oxymoron67: (Default)
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They don't.

Standardized tests show the ability to ... take standardized tests.

Let's take the SAT for example. Most people have to take the SAT to get into college, and the more "Elite" a college is, the higher the SAT score needed to get in.

So you'd think that the SAT showed intelligence.

Not so much. Not really a correlation there.

Fine, you might say... the SAT MUST be an indicator of success in college.

Nope. You'd be wrong there, too. Studies have shown that there is no correlation here either.

The only thing that the SAT shows is that the student can take the SAT.

I know this from four years of teaching SAT test taking skills. In fact, when I was teaching SAT test taking skills, I didn't focus so much on information -- if my students didn't get geometry, for example, the two hours that I'd spend going over geometric problems won; help much. However, showing students how to look at an SAT problem and eliminate obviously wrong answers ("The answer cannot de determined from the information given" is almost never correct, for example) DOES help their scores.

Teachers tend to teach for the test. So, rather than spend time teaching the skills, teachers (who are under pressure to improve scores) focus far more on test taking tricks than on the skills these tests are supposedly focusing on.

I could get started on how teaching for standardized tests (primarily in Math and English) takes a ridiculous amount of time away from toher subjects, but that's a rant for another time.
oxymoron67: (Default)
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You have to understand: education is the family business. My grandmother was the school nurse, her sister (my Aunt Teach) taught elementary school, mom taught Junior and Senior High science and was later the librarian, her sister taught elementary school, I teach at a community college, one of my sisters teaches at a business school and a cousin teaches elementary school. My nephew works in admissions for a consortium of on-line programs. My sister-in-law was (budget cuts) a para-professional.

Education is what we do.

Was any pressure put on me to go into this career? No, not really. The only pressure I got was from my mom, who said that I shouldn't teach high school because it's changed a lot. But at the same time, I can't imagine that anyone who knew me in high school or college is surprised at my career path. I LIKE the Academy. It's where I think I fit in best.

In some respects, I got lucky landing the position I have. It usually takes people two or more years to land full time tenure track work in my field, yet I did it in fourteen months: the right job opened up. I'm not saying I didn't work hard, because did and still do, but luck did play a part in it.

And it's not like I didn't try the real world. I spent five years in the banking industry.

But this is where I make the most sense.
oxymoron67: (Default)
She shoots an anti-teen pregnancy PSA.

I don't have a problem with this. If anyone can speak on teen pregnancy, it's someone who has been through it.

This does not mean that I agree with abstinence-only sex education. Most studies show that it doesn't work. In fact, studies show that sex education that discusses all the options and what happens during pregnancy encourage students to wait or take precautions.

Also, I think it's ridiculous to think that teenagers will suddenly be abstinent. All those hormones and the impulse control of toddlers.
oxymoron67: (Default)
(Borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] foresthouse)
The Texas State Board of Education has made many controversial changes to its curriculum.

This matters because Texas's curriculum influences the publication of textbooks nationwide.

Let Governor PErry know that these changes need to be stopped. Go here: http://bit.ly/9mARZt

It's a letter, already formatted. This is what mine said:

Dear Governor Perry,

As an educator, I am appalled at many of the changed proposed by the Texas State Board of Education. To take just one example, ignoring Thomas Jefferson's influence on revolutions is just simply wrong. Jefferson was one of the great thinkers of early America and should be recognized as such.

Recently the Texas State Board of Education, led by your appointee for Chair, Gail Lowe, voted to change Texas' curriculum standards. The amendment process injected politics into our schools. I'm writing to ask you, please, urge your appointee and the rest of the board to send the proposed changes back to the original curriculum review teams.

These teams -- made up of teachers and subject matter experts -- drafted the original standards, and should review the amendments from the SBOE.

Our kids' education is not a political game to be influenced by ideologues and partisan politics.

Thank you for urging the chair you appointed to lead the SBOE in reining in the politicization of the curriculum by sending the recent curriculum changes back for review by teachers and subject matter experts.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Tuesday was a great deal of fun.

I wandered around the resort and then went out onto the Boardwalk. It was early in the day, so it wasn't so very warm. Then I had a late lunch at the barbecue place:I had a pulled pork sandwich. It was okay. I played slots for a while (I limited myself to $20: when it was done, I left.)

By this time, I was tired, so I went back to my hotel room to nap. Alas, I turned the TV on first, to discover that Oprah was on, and she was talking about flesh eating viruses!

Who can resist watching Oprah talk about flesh eating viruses?

Her guest, who lost an arm and a breast to the bacteria, was lucky, as she survived, but her scars are horrifying.

Then I snoozed.

After that I went to the IMAX theater. Harry Potter was playing. Just s you know, the IMAX doesn't cover the plot holes.

Finally, I arrived at the highlight of my day: dinner. I decided to try the Italian place. It serves food family style, so I had leftovers and I skipped the appetizer. (I had chicken marsala: delicious.) It was a slow night, and my waitress saw that I was reading a book. She asked what it was, and we got into a conversation.

The book? A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889

It turns out that she's finishing up her career at a community college, and when I mentioned that I work at a college, she had all sorts of questions about majors and transfers and whether she should be practical or try to get into the New School majoring in design...

It was a fun conversation.

I was apparently so helpful, that a few other members of the wait staff came by to ask me questions. I was there for four hours. (I got a free dessert and coffee out of the deal: the tiramisu was wonderful!) It was a fun conversation.

I didn't get back to my hotel room until about 1:00 am, and, by then, I was hungry, so i finished the leftover chicken. I was thinking about wandering around the resort a little more, but CNN broke the news that Sen. Kennedy had died, so I was transfixed for the next two hours.
oxymoron67: (Default)
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Since my mom was my teacher for Chemistry I in high school, I have to go with her.

Mostly because she's MY MOM. And it was an uncomfortable situation that she handled well. Of course, she had three of her four children for class, so by the time I had a class with her, she was used to it.

The class was sophomores and juniors, and because I called mom "mom," so did they. This caused a slight problem when mom was observed, but our principal knew the situation (how couldn't he?) and it never appeared in writing on the evaluation.

If I'm not including my mother....
Mme Squeglia, my French teacher. Her class opened my mind to language, which led me down this career path. She was great in the classroom.

But let me tell you why I chose French. My brother had taken German and my two sisters Spanish. By the time I was in 9th grade, I was sick of being called their names instead of my own. So, I took French because Mme Squeglia would have no excuse for using one of siblings; names to refer to me.

So, what's the first thing we did in French I? We all chose new names for ourselves.
oxymoron67: (no bear)
The Great State of Texas's State Board of Education's conservative advisors have made some ... odd... recommendations.

1) Cesar Chavez isn't all that important, and not worthy of mentioning. I guess because he was concerned with the rights of migrant farm workers, who are, after all, brown people, probably all illegals, and therefore don't deserve to be paid a living wage. He was a leading voice in the Latino community while he was alive.

2) Thurgood Marshall is also apparently not important enough to make the list. That's right, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, who made significant contributions to criminal, civil rights, tax and labor law, is just not all that important.

3) Anne Hutchinson, the religious dissenter who was thrown out of the Massachusetts Bay colony and helped found the colony of Rhode Island, is also unimportant. Never mind that she is an early example of feminism in the US -- the attacks on her were VERY misogynist in nature-- never mind that she helped establish the concept of religious freedom in the US-- never mind that she also pioneered the idea of civil freedom -- freedom to speak one's mind-- she's just not important.

Fascinating. Who would they replace them with? Or is this a case of anyone who challenges authority in America is not important enough to be remembered. For instance, I wonder if they discuss Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who also co-founded the KKK? If they do, do they discuss the KKK connection?
oxymoron67: (Default)
My mom warned me about professional journals for educators. She said that ones for specific fields can have interesting articles, but the ones that are about education in general tend to suck.

This weekend, after finishing Defying Hitler, I decided that I needed to read something radically different, to clear my palate, as it were. So, I picked up one of those journals.


First off, you have to read sentences like, "In this article, we will discuss best practices about our interesting, impactful, holistic approach to our already interdisciplinary, student-centered learning environments."

1) "Best practices" as a term irritates me. What works for one institution may not work for another. "Best practices" here, at my urban, mostly immigrant and ESL junior college will be quite different from, say, the University of Illinois, which would in turn, be different from a small private college. Yes, we certainly can learn from one another, but there are limits to that. I prefer "lessons learned" to "best practices."

2) Since when did "impactful" become a word? My spell check doesn't recognize it. Can we use it elsewhere?

"The meteor made an impactful... um... impact on the moon."

Ew. No.

"The three-layered cake was impactfully good."

That's just an unfortunate sentence. (Though, oddly, "impactfully" doesn't trigger my spell check. Perhaps it's just given up.)

"I have to have my wisdom teeth out because I have an impactful mouth."


I think this word is one piece of jargon we can do without.

3) While I understand the point (and it is frequently a valid one -- we shouldn't get bogged down in details*) about a "holistic approach", that phrase always seems so New Age-y to me, like we've just walked into a incense-filled classroom with Enya playing in the background, and we're about to be asked questions like "How did the reign of Charlemagne taste?" or "What tree represents Newton's First Law of Motion?"

*But many of the details we teach are important valid points. Like many things in education, it's a juggling act.

4) The infernal buzzword known as "the student centered classroom"
I would argue that all classrooms are student centered because the whole point is to LEARN. I think the "Student centered classroom" was invented by people who hate writing exams and use it an excuse not to.


Really, I should have listened to mother.
oxymoron67: (Default)
... and some thoughts on education.

Hard Times at Douglass High: a No Child Left Behind Report Card was on a few nights ago and I finally got a chance to watch the whole thing.

Here is its official website.

I remembered some things my mom said about teaching in high school as I was watching this:

1) No Child Left Behind doesn't work. It only provides for sanctions; it doesn;t do much of anything to aid schools.

2) If the parents aren't involved, the children won't be.

3) On parent-teacher night, mom never saw the parents of the children in trouble. (O, as she put it "The ones she needed to see.")

And this was in a working class suburban school district.

Unlike the documentary which is about a high school in inner-city Baltimore. Here the problems are worse:

1) Families have disintegrated. Most of these kids are either in one-parent households or are living with grandparents or guardians. And some of them are parents themselves.

2) Lack of resources: for example, in a geometry class, there is a sum total of 16 books. Which means that there aren't enough books for each student to have one of their own AND, since there are only 16 of them, the students can't take them home to work on them.

3) Lack of teachers. There is a huge teacher shortage in Baltimore. And, frankly, from what I've seen of it, teaching high school has a high burnout rate to it, regardless.

4) The kids frequently don't want to learn, and the school lacks the wherewithall to force them to. In fact many students hang out in the hallways.

5) Or, if they want to learn, the lack the skills necessary.

It's an ugly situation. No Child Left Behind isn't helping. And frankly, I'm not sure what would help. Part of it is a matter of funding, but it has to be specifically directed funding. We may have to overhaul education in general.

The students' attitudes didn't surprise me because they mirror what I've seen here at my urban community college. Most of our problem students tend to be the ones who just came from high school because they lack the maturity to take responsibility for what they do or don't do (as in attend classes).

And the basic skills are lacking: reading, writing, public speaking: all problematic. Now granted, part of that comes from the number of immigrants we have as students, but the issues are not all linguistic in nature. Argumentation, for example, differs from culture to culture. What we in the West consider plagiarism isn't necessarily the case for some. While Americans prefer direct discourse, many cultures prefer to use more indirect discourse strategies.

But the attitude of some of our students -- the "What do you mean I don't pass? Just because I didn't go to class and turn in assignments?" -- matches some of those in the documentary.

An interesting documentary. If you get a chance to watch it, do.

Meantime, my brother and I were talking about bilingual education.

My brother pointed out that the main proponents of bilingual education in America are those who already speak Spanish and the politicians who pander to them.

I actually think bilingual education would be a good idea, in theory, anyway. Having said that, Spanish isn't going to be the language for everyone. Some places, other languages make more sense. French in Louisiana and New England, for example. In Pittsburgh, it would probably be Russian. Or maybe Polish.

I'm not sure what it would be in NYC.
oxymoron67: (beedog)
Like most fads in education -- the student centered classroom and ePortfolio, for example -- student reflection sounds like a good idea. Give students a chance to read/listen/watch their own work and then remark on it. Where I work, frequently both the finished assignment *and* the reflection are posted on ePortfolio.

Heck, I've used it in my classes. My opinions on this come from my own classroom experience and from other instructor's classes in the lab.

The idea is that this reflective practice will make our students think about the choices they made during the assignment and the comments that the instructor gave along with their own reactions and get them to see what they did well, what they didn't do well, and, hopefully, reinforce the learning objectives behind the assignment.

I think this is the point, anyway. No one actually says what the point is. Like many other fads in education -- say, Communicative Language Practices -- reflection is so poorly defined in an educational sense that it's simultaneously applicable everywhere yet hard to define effectively. Yes, this gives flexibility, but it also limits its usefulness.

From what I've seen, most students say non-committal things like "I did okay" or "I see what my professor is saying." Sometimes they disagree with their professors and tell us why their D-grade crap is actually Pulitzer-Prize winning A+ work.

Some instructors who have done this before give their students a list of questions for them to "think about." Most of these students just run down the list of questions, answering each one in the most basic way possible.

The "Deep reflective thinking that leads to lifetime learners" that we are supposed to look for? Not happening.

Why? Well, for one thing, none of us did this as students. It's difficult to model a mode of learning that you've never done.

Also, who wants to do this? If I was given a reflection assignment as a student, I would've done what our students did, though probably not as a way to complain about the grade I received. Frankly, I pretty much knew what grades my papers were getting when I handed them in. I knew when I wrote utter crap. I can't believe our students don't recognize when they turn in piles of poo.

So, reflective thinking? A way too vague idea that totally suffers in execution. As a trend in education, a total C-. And I'm being generous.
oxymoron67: (Default)
So... we were watching taped speeches in a colleague's class and one of her students was discussing .... something.... and then busted out with "... and someday everyone will have high tech boobs."

At first I thought he said "high tech boots," but then he repeated himself.

But he never clarified exactly what high tech will be implanted in our boobs. Laser beams? Anti-gravity devices?

I'll bet Anna of Arkansas has high tech boobs.

Another speech claimed that the first recorded case of homosexuality was in 1755 in Portugal.


There are few things more amazing than when the light goes in a student's eyes, and you see that they understand. Likewise, there are few things more frustrating than bringing your A-game to the class, and then sitting through a speech with a diatribe about high-tech boobs.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Long, long post ahead. )
oxymoron67: (Default)
Today, two things.

1. Ann Coulter. I get that she's some kind of ultra-conservative performance artist or something. Having said that Why does she still have supporters?

She claimed it was a joke. Is this funny? To whom?

2. I found out this weekend that one school in NYC has told its teachers not to assign essays because "They're too taxing." What the Hell is this? Does the administration for said school also tell those teachers to teach their students how to say "Do you want fries with that?", because, without the ability to write coherently, that's about all they'll be qualified for.


oxymoron67: (Default)

October 2013

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