Friday, May 31, 2019

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Too many people today focus on their feeeeeeeeeelings.  Facts don't care about your feelings.  Be honest when you answer this question:  Which is worse, President Trump hurting some reporters' feelings, or this?
He's playing with fire, but the president hasn't actually done anything to abridge press freedom, even if we fear what he might like to do. It's all words and bluster. Frankly, those concerned about this "war" should hope that Trump doesn't take lessons from several disturbing recent actions against reporters here in California.

The latest example came in Democratic San Francisco, but the scene isn't particularly uplifting of the city's oft-touted liberal values. After the unexpected death of the city's elected public defender, Jeff Adachi, a freelance reporter secured a copy of the related police report and apparently sold the information—some of it pretty salacious—to news outlets. The San Francisco Police Department wants to find the source of the leak.

"Police used a sledgehammer to try to get into (the reporter's) home and office and cuffed him for hours as they searched and subsequently removed dozens of cameras, cellphones, computers and other equipment used to gather news," the Associated Press reported. Police are trying to figure out his role in getting the report. The AP notes that it's not illegal for reporters to receive or publish information, even if it were improperly obtained by a third party. Police reports are supposed to be public records.
Which is truly the bigger threat to press freedom?
That's worse than anything Trump has tweeted about the media. Much worse.

A Thought So Sobering, It Makes You Want To Drink

A number of us went to 7th Period today, my school's name for happy hour.  We still have a week and a half of work left!

Anyway, we got to talking about how long we have until retirement, and if we'll make it that long considering all the idiocy coming out of downtown Sacramento as well as out of our own school district.  I don't know how or if I'll make it another 9 years, which is what I need in order to have a decent enough retirement paycheck that I won't have to supplement it too much.  That said, the students who are just now finishing 3rd grade are "my class"; when they graduate, I retire.

My student teacher from last year, finishing up her 1st year as one of our colleagues, said, "My graduating class won't be born until 2040."

Think about that.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lies, Damned Lies, and Global Warming Statistics

This isn't a secret.  Every climate study program will tell you they do this:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may have a boring name, but it has a very important job: It measures U.S. temperatures. Unfortunately, it seems to be a captive of the global warming religion. Its data are fraudulent.
What do we mean by fraudulent? How about this: NOAA has made repeated "adjustments" to its data, for the presumed scientific reason of making the data sets more accurate.

Nothing wrong with that. Except, all their changes point to one thing — lowering previously measured temperatures to show cooler weather in the past, and raising more recent temperatures to show warming in the recent present.

This creates a data illusion of ever-rising temperatures to match the increase in CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere since the mid-1800s, which global warming advocates say is a cause-and-effect relationship. The more CO2, the more warming.

But the actual measured temperature record shows something different: There have been hot years and hot decades since the turn of the last century, and colder years and colder decades. But the overall measured temperature shows no clear trend over the last century, at least not one that suggests runaway warming.

That is, until the NOAA's statisticians "adjust" the data. Using complex statistical models, they change the data to reflect not reality, but their underlying theories of global warming. That's clear from a simple fact of statistics: Data generate random errors, which cancel out over time. So by averaging data, the errors mostly disappear.

That's not what NOAA does.

According to the NOAA, the errors aren't random. They're systematic. As we noted, all of their temperature adjustments lean cooler in the distant past, and warmer in the more recent past. But they're very fuzzy about why this should be.

Grade Inflation

What does a grade signify?  I addressed that topic two weeks ago:
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.
Grades are important.  They should tell us something significant about a student's achievement.  I do not "round up" or any of that other silliness that some teachers do in order to artificially inflate a student's grade.  If you want an A-, earn at least 90% in the course.  OK, since our grading program compels me to round, I set it to round to the nearest tenth of a percentage point rather than to the nearest percentage point; thus, an 89.95% will round to a 90.0% A-, while an 89.94% will remain an 89.9% B+.  Minimum percentages to earn a certain grade (e.g., 80% for a B- or 83% for a B) are chiseled in stone for me, and students who want a higher grade know that I don't fudge grades for any reason.

OK, there's one caveat.  So that no student ever has an excuse just to give up, saying there's no reason to study or try because it's impossible for them to score 60+% and pass the course, I'll give a passing grade (D-) to any student who scores at least 70% on the final exam but whose overall grade is still not at least 60%.  If you can score 70% on my final exam, there's no reason to retake the course--you get a gift of a D- and on you go.

I doubt too many people will fault me for that policy.

So no, I don't artificially inflate students' grades.  I don't want to contribute to grade inflation.  but grade inflation is not just a high school phenomenon, not by a long shot:
Since the late 1960s, universities have increasingly suffered from grade inflation and an emphasis on ensuring that all admitted students graduate. At the same time, schools have become more liberal about accepting applicants based on unorthodox qualifications, from athletic ability to nonacademic accomplishments, disadvantageous backgrounds, and demonstrated social "awareness."

If these changes were simply used to admit a wider range of individuals who in the past would likely have been overlooked but who, given the opportunity, were capable of meeting the strict existing standards, this would be a laudable development. But that is not what has happened.

The old academic criteria, imperfect as they were, were in fact doing a reasonable job of selecting individuals able and willing to handle the rigors of traditional college. The blunt fact is that the majority of people who scored below a 1200 on the verbal and math sections of the SAT would have found it difficult or impossible to handle a curriculum like that required to earn a state-school engineering degree or comparable certification. Today, thanks to grade inflation, such students can and do pass through top schools with top honors, especially in the liberal arts...

Though grades have always been lower in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects than in the arts and humanities, graduating from a good school with a degree in any major did not use to be a cakewalk. Average GPAs have risen by a full point or more since the late 1960s. shows that at Michigan State, for example, the percentage of As doubled to about 30 percent of all grades from 1963 to 1973 and then rose again by about 50 percent from 1983 to 2013. This is consistent with other research on the widespread change in grading standards nationwide...

Standardized tests are frequently derided for advantaging the rich. But in fact, they are often the primary way for those without money and connections to make their case. Just imagine if the SAT were so easy that everyone got the same score. Who would more likely win admission to a top school: the wealthy world-traveler with prestigious extracurriculars (and a parent willing to donate a tidy sum to the university's endowment), or the scrappy straight-A student who spends his summers working for minimum wage to help cover his tuition...

Many will chide me and say that the U.S. system of higher education is the envy of the world. As an academic, I answer that this is only half-right. The U.S. higher education system is admired for its faculty research and the products of its graduate programs, not for its level of basic teaching—and the former areas, lucky for all of us, remain overwhelmingly meritocratic. Students at the doctoral level are selected with minimal regard for the "holistic" considerations so prevalent at the undergraduate level. They're generally drawn from around the world without attempts to represent different groups equally. If you doubt this, see how far your lacrosse championship or volunteer experience will go in compensating for low GRE math scores when applying to a Ph.D. program in economics or physics at a top-20 university.

The corrupt undergraduate admissions process at most schools today can flourish because the higher branches of the American academic tree are so good. But the lower branches are rotten with grade inflation and social promotion. The move away from an emphasis on genuine academic achievement and meritocratic promotion has done a disservice to the least well-off while offering more opportunities for the rich and connected to buy the trappings of success for their offspring.
A well-written article.

I Understand This Woman Completely, Even Though I Feel The Same Way For Reasons That Differ From Hers Only In Specifics

She's quitting teaching.  Here's why:
My school has little to no support from the district administration. Many people who make the decisions about my school have never stepped foot on our campus or been with our students for even a day...

Just to survive teaching at my school, I’ve had to become someone I don’t like. I have become short-tempered, authoritative, controlling and hardened, and it is been spilling over into my personal life. I don’t like the person I am becoming and it is affecting my mental and physical health.
The Instapundit, a daily read for me, periodically posts stories of teachers or school administrators behaving badly and taglines them with something akin to "I’m beginning to think that sending your kids to public schools is a species of child abuse."  I get his point, especially given the quantity of bad teacher/administrator stories out there, the type of which I also post.  But I don't think he understands how rotten the system as a whole is, and how it's parents (often with threats of lawsuits)--who convince administrators to give in to what in any other field would be considered asininity--who make the system rotten.

I understand Ms. Goolsby's feelings.  I share them.

9 Days of Work Left

We start early and get out late--but we have the "ski week" holiday off in February, and we had a few scattered 3-day weekends, so it all evens out in the wash.

I'll be happy when Wednesday, June 12th is in the books.  I've got places to go starting the 13th.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Good Day To Buy Coins

I received my Numismatic News today, and a couple stories pointed me to some coins I just had to buy.

From the UK's Royal Mint:  a ₤2 D-Day commemorative and a ₤5 200th anniversary commemorative of Queen Victoria's birth

From the US Mint:  a half-dollar and a silver dollar commemorative of Apollo 11

You have those days, right?  Where you just have to order a couple coins?

Monday, May 27, 2019

An Anniversary

Thirty-two years ago today, West Point's Class of '87 graduated.  It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

So I Guess Their Arguments Against Janus Were Wrong?

Not only were their arguments obviously wrong, one wonders why they were so hell-bent on compelling me to give them money.  Was my money so important to them, or was it just the compulsion they liked so much?
NEA had projected a loss of as many as 200,000 members in addition to 90,000 agency-fee payers after the Supreme Court decision. Instead, as of March, more than 217,000 new members had joined NEA since the Janus decision, and the Association has more members today than it did last year before the Court’s decision. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), with 1.7 million members, added 88,500 members by the beginning of this year, which offset the 84,000 agency-fee payers the union lost after the ruling. Even case defendant AFSCME reports that for every member opting out since Janus, the union has gained seven new members.

I'm Skeptical

Is this really why some students are chronically absent?
More than 7,700 Sacramento City Unified School District students, about 16 percent, were “chronically absent” from school last year, missing more than 10 percent of school days, according to data from the district. That’s higher than the statewide average of 11 percent.

Not having access to transportation is the top reason kids miss school, Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer says.

That’s why he is proposing to let all children in kindergarten through 12th grade who live or go to school in Sacramento ride public transit — buses and light rail — for free.
Is the $1 million (initial) price tag truly justified?

Scratch Tim Cook, And A Marxist Bleeds

Tim Cook, the head of Apple, is an awful little Marxist, isn't he?
During Tulane University’s recent commencement ceremony, Apple CEO Tim Cook confessed to the graduating class that “in some important ways, my generation has failed you.” He’s right, but for all the wrong reasons.

Cook told the students he regrets that his generation “spent too much time debating” – a strange lament in a democratic republic. How does Cook wish his generation had behaved?

“We’ve been too focused on the fight and not focused enough on progress,” he said, referring to the issue of climate change.

Our nation’s deliberative processes might suffice for trivial political questions, but when it comes to important issues like climate change – or global warming, or global cooling, or whichever pseudo-scientific term the politicians parrot this week – Cook seems to believe we must suspend our nation’s system of self-government in favor of whichever policy progressives deem necessary.
Lord, save us from those who seek to save us from ourselves.
By the end of his speech, Cook took to fear-mongering. The “threats and danger” have become too great. We must stifle debate and give the government room to grow if we hope to stop the disasters “that seem to be happening more and more frequently,” he said.
I know what let's do, let's draft a Five Year Plan!

Government doesn't need to grow. It needs to shrink.

Cook is an idiot.

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?

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Potemkin State

We have some very real problems in Cali-unicornia:
A plan by California’s biggest utility to cut power on high-wind days during the onrushing wildfire season could plunge millions of residents into darkness. And the vast majority isn’t ready.

The plan by PG&E Corp. comes after the bankrupt utility said a transmission line that snapped in windy weather probably started last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history. While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be days and days of blackouts…

"I’m worried," Newsom said Thursday during a budget briefing in Sacramento. "We’re all worried about it for the elderly. We’re worried about it because we could see people’s power shut off not for a day or two but potentially a week."
Our governmental officials like to tout that we're the world's 5th (or so) largest economy, and that may be so, but we're getting more and more like a Third World country.

You know, there are places in the country with extreme weather where the power doesn't go out.  Just sayin'.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

How The Cool Kids Spend Saturday Night

The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts is a rather nice venue at UC Davis.  Before last night I'd been there twice before, once to see Margaret Cho perform and once to see a student of mine play concert piano.  Last night, though, I was there for a different reason:

That's right, there was a special screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan followed by an hour talk/Q&A with Shatner and the UC Davis chancellor, who is also a Star Trek fan.

It wasn't a convention, but there was certainly some of the convention vibe. Some people even showed up in uniform. Others of us just represented:

When the opening credits began, there was clapping and cheering as each actor's name appeared on the screen. And later in the film when Kirk cried out his iconic "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!", the auditorium erupted.

After the movie the chancellor and the Captain had a one-hour talk up on the stage. Shatner likes to tell stories, and he overacts when telling stories as much as he does on screen. He has a wit about him, but I wish they'd talked a little more about Star Trek in general and Wrath of Khan in particular, though.

When the talk was over, those of us who'd signed away our firstborn children took our VIP passes and were led backstage, where we got a picture with the Captain. There was no time for chit-chat or autographs or anything like that--just stand next to him, take the picture, and go. There were 2 women in front of me in line, so when I approached Shatner I said, "All these good-looking women, and now you get me." He smiled at that, we took the picture, and just before I walked off he looked me in the eyes and said, very quietly so that it seemed a personal moment only between us, "Thank you." Just as quietly I said, "Thank you", and that was it.

This morning I got to download my picture with him:

While he doesn't look bad for 88 years old, he's still 88 years old.  I can't imagine it'll be too much longer before he joins so many of his crew already in the cosmos.  That's why I paid extra for my less than 10 seconds with him--10 seconds, and those few words that passed between us.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Nice Way To Recognize Students

I see nothing wrong, and quite a lot that's good, in this:
High schools across the country are highlighting their soon-to-be graduating students' intentions to join the military.

Similar to college or athletic "signing days" — in which high school students officially or ceremonially declare the place of higher education they've committed to — schools are increasingly hosting "military signing days."

The Very Definition of Heinlein's "Crazy Years"

Liberals pretend to believe that it's perfectly reasonable for boys to compete in girls' sports, and that you are the horrible person for thinking that's crazy:
When two high school athletes who were born male but identify as female took first and second place at Connecticut’s girls indoor track championship this year, it wasn’t just a local news story.

To some, it was a story of triumph and courage. The winner, a junior from Bloomfield High School, set a girls state indoor record of 6.95 seconds in the 55-meter dash, and went on to win the New England titles in both the 55-meter dash and the 300-meter dash.

To others, it was a story of shock and disappointment: Is this the end of women’s sports?

To Selina Soule, a 16-year-old runner from Glastonbury, it was personal.

A junior, Selina missed qualifying for the 55-meter in the New England regionals by two spots. Two spots, she said, that were taken by biological boys.

Had the boys who identify as girls not been allowed to compete, Selina would have placed sixth, qualifying to run the 55 in front of college coaches at the New England regionals.

Instead, she placed eighth, watching the 55 from the sidelines after qualifying in only the long jump, an event in which the transgender athletes didn’t compete.

“It’s very frustrating and heartbreaking when us girls are at the start of the race and we already know that these athletes are going to come out and win no matter how hard you try,” Selina told The Daily Signal. “They took away the spots of deserving girls, athletes … me being included.”

While the debate over transgender athletes and fairness is complex, the situation in Connecticut has brought forth another complicating layer: Plenty of parents and high school girls appear to object to the participation of biological boys in girls sports, but fearing public bullying and backlash, they’re not speaking out.

Publicly, at least.
As I said, the Crazy Years.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Don't Like It? Don't Eat There.

The pro-abortion crowd likes to trumpet, as if they're being witty, "If you don't like abortion, don't have one."  Those of us who are pro-life don't think it's asking too much to insist that you not kill an innocent child.  Abortion for us isn't about "controlling women", which is the straw man lefties like to make and tear down, it's about the killing.

But the same type of person who says "If you don't like abortion, don't have one" can't even live by their own stupid sound bite.  They don't like a company run by an avowed Christian, so they don't want to let anyone eat there:
Cal Poly will not remove Chick-fil-A from its San Luis Obispo campus, despite renewed calls to do so by faculty and students who criticize the company’s public and vocal support for anti-LGBTQ groups and causes.

Student, faculty and community groups say they want to remove the restaurant because the company’s values are contrary to those of Cal Poly, which has made efforts to be more inclusive of marginalized groups.

On Tuesday night, Cal Poly’s Academic Senate overwhelmingly voted to urge the university to terminate its contract with Chick-fil-A, according to KCBX.

But Cal Poly administrators say that to remove the fast food chain from campus “would be its own form of censorship and intolerance.”
By the way, I hadn't heard of Chick-fil-A 20 years ago.   Now it trails only Starbucks and McDonald's as the country's 3rd-largest restaurant chain.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Demonstrating Liberal Hypocrisy

Seen on social media:

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Some Will Be Happy It's A Majority

I won't be happy until it's a 90+% supermajority:
A majority of respondents say that socialism is incompatible with American values, a Monmouth University poll released Monday says.  link

I've Long Been A Fan of Bjorn Lomborg

My favorite gay leftie Danish vegetarian statistician continues to be dead right about global warming.

Here's more about him.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Abysmal, But Stereotypical, Behavior

While I've had one or two minor encounters with individual union reps, I've never had negative experiences with my local union itself.  Don't these people know they're going to lose, and don't they care how this makes them look?
A California educator is battling a state teachers' union over his problems leaving the organization, in what his attorneys say could be a precedent-setting legal case that ultimately forces labor unions across the country to reimburse billions in back dues to their members.

Tommy Few, a special education teacher at Sepulveda Middle School in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, filed suit late last year against the United Teachers of Los Angeles – along with the Los Angeles Unified School District and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra – claiming his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association were violated when he tried to leave the UTLA following last summer’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.
I'd ask if they have no shame, but we already know the answer to that question.

Monday, May 06, 2019

"Algorithms of Suppression"

In an article entitled Algorithms of Suppression, the Claremont Institute tells us:
The Claremont Institute has launched a campaign to engage our fellow citizens in discussion and debate about what it means to be an American. As part of that effort, we have begun to point out the increasingly existential danger of identity politics and political correctness to our republic. As if to prove our point, Google has judged our argument as wrongthink that should be forbidden. They are now punishing us for our political thought by refusing to let us advertise to our own readers...

Google, either its algorithm or some individual, had a look at my essay launching our new campaign for a unifying Americanism, “Defend America—Defeat Multiculturalism.” They decided it to be in violation of their policy on “race and ethnicity in personalized advertising” and shut down our advertising efforts to American Mind readers. We weren’t “advertising” anything in the essay, of course, but the relevant section of their policy lists “racially or ethnically oriented publications, racially or ethnically oriented universities, racial or ethnic dating” as examples of violations.

Somebody must have determined we were offering “racially or ethnically oriented publications.” This is news to us. The Claremont Institute has spent forty years teaching all who are willing to listen that the meaning of the proposition that all human beings are created equal is the central, animating principle of American political life.
Google later admitted to "a mistake", but I can't help but wonder why all such mistakes lean one way politically. 

Too many people, mostly our friends on the Left, like to make reference to President Eisenhower's Farewell Address in which he warned about the "military-industrial complex".  Those same people, though, should read the entire address, as Eisenhower also warns us:
[I]n holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. 
He was prescient, that Eisenhower fellow.

I Am Absolutely Against This

Our service academies exist for one reason and one reason only:  to provide junior officers for their parent services.  West Point exists to provide army lieutenants, the Naval Academy exists to provide naval ensigns, and the Air Force Academy exists to provide air force lieutenants.  These academies do not exist to provide talent for professional sports:
President Donald Trump presented the Army Black Knights with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy Monday, calling the group "star athletes and stars in every way."

The President then made some news, saying he's looking at "doing a waiver for service academy athletes who can get into the major leagues," adding that those players can serve in the military after they play professionally. 
"I think it's a great idea, I think it's really fair, too," he said.
You might wonder why West Point has a football team if the academy's purpose is to produce army officers.  The purpose is to produce good officers. 

"Every cadet an athlete."  That is one of the foundations of a West Point education.  General George Marshall, Chief of Staff during World War 2, is quoted as saying, "I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission.  I want a West Point football player."  Obviously every cadet cannot participate in intercollegiate athletics, but those who don't do so will participate in intramurals.  This is in addition to required PE classes and more-than-a-couple-times-a-year physical fitness tests of one sort or another.  Individual sports (boxing, swimming, wrestling, martial arts) build fitness, and team sports build leadership and teamwork.  That these are attributes we want in young military officers should go without saying. 

Our sports programs exist to help produce better junior officers.  The men and women who attend our service academies are supposed to be there to serve the country.  They can serve their country first and then "get into the major leagues" if they so desire.  Reversing that, as the president has suggested, encourages "self" over the military and the country.  That is not what our academies should be promoting.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Math Humor

CO2 Is Good For Humans And Other Living Things :-)

If nothing else, you've got to enjoy the thought of all these congresspeople getting their panties in a bunch upon hearing this:
Climate statistician Dr. Caleb Rossiter from the CO2 Coalition hijacked the Democratic Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and the Democrats (sic) climate hearing on Capitol Hill on April 30. Dr. Rossiter upended the House Oversight Committee Environment subcommittee hearing on “The Public Effects” of climate change when he declared “CO2 emissions have had a positive and modest impact on Americans’ health.” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez saw her message “hijacked” by the skeptical scientist.
My favorite line:
Climate Statistician Dr. Caleb Rossiter: ‘We are trying to save the people of the planet from the people ‘saving the planet.'”

School Discipline

These same people wouldn't put up with the ridiculous crap for 5 minutes that they want me to put up with for the next 9 years:
American adults surveyed about improving school discipline tended to favor supportive solutions, like school climate efforts and additional training for teachers, over stricter practices like detentions or suspensions.

The poll, conducted by Gallup on behalf of Communities in Schools, found that 43 percent of respondents believe most teachers are "prepared" or "very prepared" to handle discipline issues in the classroom. And 54 percent of respondents said most teachers are "unprepared" or "very unprepared" to handle discipline...

Of the survey respondents, 90 percent said that, in addressing discipline issues, it would be "very effective" or "somewhat effective" to provide more training for educators on appropriate discipline practices.  link
At least 90% of teachers would like more parents to get more training on effective discipline practices at home.  That way, we wouldn't have to discipline their kids so much.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

George Washington Is Traumatizing

I doubt the people claiming to be traumatized even notice George when they pull out a buck and a quarter, so forgive me if I find their claims to be a little, uh, manufactured.  But here we go in Cali-unicornia, where every culture is valued except the one that made us the greatest place to live in the world:
A high school in Northern California — George Washington High School, to be specific — is mulling over a push to remove two 83-year-old murals from its hallways. Critics advocating for their removal say they are offensive to Native Americans and African-Americans. They say the pair of panels “traumatizes students and community members.”
Former US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings once said what I consider to be the appropriate response to these people, whether they're actually traumatized or not:  "Put your big girl panties on and deal with it."

Credit Recovery

A summary for the uninitiated:  "credit recovery" is a way for students who don't have enough credits to graduate to earn beaucoup credits in a very short time, and thus graduate.  Most credit recovery schemes are online programs that allow a student to earn credit for a course in just a few weeks--even though that student failed the course when offered 18 or 36 weeks (a semester or school year) to complete the course.

Allow me to be blunt:  credit recovery is a scam.  It's a huge money-maker for the online companies who offer the programs, and it's a lie to the taxpayers who are supposed to celebrate when graduation rates go up (even as learning goes down).  It's very name, credit recovery, tells you where the emphasis is, and it's certainly not on education.  We in this field should stand against this blatant lying--lying to the taxpayer, to the employer who thinks a high school graduate has some minimal learning, to the student him/herself--but our administrators worship at the altar of credit recovery as if it were the Golden Calf itself.  What should be a disgrace to our profession is instead given a perverse place of honor as a savior of the very students it is purported to help.

Perhaps you're not in the education field, perhaps you think I'm exaggerating.  I'm not:
Many other districts stopped short of outright fraud, opting to juice the graduation rate by expanding credit recovery programs with exceptionally low standards, allowing students to sit in front of a computer and effectively shotgun enough credits to be granted a diploma.

This fakery and inflation has significant, if unmeasurable, costs. Off record, teachers speak of its depressing effects on the classroom: students who try hard become demotivated when they see slackers receiving equal credit, and slackers put forth even less effort when they realize they don’t have to. Students lose respect for the school when they realize that whether they learn enough to graduate matters less than whether adults can take credit for their graduation.

Second, graduation inflation does significant harm to students who – despite all the standard-lowering – don’t graduate. Education advocates argue that students need a high school diploma to be employable in the 21stcentury. But this is a self-fulfilling policy driven by credentialism, not skill acquisition.

In a city where 50 percent of students graduate, employers would not automatically stigmatize half of its young adult workforce. But in a city where 90 percent of students graduate, employers would have good reason to suspect that there is something wrong with the 10 percent who don’t. Shut out of the labor market, those young adults will have few opportunities other than crime. Unless schools are actually equipping at-risk students with more skills, graduation inflation will streamline the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Third, graduation inflation allows activists to pass off destructive policies as effective reforms. Putting students in front of screens all day may do nothing to boost academic achievement even as it makes them more depressed and anxious-- but graduation rates are up so it worked! Reducing suspensions may harm academic achievement and make classrooms more chaotic– but graduation rates are up so it worked! As American schools implemented the Common Core and test-based teacher evaluations, academic achievement for low-performing students saw an unprecedented drop– but graduation rates are up so it worked!

Graduation inflation is an excellent case study in what some call “structural oppression” or “institutional racism.” Self-interested politicians, privileged advocates, and lazy journalists all have their own status incentives to promote and cheerlead graduation inflation. They’re all, perhaps, largely unconscious of how their policies and rhetoric perpetuate racial inequity.

Adding To The Cost of a College Education...

Textbooks are ridiculously expensive, and probably will get more so:
Now experts worry the challenges students face in order to pay for course materials are about to get worse. McGraw-Hill and Cengage CNGO, +109.68% two major textbook publishers, announced Wednesday that they would merge, creating the second-largest supplier of textbooks and higher-education materials. Right now, five companies control about 80% of the textbook market and, if the merger is approved by regulators, that number could go down to four.

“The textbook market is already highly concentrated and this just takes it and puts it into fewer hands,” said Nicole Allen, the director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), which advocates for more open sharing of educational materials. “Students are already captive consumers in this and this would just make it worse.”

Dessert Social Comment

One of the events I look forward to as the school year ends each year is the AVID Dessert Social.  The juniors in our AVID program bring desserts and other snackies for the senior AVID students as well as the teachers--as a sort of "farewell" to the seniors and a "thank you" to the teachers.  Today there were cookies, cakes, pies, chips, ice cream, etc.  It's a great way to spend a lunch :-)

What really got my attention was the comment of one of the seniors in line in front of me.  After remarking on the voluminous goodies arrayed in front of us he said, with obvious relish, "Good-bye, Michelle Obama."

Made my day!

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

I Know How To Solve The College Cost Problem!

First, the problem:
When it comes to preaching financial savvy to college students forking over considerable cash for school, the “back in my day” argument doesn’t apply.

Working hard and living at home can only go so far in staving off debt for today’s students because of steep fee increases that have unfolded over the past 40 years, according to the California Budget and Policy Center determined in a recent data analysis.

The center adjusted 1979 college tuition and fees for inflation and found the cost of attending a University of California school is six times greater than 40 years ago. A year at UC today costs $14,400, up from an inflation-adjusted $2,200 in 1979.
Let's look at administrative bloat.  Let's look at the cost of "diversity" initiatives.  Here in California, let's factor in illegal immigrants, just for fun.  Let's look at the amenities that schools generally didn't have in 1979 that they have today--the ever-popular rock-climbing walls, the buffet meals, "free" wi-fi.  Do the dorms look anything like what they looked like in 1979?

I'm not convinced that "inflation-adjusted dollars" captures the entire issue.  But I'll play along, let's start cutting the diversity offices and so-called Bias Response Teams.  Oh, and students?  Quit voting for higher fees! (I'm talking to you, UC Davis Aggies, who have voted yourselves the highest fees in the UC system.)  And maybe schools shouldn't accept students who need remedial math or English work--so those students won't have to worry about the cost of a CSU/UC degree and can go to community college instead (where lesser-prepared students belong).

Any other ideas?

Did People Ever Take These Seriously?

From the very beginning the idea of "traffic school" was a scam, a racket.  I'm supposed to be upset now because the scam is online?
Just when you thought things could not get any worse for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the beleaguered bureaucracy sinks even lower into disrepute.

This time, the DMV has been caught asleep at the wheel in its duty to provide oversight for the traffic schools California drivers must “attend” in order to clear speeding tickets from their official driving records.

“A few owners of online traffic schools in California have taken advantage of loose oversight by the Department of Motor Vehicles to stifle competition and boost their share of customers among the roughly 670,000 ticketed drivers who enroll in the schools every year,” according to a news story by The Sacramento Bee’s State Worker reporter Wes Venteicher.

Once upon a time, drivers had to attend actual traffic schools in classrooms to clear minor infractions from their records. Over the past two decades, the schools morphed into an online industry. In order to compete for business, these “schools” bear names like No Study Traffic School, Easy Daddy Traffic School and Five Dollar Traffic School.

Clearly, the owners of many of California’s 3,000 traffic “schools” do not pick their names in an effort to convey seriousness or competency. The ridiculous naming trend persists despite rules barring any name that “implies that the school offers inducements or premiums which derogate or distort the instruction intent of the traffic violator school program.”

Idiots Traffic School and 4 Lazy Traffic School seem in clear violation of the DMV’s solemn principles.
"DMV" and "solemn" in the same sentence? I wonder if that's ever happened before.