Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SOMEDAY Tutoring Software will Just Work

Justin Reich:

The logic of blended learning is something of a Rube Goldberg contraption: if you want rich project-based learning, then you should spend a bunch of your time, money, procurement energy, political will, and professional development resources on intelligent tutoring software. The software will make you more efficient in the classroom so that you finally free up the time that you needed for project-based learning (or math talk, or rich challenges, or peer learning, or whatever). It's kind of a strange logic. You want more meaningful student-teacher interactions? OK, step 1, sit your kids in front of a randomized worksheet problem generator.

It would be great if the online part was a no-brainer, but we seem to be hardly getting closer to that point.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flee! Flee!

David Weigel:

In a very short time, opposition to Common Core has evolved from a fringe Republican position that blue-staters laugh at to a position that clearly wins out in blue New York. When independents break against something by a 14-point margin, politicians generally look awkwardly for the escape hatches.

The question crosstabs show that the only group still strongly in favor of the CC (at 60%) is African Americans. This was a key marketing strategy for CC proponents but was always a little strange, since African American opinion doesn't exactly drive American educational policy.

Common Core advocates might have found it useful in the past six months to have an actual organization dedicated specifically to promoting the Common Core, with a file cabinet of substantive but readable analyses of the Common Core's benefits compared to other standards. Apparently those things did not seem necessary a few years ago.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The College Remediation Process is a Misinformation Generating Mess

Carol Burris:

So, how do community colleges decide who needs remediation and in which course? Although taking the SAT or ACT is rarely required for two-year colleges, very competitive SAT scores are often needed to get out of remediation testing. To escape the remediation placement test at Long Island’s Nassau Community College, for example, students need a 550 in math, 550 in reading and a 540 in writing. That is a total score of 1640. To put that score in perspective, only 34 percent of all college bound seniors score that high. The College Board says that if students have a composite score of 1550, they are college ready. The inappropriately high cut scores at Nassau virtually guarantee that nearly all incoming students will be obligated to take at least one placement test.

Then there are the placement tests themselves. There are two that dominate the market—ACCUPLACER, a product of the College Board and COMPASS, produced by the ACT. They are short, computer adaptive tests that apparently are not very accurate.

According to studies cited by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, ACCUPLACER severely misplaces 33 percent of all students, and COMPASS severely misplaces 27 percent, either by putting students into courses that are too hard, or in courses that are too easy. Two studies found that student GPAs were a far more accurate predictor—reducing severe placement errors by about half. Another study of remediation found that nearly 25 percent (math) and over 33 percent (English) of remedial course placements in one urban system were “severe under-placements” due to the COMPASS test. In short, lots of kids get placed into remediation who really do not need it.

How helpful are traditional remedial courses? Again, the Community College Research Center sheds light. Studies of the effects of remediation yield results that are mixed or negative. Many students enrolled in these remedial courses never complete the courses, and those who do, do not necessarily benefit.

What happens to weaker students who simply skip remediation? The research center found that students who ignored remedial placement had a slightly lower success rate than those who did not need remediation. But students who were referred for remediation but skipped it, had a “substantially higher” rate of success than those who took remedial courses. In other words, remediation is no remedy.

It is telling that college remediation rate statistics have become the remaining go-to number for reformers. It is a garbage statistic, and it is all they have left.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Take a Sabbatical


Many UFTers think that sabbaticals no longer exist. Wrong. Think that most applications get rejected. Wrong. Think they can’t afford one. Wrong.

You can still take them in the PPSD, too. Jennifer didn't qualify because she had a service break of a couple weeks when she decided to take a brief leave after she ran out of maternity leave with Vivian rather than go back to school in June, so she's just on a regular unpaid leave from PPSD this year. For other reasons it still made more sense to go to Scotland this year rather than waiting to take a sabbatical.

For reform-generated burnout, one key issue is that a year off isn't going to do much good until the system is past Peak Crazy. I think we're past that point.

Also, Jennifer is transferring to Central, which should be an improvement for her.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Start with (Un-)Gerrymandering

Ron Klain:

But while I too oppose Citizens United and decry the influence of special interest money in politics, I can’t get past this mathematical reality: Almost 90 percent of the House Republicans who are fomenting for gridlock, impeachment, and lawsuits against President Obama (instead of passing legislation) will win re-election in 2014—not because of a check written by the Koch brothers—but because they are in all-but-unopposed, one-party districts. Heavily partisan districts not only protect incumbents, they push the Republican majority further to the right: Just ask Rep. Eric Cantor what he thinks about his gerrymandered, post-2010, heavily Republican-conservative district … and ponder what that gerrymander in Virginia did to comprehensive immigration reform nationwide.

Campaign finance reform goes straight into the teeth of the money machine and the Supreme Court. Gerrymandering is at least as potent an anti-democratic force right now, easier to attack and tougher to defend.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tom's Common Core Reading Remix

Apparently we're going to start talking about re-writing the Common Core. Given that the last thing most Common Core critics want is a new and improved Common Core, the reaction to this is likely to be ambivalent at best, including from me.

On the other hand, I've found myself trying to categorize the various structural flaws in the Common Core standards, in yet another attempt to distill my analysis, and I ended up feeling yesterday morning like I would have to create an example of the CC standards that avoided it structural faults. So... I ended up with this list, which, I would hasten to note, is meant to simply be a better organized version of the Common Core anchor standards for reading, limited to their current (insufficient) scope and philosophy.

  1. Determine what the text says explicitly.
  2. Determine the central ideas or themes of the text.
  3. Summarize the text.
  4. Determine or infer the point of view of the author.
  5. Determine or infer the purpose of the text.
  6. Describe the style of the text.
  7. Analyze how the central ideas or themes of the text are developed.
  8. Analyze how specific parts of the text relate to each other and the whole.
  9. Assess how well the text achieves its purpose.
  10. Interpret the text, in part and in whole.
  11. Perform standards 7, 8, 9 and 10, comparing multiple texts.

Range of texts for assessment:
Reading standards must be assessed using grade level texts.
Assessment must emphasize reading arguments.
Assessment must include texts from diverse media, formats and academic disciplines.

Note: Citation is a writing or speaking task.

Also included would be detailed performance standards for grades 3, 5, 8, 10 and graduation. Each anchor standard would not have to have performance standards at all grade spans. Where appropriate there may be separate performance standards for different types of texts, but complete duplication of standards across text types is not necessary.

I imagine the primary complaints would be that this version does not emphasize the same "shifts" as the Common Core. The problem is that the Common Core uses redundancy and repetition to create emphasis, which makes their structure an overlapping mess.

Anyhow, I'd be interested in any feedback about my remix. Don't worry, a response does not imply endorsement of the AFT's Common Core position.

Friday, July 11, 2014

1 More Month

The Answer is Always "Close More Public Schools"

Reihan Salam:

Yet recently, as Mayor Bill de Blasio, state lawmakers in Albany, and the United Federation of Teachers have called for scrapping Stuyvesant’s current admissions formula, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that Stuyvesant should close its doors. The same goes for elite public high schools like it across the country.

I'm not a fan of this type of school, and critics of RI's school ratings should probably spend more time asking proponents why exactly Classical gets higher ratings than the rest of Providence's high schools, if those ratings are supposed to reflect anything other than the profile of the students attending the school. But it is even more depressing that "Oh, close the damn school," rolls off the lips so easily these days.