Teacher evaluation rules approved | EdNewsColorado


Colorado approved new rules for teacher evaluation earlier this month, but the list of things that still have to be done is anything but trivial. For example, teachers will be classified as highly effective, effective, partially effective, and ineffective. But how those classifications are defined is yet to be determined.

The Wrong Thinking about Measuring Costs & Efficiency in Higher Education (& how to fix it!) « School Finance 101


Some people have suggested that we measure the value of college professors by the grant money they bring to the university. While bringing in grants is valued, making this a standard measure of value for all professors comes with real problems, as Bruce Baker points out in this (long, but good) post.

L.A. schools won’t release teachers’ evaluation scores - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post


Valerie Strauss argues that value added scores shouldn't be made public because the scores are so unreliable. If scores ever do go public, I hope it's several years worth so the public can get a sense for how unreliable they're likely to be.

xkcd: Money


This poster makes the phrase "attention to detail" take on whole new levels of meaning. Impressive.

‘Exemplary’ Dallas ISD school skipped science, social studies for 3rd-graders | Dallas-Fort Worth Education News - News for Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Morning News


Sacrificing instructional time in subjects that aren't math or science is bad, but making up grades for those subjects is horrible. Teachers weren't allowed to teach other subjects until after the state tests, but gave fabricated grades for those subjects to hide that from parents.

Things I Know 272 of 365: Sketching a school brought clarity of practice at Autodizactic


This is the kind of activity I can really get into. Perhaps *too* into. During my first year as a teacher (2003-2004), the district passed a bond issue and made plans for a new high school. They had some rough sketches, but they asked the staff to think about what features they would like to see in the school. I started sketching on regular paper, then moved to graph paper, and eventually became so obsessed with this project that I taught myself CAD and drew out floor plans for the entire school, one big enough for 750 kids. Thanks to a little bit of inspiration from Zac's post, I dug up those plans and posted them to by blog at http://blog.mathed.net/2011/11/designing-school.html.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal


If this is the difference between being normal and a statistician, then I'm not normal.

Grinding the Antitesting Ax : Education Next


Eric Hanushek claims the National Research Council's report about the incentives of test-based accountability was more bias than evidence. At the core of this argument is 0.08 standard deviations. NRC says that's 3 percentile points. Hanushek says it represents a return on investment of 9,189 percent. I think I know what Mark Twain would have said about Hanushek's figure.

Google Public Data Explorer


I hadn't seen this tool from Google, but it reminds me a bit of Gapminder. Some of the data doesn't appear to work very well (including, unfortunately, the California education data), but it provides a quick way to summarize a large dataset. I hope Google continues this effort, and they should see benefits from having highly curated datasets, much like Wolfram Alpha.

The Research that Reaches the Public: Who Produces the Educational Research Mentioned in the News Media? | National Education Policy Center


Holly Yettick's has done some interesting work regarding the influence of traditional, university-based education research versus that of think tanks. Despite universities producing about 15 times as much research as think tanks, they're only cited in the media (sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, and even Education Next) twice as often. I referred to this report in http://blog.mathed.net/2011/10/publication-paradox.html.

AAUP: Media, Think Tanks, and Educational Research


Nice article here by Holly Yettick about how education research is (not) reported to the public. At least in part, I see this as an open access issue, as I wrote about in http://blog.mathed.net/2011/10/publication-paradox.html. This paragraph about AERA's influence is telling: "For example, my dissertation research examines educational research in print and online-only media outlets. Though I have so far sorted through nearly forty thousand articles in hundreds of publications, I have yet to come across a single mention of any of the six peer-reviewed education journals published by the American Educational Research Association, the world's largest academic organization devoted to the study of education."

My standards based grading policy – No seriously, there are no numbers. | laid-back science


Grades without numbers? That would work for me. All I think I'd need is red, yellow, and green. Of course, to make it work within a traditional reporting scheme I'd need some conversion scheme, but that would come at a summative point where it's less likely to distract from the learning.

Google Scholar Citations Open To All - Google Scholar Blog


I haven't yet published anything that Google Scholar is likely to index, but it's good to know that Google is providing a way for authors to associate themselves with their work and track their citation metrics.

misscalcul8: The Textbook Debacle


It's posts like this one by Elissa Miller that make me wonder how having a textbook you believe in compares to having one that research says is effective. Ideally, we'd be talking about one book, but that probably isn't happening as much as it needs to be.

Learning with 'e's: The open case


Steve Wheeler writes: "If researchers can secure publications in any of these elite closed journals, they will be well placed when it comes to the official research assessments that come along periodically, where governments award money for further research. Those top universities that demonstrate the best research outputs (that is, the most prestigious) and publication track records receive most of the cash. Those who don't can pretty much forget it for another round. It's an inward looking, self-feeding, self congratulatory 'old boys' club, and it is entirely unjust at so many levels. It's a hierarchy that rarely changes. No wonder many people despise the ivory tower brigade and their academic snobbery."

Princeton goes open access to stop staff handing all copyright to journals - unless waiver granted


Princeton has taken a right away from its faculty: the right to give away their copyright. In doing so, faculty retain rights they used to forfeit and Princeton can make more of its research available to the public. More universities need to do this immediately.

The Copyright Rebellion - Technology - The Chronicle of Higher Education


The Chronicle features several stories about individual copyright cases affecting academia.

A nightmare scenario for higher education | Scholarly Communications @ Duke


This does sound like a nightmare scenario. If I understand the details, professors at Georgia State were sharing an amount of copyrighted material that exceeded (probably far exceeded) what was allowed under fair use. Complicating that matter is that fair use is extended to the institution, not just individuals, so 10 professors each sharing a different chapter of the same 10-chapter book are violating copyright. If this injunction is granted, university-wide monitoring systems will have to be in place so copyright holders can monitor how every bit of copyrighted information is being used and reproduced. And because state institutions can't be sued by the federal government, lawsuits are happening at the individual level in this case, including the university president, provost, and librarians. More information about the case is at http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-at-Stake-in-the-Georgia/127718/ and http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article.... It does not appear that the case has yet been decided.

The Right to Read - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)


Richard Stallman isn't known for his cheery demeanor, but his vision of oppression via technological control is an important one in a world where increasingly we must agree to a license (and waive certain rights) just to read.

Copyright, fair use and education in the Chronicle of Higher Education - Boing Boing


The Chronicle of Higher Education did some great features this summer on copyright and fair use. Here Cory Doctorow links to five of the articles.

Do we need an alternative to peer-reviewed journals?


Can we replace peer-reviewed journals? This article promotes the idea of using ranking and readership algorithms similar to Google's PageRank, although steps will have to be taken to prevent gaming of the system.

Structural Knowledge » Stealing Ideas

Kevin Webb reflects on Aaron Swartz's indictment for downloading thousands of copyrighted scholarly publications from a server closet at MIT. Here's a key part of the article:

"But this leads to the second and perhaps more fundamental problem: journals are only partly about communicating. They're also about controlling academic discourse. The editorial power held by journals and those that run them (quite different from those that own them) shapes most academic careers and the very structure of disciplines. It's almost certain that pursuing new forms of collaboration and communication will reshape these power structures–sometimes subtly, sometimes not. That's the nature of change.

Change, however, doesn't come easily within academic communities. It should be no surprise that universities have done far more to free the content of their courses than they have the content of their publications. The former has economic value, however, the latter holds the keys to the academy itself.

This conservatism is at least in part responsible for why, despite the new possibilities offered by the web, most scholarly work is still published as though it were 1580. It's also responsible for allowing a handful of powerful corporations to gate access to this knowledge and make authors pay for the privilege of signing away rights to their own work."

Thousands of scientific papers uploaded to the Pirate Bay — Tech News and Analysis


This is a telling quote from Greg Maxwell following his release of 18,000+ public domain scientific papers on bittorrent: "As far as I can tell, the money paid for access today serves little significant purpose except to perpetuate dead business models. The 'publish or perish' pressure in academia gives the authors an impossibly weak negotiating position, and the existing system has enormous inertia."

JSTOR–Free Access to Early Journal Content and Serving “Unaffiliated” Users | JSTOR


This release of early journal content looks like a generous move on the part of JSTOR, but in fact it's at least partially a response (even thought they deny it) to the uploading of this content to Pirate Bay by Greg Maxwell (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/33_gb_of_scientific_papers_-_and_a_manif.... Quite simply, JSTOR would have looked foolish trying to enforce copyright on public domain files, so they did the right thing and opened access to the files with a positive PR-spin.

Neil Degrasse Tyson On Religion taught in schools - YouTube

I remember once a substitute teacher (who was also a local minister) in my school who refused to show a video on evolution that the regular teacher had planned to show. The regular teacher was furious but had to temper her emotions a bit because the substitute was also on the school board. He also led prayers at school functions and I'm not sure anybody really confronted him on that, either. But as Neil Degrasse Tyson points out, there's more to these issues than just church-state separation.

A bus minus a whale equals a new look at math | Penn Current


The schools in this article are using Mathematics in Context, a middle school curriculum cooperatively developed by math educators at the University of Wisconsin and the Freudenthal Institute, the Netherlands. The philosophy behind the curriculum is called "Realistic Mathematics Education" (RME), and contexts are a key feature. However, realistic doesn't necessarily mean real-world; a better translation from the original Dutch would be "imaginable." If the curriculum is being modified because kids can more easily imagine buses than whales, then it seems like it would still be in the best spirit of RME.

Series of errors led to new Meeker school's closing for serious structural problems - The Denver Post


Meeker spent millions of dollars to build an unsafe school, and now the Denver Post tries to unravel how that could have possibly happened. At the center of this story seems to be a pretty questionable owner's representative, the person hired by the district to coordinate the construction effort with the district's interest in mind. Meeker seems to have hired one aligned with the architect/contractor and together they cut their costs in exchange for safety. Owner's reps are important in this process, something I learned at Florence. There the superintendent essentially hired himself as the owner's rep despite not having any background in construction. The district saved some money, but the school has suffered cracks in walls, heaving floors, and a now-unusable stadium. Could that have been prevented? Maybe, but that answer only comes at the end of a long court battle.

SpeEdChange: Democracy in America


As usual, Ira challenges us to view something important from a new, historically-aware perspective. While Americans have certainly struggled through tough times, Ira claims, we've never had a true revolution. If the Occupy Wall Street movement is to be a revolution, it's going to require much more than some rewrites of federal tax laws and better student loans. It's going to require major cultural change -- the kind of change that our country has so far resisted.

Things I Know 266 of 365: I’m still not sure who’s informing education policy at Autodizactic


Zac says he's not sure who's informing education policy. That makes two of us.

How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools | The Nation


This well-done article reveals some of the strategies corporations and educational lobbyists are using to grow the practice (and the profit) of online education. A few states, Florida and Idaho, have already passed laws requiring all public school students take at least one online course. The research shows virtual schools don't perform well, but promoters don't care much for research, as this passage from the article reveals: "Rather than 'intellectualize ourselves into the [education reform] debate...is there a way that we can get into it at an emotional level?' Berman asked. 'Emotions will stay with people longer than concepts.' He then answered his own question: 'We need to hit on fear and anger. Because fear and anger stays with people longer. And how you get the fear and anger is by reframing the problem.' Berman's glossy ads, which have run in Washington, DC, and New Jersey, portray teachers unions as schoolyard bullies. One spot even seems to compare teachers to child abusers."

Tennessee’s Push to Transform Schools - NYTimes.com


Just as the New York Times shined some light on Tennessee's teacher evaluation problems (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/education/tennessees-rules-on-teacher-evaluations-bring-frustration.html), this editorial ran suggesting the craziness not get in the way. The NYT says: "Some lawmakers are suggesting that evaluations performed this year not be used in personnel decisions. Such a delay would destroy momentum and could weaken reform."

Tennessee’s Rules on Teacher Evaluations Bring Frustration - NYTimes.com


As a math teacher, I was well aware that my students had a yearly state-mandated standardized test, while most other teachers had no such tests. As discussion of using test scores for teacher evaluations increased, I assumed policymakers would realize that not everybody had scores and that would lead to problems. Enter the current craziness in Tennessee, where scores will be used to measure every teacher -- even if the students producing those scores aren't yours.

TEDxManhattanBeach - John Bennett - Why Math Instruction Is Unnecessary - YouTube

John Bennett is one of several people I've seen that have promoted the idea that mathematics beyond upper elementary or perhaps middle school math is unnecessary and should be optional. Regardless of what I think of that, I don't see it happening any time soon. Still, I frequently wondered as a high school math teacher how my job would have been different if the subject I taught was an elective like music, art, or business.

Lance Manyon's Musings: What I Expect From Graduate Students


Despite this post's somewhat harsh tones, I can't say that I disagree with the expectations. There are a lot of "rules of the game" in academia (some of which I, ideally, can help change in the future) and these expectations leave some room to play that game without being a slave to the rules.

Mr. Governor, Shut This School District Down!


It seems that perhaps the fastest way to turn a public school into a for-profit school is to make it an online school. According to this post, an Ohio online charter school is making its unlicensed superintendent very wealthy.

Indiana Voucher Program Leads To Reverse Transfers From Private Schools


Indiana is finding that voucher programs can be quite complicated. Public school students are using vouchers to attend private schools but then withdrawing to go back to public schools mid-year. Meanwhile, private school students are leaving private schools for a year to become eligible for vouchers.

One Transformed Classroom - YouTube


I think a lot of people will watch this video and get excited about iPads, but I got excited seeing pairs of students engaged together in their work. Imagine what this video would have looked like with one iPad per student. Does a 2:1 classroom encourage more collaboration and engagement than 1:1? (Note: I'm still more in favor of laptops/netbooks/Chromebooks than I am tablets.)

Why I did TFA, and why you shouldn’t | Gary Rubinstein's TFA Blog


Gary Rebinstein writes here about his change of heart about Teach for America. Once a strong supporter and recruiter, he writes: "I hate that TFA has lost its way so badly and that they have become a huge part of the reason that the country is going in the wrong direction with regard to ed reform. I never thought they would amass so much power. Because they have refused to learn from their failures, which they deny, and from critics, like me, they have found themselves in this difficult position. When the corporate ed reform bubble bursts, as I believe it will soon — you can’t lie about inflated success forever — I worry that TFA burst along with it. That's too bad since the people in charge of TFA do believe they are doing what is good for the kids of this country. They just aren't sophisticated enough to know that they are wrong."

misscalcul8: The Purpose of Textbooks. Convince Me.


I've had this page open in a tab for six months now and I still want to formulate a convincing answer. I'm surprised at how many math teachers take pride in not using a textbook and I wonder about the quality of their alternative materials. Our thinking can't just superficially be about book vs. no book. Instead we have to focus on engaging mathematical tasks as part of a well-designed curriculum, one that shows thoughtful design at the lesson, unit, course, and multi-year levels. Ideally, the text should provide much of that, but I understand that not all texts are created equal.