incompentence and greed, educator anxiety, and student unruliness has created quite a noxious mess in the public K-12 system.

Posted by kswygert at 11:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

Missing Maine high schoolers

On Friday afternoon, 10 students from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School left to go winter camping in Maine. Neither the students nor the two adults accompanying them have been heard from since:

Ten students from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School left Friday afternoon to go winter camping, with plans to hike along the Miles Notch Trail from west Bethel...The group was due back Sunday afternoon but didn't show up as scheduled. The students, who were accompanied by two adults, were last seen at about 10 a.m. Saturday...

The students were outfitted for winter camping with food and tents, but they did not bring snow shoes...Portions of western Maine were covered by more than 30 inches of snow during the weekend storm.

These aren't the only missing young'uns in Maine, either:

Meanwhile, in Township 6 North of Weld, two wardens were looking for three Unity College students who became stranded while winter camping on Tumbledown Mountain. The three had been on the western Maine mountain since Saturday...The men were well-equipped for overnight winter camping, with plenty of gear, food and a dome tent...

This last comment applies to both groups, I believe:

"Why they ever decided to do this when the storm's been on advisory for the last three or four days, I do not know," said warden Lt. Nathan Berry.

The Oxford Hill web page includes the school motto, "Dare to Accept the Challenge." I believe this is one challenge the student camping group should have declined. Let's hope they are found, and found soon.

Update: Devoted Reader Sue notes that all the students are safe and sound.

Posted by kswygert at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

When I say Devoted Readers, I mean, Devoted Readers

Holy smokes.

I had some time free tonight to spend bopping around on the web. My boyfriend is downstairs in the basement glued to Final Fantasy XI; when he emerges, I expect he will look somewhat like Gollum due to lack of food and light. Anyway, I was on one of my favorite sites, Little Green Footballs, and I saw a second reminder from blogger Charles to vote for LGF in the "Best Overall Blog" in the 2003 Weblog Awards.

And then I see that there's a category for "Best Female-Authored Blog."

And I'm one of the nominees.

There's only 20 listed, and Number 2 Pencil is in there with 'em.

Yowza. Do I ever feel special tonight. Given the competition I'm up against, I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning, but unlike all the Academy Award losers, I'm being sincere when I say that it's a true honor just to have been nominated. Many, many thanks to any of you who might have done so (or who feel like strolling over thataways now to vote for me).

If I do win, I promise not to give an embarrassing speech. I'll just thank all my Devoted Readers and get right down off the stage. These awards ceremonies drag on long enough as it is.


2003 Weblog Awards

Posted by kswygert at 11:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 24, 2003

Monday, Monday....

Sorry for the non-bloggage on Friday. My body wasn't discovered until late that day, when my boss noticed that the piles of paperwork, SAS printouts, and committee meeting notes in my office were in fact stacked on top of my seemingly-lifeless form, as I lay on the floor prone, completely enervated by an ongoing battle against a nascent sinus infection. I think it was the sneezing, and the resulting flutter of printer paper in the room, that helped him realize I was still salvageable.

Despite a lot of sleep over the weekend and my arsenal of Tylenol sinus products (I have a friend who works for J&J and can get everything for me discount), the sinus infection is still in the ring. Therefore, although (a) I intend to get some posts up this week and (b) I expect them to be timely/accurate/incisive, I can make no guarantees about any of this. I should probably just aim for writing something that doesn't sound like it comes from a deranged chimpanzee.

Posted by kswygert at 08:44 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

And I'm off....

...to Washington DC for a conference. I won't be back in town until next Wednesday, and will probably need until Friday to catch up on my work. Hence, a week-long blogging sabbatical is likely. I might get the chance to post some this Sunday, but I can't guarantee it.

Everyone enjoy your week! If you really need something interesting to read while you goof off at work, you can try:

(1) The best movie reviewer you've never heard of - Alexandra DuPont.

(2) The Chicago Boyz, which I always assumed was a hip-hop site, is in fact run by a group of contributors who post on economics, politics, technology, and rock&roll. The title pays homage to a group of pundits and economists from the University of Chicago.

(3) UrbanDictionary.Com - Define your slang!

(4) I'm a little late, but you can still enjoy the madness of ExtremePumpkins.Com. My favorite is the Conjoined Twins.

(5) I agree with every word of this column. Every one. I'm going to send this to my single female friends who are still constantly dating "princes" who quickly turn into frogs. They've got it wrong-way-round.

(6) Finally, here's a group who thinks they know how to create High Schools That Work. Take a look and let me know what you think.

book_page_flip_md_wht.gif


Posted by kswygert at 01:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2003

The power of the blogosphere

I've been asked by quite a few psychometricians why I started N2P. I tell them that I started it because I kept getting so angry when reading anti-testing articles in college magazines, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the New York Times. It drove me mad that anti-testing activists (and those who make money off of demonizing tests) often would be quoted, while neither psychometricians, nor testing supporters, would be mentioned.

In essence, I felt the reporting of testing, especially in regards to college admissions, affirmative action, and education reform, was very unbalanced, and I wanted to tip the scales back the other way a bit.

Well, Brian Anderson of City Journal gets this aspect of the blogosphere. It turns out a that a lot of bloggers started out of anger - anger over 9/11, anger about the liberal bias in the media, and so on. His article, "We're Not Losing The Culture War Anymore" outlines in detail the impact of the blogosphere on the current American media and society.

I always thought blogs were capable of making a difference. It's wonderful to see that stated so clearly by sharp and thorough writers like Mr. Anderson.

Posted by kswygert at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

More blogs for your enjoyment

Renaissance Man and Devoted Reader Lawrence Krubner's been commenting on N2P a lot lately. I'm honored to be on his list of "blogs I read even when I'm busy," and he also has a "Free the Schools" website. Go check him out.

There's also Joanne, The Happy Homeschooler, who has her own blog and quite a few opinions listed on it. She previously ran the blog More-Jo, and also hosts a site on positive disclipline for parents.

Finally, The Bitch Girls linked to me a while back, but what I want to know is - what do I have to do to get on their list of "Really Hot Chicks?" Joanne Jacobs is already on there, but surely there's room for another edublogger...

Posted by kswygert at 10:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2003

CRAZY day at work today...

I'm not sure how much posting will get done. I'll try to get some stories out there, but may not have time for a lot of comments on them. You guys can help me out with some research, though; there are a couple of quick questions I need answers to, but don't have time to dig up:

(1) Does anyone know contact information for the Click2Houston.com or the StarTribune.Com, both of which published detailed Brandon Kivi stories? There appears to be some discrepancies that I'd like to clear up.

(2) Is anyone aware of any exit-exam-related lawsuits that have been filed, in any state, against individual teachers? I have not heard of any, and I seriously doubt that any could be filed, because it isn't the decision of individual teachers to administer exit exams, nor to hold back the students who fail. However, I'm curious. I know there have been a lot of FCAT-related lawsuits, but I believe they've all been filed against the states themselves, and not against individuals.

Thanks!

Posted by kswygert at 11:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 09, 2003

*Whew*

Well, Verve continued to have server problems all day today, so if this site didn't load at all (or if you confusingly saw someone else's blog), that was why. All appears to be well now, but I wasn't able to log in at all today, so bloggage will resume tomorrow am.

Posted by kswygert at 09:05 PM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2003

To dream the impossible dream

Well, looks like Arnold's gone and done it! The recall was successful, Arnold won the majority ["Psst! The plurality, not the majority!" - Nick], and as the Instapundit puts it, "Congrats, Arnold. Now all you have to do is govern the most ungovernable state in America!" (Hey, what about Florida?)

I haven't been paying much attention to this lately, but I suppose it's time to start digging up info about how Arnold perceives the condition of California's educational system, and what plans he might have...

Posted by kswygert at 08:35 AM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2003

An honor for N2P

A big smoochie, hugs, and thanks go out to the one and only Stefan Sharkansky of the Seattle-based Sharkblog, who on October 5th named N2P as "Blog of the Day." I'm quite honored. Stefan's motto is "Current Events, Smarter Investing, and Fatherhood," and he's quite knowledgeable about all three. Check out his battle to elect a good man as Superintendent of Seattle's public schools.

Posted by kswygert at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2003

sorry for the delay

I'm still having server problems that prevent my posting regularly (a lot of time, the editing pages will not load, but I hope the site itself is still accessible). Thanks to Joanne for sending out a public service announcement in this regard.

And thanks for all the birthday wishes. I'm feelin' mighty young for a 35-year-old now, I am. That'll last until some young Starbucks cashier refers to me as "ma'am" instead of "miss". :)

Posted by kswygert at 10:25 AM | Comments (2)

September 30, 2003

Happy Birthday to me

Okay, well, it's not quite my birthday yet. My birthday isn't until tomorrow, October 1st - but I'm swamped with work, and will be in a research seminar all day tomorrow, with two presentations that I've yet to polish. So I probably won't be posting any more today, and I'm definitely not going to be posting tomorrow. All my spare time will be used to boil, scrape, and scour clean in the inside of my house, because my parents are arriving for a visit on Thursday. Oh, sure, my mom said don't bother to clean - like I really believe that.

Anyway, after the hell week I've had last week, I've had virtually no time to reflect on turning 35. In fact, now that I'm driving around with a still-smashed-up car and drinking ulcer medicine four times a week, it's tempting to whine and complain that 35 already sucks. But I should be grateful and count my many blessings, and appreciate my health while it's still in a condition that repair is possible. The car, I'm not so sure about.

Now that I think about it, I feel much, much older than when I started this blog, but in a good way. Perhaps "wiser", or "more accomplished", is the more appropriate term than just plain "older." In February of last year, I was convinced of several things:

1. I'd never be able to afford to settle down and buy a house
2. I'd never find a job in Philly that I liked; if I did, I wouldn't be qualified for it
3. I'd never find the perfect guy for me; the only guy I thought was perfect wasn't interested in me and never had been
4. I'd have a hard time finding new friends in the area

and

5. No one other than my friends would ever read this blog

Happily, I can reassure my turning-older self that in the past 19 months, I've been proven wrong on each and every one of these. So, if you feel like sending birthday wishes my way *coughAmazonwishlistcough* feel free to drop me a line *coughAmazonwishlistcough* or send me an eCard *coughAmazonwishlistcough* or express your birthday wishes in any way you see fit *coughAmazonwishlistcough*. Not that I'm fishing for anything.

birthday_pig_cake_md_wht.gif

Posted by kswygert at 02:13 PM | Comments (8)

September 29, 2003

Howdy

Hi, everyone. I'm at work and online but still feeling quite a bit under the weather. Of course, that could just be due to the lack of coffee, or the general lack of anything spicy, acid, peppy, or invigorating in my bloodstream. Hopefully, I can soon reintroduce caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol into my system; otherwise, life might not be worth living.

But I'm doing much better and hope to get a post or two up today.

Posted by kswygert at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2003

Blurgh.

Tempting though it is to spill all the details of my oh-so-wonderful day, I'll just say that I spent the day in the ER, that I don't have GERD but instead esophageal ulcers brought on by another medication, and leave it at that. Blech.

So now I have all sorts of chalky medicine, and I'm eating like a very, very old person (did you know Ensure comes in flavors like butter pecan?), and hopefully everything will go down easily and stay down. I do feel better already, and it helped to have my boyfriend with me all day (and the doctor and nurses weren't bad, either). Hopefully I'll be back to normal in no time. Blogging should resume on Friday; Saturday at the latest.

Posted by kswygert at 07:09 PM | Comments (7)

today's schedule

Hello, everyone. I have lots of meetings today, but also a doctor's appointment to keep, because my GERD symptoms are so severe that I'm having a lot of trouble just getting around. I don't think my doctor will send me to the hospital right away for tests, but you never know.

I'll hopefully be blogging late this afternoon, but if you don't hear from me, I just wanted to give advance warning as to why that might be. I don't want to scare you guys (I'm not about to keel over on you), but I also don't want a possibly-long stretch of non-blogdom to go unexplained.

Posted by kswygert at 07:12 AM | Comments (2)

September 24, 2003

And life just keeps getting better...

Okay, so I already lost a day of work (and blogging) thanks to everything else I had to get done yesterday, and my GERD is still really, really bad, and I'm also suffering from the consequences of caffeine withdrawal. But I managed to pull it together this morning, and at 8:15 I was on my way into work, all ready to give a presentation in front of an item review committee.

At which point, I was promptly involved in a four-car accident.

My car seems to have the most damage, because my car was #3 in the lineup and the only car actually hit by another moving car (#4). I seem to be okay; my Saturn has a very sad-looking rear end at this point, but it's still driveable. My car didn't really do any damage to the other two cars that were involved, because I was at a complete stop when I was hit. I thought at first that my car was completely dead, but that was just because Saturn thoughtfully installs auto shutoffs on their newer models, and so being hit caused my car to turn off and stay off for a short period of time.

So, I'm several hours behind schedule, I'm tied to my cell phone waiting for the insurance adjuster to call me, and I need to contact one of the other accident victims tonight to let her know what's going to happen with the insurance. Oh, and the accident brought on a nice case of extra-upset stomach and general shaken-up-ed-ness.

Blogging will resume when whomever or whatever placed this curse on me decides to have pity on my poor fizzy body and scrambled brain and remove it.

Update: Upon rethinking, I suppose I should look at the silver lining here, and be grateful that I have a lot of friends with medical knowlege (so that they can lend sympathetic and informed support about my GERD), and a boyfriend who works for an auto insurance company (so he can hold my hand, take me through the steps, and figure out plans for saber-rattling against the person who hit me, if need be).

Posted by kswygert at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

September 22, 2003

Miss fizzychest, continued

Oh, well, I suppose I should be glad that it isn't anything cardiac-related. But my case of GERD seems to be pretty bad, and the OTC stuff didn't touch it. My doctor's given me meds; hopefully they'll work so that I can avoid the whole visiting-the-hospital-for-ooky-tests thing.

And thanks to those of you who wrote (privately) that you've had your own issues with acid reflux. I don't plan to turn this blog into some kind of support group (although I suppose it is, in a way, for people who get high blood pressure over educational idiocies), but I appreciate the support nonetheless.

Posted by kswygert at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2003

Welcome to the world of miss fizzychest

Well, so much for the plan of blogging this weekend. Instead, I got to discover that my body seems to having some issues. It seems quite possible that I have GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly known as acid reflux disease. You know, the disease they talk about on all those Zantac commercials? The commercials I've completely ignored in the past? Well, I'll be ignoring them no more.

The problem, of course, is that a sudden (and I do mean sudden) first attack of GIRD can mimic, especially in women, symptoms of heart disease. So, on Sunday, when I had planned to do a lot of house cleaning and blogging, I found myself instead with stabbing chest pains, nausea, headache, sweating, and clamminess. But I don't have high blood pressure, or asthma, or any history of cardiac problems, and I seem to be breathing okay, so right now the doctors have me on Zantac. Further tests should clear things up, but let's just say it put a damper on my weekend all around.

More information than you wanted, probably, but I just wanted to explain my absence this weekend. I should be back to blogging Monday (barring time out time for a doctor visit or two).

Posted by kswygert at 05:18 PM | Comments (2)

September 19, 2003

Light bloggage again...

Hi, everyone. Philly came through the hurricane relatively unscathed, although some outlying counties in PA really suffered. I'm still encountering a hurricane storm of work here at my office, though, so I won't get to blogging until later this weekend. I apologize for the delay.

And, unlike most weekends, I do intend to get quite a few posts up; I've been saving them over the last day or two, and I already have five to ten articles that must be posted, linked, critiqued, and discussed. So check back over the weekend, when stuff will be posted throughout the days (man, can't wait to get into all this FCAT challenge nonsense....)

Posted by kswygert at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2003

Battening down the hatches

Hi, everyone. Work today is quite crunchingly heavy, and then there's this whole Hurricane Isabel thing. We've already lost one psychometrician (who works from home in Delaware) because her power's out, and I have to be ready to give a presentation tomorrow in case my boss doesn't make it in - of course, that presumes that I won't lose power as well, and I haven't yet decided if my loyalty to this company includes sleeping here and showering downstairs in the gym if need be.

Nope, I've decided - my loyalty definitely doesn't extend that far. :)

Anyways, I'll try to post a couple of things today but may not have time, and if nothing gets posted tomorrow it may be because we don't have power. If I get to stay home, I'll read Life Of Pi, which a Devoted Reader recently sent to me (thanks so much). Everybody stay safe.

Posted by kswygert at 10:29 AM | Comments (2)

September 11, 2003

Memorial Day

Hello, Devoted Readers. I won't be posting today; what little time I have to spend on the internet, I'm going to use perusing a few thoughtful September 11 remembrance sites and postings. The mainstream media has, by and large, chosen to forgo any special programming today, but the bloggers have not forgotten that dark day two years ago, and they don't want to see this day pass without memoriams, remembrances, and heartfelt discussions.

Here are the links, in case you're interested:

Voices: Stories from9/11, by Michele of A Small Victory

Surviving, by Jeff Jarvis

How Not To Remember September 11th, by Christopher Hitchens

Two Years Later, by Stephen Green of Vodkapundit

The Sept 11th Stories thread on Little Green Footballs

Sheila O'Malley's fisking of the PBC WTC documentary (and a related rant here)

The Pangs of New York, by journalist Roger Franklin

Black Tuesday, by the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler

And do NOT miss James Lileks' Bleat today. He knows what to say, and says it better than anyone.

Posted by kswygert at 08:04 AM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2003

Trying out a new method

Hello, Devoted Readers. I've been thinking about the amount of time I spend on this blog, and I've decided that (a) it might be too much, and (b) greater amounts of time don't necessarily create better quality. What's more, real life is definitely intruding at this point. I have several other projects going on, and I simply won't be able to spend as much time on N2P as I'd like.

So I'm going to experiment over the next couple of days with sifting through possible stories and posting fewer items that will be (hopefully) of higher quality. I've been trying to get the "scoops" on a lot of small news stories by making lots of little posts throughout the day, and I'm not sure that I'll be able to continue doing that. I may see if it works out better for me to collect stories all day and post them all at once in the evenings as opposed to more continuous posting.

Let me know if you've got any suggestions out there for changes I can make that will reduce my time burden without reducing the quality of this blog. I still intend to post every day, so I'm not going to disappear on you. I just know that I need to make some adjustments to the blog, time-wise. Also, if it's important to you guys that you see some comments from me in response to your own comments on my postings, let me know. I've been trying to respond to as many comments as possible, but I don't know if that's a desirable aspect of the comments sections. Maybe you just all want to debate amongst yourselves.

Posted by kswygert at 10:26 AM | Comments (6)

August 27, 2003

Small power outage here...

...Human power, that is. Your regularly scheduled bloggage will return tomorrow.

Posted by kswygert at 04:01 PM | Comments (3)

August 26, 2003

Light bloggage, again

Posting will be sporadic today; got meetings once again. Sorry for the delay!

Posted by kswygert at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2003

Light bloggage today

I'll be in meetings today and won't get the chance to post. Thanks to everyone who sent links over the weekend - I'll get to 'em as soon as I can!

Posted by kswygert at 06:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2003

Archives! (of a sort)

Finally, this site now has all the old N2P posts archived. Three caveats:

1. Blogger deleted some of my posts altogether while I was still using that software, ostensibly because they were too "large." So if you read something last year that you liked, it might be gone forever.

2. One of the reasons that I switched off Blogger was because the archiving never worked properly. Now, you won't be able to go to an old link of mine and then go to another older one from a link inside that post, because the archive link will not work. You'll need to do a search on the older link from the front page to find it.

3. Blogger's title labels had always worked weirdly for me, and they imported in a weird fashion even though I followed the directions for importing to Moveable Type. So. If you click on, for example, May 2002 in the right-hand menu, you will pull up every entry from May (which is good), but MT has "titled" each entry not with the original title I used (which is now in the body of the post) but with the title plus initial words from the posting. Sometimes this looks fine; sometimes it looks weird.

However, they're all there (at least, the ones that Blogger didn't torch are there), and if you want to see everything I've ever written on the SAT, you can enter that into the Search engine that's also on my right-hand menu, and you'll get stuff going back to February 2002, including one of my personal favorites, a fisking of a NYT article from April of last year. Sweet.

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

August 20, 2003

The public's perception of NCLB

The Phi Delta Kappa honors organization, in conjunction with Gallup, recently surveyed "the public" to get their opinion about the No Child Left Behind Act. The poll itself may be found here; a press release summary is presented here.

So, what did "the public" have to say? The fine print at the end reminds us that this poll was composed of only 1011 adults who were chosen as a random-digit residential telephone sample - this allegedly avoids "listedness" bias, but doesn't avoid bias based on who owns telephones, or who is around to answer the telephone in the house. Random numbers were stratified by geographical region, and the person in the house with the most recent birthday was chosen to answer the poll. Calls also varied by time of day and day of week.

They've put some safeguards in place here, but readers should keep in mind that this is still a small sample. What's more, 65% of the sample had no children enrolled in school, and while some of those are people whose kids have graduated, I believe this could certainly introduce error by oversampling people who have no reason to pay attention to the specifics of or the politics surrounding the NCLB Act, nor would they be as likely to be aware of the quality of their local schools.

Anyway, on to the results, with my comments:

"Forty percent say they know very little about NCLB" - not surprising, given that 65% of the sample have no kids enrolled in school.

"Public school parents consider themselves just as uninformed as others" - these folks comprised only 32% of the sample, or just over 300 people.

"Sixty-six percent of the public says judging a schools performance using a single standardized test will cause teachers to "teach to the test." Sixty percent say that is a bad thing." That's 60% of the 66% who think that teachers will be forced to teach to the test. So, 667 adults thought they'd be teaching to the test, and 400 believe this is a bad thing. Another way to put this would have been to say that only 40% of the sample believes that standardized tests force teachers to "teach to the test" in a bad way.

It's also interesting that, while 66% did find the use of a single test for judging school quality to be fair (and I was under the impression that states use other methods for judging school quality as well), 83% believe the tests should be expanded to include subjects other than reading and math. While I believe those two are the most important (hard to appreciate history and science if you can't read), couldn't this number be used to show that those polled support the use of testing? Or that their opposition to the use of a single score was only because of the narrow focus of the test, not because of the test itself?

"...the public attributes the [black-white score] gap to lack of parent involvement (90 percent), home life and upbringing (87 percent), lack of student interest (80 percent), and community environment (66 percent). Only 16 percent attribute it to the quality of schooling received." Interesting. You often hear this from teachers' unions, and some school teachers, who claim that the quality of the school is not as important as the child's background (and this is often given as a reason for why schools fail minority kids from poor homes).

However, another way to look at this is the way that E.D. Hirsch describes it in The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them. In that book, he notes that children from privileged background have a high probability of doing well regardless of their school quality, because what they fail to learn in school, they can often learn at home. But disadvantaged kids are often entirely dependent on the school for their education, and the worse the home situation, the better the school needs to be in order to fairly educate the youngsters in it.

Thus, the score gap is not just related to parental involvement and upbringing, but also to the fact that those with the least amount of schooling at home are also least likely to receive adequate education in school. In those cases, school quality can be the most important factor in closing the gap. A failing K-12 system disproportionately affects the disadvantaged youth, and to blame their home environments for their poor test scores is to miss the whole story.

There's more in the poll, much more; let me know what you find interesting.

Posted by kswygert at 10:32 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2003

Howdy, all

I'm back, and rarin' to go. At least, I will be once the Red Bull kicks in.

merry_go_round_md_wht.gif

Posted by kswygert at 11:30 AM | Comments (3)

July 31, 2003

Apologies for the non-existent blogging...

...Real life is (unfortunately) getting in the way. I'll try to update N2P tomorrow, but otherwise it'll be quiet around here until next Tuesday.

Posted by kswygert at 03:06 PM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2003

Invasion of the Sinus Cloggers

Light bloggage today, folks. I'm a bit under the weather.

Posted by kswygert at 11:03 AM | Comments (4)

July 23, 2003

My first blog-child

Devoted Reader Nick has started his own blog, entitled Twilight of the Idols. One of the topics he'll be convering is education, so I feel entitled to consider him a blogchild of mine, whether he wants to be or not. That way, when he catches articles like the NYT story on the FCAT mess before I catch them (see above), I get to horn in on his scoop as well. :)

So go on over and say howdy. And tell him to get off Blogspot as soon as possible, so he'll have archives that work.

Posted by kswygert at 02:49 PM | Comments (1)

July 17, 2003

New email!

Howdy, Yahoo's been acting up lately and I should take advantage of the disk space that I'm paying for, so send all your emails to the NEW address:

kimberly at kimberlyswygert dot com

Posted by kswygert at 07:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2003

Summer Reading List

Thomas Sowell's Summer Reading List is up, so now I've got a few more books to add to my Amazon Wish List. Thanks to the anonymous admirer who recently sent E.D. Hirsch's The Schools We Need my way. It's on the "To-Read" shelf in my office, along with one of Sowell's choices, Mona Charen's Useful Idiots (also sent by a generous reader of this blog).

Also, Bas Braam's has a new site worth checking out - Scientifically Correct. He's been very productive while I've been out of town, blogging away on the NAEP Writing results and the Regents Exam fiasco. Bookmark this site and check it along with Mathematically Correct and Education News's Daily News site to get your regular dose of education-related news and commentary.

Posted by kswygert at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2003

Better late than never

By the way, if you're a new visitor to Number 2 Pencil - welcome, and thanks for visiting. It seems that as soon as I went away last week, my hit counter went haywire. If Bravenet is to be believed, my daily hits last week were, on average, quadruple the normal number of hits I recieve. Of course, I wasn't checking my hit counter last week, and Bravenet doesn't allow me to see now where those hits were coming from then. This exact same thing happened last year, when I was featured on the FoxNews website as the "Blog of the Week" the very same week that I was at yet another foreign resort with limited internet access, and thus was late in answering many of the supportive emails that I received. My timing is impeccably bad, it seems.

I think, though, that a lot of these recent visitors might have found me through the Dissident Frogman, who's off on vacation himself. Before he left, he designed a new banner that cycles through various kudos he's received on other sites, and he saw fit to highlight a description of him that I posted on the previous incarnation of this blog:

I'm going to pack my bags and settle a few things here and there before I leave.

There are several quotes from my esteemed blogging colleagues in the ticker on top of the dissident frogman's home page.

I don't know why, but one of them that I've always considered as well thought suddenly comes back to my mind:

« Equal parts profane satire and blunt seriousness, this renegade Frenchman (...)
Kimberly Swygert, Number 2 Pencil. »

Pertinent depiction isn't it?
Half profane satire, half blunt seriousness.

Maybe it's time to drop one of them.

Or maybe both.

Bye now.

Wow. I'm tremendously flattered that the Frogman, whom I greatly admire, noticed that I linked to him at some point in the past, and that he chose my description as one that is pertinent at this time (and perhaps has provoked some sort of reassessment of himself). I don't think he needs to change one whit, of course, and I'm just as impressed with the photos that he's taken so far during his trip to London as I always am with his political commentary and his social conscience. He's one of the most phenomenal bloggers around, from both intellectual and artistic viewpoints, and if you haven't viewed the clip he designed about the WMD controversy in Iraq, you should do so. His twin slogans of "Time to Take Sides" and "Art vs. Europression" describe his determination and his creativity perfectly.

Posted by kswygert at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2003

Bon Giorno

I've made it home in one piece, relatively speaking. My glasses have fallen apart, and my self-esteem has been irreparably damaged from sitting on the beach surrounded by masses of tan, skinny, cellulite-free Italian women wearing, as bikinis, less cotton than is found in the top of an aspirin bottle, but otherwise, I'm okay.

This weekend will be spent on housecleaning (thanks to my boyfriend, it's currently merely "guy-clean", if you know what I mean), working on this blog, and unpacking (but first - Looney Tunes on Cartoon Network!) Thanks to you all for your good wishes on my talk (which went well) and your kind words.

I've got to go purchase the hardware that will allow me to download all my pics onto the computer, but once I finally have them on, you'll be the first to see them.

Posted by kswygert at 08:46 AM | Comments (6)

July 03, 2003

OOPS

Hi, I just realized that I made a terrible blunder. For the past couple of weeks, my email address was incorrectly listed on the right-hand side of this page. Most of you had my correct email address already in your address books, but some of you newer readers have (apparently) been getting furious emails from the person at number2pencil-at-yahoo-dot-com.

I'm number2pencilblog-at-yahoo-dot-com. The problem has been fixed on this page, and I've sent an apologetic email to the person at the other N2P email address. Sorry for misleading you, and if you got a nasty response from someone you thought was me in the past month or so, please email me again!

Thank you, Nick, for bringing this to my attention.

Posted by kswygert at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2003

More mad craziness

The work craziness continues, but I'll be online later today updating the blog. Sorry for the inconvenience. In fact, if there really are any of you out there who consider this blog to be a daily "fix" and are peeved that I haven't been posting much, I can't thank you enough for the compliment.

However, you're getting ready to suffer quite a bit more deprivation soon. The reason I'm so busy is that I'm getting ready for a trip to Italy.

More later...

Posted by kswygert at 01:17 PM | Comments (2)

June 27, 2003

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)

June 25, 2003

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 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.

computer_surfing_md_wht.gif

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)

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)
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