Thursday, October 8, 2015

Colorado Springs mayor 'shocked' to learn that voter information pamphlet claims don't have to be true
I occasionally guest teach about Colorado school finance to some of our School and Society classes. While not essential for understanding how schools are funded, I tell students about Douglas Bruce, how he championed Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), and how when I say he doesn't like taxes, he really, really doesn't like taxes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Colorado Teacher Shortage Puts Rural Schools On The Brink Of Crisis
I really enjoyed teaching in rural Colorado schools, but even I wasn't looking for a job in the eastern part of the state, far from the mountains and the resources of the Front Range cities. They have it rough out there, and low salaries in small districts don't help. Recruiting teachers from out of state helps fill positions that need filled, but I don't know how many of those positions stay filled over time.

Curious Minds, Serious Play | Jan de Lange | TEDxAmsterdamED
I really like this talk by Jan de Lange, former director of the Freudenthal Institute in the Netherlands. Curious Minds is a project that explores the creativity and reasoning of young children, and tries to support that creativity and reasoning as they get older and we too often see this kind of thinking decrease (or become hidden).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

MAP Project Portfolio, Inverness Research Inc
The Mathematics Assessment Project ( is a popular site for tasks and lessons suitable for meeting the Common Core State Standards. Inverness Research has contributed to MAP by studying the use of the resources and documenting the challenges and benefits of using them.

Friday, August 7, 2015

San Francisco Middle Schools No Longer Teaching ‘Algebra 1′
Yet another story about Algebra 1 where people have a false impression that (a) algebra is a thing you learn in just one year and (b) learning that thing in 8th grade makes you better than if you learn it in 9th grade. If you look at what the Common Core asks 8th graders to do -- not just in the algebra standards, but in the statistics standards -- I think most parents would see that the focus on linear equations and linear modeling is as much "Algebra 1" as the algebra course they probably took as 9th graders in their youth.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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: Part 2: Part 3:

Monday, May 4, 2015

A senior year mostly lost for a Normandy honor student
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

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.