Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Victims of fuzzy math?

A Kentucky couple, both blond rednecks, had 9 children. They went to the doctor to see about getting the husband "fixed". The doctor gladly started the required procedure and asked them what finally made them make the decision--why after nine children, would they choose to do this.

The husband replied that they had read in a recent article that one out of every ten children being born in the United States was Mexican, and they didn't want to take a chance on having a Mexican baby because neither of them could speak Spanish.

Reading scandal (LC vs. UC)

I found this curious item in Education News about the purported Reading First scandal. It appears that the Inspector General findings did not distinguish between "direct instruction" as an instructional method and "Direct Instruction" as a commercial product. Could the real scandal be an inability to distinguish between lower case and upper case on the part of OIG?

Two of the major findings dealt with what the Inspector General considered to be "stacking" of the panels with people who were advocates of Direct Instruction programs." Although not required, the Department developed a process to screen expert review panelists for conflicts of interest; however, the Department's process was not effective. We identified six panelists whose resumes revealed significant professional connections to a teaching methodology that requires the use of a specific reading program" (page 4).The conclusion drawn by Inspector General (see page 17 for documentation that the specific methodology was direct instruction) seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the difference between: 1) a general teaching methodology (direct instruction) that incorporates systematic and explicit teaching and is incorporated into a growing number of instructional programs targeting at-risk populations and 2) a specific group of commercial programs referred to as Direct Instruction programs.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Not following through on PFT

This article discusses how the most extensive study of instructional programs ever conducted was ignored by the ed establishment. The findings did not sit well with cherished educationist notions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Don't let them TERC you around

Linda Moran advises a handwringing dad on afterschooling. It's a measured and thoughtful response well worth reading, albeit a tad too measured for my taste.

The fearful dad writes:

Our two children (daughter - grade 4 and son - grade 1) attend a mostly wonderful private school. I say mostly wonderful because parents have been unhappy with the Math programs there for a while.

This Fall the school announced that they would be adopting TERC later in the year (apparently there is a new version of the TERC curriculum that they are waiting for). I am afraid that this will make matters worse, not better.

Our daughter is very bright; she is particularly strong in reading, writing and languages. My concern is not performance, but rather her attitude. She finds math frustrating and is learning to dislike the subject. This for a kid who otherwise loves school so much she can't wait for summer vacation to end. She prefers book stores to toy stores. You get the idea.
It's tragic that fuzzy math not only cheats children but also makes them hate "math". I would say that the academic well-being of one's children comes first and that concerns over hurting the feelings of educationists shouldn't enter the picture.

It's also remarkable that people pay for private schools only to have them feed fuzzy math to their children.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Math homework

Weapons of Math Destruction has a collection of hilarious cartoons on the fuzzy math plague.

Lots of useful information on the math wars at this companion site.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dead horses and educationists

Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, the educational establishment often tries other strategies with dead horses, including the following:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Saying things like "This is the way we always have ridden this horse."
4. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
5. Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
6. Appointing a committee to study the dead horse.
7. Waiting for the horse's condition to improve from this temporary downturn.
8. Providing additional training to increase riding ability.
9. Passing legislation declaring "This horse is not dead."
10. Blaming the horse's parents.
11. Acquiring additional dead horses for increased speed.
12. Declaring that "No horse is too dead to beat."
13. Providing additional funding to increase the horse's performance.
14. Commissioning a study to see if private contractors can ride it cheaper.
15. Removing all obstacles in the dead horse's path.
16. Taking bids for a state-of-the art dead horse.
17. Declaring the horse is "better, faster and cheaper" dead.
18. Revising the performance requirements for horses.
19. Saying the horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.
20. Raising taxes (any excuse will do).
21. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tutoring charade

One of the NCLB provisions calls for tutoring students after school. "Tutoring" may have a specific meaning in the minds of lawmakers but leads to a travesty when not nailed down in the law. In bureaucratese, "tutoring" as demanded by the law is known as Supplemental Educational Services (SES). It turns out that "tutoring" can mean anything private SES companies -- many of which are raking in big bucks in mass operations -- wish it to mean.

Here is an example of a SES company advertising for "tutors" in the Chicago area:

Tutor 6th grade students in math and reading...


We provide all materials and curriculum. The curriculum is hands-on and utilizes multiple intelligences. Students love it! Students learn math and reading by solving mysteries, playing games, acting out plays, and doing art projects. The program makes learning and teaching fun!
I think it takes more than "solving mysteries, playing games, acting out plays, and doing art projects" to become proficient in math. Once again, the disadvantaged who are supposed to benefit from the law are being short-changed. Nobody in officialdom seems to be watching.