Our school decided that all classes are to be college prep. No exceptions. Our special ed. students can go to resource room with one of two teachers who both are about students getting passing grades, not learning--they give the kids answers (three students come back from taking test and every answer matches-even the short answer questions. I have two students in American Lit who are reading at 2nd grade level and whose ability to comprehend the material, to make inferences, to write a complete sentence are at that level or lower. I have begged special ed teachers to help me find age-appropriate material that is on their reading level to no avail. We are just expected to pass them along. It makes me burn inside every day that no matter what I do, I can't change this; my student load is 150 students, 4 different preps.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
On "Creative" application essays
Not only are these types of corporate interviews not new, they're not even being conducted anymore at the companies that made them famous. The book about Microsoft's interviews, How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?, was published over 10 years ago, and by then the practice had been going on for some time. Microsoft and Google have both stopped doing "puzzle interviews", because (a) they don't tell you anything useful about the candidate, and (b) many of the candidates have memorized the answers to many of the questions anyway.
C T said...
It's like they're trying to avoid teaching long division or something....
I just found out yesterday that on the Everyday Math website where they have videos of all their preferred algorithms, the link at the bottom to long division lessons returns this: "ForbiddenYou don't have permission to access /support_info.html on this server."
On Is refusing to color today's "coloring outside the lines?"
Auntie Ann said...
Here we are 2 years later, he's in 6th grade and again got marked down about 20% for only putting words on and not "decorating" a small poster. Changed an high A into a low B.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Teachers seem to think that art projects or creative assignments are a way to make learning fun, but they do not take into account those kids who don't find them the slightest bit fun. What about them? Teachers don't seem to recognize that some of these so-called fun assignments are torturing a non-negligible part of their class. Our kid is highly fastidious, the slightest mistake in his artwork and he gets incredibly frustrated. Give him a dopey prompt, and he can't get started. Give him a research assignment and paper to write, and he's happy as a clam--but make him do a poster about it and he hits the wall.
We get very tired of taking trips to the art store every week.
The cynic in me says that it's much easier to grade 20 posters than it is to grade 20 papers, and that's why they get assigned instead. It's much easier to stress the creativity and content of a fiction story than it is to actually go through and mark the grammar and spelling errors (especially when many of the teachers aren't terribly strong at grammar either.) It's also easier to flatten the grading on a creative project than it is a research paper or essay. Check the right boxes on the rubric, and you can have an A. Doesn't matter if you actually learned something: is your lettering straight and tidy? Is your poster visually appealing? Do you have a good use of color? (Our kid was graded down because he really, really wanted a project to be in black and white and the teacher insisted he had to color it.) Very little of the grade ends up being actually learning or content based.
Everyone else: "Dude, you're a freak. Seriously, a statistical freak of nature."
Everyone else's future employers: "Please, can we just find some workers who can do basic arithmetic in their heads?"
The thing is - none of them - the artist, the dancer, the musician, the football player - not a single one of them became what they are just by observing and appreciating art, dancing, music, or football. They had to learn about it first. They had to learn how to hold a paintbrush, how to stand on their toes, how to play a note, and how to catch a ball. Lots of other people tried, just like them, but didn't have the gift they do. That's what makes their gift so valuable - the fact that not many of us can do what they do.
The same thing applies to math. You have to learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide to understand and be in awe of things like pi.
And...just like artists, musicians, dancers, and football players are freaks of nature, so too are the gifted mathematicians who imagine that the swirling hexagon / decagon exercise would do anything other than give most of us a headache.
Too smart by half, those math geniuses.
On Educational Technology and the Educational Industrial Complex
Auntie Ann said...
Form needs to follow function: technology needs to follow application. Effective applications need to come first and prove that they are better than the alternatives (great teachers and lots of iterative practice.) After that, the platform is immaterial.
Any program that starts with a stupid name is suspect. I used to work for a high-tech company that wanted us to use the slogan "1+1=3" on powerpoint charts -- this is supposed to mean something like "synergy". But you can't get a roomful of engineers to write that out.1:X -- what if X = 1, or 0? Why is this the same as "many" except because of functional illiteracy?
Around here writing instruction is only given in honors sections.
Computer programming has been declared 'elitist' and cancelled, just like IB, honors math, honors science, Foreign Language IV and V, and other such classes that the 'wrong' students would like to have in their schedule.
Katharine Beals said...
Update on LA Superintendent Deasy: according to last week's Edweek, Deasy's previous employer was America's Choice, an education research company acquired by Pearson in 2010. Mr. Deason "angrily dismissed 'innuendos' that [this] had influenced the LAUSD's decision to select Pearson."
Edweek also reports that Mr. Deasy may resign this winter--presumably (in what is often yet another blow to the accountability of our school superintendents) with a nifty severance package.
It's one thing to talk through fictitious scenarios--I see no reason why the teacher couldn't have used a made-up situation for this lesson--and it is quite another to force children, who don't have the rational mentality to know what to share and what to not share, and who easily are intimidated by adults, to divulge their own personal and private lives in front of all of their peers.
I find these snippets rather horrifying.
Instead of looking for analytical and adult-based answers, maybe we should just let kids have more time to play.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
On The decline of specialized education, continued
I think that, while IEP's are good at identifying the curriculum goals that children should attain, they often miss the boat on autonomy issues. I have a neighbor who, because she is in a regular classroom, has her every move monitored and her every action facilitated or brokered, by her aide. She is not retaining much of the curriculum, because it is way above her cognitive level.
On Why the "normal child inside" myth just won't die
I have mixed feelings about this. It's clear that "facilitated" communication is a sham. On the other hand, it's also clear that it brings comfort to struggling parents. The facilitator almost always types out messages of love and appreciation. The noncommunative child turns out to be wise and witty. It's easy the say that the truth will make you free. The reality may be that some people can't handle the truth.
On Edufallacies: correlation vs. causation
I've been saying that the ed world is unable/unwilling to differentiate correlation from causation for decades. Eighth-grade algebra, Latin, modern foreign languages, debate team, algebra II/trig/precalc,and AP classes have all been cited as causative factors in higher performance on various measures, including SAT/ACT, HS graduation, college attendance and graduation etc. Such results have fueled the XYZ-for-all push. Unfortunately, such courses are simply correlation, not causation. In the real world, only the most able, prepared and motivated kids take these courses, which are a proxy variable for identification of such kids. It's idiocy, but that hasn't stopped schools/districts from pushing kids who can't do multiplication and division.
Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...
When an IT person was in the building, excitedly telling me about the new iPad cart they were installing, I had to stop myself from shouting "Our kids don't need iPads, they need FATHERS."
Don't forget the mother of all educational correlation / causation confusions:
A school where students score low on standardized tests must have bad teachers, so they should be penalized and reshuffled frequently. September 2, 2013 at 5:42 PM Auntie Ann said... I don't get the shuffling thing! When an LAUSD school finally starts pulling itself together, when the head of the school shows talent and success; the first thing they do is move her to a different school!
You'd think they'd let success stand, instead of trying to break it apart. September 2, 2013 at 8:42 PMAnonymous said...
Letting success stand would probably help the kids. But who wants praxis when we can have theory? When they penalize and reshuffle teachers at schools whose student body tests low, they are inevitably penalizing students for being poor and penalizing teachers for teaching poor students.'If you want to keep your job, don't teach poor kids' is the message they end up sending.
C T said...
Wouldn't it be nice if formal logic were taught? I think most Americans, if they even know the word "fallacy", think it just means "dumb argument". It's important to know WHY an argument fails; otherwise, it just looks like opponents of an idea are name-calling. With all the calls for teaching students to be "critical thinkers", why don't we see the education world turning to teaching formal logic? It seems the K-12 world mostly thinks logic is just for math.
I think it's the private schools that save our bacon here. They're not going to up and go common core. We have private schools here that are older than the institution of public school. They're not going to give up their traditions. As long as they hold the line on an alternative, we can fit in the spread somewhere.
The most frightening part, surely, is Coleman coming into the leadership of the College Board, where he intends to dismantle the SAT.
"Coleman’s most radical idea is to redesign the SAT, transforming it from an aptitude test intended to control for varying levels of school quality, to a knowledge test aligned with the Common Core."
I don't know how independent schools and homeschoolers will respond to that. Perhaps the SAT will fall by the wayside and we will use different tests. Perhaps the ACT will hold out and continue to measure aptitude rather than regurgitation.
The source article for the PJ column is very interesting.
It comes to some of the same conclusions I regularly support - we need more vocational education and preparation for different courses, not the one size fits all system of Common Core.
This battle isn't over, and, as before, we can expect support from unusual quarters.
There's no book list. No list of works to be covered. Not even a "Works from X regions and Y time periods."
The CCSI appear to be a list of generic, vague 'skills' totally divorced from content. Which means there's still no 'national curriculum" and that schools and teachers will still vary.
It's all 21st Century skills in a new package. There's no there there.
This is actually a major challenge to many private schools. If they use, or don't even rise to the level of, the common core; and if parents can get the core for free at public schools, what are parents paying for?
One of our kids is in one that uses CC as only a guideline (which, in this case, means they don't even expect to achieve that level of competency.) The school really hasn't begun addressing its existential crisis yet.
My private (non-Catholic) school will not willingly comply with Common Core, but when all the textbooks and standardized tests - not only SATs but the IOWAs and Stanford and others used by private schools - is aligning with Common Core already even before the public became aware of this, it is essentially coming down on every kid in America. And when CC does not prepare for college in areas like math and skip over the classics of literature, among many other things, you can see why federal control of education is and should be unconstitutional.