Friday, November 20, 2009

Talk Among Yourselves

There are some education news items we could get to like Randy Dorn's idea of a two-tier diploma or the Gates Foundation and yet another education initiative (one part is $45M to study 3700 teachers to figure out what an effective teacher is which reminds me of the Supreme Court Justice Potter on a case about pornography said, "I know it when I see it"). I also have some interesting research on BTA III after going over the final project list.

However it is Friday so talk about anything.

If you aren't at Twilight Moon (I would be if I were a tween but frankly I don't care how dark Forks is, vampires can't go out in the daylight. First rule of being a vampire.), here's something to do with the kids under the category "now for something completely different". It's called Smash Putt, sort of a Rube Goldberg version of mini-golf (indoors). It's only open for families this weekend and next (they serve alcohol at other times). There clearly seems to be some physics involved so it could be called educational (and hence its appearance here).


seattle citizen said...

I become more and more concerned about the national drive to "increase teacher quality."

Nothing wrong with quality, but it appears that the push is for teachers to be evaluated on student performance in their classrooms.
One, of concern to educators, is that this is very difficult, as there are so many variables. Should a teacher be held acccountable for student who doesn't learn, even if the instruction is "quality"?
Two, this will certainly impact instruction: If the impetus for this is the fact that some students fail, wouldn't it be sensible to see why the student failed instead of (in effect) blaming the teacher and having the teacher change curriculum and instruction? Let's say that 60% of students learn well in a given classroom. Should the teacher be forced to change curriculum to address the 40% who didn't?

In other words, if a teacher is evaluated on test scores or what not, and some students aren't successful, and the finger is pointed at the teaching rather than the learning...The teaching will change. Students who found success in a classroom will be subjected to modified instruction to address the percieved failure of the teacher to teach well to the lower 40%, when in reality those students might not be ready (low level) or able (SpEd or ELL, for example) to learn.

So regular ol' good teaching is, under this new direction, looked at as "failing" due to evaluations and assessments that DON'T FIGURE IN OTHER THINGS, and thus the perception is that the teacher failed. The instruction is thereby modified, and the 60% get diluted education.

It just doesn't make sense.

Joan NE said...

It has been perplexing to me that the District is so committed to reform math, considering how awful it is. Even the APP kids at Lowell are frustrated and having trouble with EDM.

I think I have finally come up with a plausible explanation for this preference. Before I can explain my hypothesis, I have to give some background information. In the situation that a school has failed to make AYP for three years running, NCLB requires that a District give the student the option of private tutoring (at District expense) or give the student enroloment in a school of their choice. The private tutoring option in NCLB is referred to as SES (for supplemental education services).

Consider two districts: one uses a strong math curriculum, one uses a terrible math curriculum. The latter district will end up with far more students who qualify for SES. This means that private tutoring companies in the latter district will get a lot more business. Also, the second district will get more failing schools, and more justification for creating charter schools. The charter schools don't have to adhere to the district's mandated curriculum; they will choose a better math curriculum so that they can bring their students up to standard more easily than the non-charter public schools.

This explanataion may not be right, but it is much more satisfying to me than are these explanations: corruption, stupidity, incompetence, pigheaded idealogical commitment, and sadism.

I have noticed that the poor attention paid in reform math to helping and encouraging students develop automaticity in fact knowledge (rapid, accurate recall of arithmetic facts) leads to much greater difficulty for students when they try to learn fifth grade rational number aritment (such as adding fractions with disimilar denominators). Reform math would be much improved if it did a better job with fact fluency. Given this, how are we to interpret Randy Dorn's decision to disregard the State fact fluency learning expectations? I don't know how to account for these varoius observations, except to conclude, as preposterous as it sounds, that reformists do not want non-charter public school students to be successful in math, unless they are getting private tutoring through the SES requirement.

It is a mere coincidence that EDM comes out of the same University that the school choice movement was born in? The school choice (i.e. vouchers and charters) concept was a brain child of Milton Freidman, at University of Chicago School of Economics. Does that fact that reform math is also called "standards-based" math show that reform math was designed to go with high-stakes testing?

It seems to me that another intent of reform math to bring down the top, so to speak, meaning bring down the achievement of the brightest students within the public schools. To bring down the performance of the best students helps to close the achievement gap.