Saturday, June 6, 2015

Numbers mount for first-grade math whizzes

http://durangoherald.com/article/20150530/NEWS01/150539967/Numbers-mount-for-first-grade-math-whizzes-
I hope these first graders make their goal of reaching 150,000 problems completed on IXL. It's good to have and reach goals. But then I hope they consider a different goal, something richer than the fill-in-the-blank e-worksheet that IXL tends to be.

Asimov - The Relativity of Wrong

http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm
This essay by Isaac Asimov illustrates how rather than just being wrong, theories get better over time as our evidence and experiences lead us to improve upon existing ideas. Parts of this remind me of Andy diSessa's "Knowledge in Pieces" theory of learning and how when someone's construction of knowledge doesn't match your own, it's helpful to think about the experiences they have had to logically get to where they are.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lorrie Shepard to retire as CU-Boulder School of Education dean

http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2015/06/04/lorrie-shepard-retire-cu-boulder-school-education-dean
This hasn't been a secret, but it was nice to see CU-Boulder announce Lorrie Shepard's upcoming retirement as dean of the School of Education. She's served CU for 41 years, first as a graduate student, then as a professor, and later as our dean. She'll continue in the School of Education as a Distinguished Professor, and I'm sure I'm not the only one grateful to know her energy and wisdom is staying in the building.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Augusta Schurrer (1925-2015)

http://wcfcourier.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/augusta-schurrer/article_bda442d7-018b-5676-b236-f3c9caca3d95.html
I came across this by chance, but my Calculus II professor, Augusta Schurrer, this past January 1 at the age of 89. I was her student in her 47th -- and last -- year at the University of Northern Iowa, where she joined the faculty in 1950. Some has been written about her life in a book called "Women Succeeding in the Sciences," which explains how she entered Hunter College in 1941 at the age of 15 and then went to Wisconsin-Madison for a PhD in 1945. During World War II college mathematics departments were more open to taking female students, and Schurrer figured that had she arrived in Madison a few years later she wouldn't have gotten the assistantships and financial support she received.

Math Wars North

http://musingmathematically.blogspot.ca/2015/06/math-wars-north.html
Nat Banting summarizes a recent flare-up in the math wars, which are going as strong in parts of Canada in recent years as anywhere in the United States. If there's one thing we've learned on Google+, one must be careful when framing this as mathematicians versus math teachers, because not all mathematicians think alike on this topic.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Longmont valedictorian silenced over speech disclosing he was gay

http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-schools/ci_28209959/longmont-valedictorian-silenced-over-speech-disclosing-he-was
As a class valedictorian, Evan Young was supposed to give a speech at his graduation ceremony. He had themed it around respect for people's differences, and had planned his own coming out as gay as part of the speech. The principal of the school told him to remove that part of the speech but Young refused, leading the school to cancel his speech and _not even recognize Young as a valedictorian_. The school's board of directors said in a statement that graduation was "not a time for a student to use his commencement speech to push his personal agenda on a captive audience, and school officials are well within their rights to prevent that from happening." As if this story couldn't get worse, Young hadn't even yet come out to his own parents. So instead of getting to do that on his own terms, the principal outed him on a phone call to his parents. Thankfully, they seem to have taken the news well and have turned their attention to the unfairness of their son not being able to speak or be recognized as valedictorian. A local LGBT advocacy group, Out Boulder, is organizing an event where Evan Young will give his speech as part of a fundraiser.

New study takes hard look at National Council on Teacher Quality’s ratings of teacher prep programs

http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2015/05/new-study-takes-hard-look-at-national-council-on-teacher-quality%e2%80%99s-ratings-of-teacher-prep-programs/
There's an organization called the National Council on Teacher Quality that creates a lot of attention for itself by promoting a ranking system it's developed for teacher preparation programs. The NCTQ rankings have irked many people in teacher education, generally because the methods and criteria used in the rankings appear flawed, such as judging a university's program by content found in course syllabi. These feelings now appear validated, as Gary Henry and folks at Vanderbilt have done some research of their own and found that NCTQ rankings more or less have no correlation with the average effectiveness of graduates of teacher education programs.

Ashley Elementary School in Denver reinvents itself in Common Core era

http://www.denverpost.com/common-core/ci_28179398/ashley-elementary-school-denver-reinvents-itself-common-core
I've sadly grown accustomed to poor education reporting on the Common Core State Standards. Sometimes there's no distinction between the standards and curriculum, or a misunderstanding about the adoption and implementation process, or decontextualized simplifications (or fabrications) of the standards that make them look silly. So hats off to Eric Gorski of The Denver Post for this great 3-part series looking at Common Core implementation in Denver area schools. Gorski manages to capture the complexity and the challenge without mucking up the finer points about what the standards are and aren't, and all three parts are worth a read. Part 1: http://www.denverpost.com/common-core/ci_28179398/ashley-elementary-school-denver-reinvents-itself-common-core Part 2: http://www.denverpost.com/common-core/ci_28183620/boston-k-8-school-aurora-struggles-adapt-common Part 3: http://www.denverpost.com/common-core/ci_28187598/at-smoky-hill-high-school-common-core-and

Monday, May 4, 2015

A senior year mostly lost for a Normandy honor student

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/a-senior-year-mostly-lost-for-a-normandy-honor-student/article_ce759a06-a979-53b6-99bd-c87a430dc339.html
This story is sad for three reasons: (1) Kids at this school aren't getting the opportunities they deserve, (2) It illustrates the persistence of the inequalities in the St. Louis area that Jonathan Kozol wrote about 25+ years ago, and (c) in a system of school choice, this kind of thing is expected, and (according to market theories) the blame for this situation is partly on the kids for not transferring to another school. This last one particularly bothers me, as I think every student has a right to a high-quality neighborhood school, and shouldn't have any reason to shop for a better one.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Translating STEM: From Curriculum to Career

https://www.parentmap.com/article/translating-stem

My Google+ friend Antonia Malchik wrote an article about STEM education last year that included some of my comments. When I hear someone say "STEM," or "our school has a STEM curriculum," I always wonder what they mean by that. For some, it's some kind of innovative new hybrid curriculum combining elements of science, tech, engineering, and math. That's probably what it's *supposed* to be, or what people aspire for it to be. But in reality, I think it just signifies extra attention to math and science, which itself is not a bad thing.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

#1062; The Terrible Sea Lion

http://wondermark.com/1k62/

There have been many moments in the debate over Common Core where I have seen someone make a claim that is either untrue or unfounded. On occasion, I have been tempted to press people -- politely -- for explanations, in the hopes that they will admit the error in their claim, thinking, or belief. As most of us know, that's not usually how debates on the internet play out, and to that other person I'm little more than a typical internet troll. Well, maybe a little more: I'm a *sea lion*. The term comes from this Wondermark comic and it's become a meme all its own, with the verb "sea-lioning": http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/sea-lioning. I'm not exactly sure how to resolve differences on the internet, but I do not plan on making sea-lioning my primary tactic.

How to Introduce a Young Scholar to Twitter

http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/how-to-introduce-a-young-scholar-to-twitter/59747

Some pretty good tips for academics learning to use Twitter. I still find it curious when academics, who build their careers by publishing publicly, either don't see the relevance or are nervous about using a public social network.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lessons And Directions From The CREDO Urban Charter School Study

http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/lessons-and-directions-credo-urban-charter-school-study

The latest big charter school study looked at urban charters and found, on average, that charter schools in 42 urban areas are having a positive impact on test scores when compared to traditional public schools in those areas. Depending on how you interpret effect size, "positive" can look rather big (a charter student shows an additional 40 days of learning in math) or rather small (a charter student is at the 52nd percentile in math instead of the 50th). Perhaps more importantly, there's a lot to tease apart in the phrase "on average." There is still a wide range of performance seen in charters, as there is in public schools, and these large-scale studies don't tell us much of the story. For that, writes, Matt Di Carlo, we should really be looking more closely at *why* some schools perform better than others, and avoid the typical charter vs. public debate that often fails to actually look at what's happening inside the schools.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

10 Arguments Against Common Core that Presidential Hopefuls Should Avoid

http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/2015/03/10-arguments-against-common-core-that.html

I like this list of arguments to avoid regarding the Common Core State Standards. I particularly like the analogy made in #4 regarding the CCSS not being "research based." Standards are goals, and Shanahan's comparison to goals for unemployment rates is useful. #9 is good, too. Implying you support a federal mandate that tells states what they can't do (like adopt common standards) is a funny way to say you support local control.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Iowa Lost Schools

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/topic/cca0dde2-d6a2-4899-859d-ea519e48f6a3/iowa-lost-schools/

Rural school district consolidation is a huge issue in my home state of Iowa. What used to be thousands of school districts are now down to a few hundred, some stretching across multiple counties to boost enrollment and raise revenues in the face of tough funding futures. In the process, buildings go empty and people struggle with what it means to be a community. The Des Moines Register's coverage looks to be excellent, although I don't see it changing what is inevitable for many small Iowa communities.
A Des Moines Register's yearlong project documenting the changes that Iowa communities face as they lose their school districts to declining enrollment and financial strains. Readers can follow the story online and participate in an interactive documentary project of Iowa's closed schools at DesMoinesRegister.com/LostSchoolsShare or on social media using the hashtag #LostSchools. Read the coverage at DesMoinesRegister.com/LostSchools