Sunday, August 29, 2010

C.R. Hoff on Tribalism and US educational demands, if any.

On “Face the Nation” recently General Petraeus, our General in Afghanistan, was discussing the situation and what had to be done to improve our situation in Afghanistan. We are spending millions everyday in Afghanistan as you know.

It occurred to me that what he was saying about Afghanistan had several similarities to the situation we face in education where are also spending millions of dollars every day and results are not much better than the results we have seen in Afghanistan.

General Petraeus called for obtaining the “Buy-in” from the natives in a country that has never seen a government that could honesty deliver services to the people. I am sure that most Afghanis have some real doubts that this will happen with the Americans any more than it happened with the Russians or the British in the past.

It is said, rightly so, that Afghanistan is a “Tribal” country where tribal chiefs were much more important than the central government and the wishes of the tribal chiefs were not up for public debate. It was best not to differ with the chief! As the Americans have come in they have confronted the chiefs in many cases and this has lead to much of the conflict that we are now spending big dollars, and lives, to over-rule.

So where’s the similarity to our high schools? Do we spend millions of dollars everyday? Sure! Do we have many attendees who haven’t “Bought in?” Sure! Do we have tribes, and tribal leaders deciding on differing priorities? Sure! Do we have violence in the schools as there is in Afghanistan? Sure we do.

Is the educational program effective in providing desired outcomes for all concerned? I don’t think so. We learned this past week that only 19% of our high school students are ready to enter college upon graduation! 1 in 5! Effective? Not by my standards.

Is the secret that we need “Buy-in?” General Petraeus may be right. It was pointed out that in 1945 South Korea and Afghanistan had about the same level of economic development. What happened in Korea that didn’t happen in Afghanistan?

I am not aware of any tribal chiefs that held any dominance in Korea. Instead there was a strong central government that was determined to flush out the chiefs and to make the country an economic power. One of the keys to this was an education system that would be second to none. Not “Buying in” was not an option that did not carry some very unpleasant benefits.

Hyundai did not become the car maker that it has become with uneducated Koreans.

In our “Educational Afghanistan” we have natives coming everyday to school with plans for disruption, others who don’t come too often, and when they get there some haven’t done any preparation for the day. In fact some have been so busy with other activities that sleeping seems like the best alternative.

If one takes a walk around the lunchroom you will see the “Tribes” in action. The topics of discussion at the “tribal councils” have little to do with the stated objectives of the school and often are sites of planning for gorilla actions to ambush others either in the classroom or elsewhere.

Millions are being spent here and there isn’t much buy-in, perhaps because we have made “Buy-in” an option without any real consequence for not buying in? Our dollars and future are probably at risk as a result of this.

Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, have all made “Buying in” to education an option that should not be rejected. Here? This is just “Too hard!”

The real hardships are here for many and are approaching for even more. Isn’t it time to make “Buying in” more of a mandate for students and parents? Or do we let the “Student Taliban” destroy our education and society?

-- Charles R. Hoff

Is what is currently presented worth buying into?

Too much of RttT is not based on solid evidence. Buying into a deficient plan at a massive Federal level seems inappropriate.

-- Dan

Common Core and High School Math

A document that suggests how the high school standards might be organized into either traditional AGA or Integrated "pathways".

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Comics that are "Priceless"

From Mallard Fillmore check out August 25, 26, 27, 28 in 2010.

News Article on Billionaire Boys Club

Be sure to read the comments that follow this excellent article from March 2009:

Eli Broad describes close ties to Klein, Weingarten, Duncan

Also from a Colorado man comes this: The Race to Nowhere (and lots more)

• When it comes to improving things for our kids, throwing out the content-free curricula and replacing them with content-rich curricula tied to much more rigorous standards and achievement tests would have immensely bigger positive impact than firing some bad teachers. Am I saying that the bad teachers should be ignored? Of course not, but I am saying that the priorities of actions do not in any way match the power of the potential improvements to be gained. Fixing the curricula is the only thing that will substantially impact the achievement gap favorably.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Education is a political problem and bashing teachers will not solve the underlying defects.

Education is a political problem and bashing teachers will not solve the underlying defects in our system.

It is about teachers but of far greater significance is the system that impedes teacher progress and it is not just “Unions”. Look at RttT for more misdirection to the Max. Both "Charter Schools" and "Value Added Models" have shown only more of the same for results. Read the research.

In regard to Singapore Math and the Seattle Schools it was argued that teachers do not have enough math content knowledge to put such a system in place.

Let us consider the testing of teachers for content knowledge, which is another Ed Reform idea to make things significantly better. In the current structure "Professional Development" shows little promise. Seattle largely provides non-math content based Pro-D. The math defects of new teachers if they came from k-12 Seattle Schools and UW will likely be so huge that even math content focused Pro-D would likely be too little too late.

Let us extend the previous factory analogy a bit further to the "Old Soviet Union".

From Ed in NYC comes this:

To assert that an insufficiency of content knowledge is the central problem with our schools is like asserting that the Soviet Union collapsed because of an insufficiency of spare parts. Such an assertion is at once perfectly true and essentially meaningless.

Everybody knows that industrial and agricultural machinery need a steady supply of spare parts. And everybody understands that a momentary shortage can happen at one time or another, for one reason or another. But chronic shortages? For generations? Clearly, something else was going on. I think that once the shortage lasts more than a generation, it ceases to be an engineering problem. Indeed, the Soviet Union had lots of excellent engineers, and excellent scientists, yet they never solved their problems in production and distribution. They did not have an engineering problem. They had a political problem.

Similarly, we can all understand there might be an incompetent teacher, every once in a while, even in the best school systems. But, when incompetence (really, how else to describe teachers who lack "content knowledge"?) becomes the defining characteristic of the profession, and this characteristic persists for generations, there is something going on that cannot be cured by a few hours of in-service training, or by a different (teacher friendly) textbook, or by tweaking the curriculum---all things that have been done before. Many times.

In other words, we do not have an education problem. We have a political problem.

The famous case of Jaime Escalante at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles perfectly illustrates my point. Escalante solved the "engineering" problem. But, because he did not solve the political problem, his fantastic achievement started to evaporate the moment he walked out the door. Today, Garfield High School runs, more or less, as if Jaime Escalante never existed.

Such has been the fate of most every significant productive education reform, but a very few: consider the science high schools of New York City. Stuyvesant High School, and her sisters (The Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School), have been academically successful for decades. There are a number of other excellent high schools in the country (U.S. News and World Report ranking of high schools), but I do not know anything about them, although I am willing to bet, private schools aside, they exist because of political will, not educational oblige. (Consider how Singapore Math at Schmitz Park got its under the table clandestine start) In NYC, Stuyvesant and her sisters have been successful because of a political act.

Years ago, the stars aligned for a number of farsighted people, and they were able to pass a NY State law that protects Stuyvesant from the Education Mafia. Sadly, after nearly four decades, I am afraid the Education Mafia has finally learned how to breach the wall that protects these schools, and I think their future is in real danger. Their salvation, if it comes, will come from political action, not education theory, but that is a discussion for another time.

In general, I am very much afraid that unless and until people are prepared to investigate the political dimension of the education catastrophe, we are never going to make any significant, permanent progress.

As long as UW CoE and the Ed Elites rule the day, without being required to put forth evidence that is statistically sound in support of their beliefs, we will be subject to an ongoing flow of PC Nonsense.

The School Board mindlessly approves MGJ's proposals amid a volume of evidence showing such proposals are bunk.

We have a serious problems that have evolved over likely the last 80 years. (Seemingly examples of survival of the least fit, so common in education.)

In the last 50 years USA education has seen a serious decline in the abilities of HS graduates when compared to other industrially developed countries.

RttT is founded on more assumptions about how to make things better that will not stand the scrutiny of research.

We now have Federalized Centralized Nonsense (RttT) guiding us and a state, school board, and superintendent unwilling to use evidence to make decisions.

Tossing Mega Money down rat holes is an ongoing theme in the SPS.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Professional Development in Math
What is it?

Math Common Core Standards writer Dr. Wu of UC Berkeley wrote a paper


Section 8 is particularly interesting:
8. The need for in-service professional development

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the disheartening results of Deborah Ball's survey of teachers on their understanding of fraction division ([Ball]). I would venture a guess that, had her teachers been taught the mathematics of K-12 in a way that respects the five fundamental principles of mathematics, the results of the survey would have been far more satisfactory.

[ As found in section 5 of the linked paper..
The five fundamental principles are:
(1) Every concept is precisely defined and definitions furnish the basis for logical deductions.
(2) Mathematical statements are precise. At any moment, it is clear what is known and what is not known.
(3) Every assertion can be backed by logical reasoning.
(4) Mathematics is coherent; it is a tapestry in which all the concepts and skills are logically interwoven to form a single piece.
(5) Mathematics is goal-oriented, and every concept or skill in the standard curriculum is there for a purpose.]

Until we improve on how we teach mathematics to teachers in the universities, defective mathematics will continue to be the rule of the day in our schools. It is time for us to break out of the vicious cycle by exposing teachers to a mathematically principled version of the mathematics taught in K-12. Unfortunately, such short-term exposure in the university may not be enough to undo thirteen years of mis-education of prospective teachers in K-12.

Uniform achievement in the content knowledge of all math teachers will thus require heavy investments by the state and federal governments in sustained in-service professional development. To this end we need in-service professional development that directly addresses content knowledge. Funding for such professional development, however, may be hard to get, for content knowledge does not seem to be a high-priority consideration among government agencies. For example, in a recent survey by Loveless, Henriques, and Kelly of winning proposals among the state-administered Mathematics Science Partnership (MSP) grants from 41 states ([Loveless-HK]), it was found that:
"Some of the MSPs appear to be offering sound professional development. Many, however, are vague in describing what teachers will learn." Typically, these "MSPs' professional development activities tip decisively towards pedagogy." For example, although the professional workshops described in [TAMS] were not part of the review in [Loveless-HK], they nevertheless fit the description of this review. The [TAMS] document begins with the promising statement that the "TAMS-style teacher training increases teachers content knowledge." But other than mentioning "teacher workshops focused on data analysis and measurement.. . . Early grade teachers also studied length, area, and volume," the rest of the discussion of the mathematics professional development focuses on persuading teachers to adopt "constructivist, inquiry-based instruction." The lack of awareness in [TAMS] about what content knowledge elementary teachers need in their classrooms is far from uncommon. It is time to face the fact that the need for change in the funding of in-service professional development is every bit as urgent as the need for more focus on content knowledge in the pre-service arena.
Thus it appears that Professional Development for math teachers is currently damn near anything that sucks up time and dollars .... now what it should be is exactly what Dr. Wu prescribed.


Dr. Wu discusses the Mis-Education of Math Teachers.... this describes the SPS perfectly. Any elementary teacher that received inservice training in Everyday Math has seen Wu's description of "mis-education" up close and personal.

I wonder how SPS math coaches would fare on a test of mathematical content knowledge?

Check the web for SPS academics math..... you will find:

"Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems."


It seems the principle requirement to be an SPS math coach is to be a huckster for the "FUZZY" pedagogical nonsense the Central Admin is still selling.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seattle Board Testimony 8-18-2010 DRAFT C

Directors – I am Dan Dempsey, ... 8-18-2010

The intelligent application of relevant data drives System Improvement and should be the basis for contract negotiations.

Two large unrepresented segments in the current contract negotiations are the public and most teachers.

The Trio of the Board, Union leaders, and Superintendent rarely make decisions using relevant data. The current contract proposals with or without SERVE fail to use critical evidence from any side.

It is an extremely poor decision to trust the professionals involved in this negotiation. These negotiations serve to mask the large deficiencies these officials have created by their past failures to examine evidence. The Board frequently makes decisions by ignoring evidence rather than using it.

The Board regularly fails to enforce Board policies, State and Federal laws, or effectively supervise the Superintendent. Any member of the public expecting the Board to use evidence in decision-making needs to pay more attention.

In like manner it appears any member of the public filing an appeal of a school board decision expecting the court to require state law (RCW 28A 645.020) be followed also needs to pay more attention. The law may require the Board to submit filings that are “Certified Correct” but King County Superior Court does not.


Each of the Official Trio claims that the goal is to increase student achievement, help close the achievement gap and increase teacher accountability.
In Seattle over the last decade achievement gaps in reading shrank but those in math continued to widen. What did the Trio do about k-12 math? Absolutely nothing positive, the Trio acts only on political bias not evidence.

Everett saw graduation rates significantly improve as resources were focused on the classroom and students. Seattle’s response over the last three years has been to focus even greater spending on central administration with little resulting improvement. The Superintendent’s current plan is for increased administrative spending to implement THE SERVE agenda. SERVE is $4 million annually for the next expensive fairy-tale program that will not deliver what is being promised.

This District prefers politically based centralized planning like that found in the old Soviet Union (note the 5-year strategic plan) and King County enables that District preference with a court system similar to that in use in Mainland China.

Directors, if significant improvement is desired, look at the data. Then direct resources toward the students in the classroom and away from more central administration bloat.