Saturday, August 29, 2015

This Doesn't Happen Often

It's too early on a Saturday morning. 

I'm going to a hot yoga class pretty soon--and the only way I could convince myself to get up so early to go there (it's not far from my school) is to commit to going in to work to set up the math lab.  I removed all the computers at the end of last school year and now all the tables and chairs are stacked against the walls.  It's not going to set itself up....

I'd never go in to work on a Saturday to do something like this, but since I'll already be in the area anyway due to yoga, it won't be so bad.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Spoiling The Dumplings

Yesterday I gave a Chapter 1 test in two of my classes.  A lot of it was Algebra 2 review but there was a little new material in it.  Finished grading them this morning.  Grades were posted online before lunch today.

Gave quizzes to three classes today.  Since there were only quizzes they didn't take long to grade, but they were all graded with scores posted online by the end of the school day.

I feel like a grading rock star today!  I can't stand when my own instructors make me wait several days for the results of a test, so I don't put my own students through that.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Made My Day

Today, right after 6th period, a student I didn't know from Adam came into my room and asked if he could ask me some questions about West Point.  I had a meeting to get to but we still spent a few minutes.  I asked his reasons for considering West Point, gave him some things to consider, and then had to go to my meeting.

But I just love that.  It does my heart good to know that there are still kids out there today who consider our service academies.

At Least Pretend There's A Drought

If I've had to let my front and back lawns die because I'm not allowed to water them as much as is needed to keep them alive in this heat, then perhaps you shouldn't be having your taxpayer-provided, gas guzzling, global-warming-creating SUV washed a few times a week:
Despite living in one of the most car-centric and image-conscious cities in the world, many Los Angeles drivers have cut their carwashes during the crippling drought.

Not so for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The majority of the supervisors wash their take-home cars two or three times a week, service records show, and actually washed them more frequently after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent cut in urban water use. As the county’s washes continue to consume tap water, some other local governments have pledged to skip washes for months or are using recirculated water...

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had his cars washed more frequently than any of the others, according to the documents obtained under the state public records law. In 2014, Ridley-Thomas had one of his Chrysler 300 Limited sedans washed an average of 2.7 times per week. After the mandate in April, workers washed it 3.1 times per week...

Two other supervisors — Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe — both wash their take-home SUVs about two times a week, and both increased the frequency of washes after Brown’s April mandate (he first declared a state of emergency in January 2014).
Reader and long-time friend MikeAT sent the link to me and had this to say:
I don’t know what is the biggest hypocrisy, the fact these libs in the middle of a drought have their taxpayer provided vehicles washed or the fact some get SUVs....
And some people want even more government, which means an even bigger and more powerful political class--even more people more equal than others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

If You Strike Me Down

If President Obama can be said to have created any legacy at all, it's been his invigoration of the Republican Party.

If it makes you lefties feel good to think we don't like him because he's black, I encourage you to keep thinking that way.  Don't stop believin', lefties.  Your simplistic arguments--that only you in your own echo chamber believe--make me smile.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I've Missed That

Today I went to my first hot yoga class in well over a year and a half.  I came away with two lessons.  First, I've lost all the bendiness I ever had from my previous practice.  There were muscles and tendons that wouldn't stretch at all, and others strained to do what I wanted.  I have much work to do.  And second, I really enjoy hot yoga--I'd forgotten how much.

Now I'm home, feeding the dog and me, and then hitting the books for my current master's class:  Problem Solving In History.  I'm hoping to learn how to multiply with Roman numerals.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Vacation Is Officially Over For Me

I've been back to work for over 2 weeks now, and have had students for over a week and a half, but what really signals the end of my break is the start of the new semester of my master's program.  Six down, four to go!

Remember When The "Free Speech Movement" Was Centered On College Campuses?

How quaint those days must seem now, with stories like this one out of Rutgers bombarding us on an almost-daily basis:
Rutgers University students, you are being watched.

That appears to be the message a web page would like the campus community to absorb. The web page is maintained by the Bias Prevention & Education Committee, which chillingly warns students that there is “no such thing as free speech,” and to “think before you speak.” From the web page:
Since 1992, the Bias Prevention Committee has monitored the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus for bias incidents and has provided bias prevention education to staff, students, and faculty.…

However, the university administration seems to be backing off some of the committee’s claims. When Campus Reform first reported the existence of the web page last week, it looked like this. By Monday, it looked like this. The difference? The university removed the assertion that there is no such thing as free speech.

I suppose this means that administrators recently reviewed the page, and stand by the rest of its claims.
Thank God for FIRE, though it's a shame they're needed at all.

Black Students--A Juxtaposition

The top two posts on Joanne's blog today were both about black students in America:
Study: White teachers expect less of blacks
Non-black teachers have lower expectations for black students than black teachers, concludes a recent study.

“We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two,” writes researcher Seth Gershenson. But it’s likely that teachers’ expectations “shape student outcomes.”
New Orleans improves — with black teachers
Today,  54 percent of NOLA teachers and 58 percent of RSD school leaders are black, writes Stewart. Blacks make up 59 percent of the city’s population.

“Great black school leaders and educators are working hard in a new system with many hopeful new possibilities,” he concludes. This time, growth of the black middle class is linked to “academic results for poor black children.”
What struck me was this:
When schools reopened (after Hurricane Katrina), the Recovery School District required that teacher candidates pass a basic skills test. “One third of the returning teachers failed that test,” writes Stewart.
Just out of curiousity, what races were those teachers?  Has anyone done a study asking what portion of New Orleans' students' improvement can be attributed to getting rid of bad teachers, as opposed to having black teachers?  The bottom line is that students are doing better, but the statistician in me wants to know if the title is correct or not.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Teachers

Here's one person's opinion.  Note to lefties--you can't disagree since it comes from Nate Silvers' blog :-)
Is evaluating teachers an exact science? Many people — including many teachers and their unions — believe current methods are often too subjective and open to abuse and misinterpretation. But new tools for measuring teacher effectiveness have become more sophisticated in recent years, and several large-scale studies in New York, Los Angeles and North Carolina have given those tools more credibility. A new study released on Monday furthers their legitimacy; and as the science of grading teachers advances, it could push for further adoption of these tools.

This evolving science of teacher evaluation was recently thrust into public controversy when, in 2012, nine students sued the state of California, claiming its refusal to fire bad teachers was harming disadvantaged students. To claim that certain teachers were unambiguously bad, and that the state was responsible, the plaintiffs relied on relatively new measures of teacher effectiveness. In that case, Vergara v. California, several top-notch economists testified for each side as expert witnesses, arguing the merits of these complex statistics. In June 2014, the judge ruled that California’s teacher-tenure protections were unconstitutional, a victory for the plaintiffs. Gov. Jerry Brown is appealing, and a similar case has begun in New York state.

But the economists on both sides of the Vergara case are still engaged in cordial debate. On one side is Raj Chetty of Harvard University, John Friedman of Brown University and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia University — hereafter referred to as “CFR” — who authored two influential papers published last year in the American Economic Review; Chetty testified for the plaintiffs in the case. On the other side is Jesse Rothstein, of the University of California at Berkeley, who published a critique of CFR’s methods and supported the state in the Vergara case.

On Monday, to come full circle, the CFR researchers published a reply to Rothstein’s criticisms.
Very interesting stuff.  I've long thought that truly effective teachers don't fear this kind of evaluation.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


In this post I've added video from Iceland.

I've received the pictures discussed in this post and have now hung them up:

They came out flawless. The colors, the details--so vivid. (Go to the link above to see the actual photos, the aluminum prints are just as good.)  You can't see it in these pictures because of the lighting, but those pictures on aluminum are beautiful.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What Affects Student Achievement?

Here's what one researcher has found:
Just for giggles, compare direct instruction to cooperative learning, computer-assisted learning, inquiry-based learning, individualized instruction, problem-based learning, and various and sundry other recent fads.  I need to look at what the first few on the list mean and try to employ them.

Hat tip to Joanne for the link.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

FINALLY! Someone Else Says It!

I've said this for years:
If there is anything in education on which everyone agrees, it’s the vital importance of “critical thinking,” writes Alexander Nazaryan in Newsweek. However, before students can think, they need to learn. Call it “uncritical thinking,” the “unquestioning reception and retention of facts.”
Hear hear! If I've said it once I've said it a zillion times:  You can’t think critically if you don’t have a base of information to think critically about.  As I wrote in my comment at the link above:
Kids should learn their multiplication tables, for example; of course, understanding that multiplying is repeated addition, and knowing how to read and use place value, are important in that task, but they need to memorize them. Period. American students should know the names of the 50 states. Period.

Yes, there’s much memorization to be done.

If you’ve ever only been fed a steady diet of political views from one political party, you can’t really think critically about the other side because you don’t know about the other side.

You must *know* some stuff before you can analyze that stuff. In all honesty I can’t see how that idea can even be questioned.