Thursday, April 16, 2015

Don't Miss Bruce Baker on NOLA

Bruce Baker:

Following this model requires significant depopulation, and much, much more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You Can't Say Reform Plan was Fine Except Pace of Implementation

I've read a few comments lately saying, in effect, "The Common Core, et al, are fine ideas, but some states, etc., just tried to go too quickly."

That's a crock because an insanely fast pace of implementation was a central feature -- and prerequisite if -- the entire "Race to the Top" agenda. It is a "race," you see! If you could get in a time machine and show that the current plan couldn't be completed by 2015, you would have gotten an entirely different plan that might be implementable in a short enough timeframe. They wouldn't have said, "Oh, ok, as long as it takes to do the right thing is fine because we have deep faith in the power of our ideas."

Probably you would get a decision to not re-write the Common Core from scratch for no reason, but to use the superior version they already had in hand. For some reason everyone still pretends that wasn't a perfectly reasonable approach.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

What I Learned from Snow Narrowed Streets

Ben Lindeke:

At the same time, the big concern for many engineers, drivers and civic leaders is how lower speeds will impact traffic flow. They amazing thing is that it doesn’t have to make a huge difference. When you’re talking about traffic flow on these urban commercial streets, speed is far less important than delay at intersections. A great example (from the UK) is the main street in the small suburban town of Poynton, which carries more than 26,000 cars a day. They recently dramatically re-designed the street to create “slow speed continuous traffic movement” by removing stop lights.

Having the streets narrowed by snow banks for six weeks, with parked cars at best half in traffic, and people walking on the streets at the same time (even when the sidewalks were shoveled!) was not an ideal situation by any means, and there were definite choke points around, say, every liquor store and bodega, but much of the time I couldn't help noticing that short trips didn't noticeably take longer with everyone driving slower and having to pause periodically to let people past parked cars.

A combination of driving a hybrid, using traffic avoidance software and spending a year in a roundabout-oriented country, has caused me to change my driving routes to ones that travel at a somewhat slower but steadier pace. You get there quicker, it is way less stressful, you save gas and it is safer.

CityArts! in the Neighborhood

I attended my first of what will likely be many end of semester "teachbacks" at the award winning CityArts! program. It is both free and two blocks from our house, so as soon as Vivian was old enough (8), we got her on board with a twice a week arts class. There's also a palpable sense of Providence's larger youth arts pipeline (CityArts -> AS220 Youth, for example).

One thing that was particularly nice is that it gave Vivian a chance to meet some kids in the immediate neighborhood. The biggest problem with our part of Elmwood is the absence of any social spaces. You have to really try to meet anyone, and you then you simply never casually run into people. We've barely interacted at all with most of the young kids in the houses immediately around us. We barely see them at all. The requirement that everyone have off-street parking even contributes to this. Some people never seem to set foot on the sidewalk. We started to feel like maybe it was just us, but after a few months in Stirling I couldn't go anywhere without seeing someone I knew. It is basically just a problem of urban design and infrastructure investment.

Anyhow, I digress. So Vivian became pretty good friends with a girl who it turns out lives about a block away and is homeschooled. She also got to know a boy who lives a couple doors down and goes to Paul Cuffee charter school. We're glad we were able to choose a public school which is considered a "neighborhood" school by distance if not sociology, and by no means the closest to us.

But let's be clear here, ultimately it just sucks to have all the kids in a neighborhood going to different schools, and it is in some ways worse for urban youth that it would be for kids in the suburbs.

On the other hand, yay for CityArts! Great to have some neighborhood resources for kids.

One Way High Performing Teachers Improve Lifetime Earnings

Susana Morris:

Only students in the advanced classes could attend workshops where you could learn about the magnet high schools anyone could apply for. If I hadn’t been in pre-Algebra, I would not have learned about the International Baccalaureate program that I would later attend and kick ass in.

There has been too little discussion of the actual mechanism by which having a "high performing" math teacher twenty years ago would have had an effect on your later earnings. Math was widely tracked back when Chetty et al were doing their research, getting bumped up or down made a big difference and as noted above, could have many knock-on effects.

In a sense, Chetty's research may have as much to say about tracking as it does testing. We don't know!

See also.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Missing the Stirling Crew

Plus they have way better weather right now!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chipping Away

While a lot of anti-PARCC/SBAC/Common Core testing argument justifiably is attacking the roots of the testing problem, I do think an effective line of attack is to ask again and again why -- exactly -- we need to give third graders significantly longer tests than the SAT or college placement exams. The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Accuplacer, the "college readiness" test used by actual colleges to place kids in regular or remedial courses is untimed, but the College Board notes that each of the 6 English and math sections generally takes 15 to 30 minutes, so an hour and a half to three hours for most kids in total.

In particular, I'd strongly encourage anyone who has been spending time with the PARCC, SBAC or any other Common Core sample tests, to look at the Accuplacer sample questions. I'm not saying Accuplacer is great, but a lot of the questions look as easy or easier than many middle school Common Core questions. I'd love to see a comparison by someone who has been spending more time with the Common Core sample items.

Of course, the risk is we'd win the argument and just get shorter high-stakes tests or, god forbid, and 8 hour SAT. I think it is good ground for us to fight on, however, and helps to undermine the credibility of the entire testing regime. Seriously, if 3-4 hours of testing is enough to classify an 18 year old going to college, why is it not enough for a 9 year old? I don't think there is a good answer to that question.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Understanding Internet Discourse in 2015

Scott Alexander:

But as it is, even if many journalists are interested in raising awareness of police brutality, given their total lack of coordination there’s not much they can do. An editor can publish a story on Eric Garner, but in the absence of a divisive hook, the only reason people will care about it is that caring about it is the right thing and helps people. But that’s “charity”, and we already know from my blog tags that charity doesn’t sell. A few people mumble something something deeply distressed, but neither black people nor white people get interested, in the “keep tuning to their local news channel to get the latest developments on the case” sense.

The idea of liberal strategists sitting down and choosing “a flagship case for the campaign against police brutality” is poppycock. Moloch – the abstracted spirit of discoordination and flailing response to incentives – will publicize whatever he feels like publicizing. And if they want viewers and ad money, the media will go along with him.

Which means that it’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship case for fighting police brutality and racism is the flagship case that we in fact got. It’s not a coincidence that the worst possible flagship cases for believing rape victims are the ones that end up going viral. It’s not a coincidence that the only time we ever hear about factory farming is when somebody’s doing something that makes us almost sympathetic to it. It’s not coincidence, it’s not even happenstance, it’s enemy action. Under Moloch, activists are irresistably incentivized to dig their own graves. And the media is irresistably incentivized to help them.

Lost is the ability to agree on simple things like fighting factory farming or rape. Lost is the ability to even talk about the things we all want. Ending corporate welfare. Ungerrymandering political districts. Defrocking pedophile priests. Stopping prison rape. Punishing government corruption and waste. Feeding starving children. Simplifying the tax code.

But also lost is our ability to treat each other with solidarity and respect.

Similarly, this is a at best borderline example of doxxing, since at most it exposes a locally prominent public official through their official contact information. It is much more annoying as an example of sexism expressed through using an informal picture of a female public official instead of her official one. But if it is someone's introduction to the idea of doxxing, you're immediately leading them in the wrong direction.

It is also a confusing example because unless I'm missing something, the people who would be most upset by the memo would be Pearson and NJDOE, who presumably already know how to get a district superintendent on the phone.

A second post by Bob Braun is a better example of inappropriately including someone's personal information in a post, and, unless I'm missing something, Braun has removed the relevant address, so... lesson learned, at least by Braun? Was an apology required? The larger problem with the post is that he's barking up the wrong tree entirely due to a mis-understanding of how the economics of open source licensing works, which is understandable.

The controversy around Braun's posts is a good example of what Alexander calls "The Toxoplasma of Rage." I highly recommend his post.