Saturday, May 25, 2019

So Few Students

Yesterday was Senior Cut Day, also known as Senior "Have mommy call in so it's not really a cut" Day. My 4th period class has no seniors, and 6th period has only 1 senior. 1st, 3rd, and 5th periods are overwhelmingly seniors.

Only 1 student in my 1st period class showed up. Only 1 student in 3rd, and 1 student in 5th. My one senior in 6th period didn't show--should I make her make-up quiz exponentially harder? :-)

It was a pretty easy day for me.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

"The Most Important Quiz Of My High School Career"

I've taught no new material in my statistics classes this month.  I've devoted the month mostly to review, with a lot of emphasis on doing statistics on an advanced calculator.  The days of using tables are over for my students, and this month they've honed their skills on the ancient-but-still-useful TI-83 (yes, I'd prefer 84's, but at over $100 apiece...).

Today was the TI-83 Quiz, the last graded exercise prior to the final exam.  It was the last chance my students had prior to the final exam to test their knowledge under exam conditions.  One student said to me that this quiz was the most important quiz of his high school career.  Why, you might ask?

I excuse from taking the final those students who have 97% or above going into the final.  This student had 97.3% going into this quiz.  This quiz was the decider.

He will not be taking the final exam :-)

What's Your Solution To This, Lefties?

Instapundit quotes Larry Elder paraphrasing Thomas Sowell:
LARRY ELDER: The Left’s Battle Against ‘Inequality’ Leaves Out One Critical Factor. “In his book Discrimination and Disparities, economist Thomas Sowell notes that a disproportionate percentage of first-born siblings become National Merit scholars compared to siblings born later, presumably because the first-born starts life with no sibling competition for parental attention. This, says Sowell, illustrates the absurdities of expecting equal results when equal results do not even occur within the same family among siblings raised under the same roof with the same parents.”

I Never Did Like Common Core

Years ago I anticipated this would be the problem, at least in math:
With irresistible prodding by Gates and then-President Obama, the Common Core national standards were adopted by the vast majority of states, which have also adopted tests and curricula aligned with those standards.

But a new large-scale study by the federally funded Center for Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning (C-SAIL) has found that since the adoption of Common Core there has been a decline in key test scores.

C-SAIL researchers analyzed changes in student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, from 2010 to 2017.

They had assumed that Common Core would raise student performance on the NAEP exam, but they were in for a surprise.

“Contrary to our expectation,” they reported, the data revealed that the Common Core standards produced “significant negative effects on 4th graders’ reading achievement during the 7 years after the adoption of the new standards.”

When analyzing the results of a selected group of states, fourth-grade reading achievement would have improved more “had the states continued with their old standards, thus reflecting negative effects of the new [Common Core] standards.”

In other words, if those states had ignored the entreaties by Gates, Obama, et al., they would have been better off.

In addition to the decline in reading performance among fourth graders, the C-SAIL study also found that Common Core “had a significant negative effect on 8th graders’ math achievement.”

What’s more, the performance of students declined significantly in specific reading and math categories, such as literacy experience and numbers properties, the longer Common Core was in effect.

Study co-author Mengli Song said: “It’s rather unexpected. The magnitude of the negative effects [of Common Core] tend to increase over time…”

…Some blame the failure of Common Core on process issues, such as lack of adequate teacher training, but the key culprits are the standards themselves and the type of teaching promoted by Common Core.

When Common Core was first being adopted by states, James Milgram, a Stanford math professor who served on a key Common Core committee, warned that by the end of the fifth grade the material covered by Common Core’s math standards “was more than a year behind the early grade expectations of high-achieving countries,” and that “by the end of the seventh grade, [Common] Core standards are roughly two years behind.”

By high school, “Common Core — in its fullness — does not prepare students even for a full pre-calculus class,” notes Ze’ev Wurman, a former senior education policy advisor under President George W. Bush.
It wasn't hard to look at the standards and see the difference.

Held Accountable

A couple days ago I linked to a video showing a snowflake getting arrested for a sign with which she didn't agree.  The look on her face is precious as it transforms from innocent to defiant to confused to shocked to mortified as she realizes, as the interaction with the police officer continues, that her ridiculous left-wing excuses, eyelash-batting, and eventual tears won't keep her from being held accountable for her actions.

A couple days ago another leftist--a teacher this time, rather than a college student--was held accountable for her execrable behavior:
In a case in which he described Antifa activist Yvette Felarca's legal claims "entirely frivilous," California District Judge Vince Chhabria recently ordered her to pay the $22,000 in legal fees incurred by Judicial Watch, and the $4,000 in litigation costs.

Felarca, a middle school teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and two co-plaintiffs, had sued the BUSD to try to prevent it from turning over to Judicial Watch their communications mentioning Felarca, Antifa, and BAMN, By Any Means Necessary...

“This is a huge victory for Judicial Watch against Antifa and the violent left,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Ms. Felarca attacked Judicial Watch without basis and the court was right to reject her ploy to deny our ‘right to know’ because we don’t share her violent left views.”
I've mentioned Felarca in other posts.  Real gem, that one.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


I signed my evaluation form today.  It was 13 pages long.  And I had to do most of the writing.  What a waste of my time and energy.  Things like that frustrate me to no end.

See, it's not so much an "evaluation" anymore as it is a "system of professional growth".  Yawn.  Just tell me if I'm doing a good job, or not.  In case of disagreement, have an appeal process in place.  Seems reasonable to me.

13 pages that I had to write on.  How many trees died unnecessarily for that?

I'm up for another "growth" in 5 years.  If the current program stays in place, that will be my last "growth", as I plan to retire in 9 years.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I Wasn't Even A Marketing Major

There's a strip mall on my route to work.  Having worked at the same school for 16 years now, I've passed that strip mall twice a day times 185 days times 16 years...and there was a store in there that would periodically make me wonder.

Dress Barn.

Now, I'm no marketing genius, but in what way is Dress Barn a good name?  No, it's not a "western" clothing store.  It is, as one of my students described it today, a "mom store".  So it seems to me like the name of the store implies that cows shop there--not the image I think they'd want to convey to their female clientele.  It's a name that I always thought was just darned odd.

Oddly enough, it's not in that strip mall anymore.  I didn't notice when the store closed and the sign came down--clearly it didn't captivate my attention--but dang, what a name.

What brings up a post about the name of a women's clothing store?  I saw a headline today:

 I am not shocked at this, not shocked at all.

Monday, May 20, 2019

An Argument For Vouchers

Do you support vouchers for K-12 education, or not?  Why or why not?

Here are a couple points from DC:
Washington, D.C. voucher students did no better in reading and math than students who applied for vouchers but lost the lottery, a new study shows. However the voucher students felt safer and had better attendance, reports Andrew Ujifusa in Education Week.
Arguments for both sides there, but what about this?
Choice provides the same academic outcomes at one-third the cost, concludes Corey DeAngelis in the Washington Examiner. “Public schools in D.C. spend around $28,000 per student each year, while the average private school voucher amount is only around $9,600 per student each year in D.C.”
That's significant.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Interesting Constitutional Clash

I find Texas' argument compelling:
Texas is asserting its sovereign immunity against Congress, telling Democrats on two congressional committees this week that the state has no obligation to comply with their investigative demands.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office says that as a state with sovereign powers under the Constitution, Texas can’t be treated like a federal agency or Cabinet secretary who can be compelled to comply.

“Texas does not draw its authority from the United States or the United States Constitution, but from its status as a dual sovereign within the union,” Jeffrey C. Mateer, first assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter Monday to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Mr. Mateer fired off a similar letter Wednesday to the House Ways and Means Committee rebuffing its attempts, saying the state wouldn’t stand to be treated like a “subdivision of the federal government or a private citizen.”

“Granting Congress the power to exercise ‘oversight’ over the constitutional officers of a state engaged in the lawful exercise of that state’s core authority would undermine the fabric of our system of dual sovereignty,” Mr. Mateer wrote.
If a court ordered the turnover of documents, that would be a different story, I think.

Thief Shocked She Is Arrested For Theft

As the article says:
The most amazing thing is the girl’s reaction when she realizes she will be held accountable for her behavior. She is stunned to learn that her outrage over this issue doesn’t override the law. Watch the whole thing below, strong language warning:

Maybe if more students were held responsible for their behavior in this way, we would see fewer students acting out on campus like angry children.
Exactly.  Your feeeeeeeeelings don't excuse your criminal act.

Do you find her excuses as pathetic as I do?

Hometown Story Makes International News

From the UK's Daily Mail:
A pair of bungling vandals tried to key a Tesla car but unknowingly got caught out when its inbuilt security cameras captured their grinning faces in action.

The video, taken by the Tesla Model 3's Sentry Mode, shows the duo walk towards the car with their faces in full view in Sacramento, California.

The car's security system adds a layer of protection and acts like a home alarm system by continuously monitoring its environment when it is left unattended.

The car's cameras show the two men wearing caps walk to the side of the Tesla to a Ram pickup truck parked next to it.

After inspecting the truck's handle and pointing out some marks, one of the men takes out his keys and appears to drags it along the side of the Tesla Model 3 which costs around $49,000.

It is not known if there was a prior incident which caused the men to target the car.

The pair then return to the front of the car to admire their handiwork, blissfully unaware they have given the camera another full view of their faces.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Fighting Snowflakes

Maine bans all Native American mascots in public schools:
On the heels of changing the Columbus Day holiday to “Indigenous People’s Day,” the state of Maine has now banned the use of Native American names and mascots in public schools and colleges.

Maine is the first, and thus far only, state to forbid such imagery.

Governor Janet Mills signed the bill into law yesterday. The vote on the bill was divided along party lines, with the Democratic-controlled legislature ultimately prevailing.
I'm sure this solves many non-existent problems and fails to solve any real problems.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Test Re-takes

In the vast majority of cases, I'm against test re-takes--for the reasons outlined in my school math department's document on why we don't give re-takes in lower level math classes:
What does a grade represent? It’s a difficult question. Some might say that a grade represents student achievement, how much a student has learned in relation to the course content standards—but that’s not exactly accurate. If it were, a student’s grade would be his/her grade on the final exam. So, in reality, a grade is sort of a weighted average of how much a student has learned in relation to the course content standards as well as how well they were able to “stay caught up” in that learning—periodic test and quiz grades, for example. Some say that if a student didn’t know the material last week, but knows it this week, the student’s grade should reflect that. Again, the logical conclusion of that line of thinking is that a semester grade should reflect what a student knows at the end of the semester—it should be the final exam grade.

1. We found test retakes to be detrimental to student learning, as well as an inefficient use of time. Students did not properly prepare for tests and an increase in re-takes became the norm. Students that were both able and willing would come in after or before school and take a retest; those that were unable to were unable to change their grades. This practice promotes inequity (or a similar experience for students, as described by WASC) in the math program.

2. Retakes can artificially inflate a student’s grade but don’t reflect any improvement in student achievement. Students whose grades rely on retakes haven’t truly mastered the material, their grade doesn’t truly reflect the information the grade is designed to convey, and the new inflated grade gives both student and parent a false sense of the student’s math abilities.

3. In response to the drive towards equity, towards interventions (and test retakes count as interventions) during the school day, we have opted to give bonus problems on each test. These bonus problems are key standards, or frequently-missed standards, from the previous chapter’s test—thus, a student who didn’t know the material when the last chapter test was given can, if they know the material now, demonstrate knowledge of that material and earn an extra 10% on the current test. As most teachers capped retest grades at 10% higher than the original test score anyway, this system has several advantages:
a. It doesn’t require additional work, for teachers or for students, outside of the school day. It allows slower students to demonstrate mastery, and earn a higher grade after demonstrating that mastery, during the school day.
b. It requires students to put forth extra effort to learn the material, and it gives them plenty of time (a chapter usually takes a few weeks to cover) to actually master the material before the next chapter test.
c. It eliminates the effect of not being able to ascertain from a student’s grade what the student’s capabilities are. Is the student truly prepared for follow-on math classes, or not?
d. Unforeseen pitfalls of students having re-takes include limiting opportunities to build authentic, academic executive functioning skills. As a result, some students who receive re-take accommodations may be deprived of instructional opportunities to build test taking and study-skills. Teachers, parents, students, and school administrators need to focus on teaching and learning study skills prior to testing as a starting ground. Post-secondary transitions can improve from fading off those accommodations that limit a student’s ability to test according to typical higher-education expectations. (Basically – re-takes eliminate the behavioral parameters that lead to authentic study skills improvement.)
Thus, while retakes, in our minds, are both inefficient and not academically defensible, our own system has the advantages of retakes without the pitfalls.

4. We are not noticing more students failing math classes now that we have eliminated retakes. Students know in advance when tests are given, they are given reviews and even practice tests, and are prepared by their teachers to demonstrate their grasp of the material. Students have had multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge (homework, quizzes, and then a test)—a test is not truly a “one time” shot at demonstrating knowledge and mastery of material.
As they say on social media, "change my mind."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Like A Bad Penny

Haven't heard from Jackie Goldberg in awhile, but then her name turns up again:
Jackie Goldberg, a veteran politician and educator who served on the Los Angeles school board three decades ago, will once again have a voice in the nation’s second-largest school district after a resounding win Tuesday for a seat in a special election...

Goldberg was the front-runner, having collected 48% of primary votes, just short of the majority needed to win outright. She had high name-recognition thanks to her previous experience on the school board, the L.A. City Council and in the California Assembly.
All that so-called experience, and nothing of value ever came from it.

When Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Alex Trebek:  "Being a one-party state, believing in unicorns, thinking that the productive members of society will stay in California even if they're taxed to death, being progressive to the point where too many people are so open-minded that their brains fall out."

Jeopardy contestant:  "Why does California have the highest rate of poverty in the US?"
So how is it that California, which has spent nearly $1 trillion on antipoverty programs, has the highest poverty rate in the nation?

Jackson, a fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, suggests that the state’s war on poverty is one of the causes of California’s impoverished state, and why it is home to about one-third of the nation’s welfare population despite having just 12 percent of the population.

It turns out that state and local bureaucrats who administer California’s antipoverty programs have proven stubbornly resistant to pro-work reforms that have been effective at spurring individuals to pull themselves out of poverty. It’s a phenomenon familiar to those who have read the scholarship of economist Robert Niskanen, whose model of bureaucratic behavior suggested that bureaucrats tend to “maximize their own utility” rather than the interests of their constituents.
There's much more at the link.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Math and the Electoral College

Whenever liberals don't get the election results they want, they scream about the electoral college.  They want to get rid of it, and pack the Supreme Court, while screaming how it's conservatives who are trashing constitutional values.  Consistency isn't a strong suit of the left, that's for sure.

Anyway, Math With Bad Drawings provides some information about the Electoral College, along with some math problems that even a social studies teacher should be able to follow :-)
The formula for your state’s number of Electors is roughly this: Population/700,000 + 2, rounded to the nearest whole number. Assume that the winner within each state gets all of its Electors.
1. Compute the number of electors for Alaska (737,000 people), South Dakota (882,000 people), Mississippi (2,986,000 people), and Alabama (4,887,000 people).
2. Now, compute the number of electors per capita for Alaska, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Alabama.
3. Under this system, which sorts of states will have the most Electors per capita?
4. Which will have the fewest?
5. Who do you think is more powerful – voters in small states, voters in big ones, or does it not matter? Explain.
Let’s imagine the country were made of 2 states: Megastate, with a population of 1.4 million, and the State of Moe, with a single resident named Moe.
6. How many Electors does each state receive?
7. How many Electors per capita does each state have?
8. Whose vote has a better chance of swinging the election: Moe’s, or a voter’s in Megastate? Think carefully, and explain!
9. What does this two-state scenario tell us about the usefulness of “Electors per capita” as a measure of power?
10. What is another way we could measure a voter’s power?

Currently, 48 out of 50 states apportion their Electors on an all-or-nothing basis: the winner of the statewide vote gets all of the Electors.
Imagine if states switched to a proportional system, whereby if you win X% of the vote in a state, you get X% of the Electors (rounded to the nearest whole number).
1. Suppose that Minnesota votes 68% for A, 30% for B, and 2% for C. How should it apportion its 10 electors? Explain.
2. Suppose that Minnesota votes 53% for A, 44% for B, and 3% for C. How should it apportion its 10 electors? Explain.
3. How would the effect of this change be different for big states like California (with 55 electors) than for small states like Vermont (with 3 electors)?
4. Imagine going to Hawaii (which usually votes Democrat) and asking a Democrat and a Republican whether they support this change. What do you think they would say, and why?
Imagine if states switched to a district-by-district system. For example, if a state has 5 electors, it breaks its voters into 5 districts, and assigns an elector to the winner of each.
5. Suppose that in Massachusetts, this has no effect on the electors. What does that tell us about Massachusetts? Be specific.
6. Suppose that in New Hampshire, this has a big effect: instead of winning all 4 electors, the Democrat now wins only 2. What does this tell us about New Hampshire? Be specific.
7. Suppose a Republican and a Democrat in New Hampshire are each asked to divide the state into districts. Do you think they’d make similar divisions? Why or why not?