by Goldy, 11/29/2006, 11:40 AM

An editorial in today’s Seattle Times agrees with Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposal to delay the requirement that students pass the math portion of the WASL in order to graduate from High School. But they reiterate their “grim assessment” that Washington students are woefully “ill-prepared for the rigors of math.”

No further evidence is needed than the failure of nearly half of the state’s sophomores — about 34,000 — on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning math test last spring and in summer re-takes.

Hmm. So… “no further evidence is needed” than students’ poor performance on the WASL. And yet, further down the editorial we find this throw-away little tidbit:

There is a disconnect when it comes to high-achieving students as well. Bellevue Superintendent Mike Riley tells Seattle Times education reporter Lynn Thompson that many of the district’s students do well on the math section of the SAT but stumble on the WASL.

Uh huh.

So if students do well on the SAT, but stumble on the WASL, is that “evidence” that we aren’t preparing these students for math. Or rather, is it evidence that one or both of these tests suck? I mean, would it be okay if the majority of our state’s students passed the WASL, but performed far below the national average on the SAT?

Understand where I’m coming from on this. I’m a smart guy, but was not always the most diligent or cooperative student; I had a tough time spitting back what the teacher wanted, even knowing that doing so was a sure-fire path to an A. I also had a run-in with with an absolutely nutcase, 10th grade English teacher who picked me out as the annual uppity smart kid she liked to fail as an example to the rest of us uppity smart kids. That’s right, despite being one of the best writers in my class (throughout my academic career) I failed 10th grade English, often getting essays returned with a big fat zero, and no other marks or comments. (The teacher had tenure. She also died of a slow growing brain tumor a couple years later.)

So while I mostly got A’s in high school, my GPA was somewhat below that typically needed to qualify for our nation’s top colleges and universities. And yet at least one Ivy League school was willing to overlook my less than stellar GPA, at least partially because my SAT scores were so high.

See, there are a lot of smart people out there, and we can be smart in many different ways, but I happened to be blessed with something college admissions officers highly valued back in the early 1980′s: the standardized test taking gene.

I loved filling in those little circles. It was a puzzle. It was a game. And it was a game I always won.

On the English portion of these tests I could intuit the answer whether or not I could verbalize the grammatical and syntactic rules at play. Sentences either felt right, or they didn’t. And on the math portion of these tests I rarely had to do the math at all. I could almost always instantly eliminate one or two of the multiple choice answers, and make an educated guess that virtually assured me a better than 50-percent chance of getting it right.

I was like a card-counter at a blackjack table, and I always understood the unfair advantage I had over the house or the other players. In 9th grade, after playing around with a couple practice tests in an old prep book, I decided to take the Biology achievement test… and I nearly aced it. I’d never studied most of the subject matter, let alone a three-chamber heart, but one of the practice tests had almost identical questions about a two-chamber heart, and it didn’t take much to connect the dots.

The point is, the one thing these standardized tests are truly capable of evaluating is the ability of the student to take these standardized tests. They do not necessarily test the student’s grasp on the material, and they do not necessarily predict the student’s future performance in college or the real world. Hell… look at me: according to the SATs I’m a fucking genius, yet here I am blogging for free while my thermostat’s set to 58 and I’m struggling to pay my mortgage. How smart is that?

So when I read all these editorials and columns lamenting our student’s poor performance on the WASL, it absolutely infuriates me that nobody ever questions the performance of the WASL. I mean, did it ever occur to anybody that when it comes to measuring the ability of a typical high school student to grasp and apply a body of knowledge, that perhaps the WASL sucks? Is it so outside the realm of possibility to even consider the notion that the very same educators who are constantly being accused of failing to teach our children might also have devised a crappy means of measuring a student’s progress?

In fact, the WASL was never designed to serve as a graduation standard or as a measuring stick for punishing failing schools under President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.” It was originally developed to provide schools with a tool for measuring academic progress so that they could better target their students’ needs. The purpose was not to teach to the WASL, but to use the WASL to help teachers better teach the students.

I’m not saying we’re doing a good enough job educating our students. Of course we’re not. And I’m certainly not arguing against the value of standards. But when grades say one thing, and SAT scores say another, and then the WASL says something entirely different… well… I fail to see the logic in assuming that the WASL is the be-all and end-all of academic standards. Indeed, if you spend a little time in the classroom and watch how distorted the curriculum has become, it’s beginning to look like this whole WASL craze has morphed into a faith-based initiative that’s doing more harm than good.

No doubt the WASL is a boon to tough-talking politicians and editorialists. But a passing score won’t pay your mortgage.

159 Responses to “Are students failing the WASL, or is the WASL failing our students?”

1. Dalton Bucklew spews:

Is the WASL a mandatory test now, or is it optional?

2. Roger Rabbit spews:

Hey Goldy, looks like the wingnuts are wringing their hands over school closures!

“We are Some Kind of Pathetic
“by Eric Earling, 07:49 AM

“Does anyone else join me in growing frustration with how local schools are handling school closure decisions?

“Monday, the private school my kids attend closed along with the Edmonds school district in which it sits. The roads weren’t that bad, but there were some problem areas. Fine.

“Tuesday, closed again. By mid-morning, side roads were in pretty good shape. Arterials a-ok. School closure decision: not fine.

“Today, closed yet again. A quick check outside the Earling family abode just north of Lynnwood proper shows no new ice having formed last night, and many a dry swath of road.” http://www.soundpolitics.com/

Quoted under Fair Use, and if you think that’s unfair, sue me! Or, for an appointment to like my furry tail, call 1-800-SUCK-ROG.

3. Another TJ spews:

Understand where I’m coming from on this. I’m a smart guy, but was not always the most diligent or cooperative student; I had a tough time spitting back what the teacher wanted, even knowing that doing so was a sure-fire path to an A.

You? Goldy? The hell, you say! That sounds so unlike you.

:-)

4. Roger Rabbit spews:

GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CALLS FOR ENDING FREE SPEECH

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has told a New Hampshire audience that fighting terrorism requires limiting free speech on the internet:

“My view is that … we will adopt rules of engagement that we use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech ….

“I want to suggest to you that we right now should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of, if it were not for the scale of this threat. This is a serious, long-term war, and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country. It will lead us to learn how to close down every Web site that is dangerous.”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15951435/

Roger Rabbit Commentary: Dangerous to who? The GOP? Brownie? Rummy? King George?

5. Roger Rabbit spews:

Hey wingnuts! Please please please choose Newt as your presidential candidate! We would LOVE to run against Newt! Please pretty please nominate Newt The Callous Adulterer, who cheated on his wife as she lay dying of cancer …

6. skagit spews:

Nice set of sarcastic assertions. Now, what’s your solution, Mr. Genius.

7. Roger Rabbit spews:

BREAKING NEWS

KING 5 News just announced that Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer who was arrested on terrorism charges related to the Madrid train bombing based on a bungled fingerprint match by FBI incompetents, has been awarded a $2 million civil settlement.

8. Roger Rabbit spews:

“Wrongly accused man settles bomb suit

“By ANNE M. PETERSON
“Associated Press Writer

“PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A lawyer the FBI wrongly arrested after the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings because of a misidentified fingerprint has settled part of his lawsuit against the U.S. government for $2 million.

“Brandon Mayfield, who said he was detained for two weeks in 2004, maintained that he was arrested because of his Muslim faith. ‘ … [T]he U.S. government … targeted me and my family because of our Muslim religion,’ he said in a news release Wednesday.

“The … Justice Department … said the FBI has … adopted suggestions for improving its fingerprint identification process ‘to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield does not happen again.’”

Quoted under Fair Use; for complete story and/or copyright info see http://tinyurl.com/ylphua

Roger Rabbit Commentary: I wonder how much taxpayers will have to shell out to the thousands of other innocent victims of the Bush administration’s illegal detention and torture policies? We should take it out of his pay; hell, we should take it out of his government pension, and sue for reimbursement from his personal assets!

9. Manof Truth spews:

Please please please choose Newt as your presidential candidate! We would LOVE to run against Newt! Roger Rabbit@5

Oh yea, baby !

We can only hope they are that stupid and set up the table for progressives to run said table. Please do this, oh please, please, please.

10. My Left Foot spews:

Goldy,

I thought it was just me. I retained what I read just long enough to get to the final, used my intuitive sense and, indeed, looked at the tests as puzzle.

I am normal. (have fun with that wingnuts)

11. Roger Rabbit spews:

How Wingnuts Want to Spend Your Transportation Taxes

HOW WINGNUTS WOULD SPEND YOUR TRANSPORTATION TAX DOLLARS

Sucky Politics contributer Jim Miller doesn’t like the fact Senator Murray is bringing federal transportation money into our community to help pay for Sound Transit’s light rail project:

“It would be better to take the money and throw it out of airplanes …. It would even be better to take the money and burn it.” Posted by Jim Miller at November 28, 2006 02:57 PM

http://www.soundpolitics.com/

12. Libertarian spews:

My view is that … we will adopt rules of engagement that we use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech ….
Newt Gingrich

=============

That’s gonna go over like a turd in the punchbowl!

13. Roger Rabbit spews:

12 What do you expect from a Turd warlord of the Turdblossom Party?

14. Roger Rabbit spews:

9 Yes, they’re that stupid … trust me, they are!

Exhibit A: Iraq “mission accomplished”
Exhibit B: “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie!”
Exhibit C: 2006 election results
Exhibit D: Katherine Harris Senate campaign
Exhibit E: Roadkill McGavick Senate campaign
Exhibit F: Motherbeater Irons campaign
Exhibit G: Low Tax Looper campaign
Exhibit H: Challenging the voter registrations of soldiers serving in Iraq

… ad nauseum. Yes, our GOP-terrorist friends have what it takes to choose as their standard bearer the guy who said politics should be waged like “civil war” with all the “savagery that is only true of civil wars.” He has served his party’s opponents well, and hopefully will continue to ably serve the cause of discrediting conservatives.

15. Roger Rabbit spews:

I can see it now … the GOP running on a platform of repealing the First Amendment! That should get the Democratic candidate every newspaper endorsement in the country! Even Frank Blethen couldn’t stomach that.

16. afrow29 spews:

Goldy,
How old are you? Did you ever thake the WASAL in High School?
Here are my quick thoughts:
1-it is not that hard
2-it is diffrent that other standardized tests in that is required critical thinking and writting.
3-Students should know basic math when graduating High School, if teachers are having to ‘teach to the test’ for basic math skills (I/E factors) then these failing scores are indicative of a much larger problem in our schools.

17. Roger Rabbit spews:

Stock market’s up 91 points as Wall Street continues to celebrate the end of GOP incompetence and corruption!

18. Goldy spews:

afrow29 @16,

How old are you? Did you ever thake the WASAL in High School?

Hmm. If you read my post and use your critical thinking skills, you should be able to answer your own question. Think of it as a puzzle.

19. Roger Rabbit spews:

16 You didn’t take the WASL, did you?

20. skagit spews:

I liked your question afro . . . if he’d had to take the WASL, he probably wouldn’t think he’s so smart.

It does ask for the thinking behind the answer. Some people see that as the problem . . . it may actually reward good bs answers (in which case you would do well, Goldy) than accurate answers.

One teacher I talked to thinks the WASL should actually only be used with those kids in a college prep track . . . I don’t think we’re ever going to get 100% of our children to actually be good thinkers or good bs’ers. As Goldy so well personifies, good bs’ing is a writing aptitude.

21. skagit spews:

Roger, don’t be Goldy dittohead. I expected better of you.

22. G Davis spews:

Ah, the WASL…

An amazing waste of time in my ever so humble opinion…when I tutored middle school kids who were inexplicably failing mid level math, I found myself trying to teach them base 9 math when they didn’t even know what a number line was…

Teach the subject, not the test…my darling daughter who’s mastering college at the moment still doesn’t know her multiplication tables…

23. skagit spews:

G Davis . . . why were teaching base 9 math in a base 10 numbering system?

24. harry tuttle spews:

The idea of WASL (or any other state “standard” test) is a pile of crap.

There may be a reason to go back to basics in math and other subjects, but testing as a basis of progression through school is nuts.

There are lots of reasons that kids won’t tow the mark in school and none of them are predictors of what they will do in college or beyond.

The kids who will do well on tests during high school are pretty predictable. What is a mystery is which of them will fuck up just to be recalcitrant.

If what is needed is a bunch of automatons that do what they are told, the WASL is a great idea.

If a structure of providing inspiration to smart kids who must rebel is desired, the WASL will engender more rebellion.

25. skagit spews:

To Harry Tuttle (whose opinion I usually respect):
Well, nice observation. But, what’s the proof? What are you saying here? And do you want kids to be successful and what do you think they are going to be successful at?

Goldy’s a pretty good example of smart American kids who have never learned to work hard. Oh, he works at what he likes. But, I don’t know what that’s gotten him. And even if he is happy with his uneventful lot, how many political bloggers does this country need?

I see us becoming third world . . . maybe I’m wrong. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

26. Roger Rabbit spews:

I see that Skagit is ice-bound today. He can’t get his ass unstuck from the sidewalk after falling on his tush.

27. ArtFart spews:

I went to Seattle Public Schools in the 50′s/60′s. At that time we took standardized “achievement tests” every year. They made me feel pretty good, because it seemed I always did pretty well.

I’m a little like Goldy…I have ADHD, and sometimes had trouble paying attention in class. Nonethess I got good grades, getting better through junior high/high school, and did well enough on the SAT and the MIT entrance exam to qualify for admission. (After that, my parents decided not to let me go. That’s a whole other story.)

A couple years after my high school graduation, there was a great scandal about the tests. It had always seemed that the kids in Seattle as a group always came out in the high percentile range, and the school officials were able to congratulate themselves on what a great job they did, and continue paying the testing company big bucks for more tests the following year.

Well, it seems that a bunch of the school systems that used these tests (they were VERY popular, nationwide) got together and discovered that ALL of them were coming out with high rankings. In fact, NO school system was coming out with low percentiles! Seems the company selling the tests was faking percentile scores.

That left everyone wondering if anyone was really learning anything…presumably we were, because most of us seem to have pretty well survived in the real world. Of course, no officials entertained for an instant the tiniest possibility that our teachers actually knew what they were doing.

There began, I suspect, a great quest, here and elsewhere, for some “new metric” of how well the system was working, and such things as “No Child Left Without a Kick in the Behind” and the WASL are what this has yielded so far.

28. Roger Rabbit spews:

I’m not a programmer or software developer, so I have only a vague idea of how much schooling it takes to prepare someone for a programming or software developer career in our economy, which (a) is unable to absorb all of the people with programming and software developing skills, and (b) is shipping the programming and software development jobs that do exist overseas as fast as possible. Poooof! goes all the money invested in computer educations. So Goldy is parlaying his not inconsiderable skill set into a radio career, which is at least as useful to society as, say, a career playing football or basketball — it simply doesn’t pay as well.

So what do YOU do for a living? Push meaningless pieces of paper in meaningless circles in a meaningless office? I’m a lawyer … all I do is take money out of one undeserving pocket and put it into another undeserving pocket, and the only point of the exercise is taking a percentage off the top. Perhaps you have a more meaningful existence than the rest of us? Will you share?

29. Roger Rabbit spews:

27 ” … most of us seem to have pretty well survived in the real world …” 11/29/2006 at 2:08 pm

I’m not so sure about that, considering who’s gotten elected until recently. A lot of folks in Kansas and elsewhere didn’t seem to have a very good grip.

30. Roger Rabbit spews:

One thing’s for sure — anyone who thinks Roger Rabbit is a dittohead for Goldy is suffering from intellectual underdevelopment.

31. Roger Rabbit spews:

Roger Rabbit doesn’t suck up to anyone! It’s the other way around. I’m the King of the Rabbits, and all the rabbits suck up to me! Wingnuts are invited to suck my rabbit dick! For a good time, call 1-800-LICK-ROG.

32. Roger Rabbit spews:

After humans destroy themselves, rabbits will run this place, and I’ll be their king!

33. Libertarian spews:

Lawyers taking money from one undeserving pocket and putting it into another undeserving pocket. That pretty much describes it, Roger. Thanks.

34. Mark The RedNeck is My Bitch spews:

OPEN LETTER:

Dear LSoS, (Mark the Red Nekkid Asshole)

Where are you? I am guessing your ass is still stinging from that whoopin’ Goldy gave you yesterday.

It would be best if you did not come around anymore. You will just be reminded to pay the debt and otherwise ignored.

WASL, in your case LSoS, stands for: Welching Asshole Spewing Lies

Funny how that works.

35. Roger Rabbit spews:

Goldy — how about metered posting? Redneck (and only Redneck) has to put in a quarter for each post until his gambling debt is paid in full.

36. Roger Rabbit spews:

Given Redneck’s penchant for nonpayment, we’ll be rid of him for good.

37. skagit spews:

Rabbit, you’ve pretty well nailed it about lawyers. You all deal in BS and take money for it. Wonder why Goldy didn’t follow that lucrative route?

Maybe we take education too seriously? Those of us with aptitudes we can meaningfully measure and build upon will make it. The rest will inhabit prisons, shelters and automobiles. And we’ll continue to pay for them. When do you think the bill will become so high that even the lawyers among us won’t be able to meet the payment?

38. Roger Rabbit spews:

Re Redneck: If you see a surveillance video on TV news of a Hummer driver leaving a gas station without paying, call the police.

39. proud leftist spews:

RR @ 28 and Libertarian @ 33
“Lawyers take money from one undeserving pocket and put it into another undeserving pocket.”
I dissent. Perhaps from some metaphysical perspective, all of us deserve the same–none more nor less than another. I don’t think, however, that here in the everyday, real world we believe that. We have conceptions of justice, which sometimes require us to hold some individuals or entities accountable for the damages caused to others. The rule of law would mean nothing without such a notion. Lawyers are necessary to the functioning of our justice system, and characterizing their role in that system as simply one of moving assets from one entity to another with no value attached to such transfer is a bit unfair, I would submit.

40. Roger Rabbit spews:

37 skagit says: Maybe we take education too seriously?11/29/2006 at 3:03 pm

We put our best and brightest through 19 years of education to make them into lawyers. Does that answer your question?

41. Roger Rabbit spews:

39

I used to be idealistic like you. There’s nothing wrong with idealism. It’s the system that’s broken. Here’s how the system works.

Step 1: Corporate crooks rip off their shareholders to the tune of $1 billion.

Step 2: A law firm specializing in shareholder suits files a class action lawsuit against the corporation.

Step 3: The corporation’s lawyers settle with the shareholders’ lawyers for $100 million.

Step 4: The settlement is paid from corporate assets, not by the crooked executives who ripped off the shareholders, so now the shareholders are being paid with their own money.

Step 5: Except the shareholders don’t get the money. The shareholders’ lawyers take 40%, leaving only $60 million for the shareholders.

Step 6: Each shareholder gets roughly $10 for each $5,000 he lost on the company’s stock.

Step 7: The shareholders’ lawyers get $40 million.

Now who does this system serve, the lawyers who get $40 million, or the shareholders who get $10?

42. Don Joe spews:

RR,

The answer is, the corporate crooks who got away with $1 billion.

43. Roger Rabbit spews:

When I get a notification of a shareholder suit, I don’t bother to fill out the paperwork. You wait 2 years for a settlement check that doesn’t even pay for what you spent on postage stamps. Theoretically, shareholder suits deter corporate misconduct. Doesn’t look to me like they deter much of anything, options backdating being merely the latest of an unending train of schemes to steal from shareholders. The lawyers are accomplishing nothing except enriching themselves. I say forget the lawyers and convene firing squads. That might cut down on recidivism.

44. skagit spews:

Best and brightest . . . satire again, Rabbit?

45. skagit spews:

What is it about people that they continue to be what they hate? Oh, I know . . . money. Seems like that money hasn’t bought you much of a life.

46. proud leftist spews:

RR @ 41
For the most part, I too have shed my youthful idealism. That does not mean, however, that utter cynicism must reign. I still think our legal system is capable, with the assistance of lawyers, of producing good. Flaws in the system are, of course, quite apparent, and you’ve identified a glaring flaw. Shareholder class-action suits do not produce much by way of value to those who are most deserving of recompense–the shareholders. The prospect of a shareholder suit does have some deterrent value with regard to corporate wrongdoing. Otherwise, such suits do little to balance the old scales of justice. I would say, though, that shareholder class-action litigation is a rather small facet of our legal system. Most lawyers in the trenches, who represent real people, act to serve values beyond simply enriching themselves.

47. Libertarian spews:

It’s too bad Ken Lay died. I was hoping he would do some serious time in the slammer before he went to his final “reward.” I have absolutely no sympathy for the guy or any of the other Enron crooks. I hope they all rot in jail.

48. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

skagit@6 says: Nice set of sarcastic assertions. Now, what’s your solution, Mr. Genius. 11/29/2006 at 12:05 pm

Since all of the comments above libtard skagit were from prime time Michael Richards Moonbat!s, what is the solution Furball ATJ, & Goldy?

Perfectly said skagit! Thanks and Keep On Trucking!

49. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Somehow is “such a blue state” Darcy and Peter did “so well”!

50. righton spews:

Goldy, ever the egomaniac

By going out of your way to note your smartness, you hightlight your insecurity….

(as to the topic, might as well budget more social welfare dollars for all the future out of work uneducated. I guess you could tax imports from India and China to pay these Americans unprepared to compete, or just tax all immigrants from Indai and china who will come here and outperform our home bred morons…

51. Thomas Trainwinder spews:

Interesting how you quote Riley from Bellevue.

Bellevue is the *only* district in the area with math WASL scores going down! If it’s really the test, how come all the other districts around here are going up?

52. Don Joe spews:

Hey, LSoS, since this thread is about the WASL, your assignment for the day is to compare and contrast the words “corroborate,” “substantiate” and “authenticate”.

53. Don Joe spews:

By the way, LSoS, I recall that you’ve never answered a number of non-rhetorical questions that I’ve asked you. What’s the matter? Do questions hurt the wingnut mind?

54. skagit spews:

To Trainwinder at 50:

Riley got the TIMSS people in to test the math in Bellevue and he said his scores were commensurate internationally. So, what’s your documentation that Bellevue’s scores are going down?

My curiosity is genuine. Riley is sort of a hero to Seattle principles because he dictated that his District would do TERC math and he stands by it.

Is this another big lie?

55. RightEqualsStupid spews:

Hey righties – it’s official – we just took the PA state house away from you. Man that must hurt! HE HE!

56. skagit spews:

To Dalton at 1:

Nobody answered your question . . . I think kids can opt out of the WASL if parents object in writing. So it is optional to that extent. (Unless it has changed recently.)

57. Janet S spews:

Bellevue scores aren’t “going down”. They vary from year to year. That would indicate that the test really isn’t a reliable measure of what is going on in the district. Same curriculum, same teachers, new class – scores that are really quite different. Is it the WASL or the curriculum?

There is a serious discussion about math going on in Bellevue. Many parents are not happy with the current curriculum, and the district is actively looking at it. At least Riley is looking at it from a world standard view point, not from what will make everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

The basic assumption in Bellevue is that if you have high expectations, the students will live up to them. So far that has worked better than Seattle’s philosophy.

58. John E. spews:

As a student who has taken (and passed) the WASL, my explanation for the decline in scores would be that no one cares. The SAT is essential for getting into college, and that is motivation for the slackers among us. When I took it, fellow students would brag about writing essays in haiku form, answering story problems in story form…etc. Even if you fail, you are given unlimited retakes, so there is no incentive to do well the first time. Parents care about the SAT, and don’t give a rip about the WASL. And, from what I’ve seen of Gregoire’s resolve I doubt that a pass will be required for graduation in a few years.

59. skagit spews:

Janet at 56:

Mike has already done a lot of work with math. I’m wondering where you’ve been . . . do you have kids in school?

The group “Where’s the Math” that has formed of Bellevue/Seattle parents do not like Mike’s math curriculum.

He says his curriculum is making Bellevue students commensurate internationally. This other group is disagreeing. So, who’s right?

60. proud leftist spews:

John E.,
Excellent piece of analysis, which actually draws from experience, rather than purely from ideology or rank speculation.

61. skagit spews:

John E at 57: How can we motivate more math and science competence in American kids? That is the question. Much or our college population in these areas are foreign kids. Shall we just accept that Americans aren’t going to have a presence in the areas of science and math and that other countries will take the lead?

Where does that leave us and what is our future as a major power?

62. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

“How can we motivate more math and science competence in American kids?”

That’s a good question. A while back, I was involved in the PACE program at Wellington, and assisted with Math in the 5/6 grade class (in fact, I think they’re still using the parent’s handbook I wrote back then). The class would do some interesting projects that wove math and science into them.

For example, for one project, the students had to construct a hot-air balloon out of 6 sheets of flame-retardant tissue paper. The essence of the project was to find a shape that had a relatively high volume to surface area ratio, but that you could still construct from cutting out various combinations of shapes from flat pieces of paper.

For another project, the students had to construct a board game, and part of that project involved computing the probabilities associated with various squares on the board.

The vast majority of the students in that class tested out at level 12.5 in the STAR Math test.

I’m not an educator, so I’ve shied away from stepping into this debate. But, it seems to me that all the talk of methods and standardized tests seems to avoid the central question, which is having teachers who are “engaged” (for lack of a better word) with the subject and the students.

That same school where I used to assist received the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Award this year, and I had a chance to chat with the teacher who went to receive the award. He said that he’d had a chance to chat with the other recipients, and that the common thread for all of these schools was a combination of nurturing and caring.

Again, I’m not an educator, but I find merit in Dr. Dwight Allen’s idea of a wide variety of experimental schools where tests are used to measure progress as opposed to creating some arbitrary standard. Thoughts?

63. John E. spews:

skagit 60: Math and science are no longer cool. Making a fortune as a Doctor is preferable to making a discovery in a lab. I think it all comes down to the pursuit of the paycheck. The only solution I can think of is to make math and science more interesting. My classes seemed very esoteric and had no relation to my life. But, actually accomplishing that is a whole other matter. And, barring any major changes we’ll have to reconcile ourselves to foreign domination of math and science, because in those cultures, those subjects are prized above all.

64. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Prince Moonbat! Don Joe demanded: Hey, LSoS, since this thread is about the WASL, your assignment for the day is to compare and contrast the ords “corroborate,” “substantiate” and “authenticate”. 11/29/2006 at 4:40 pm

When did Moonbat!s follow a thread? Furball doesn’t. NeverRightStillStupid doesn’t. AlwaysTheJerk doesn’t. So Kiss My Ass!

65. Don Joe spews:

LSoS, why would you declare me “Prince”?

By the way, your refusal to compare and contrast those particular words goes a long way to explaining why you latch on to all manner of uncorroborated, unsubstantiated and unauthenticated “facts” with nary a criticial thought, just so long as said “fact” can be remotely construed, through various forms of twisted logic, to support some conclusion that comforms with your pre-conceived ideology. You’ve been pegged, sport, and the best comeback you have is to invoke “libtard” and “STOOOOOPID”. Where your mind is concerned, questions really do hurt the wingnut mind.

66. headless lucy spews:

What does pi R squared equal?

67. skagit spews:

John E at 62: I guess you answered the question in your last sentence: “. . . in those cultures, those subjects are prized above all. . .”

Why are they prized and by whom? Parent influence and societal demand that children be educated at something they can use? Because those areas demand higher recompense? Because collectively they still have something to prove just like we did in the 60s in our race to the moon against the Soviet Union? Societal pride?

Children don’t prize education themselves . . . somebody has to model valuing education. Somebody has to demand excellence.

Maybe we just have too many television sets! How many kids in Asia and Europe have tv sets in their bedrooms? Just a thought . . .

68. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Don Joe Moonbat!: Nothing you type can be substantiated. My URL’s are easily substantiated. Since I post my URLs anybody can authenticate the post. Your’s is bullshit, so why waste time to corroborate it?

69. Don Joe spews:

LSoS,

You just corroborated my claim. Thank you.

70. Don Joe spews:

Lucy,

Pie aren’t square. Pie are round. Cake are square.

71. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Don Joe the Moonbat!: Apparently you need remedial assitance in definition.

Adj. 1. substantiated – supported or established by evidence or proof; “the substantiated charges”; “a verified case” – May I present URLs!

Adj. 1. corroborated – supported or established by evidence or proof; “the substantiated charges”; “a verified case”

Adj. 1. authenticated – established as genuine

I rest my case. Or as AlwaysTheJerk loves to slam Puddy with: You are dismissed with prejudice!

Too bad facts hurt the libtard mind.

72. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Lucy: Too bad Don Joe The Moonbat! can’t think out of the box!

73. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Maybe the reason Bellevue students are performing miserably on the WASL is due to the supposed migration of Moonbat!s from Seattle’s “great school system” to Bellevue per the Michael Richards Moonbat!s that post here. Remember this mass migration was the cause celebre for Darcy to win November 7th.

74. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Don Joe the Moonbat!: I’m waiting!

STUUUUUUUUUPIIIIIIIIIIID Moonbat!

75. Don Joe spews:

LSoS,

“Don Joe the Moonbat!: Apparently you need remedial assitance in definition.”

No, but you clearly need remedial assistance in understanding what “compare and contrast” means. Hint: it requires more than just looking words up in a dictionary.

But, congratulations. You’ve flunked the DJAWCT. Again. No matter. You can retake it as many times as you’d like.

76. skagit spews:

Don Joe at 61:

The hardest questions take the longest response time!

I’m not sure either. Do you remember the film “Stand and Delivery?” It was the story of Jaime Escalante who quit his engineering job to teach a high school calculus class to middle-to-low-income Hispanic kids. It was really eye-opening. When I most think it is a futile endeavor, I think of Escalante.

It is a complex answer. We do need teachers – especially in the middle and upper grades who can do what he did. Not come into the profession expecting to bestow the wonder of what they know on kids; but, come into the profession expecting to learn with the kids. It sounds like your projects were the hands-on “let’s find out together” what happens when . . . or the problem-solving project in which anything goes as long as it is an earnest try. I like that.

But, if you have big classes . . .that kind of learning doesn’t work because some kids get lost in the mix and those ambitious and confident souls get to do the work while the reticent ones follow along.

That kind of teach should be happening all the way up so that kids don’t get to a great teacher with a great teaching style and try to hide.

Also, we need really good teachers who love to learn themselves. Not who think they already know everything but who are curious themselves.

And high expectations . . . and patience, persistance and practice.

So many things involved in good teaching. Including having a society that values education. I honestly think it has to start there.

Testing? We pay so many people to sit and analyze (anal-ize) how we can better assess, assess, assess. To what end? I think the assessment part is oversold because I think that’s what is easiest to do in teaching: sit around and try to think of ways to test kids. People get paid a lot more to sit in offices and find ways to judge other people! And administratioin grows and grows and grows . . . sucking money from the people who do the job. But, I also agree we need better teachers!

I am for vouchers and charter schools.

77. Janet S spews:

Skagit – the discussion in Bellevue is ongoing. I’ve had children in the district for over 14 years, so, yes, I am very well aware of what is being talked about.

I appreciate what “Where’s the Math” group is coming from. They want a more fundamental, mechanical approach to math. Computation is first. The other side, the “new math” is based on comprehension. The example given by Don Joe is an excellent example of this at its best.

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Riley’s view is that you need both. One revision at the elementary level is to set two or three well defined benchmarks for each grade level. Currently, there is a kind of spiral view – lots of concepts are taught at each grade, relying on the repetition from year to year to reinforce the skill. This hasn’t worked, students never really get it. (Someone mentioned that their college daughter didn’t know her times tables.) Now they will cover topics in depth at a grade, and make sure the students comprehend it.

I’m not sure where you all are, that you see disinterest in math and science. In Bellevue, over 75% of graduating seniors have had four years of math, and three years of science. The district will make these requirements within the next couple of years. Academics are first and foremost in the schools. Discipline is not a big issue, and graduation rates are the highest in the state. At Newport, college attendance is around 98%.

78. Don Joe spews:

LSoS says, “Don Joe the Moonbat!: I’m waiting!”

Good. Now, start holding your breath.

PS, how do you keep an idiot in suspense?

79. skagit spews:

Janet,
Are you saying that you like Riley’s math adaoption (Investigations) and are not in the skills-based group of Renner, Maas(?) and others?

80. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

First, yes, Stand and Deliver is a great movie. My daughter and I often joke with each other about that particular pronunciation of “Calculus”.

You asked,

Testing? We pay so many people to sit and analyze (anal-ize) how we can better assess, assess, assess. To what end? I think the assessment part is oversold because I think that’s what is easiest to do in teaching: sit around and try to think of ways to test kids.

I think the issue with testing isn’t so much about the tests themselves as it is about the motivation behind the tests, and I think No Child Left Behind and the WASL have it bass ackwards.

First, I think we should test to measure progress, not achievement of some arbitrary standard.

Second, I don’t think we should test in order to evaluate people or individual schools. I think tests should be used to evaluate different methodologies. That does, however, mean that we have to bring elements of social science into the mix, because you can’t recreate exact learning circumstances.

I mentioned Dr. Dwight Allen. Are you familiar with his work? He’s probably best known for co-authoring American Schools with Bill Cosby, but he’s been pressing the concept of experimental schools with different methodologies and leaders who are willing to take risks for quite some time. Dr. Allen’s web site is: http://www.odu.edu/educ/dwallen/.

81. Janet S spews:

More info on Bellevue results:
Students who complete at least pre-calc in high school have very high success rates in college. Pre-calc is the fourth year of the Bellevue curriculum, so over 75% of our students are achieving this level. A high percentage take AP Calc and AP Stats. This is across all of our high schools, not just the “rich” ones.

Parents in Bellevue are very demanding. We could have all students get perfect SAT scores, and there would still be complaints that the schools aren’t doing enough. I’ve talked to a lot of students who have gone to tier one and two colleges, and they frankly find them a bit easier and less demanding than high school. The students complain about the constant emphasis on grades, but that’s what they are supposed to do. After all, they are teenagers.

82. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

I’ve tried to post two comments in response to your remarks at 78, and the system has eaten both of them. It’s possible that the comments are being held in pergatory for Goldy’s review, but I’ll give this one more shot (without the URL that seems to trigger the software gate-keeper).

I think the issue with testing is more about the motive behind the testing than it is with the issue of testing itself. After all, as a teacher, you test and quiz your students all the time, no? Two thoughts:

First, I think No Child Left Behind and the current use of the WASL is bass ackwards. Tests should be uses to assess progress, not the extent to which students have met some arbitrary standard. (The phrase “arbitrary standard” is arguably redundant: is there such a thing as a standard that isn’t arbitrary?)

Second, I think tests should be used to assess methods, not people. Student tests ought not be used to beat teachers or administrators over the head, because it’s simply counter-productive. There are other ways to objectively assess individual teacher performance, and those are actually better ways of assessing teachers than comparing test scores over a changing student population.

I mentioned Dr. Dwigth Allen. Are you familiar with his work?

83. Janet S spews:

Skagit – what I’m saying is that Riley isn’t tied to Investigations, although that is what is being used currently. He is constantly looking at how to improve the curriculum and is very open to new ideas. He knows that parents are very unhappy with the discovery method of math, that if you just let students be free, they will discover how to do long division. This methodology works as a part of the curriculum, but is being put aside as the primary focus.

84. skagit spews:

Janet, a lot of principles in Seattle cite Mike’s enthusiasm for Investigations as the reason we should be on board. You are saying Mike is always looking . . . I think “always looking” is actually a mistake. Find something that works and stick with it. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But, constant change has been part of the problem.

Why are parents very unhappy with Investigations if they are working? I’m a little confused by your answer. Is Mike backtracking? Is he now disappointed in the Investigations program?

85. Janet S spews:

Actually, what seems to prepare students the best for college is to be in a math class every year. The curriculum is important, but just being in class is more important. That’s why the district is going to require four years of math to graduate. I think that is at least two more years than is required in Seattle. Just being there is most of the battle.

The parents I have talked to who are frustrated with Investigations is that it is a little long on student discovery and a little short on teacher instruction. Yes, if a student has to explain a concept to a fellow student, it reinforces the learning, and assures real understanding. The problem happens when the student doesn’t get it, and doesn’t have good instructional foundation for the concept. Then homework just becomes an exercise in frustration rather than a reinforcing act.

We don’t have constant change. We have a system of trial, feedback, and adjustment. With luck, you keep what works and get rid of that which doesn’t. Riley listens to parents and is active in the national discussion. If you aren’t willing to try new things, what is the point in talking about it?

If you go to the Bellevue web site, you can see what the district is doing. The recent grant from the Gates Foundation will be used on beefing up the website. The goal is to have all curriculum on the site. If a student misses a day, or wants to hear the class again, it will be there, including what is written on the board and discussed. This will be open to anyone on the internet.

86. skagit spews:

Don Joe . . .
My comments about assessment just reflect my view that we putting too much emphasis on assessment. I know it is current academic thinking that more assessment is better and that assessment informs teaching. Honestly, I’m out on a limb here, but I don’t believe it.

Nor do I think standards are really arbitrary. I think you can look at child development and rather realistically determine achievement standards.

So, you’re saying, if you have standards, don’t you need assessment? Of course. But we are spending way too much time, effort and money on that part of it. We are supplying jobs for PhDs and out-of-the-classroom teachers constantly trying to increase/improve assessments. I’m sort of global in my own learning style. If you provide a rich educational experience for every child, that child will learn/progress. It is a given. Let’s get back to emphasizing the learning experience and away from the focus on testing. All testing does is divide the successes from the failures and for what purpose? I can tell you place more value on testing than I do . . . quizes, end-of-unit tests, end-of-year tests, get-out-of-high-school tests. At the end of the unit, if a child has not learned the content, what are you going to do? And do you expect that every student is going to succeed at everything? We want that; but, pragmatically speaking, it probably won’t happen.

Maybe I have a pollyanna’sh perspective, but I think we should just try to engage every child and the rest will follow.

Having said that, of course, teachers need to do/be all the other stuff I said. And of course we have to have a more-or-less objective means of evaluating teachers. But, a teacher who teaches in a upper-middle class community is going to have and show greater achievement than one in an inner-city poor neighborhood. Yes, I think you can measure progress and should. But that inner-city teacher needs a lot of support for kids who start out with such deficiencies.

Regarding Dwight Allen: no, I hadn’t heard of him. But, I did look him up on the internet and I will go further and read his work. Esp. since he went to China and taught them how to educate kids! Aren’t we looking at China for a lesson in education ourselves. Kind of a laugh here. Reminds me of Charles Deming who went to Japan and taught them business management. Then American companies started paying attention to his work based on the Japanese model! I don’t think his model is still in place, however.

I don’t think I will have convinced you of much . . . it is just that the process of education can be over-analyzed. Kids learn differently and come with different skills and abilities. Get teachers who are highly skilled in their areas of expertise, teach them how to engage kids not just teach to kids, and increase the amount of time kids are in school. Then, create a national curriculum which should take the politics out of education. Demand effort and achievement. Kids who won’t make the effort should not be kept. Let them get their minimum wage jobs.

You might look at the last thread two “schools” commentaries that Goldy posted. David Wright put some interesting ideas out there.

I think I’m just getting tired of so many people second-guessing educators and trying to fix education. Some of it is common sense and thinking out of the box. Some of it is that we are trying to serve too many masters and mediocrity is the result. Some of it is the commercialism that we are having to deal with. And, of course, a general apathy by many Americans about everything but money, video games and Ipods. Am I sounding a bit cynical here?

87. headless lucy spews:

“OUR MISSION IS TO PROVIDE EVERY STUDENT WITH A TOP-OF-THE LINE COLLEGE PREPARATORY EDUCATION”

This is the motto of the Bellevue School District. It is totally unrealistic and demonstrably false. Additionally the , “…Top o’ the-line “ part sounds like a salesman in a checkered suit.

When I applied there they asked me : “How would you go about implementing our slogan?” I then asked my interviewer if the slogan applied to severely autistic children. They had no answer except to say they’d be in touch.

You can’t build a great school system with an idiotic slogan that no one can believe. No wonder they are failing. No amount of money can reverse the bad effects of dishonesty and Sinclairian Boosterism.

88. headless lucy spews:

LOVE AND JOY COME TO YOU AND TO YOU YOUR WASL, TOO….

HEH………………

89. skagit spews:

Janet, just a final reply because you’ve explained it well:

I’ve been to the Bellevue website. In fact, I printed much of it off to give to my school. That was about a year ago. So, I’m very aware of the quality of Mike’s work on communicating with parents.

I agree also on the “discovery” method not actually working for all kids. Kind of like the whole language/phonics debate, direct teaching along with discovery is probably the best. I think that is what is meant by “integrated” math in Asian curriculums.

As for Riley listening to parents, well that may be okay. Too many cooks spoil the broth and too masters produce mediocrity. You’ve got a good super in Mike Riley and I hear from your comments you think so too. I admire him as well. Your comment about trying new things tells me you don’t teach. Consistency is crucial. New ideas? Of course. But within reason and only if very provocative.

90. headless lucy spews:

“A Halliburton subsidiary agreed to pay the government $8 million to resolve accusations of overbilling related to the firm’s work for the Army in the Balkans, the Justice Department said yesterday.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/29/AR2006112901305.html

91. skagit spews:

LUCY: I actually agree with you. I’m considered something of an idealist in my own community. But, pragmatism soon rears its ugly head when confronting the job of educators. And people who honor the politics of educating over the nitty gritty realities of educating children will continue to be thorns in the side of progress.

92. skagit spews:

And Lucy, I’ll bet all those Halliburton chiefs graduated from fine upstanding colleges and had the best of educations. But they still can’t add and subtract. Funny, isn’t it?

93. headless lucy spews:

Confirming the obvious …
“Anyone who’s spent any time reading right wing blogs already understood this to be true:
Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.
Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.”

http://thismodernworld.com/3359

94. Janet S spews:

Skagit – I agree with your ideas on assessments. One change that was made this year is if a lot of students don’t do well on a test or quiz, the teacher goes back and spends more time on the subject rather than move on according to schedule. If a student is obviously not getting it, he/she is encouraged (strongly) to go to tutorial (offered every day, and extended times twice a week). There is even some retesting for those students who work at getting it the second time. The emphasis is on comprehension, not on completing a set amount of curriculum.

This will have it critics, since it means those who get it will have to listen to it again. And parents will complain about those who are given a second chance. Like I said, the parents in Bellevue are a competitive group.

You are right, I don’t teach. I also don’t tell teachers what to do. I listen a lot, and ask for help when needed. I also volunteer lots, figuring that’s what I can offer.

95. klake spews:

Roger Rabbit says:
After humans destroy themselves, rabbits will run this place, and I’ll be their king!
11/29/2006 at 2:20 pm

Funny little Thumper you miss that one by a mile, you would have to be a cockroach in order to be a king.

96. Janet S spews:

Headless – I’m am quite thrilled to hear that Bellevue rejected you! Why are you so intent on denying low income students the opportunity to go to college?

I assume you know that Newport as a program for children with Asperger’s, a form of autism. The students take as many regular classes as they can, and are held to the same standards and expectations as all other students. Reports are that they are thriving, and that everyone is better for the experience. Good thing you weren’t around to spread your negative views.

97. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

First, a slight correction. The management expert who went to Japan was W. Edwards Deming. Back in college, I spent some time studying various management materials just trying to get a different view of the Economics I was studying. Deming was one, and Peter F. Drucker was the other, of the management consultants who drove the whole “quality” focus that Tom Peters has since championed. But, that’s a bit off topic.

Second, I think you misunderstand me, and I think that’s because I wasn’t clear. When you say that you’re tired of second-guessing educators, I’m entirely in agreement with you. That’s a job for administrators, not parents and/or politicians. That’s what I meant when I said test results should not be used to beat educators over the head.

Having said that, I feel compelled to add my daughter’s story to this mix, but I’m not in any position to say what this means for the status of education. So, I offer it as a single data point.

I live in the Northshore School District. As I mentioned above, Wellington was one of 250 nationally recognized Blue Ribbon Schools. Leota Jr. High, in terms of overall test scores, consistently outperforms the district, and the district, as a whole, substantially outperforms the state. By any objective measure you’d want to contrive, these are two of the best schools in one of the very best districts in the state.

Through her years at Wellington, my daughter did fairly well. She came out of Wellington with a desire to learn, and had done well enough to be elligible for the honors program in Math. In two years at Leota, she barely managed to squeak by with a C grade point average.

This despite the fact that she’s a very brilliant young lady. As an example, if you inscribe a triangle within a circle with the diameter of the circle as one side of the triangle, she can prove to you that, no matter where you locate the third vertex of the triangle, the inscribed triangle is always a right triangle. She does geometric proofs like this as a passtime.

She’s now in her second year (sophomore) at a private school in Canada. Why Canada? Well, this particular school has 150 students from 27 different countries. That alone, aside from stringent academic standards, represents an educational opportunity not available anywhere else in North America.

On her last two report cards, she missed straight A grades by a few percentage points in Social Studies, where she got a B. She’s made the honor roll every semester save her first, which is understandable given that it was her first as a residential student at a boarding school, and has been accumulating quite a few citizenship awards along the way.

So, the question is, how does a student that bright do so poorly in what is arguably one of the best middle schools this state has to offer? What’s the difference between Leota and the other schools where she’s done well?

My answer, which should, by no means be taken as authoritative, is that Leota falls short in the intangible, “caring” department. And, while Wellington is no slouch in terms of providing a nurturing and caring environment, I think her current school could teach the folks at Wellington a thing or two about what it really means to care about the students. As I look at her experience, that’s the one variable that, to me, captures the difference.

I should point out that her current school wouldn’t be considered an “elite” school, at least not in terms of the student population. In fact, a very high percentage of the day students are Native American, what Canadians call “First Nations” people, a fact which is likely due to the international makup of the student body and the openness to other cultures inherent in that diverse a student body.

Think about it. 150 students from 27 different countries. If you’re going to pull that off, you really do have to know what it means to care about your students.

That’s why I bring up Dwight Allen. One of the things he advocates is an experimental approach to education, where we can try a number of different ideas. The thing is, if you’re going to try such an experimental approach, you need to have a means of evaluating and comparing results accross the different experiments. That also means, however, that the testing isn’t done to see if the kids meet some kind of standard. Moreover, it requires that the test results themselves be incorporated into a wider measurement system that includes a number of social science methodologies. You’re trying to evaluate the efficacy of various programs accross different student populations. The testing focus, then, has to be on progress rather than meeting some standard (leaving aside the whole argument about whether such standards are inherently arbitrary).

I don’t know if my daughter’s experience is unique or shared by a variety of similar youth. I’d like to know, but we can’t. Why? Because there really is very little variation among educational systems, and there’s currently no way to account for such variables as “nuturing” and “caring”.

That’s why we have these foundering political debates about education. We really have no clue what works and doesn’t work, and that’s because we’ve never really adopted an experimental approach to education.

I’ve gotten long-winded with this, but there’s probably one other point you want me to address, and that’s what do we do with students who just don’t want to learn? The short answer is that I really don’t know what we’d do with them specifically, but I have a hard time seeing how they would be any worse off if they were incorporated into an experimental system designed to address their particular challenges.

98. klake spews:

Roger Rabbit says:
37 skagit says: Maybe we take education too seriously?11/29/2006 at 3:03 pm
We put our best and brightest through 19 years of education to make them into lawyers. Does that answer your question?
11/29/2006 at 3:05 pm

Roger it appears you didn’t get you money’s worth for your investment. To live a life of scams must not very rewarding or profitable when you look back on it. Now funny little rabbit you can still turn around your life and join Reverent John in saving souls. Hell you can give meaning to headless Lucy life and make her/him happy. Roger give up your med’s and join the Democrat Party and change this Nation. Show the Christians that the Party really loves them and want to make this world happier. Amen funny little bunny.

99. headless lucy spews:

re 95: Comparing Asperger’s to severe autism is like comparing a frostbitten finger with a paraplegic.

Nobody wants to admit that all those degrees on my wall were earned. They weren’t given to me.

Education is a profession, not an avocation. Everyone feels free to consider themselves a valid critic of education, but I’ve invited critics in to speak to my classes, and some have looked out at the class full of curious, critical, intelligent eyes and left without saying a word.

“Where have all the cowboys gone?” Simple, they’re with the cows.

100. klake spews:

skagit says:
John E at 57: How can we motivate more math and science competence in American kids? That is the question. Much or our college population in these areas are foreign kids. Shall we just accept that Americans aren’t going to have a presence in the areas of science and math and that other countries will take the lead?
Where does that leave us and what is our future as a major power?
11/29/2006 at 5:20 pm

Skagit you can start by allowing the boys/men grow at different pace than the girls/women in school. They could be held back at a slower pace to prove women can be better mathematicians than men. Step out of the box what have we change in the past thirty years to make this Nations a failure in science and math? You are smarter than the average cat. What have we introduced into our schools that make them failure for our sociality? Yesterday you had most of the correct answers to the problem. Now what does it take to make those changes and exclude the politics to make it happen?

101. YOS LIB BRO spews:

HEY I GOT A GREAT NAME FOR MWS.

“EL SAUCE”

GET IT? HE HE HE!

IF SOMEBODY ASKS JUST SAY, “‘EL SAUCE’ STANDS FOR LSOS OR ‘LYING SACK OF SHIT’ WHICH IS MWS’ REAL IDENTITY!!!”

102. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Don Joe The Moonbat: Compare and contrast you say. Did you read Post #64? I don’t answer to you. Hence I didn’t your question. I enjoy toying with a simple minded Moonbat! such as you. What a Moonbat!

Don Joe says: Hey, LSoS, since this thread is about the WASL, your assignment for the day is to compare and contrast the words “corroborate,” “substantiate” and “authenticate”. 11/29/2006 at 4:40 pm

Don Joe says: By the way, LSoS, I recall that you’ve never answered a number of non-rhetorical questions that I’ve asked you. What’s the matter? Do questions hurt the wingnut mind? 11/29/2006 at 4:41 pm

Again Moonbat! I don’t answer to you. Keep trying though. When you really wake up, you’ll understand your loss. You are the best. So simple and easy to lead.

103. Mike Webb SUCKS spews:

Don Joe says:

LSoS, “Don Joe the Moonbat!: Apparently you need remedial assitance in definition.”

No, but you clearly need remedial assistance in understanding what “compare and contrast” means. Hint: it requires more than just looking words up in a dictionary.

But, congratulations. You’ve flunked the DJAWCT. Again. No matter. You can retake it as many times as you’d like. 11/29/2006 at 6:37 pm

Didn’t flunk that which I didn’t take. Are you really this dumb or you try to express your lack of intelligence on HaorseAss for all to view? Do let the door hit you in the ass as you leave.

Oh yes… STUUUUUUUUUUUPIIIIIIIIIIIIIID Moonbat!

104. Don Joe spews:

LSoS,

“I don’t answer to you.”

You’re absolutely right. You don’t answer. That’s because questions hurt the wingnut mind.

105. Don Joe spews:

LSoS,

“Didn’t flunk that which I didn’t take.”

You expect to pass a test by not taking it? Questions really do hurt the wingnut mind.

106. Stephen Schwartz spews:

WASL

Goldy’s self description aside, how else would you like to assess the success or failure of the teaching effort?

In my own experience as a professor, I am disturbed by the quality of education most of our kids get .. and NOT only in math, I am skeptical that any of this has anything to do with teaching methods. I suspect that the teachers themselves lack math facility. math is not like history or “science.” You can not teach it from a manual .. you need to understand it.

Moreover, I am NOT talking about higher math. When our kids were in middle school, they had already learned algebra at home. They (quietly) had to take a teacher aside and teach him the simple rules. He did not know algebra but was teaching it!

Part of the problem are inappropriate union work rules that limit the schools’ ability to offer differential pay based on skills, part is a reliance on teacher’s courses on how to teach rather than content, part is a declining standard in our entire society.

107. headless lucy spews:

headless lucy says:

Confirming the obvious …
“Anyone who’s spent any time reading right wing blogs already understood this to be true:
Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.
Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.”

http://thismodernworld.com/335 9

11/29/2006 at 8:37 pm

It bears repeating. You really do have to be crazy to vote for Republicans.

108. headless lucy spews:

Janet S.: Do you understand what it means when a respected Dr. of Sociology says there is a “correlation”?

It means YOU are a flat out crazy.

109. headless lucy spews:

Janet S.: Do you know what pi R squared equals?

110. Janet S spews:

Headless – with every post, I am more convinced Bellevue made the right decision. You are an argument looking for fight. Our schools don’t need that. I’m sorry for the district that has you.

111. Dan Rather spews:

headless lucy says:

…. but I’ve invited critics in to speak to my classes, and some have looked out at the class full of curious, critical, intelligent eyes and left without saying a word.

No wonder public education is FU beyond repair when moonbats like this are teaching. The only way to improve education is to get the government (liberals) out of the classrooms.

112. Don Joe spews:

Dr. Schwartz,

First, go back, and read what I most recently posted about Dwight Allen’s ideas about experimentation. There are better ways to evaluate teacher performance than using student acheivement tests.

Second, got any ideas? Assuming your assessment of the problem is representative (and you should know that anecdotal evidence is rarely representative), what’s the solution to the problem?

113. klake spews:

Goldy and Gang is this one of the reasons Seattle Schools produces failures? I’m not qualified to answer the question I’m a Democrat and hold a Union card.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/294087_will30.html

SEATTLE — This city’s school district decided in 2000 that because the son of Jill Kurfirst and the daughter of Winnie Bachwitz are white, they should be assigned to an inferior and distant high school. If they had not left the Seattle school system, this would have required them to rise at 5 a.m. to leave home by 5:30 a.m., alone and in the dark, to take the first of three buses, returning home between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., with almost no time left for homework, family activities and adequate sleep.
The parents argue that the racial school assignments — actually, assignments by pigmentation — that so injured their children violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The reliably unreliable 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — often reversed but never in doubt — predictably ruled, with interesting indifference to pertinent Supreme Court precedents, against the parents. Soon — oral arguments are Monday — the Supreme Court can remind the 9th Circuit of the Constitution’s limits on what schools can do in the name of “diversity.”
Students can seek admission to any of Seattle’s high schools. But Seattle Public Schools decided to engineer a precise racial balance in its most popular — because much better — high schools, which are chosen by more students than they can accommodate. The district wanted each oversubscribed school to reflect the entire system’s ratio of 40 percent whites and 60 percent non-whites. So it adopted a race-based admission plan to shape the schools’ “diversity.”

114. klake spews:

Mr. Joe have you read the book First Break all the Rules? Great way to weed out the misfits.
Don Joe says:

Dr. Schwartz,

First, go back, and read what I most recently posted about Dwight Allen’s ideas about experimentation. There are better ways to evaluate teacher performance than using student acheivement tests.

Second, got any ideas? Assuming your assessment of the problem is representative (and you should know that anecdotal evidence is rarely representative), what’s the solution to the problem?

11/29/2006 at 9:47 pm

115. Don Joe spews:

KLake,

“Mr. Joe have you read the book First Break all the Rules?”

As a matter of fact, no. My interest in management texts was centered on viewing “competition” in terms other than price competition in a commoditized world. That book is more about managing people, and, thus, is pretty much outside my area of interest.

So, how would that be a great way to weed out the “misfits”? Better yet, is there some compelling reason to think that the “misfits” need to be weeded out?

My grandmother used to say that if two people think exactly alike, one of them isn’t necessary. You seem to subscribe to a world in which uniformity reigns, where anyone who doesn’t fit into some pre-determined categorization of “correctness” needs to be ostracized. Is that what you’re saying?

116. headless lucy spews:

re 111: Thanks for your closely reasoned and trenchant remarks. I will treasure your helpful criticism as long as I live!

Moonbat!! That’s what I am. It was there before me the whole time!

And all it took was WINGNUT to point it out!

117. skagit spews:

Don Joe:
Thanks for the name correction. I knew I was guessing! I’m old enough to actually remember the guy!

Regarding your idea for experimental schools: we have alternative schools now. And they follow different programs and teaching styles. They seem to work for some. I’m sort of wondering why you think we should continue experimenting. Why not take curriculum ideas from school is countries that seem to be working? I know there are differences but I’m wondering what your response is to that idea?

Middle schools are notoriously bad. First of all, elementary should go back to k-6. Elementary schools do a better job so let’s keep the kids longer. I think the reason elementary schools do better is because they are smaller and that nurturing/caring piece is more prevalent in our elementary schools. So, I am agreeing with you on that score.

An article “Leaving the City For the Schools, And Regretting It” in the NY Times talks about NY city folk who left the city for the better schools in the suburbs. It is only a little relevant to your point but interesting nonetheless. Apparently “very good” schools – like your Leota – weren’t cutting it with these parents. I hope you read the NY Times online because it has a lot of interesting articles. This is select meaning you must subscribe for $49 a year . . . if you don’t, I could copy and paste it.

I have no problem with experimenting. I’m thinking schools have been experimenting too much. I think most teachers would like to see some real consistency over more experimentation. But, you are probably thinking of more substantial kinds of alternatives . . . like Waldorf, Montessori, and the already existing alternative schools.

Truthfully, I think that middle schools are over populated, classrooms oversize, and teachers overburdened with too many kids. They are too big.

In addition, I think we’ve dumbed down the curriculum substantially. Let’s go back to asking for Latin which would teach kids an awful lot about vocabulary, reading and even support writing skills. We should require a second language routinely. We absolutely must continue offering music and art. And we need longer days and more time in school.

From what you say about your daughter, I agree with your assessment. She got lost in a large, uncaring and very confusing environment with a lot of competing social stuff. I’ve heard that once kids get through middle school, they very often have a much easier time and begin to once again succeed. That was my story those many long years ago. My grades were pretty bad through 7,8 and 9 gr. But, some maturity helped and I was making top grades again in high school.

I will read up on Allen for I am interested and would like to know more about his ideas.

I find discussing education exhausting because there’s so much to consider.

118. skagit spews:

One more thing:
Klake at 100 said something with which I agree: move kids along according to their abilities. We don’t really need to continue graded classrooms. I also like the idea of separating boys and girls to eliminate a lot of social stuff. You might think this would hinder social development but I think it would help it. I had lots of friends coming out of private schools, usually Catholic schoools, but they were socialized just fine and never had the other stuff to deal with.

Moving kids through school would result in some graduating early and others graduating later. So what?

That might also encourage kids to work harder as they would not like being left behind but it eliminates the notion of failing a grade.

119. Don Joe spews:

Skagit at both 117 and 118,

First, my point about Allen and experimentation is that you can’t do that sort of thing without some form of “measurement”. I don’t know how you do that without testing, but the purpose of the testing is very different than what testing is used for now.

Imagine trying to conduct an experiment to determine the coefficient of friction for two surfaces and not being able to measure velocity and deceleration. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do now with various alternative forms of education. We’re trying a lot of things, but we’re not really experimenting. We’re flailing about without really learning anything about what works and what doesn’t, or what works with different kinds of student populations and what doesn’t.

Second, with respect to segregated classrooms, Nicky Marone wrote a great book entitled, How to Father a Successful Daughter. I think she articulates your point about social issues rather well. One of the reasons girls, particularly teenaged girls, don’t do as well in mixed gender classes as they do in single gender classes is that society’s concept of what’s “attractive” in a girl manages to exclude “smart” (c.f. Paris Hilton). Marone’s point is that counteracting some of these social constructs is the parents’ job, and it’s really the father who has the best opportunity for a positive outcome.

One of the reasons my daughter likes doing geometric proofs is because she and I sat down and did them together when she was younger. It let her know that she could still be a girl and be smart.

120. skagit spews:

Don Joe,
I looked at Allen’s site and I don’t see much of his work or ideas online. Do I have to buy a book?

I don’t recall your sharing his ideas . . . sorry if you did. If you didn’t, what are some of them?

121. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

Let’s see if I can make this work. You can find a reasonable synopsis at this link.

The most rigorous treatment of those ideas is Schools for a New Century. Unfortunately, Amazon lists it at $96.95 a copy. I’d provid a link to the Amazon reviews, but links have become a bit flaky.

If you’re interested, perhaps we can work out a way for me to put a copy in your hands. We’d need Goldy’s assistance for that.

122. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

For some reason, the software gate-keeper is eating any post I make with a link, even though the preview looks fine. Goldy, something’s not kosher around here.

So, go to Allen’s web page at Old Dominion University. In the upper-right area of the page, there’s a menu of links. Click on the “Ideas” link. Near the bottom of that page, there’s a link entitled, “Fast-Tracking Reform: A Plan to Overhaul Public Education”.

Allen does have a couple of books. I think the most rigorous is Schools for a New Century: A Conservative Approach to Radical Reform. Unfortunately, the list price is $96.95. If you’re really interested, though, we might, with Goldy’s help, be able to work out a way that I can get a copy in your hands.

123. Mark The RedNeck is My Bitch spews:

LSoS (MarktheRedNekkidAsshole),

Where are you? I guess you are still in a corner licking your wounds.

No balls to admit you were wrong. No honor. Typical Wingnut.

Really is funny how that works.

124. G Davis spews:

Someone asked way at the top of this why, as a tutor, I was teaching base 9 math in a base 10 system….that’s exactly the point I was making about how fruitless the WASLs are…

Base math is one of the areas on the WASL…so the district has to teach it so the kids can pass the test…never mind that many of us who are very successfully using math every day in our occupations and ordinary life never heard of base math…

It’s a prime example of teaching to the test rather than actually teaching math…further evidenced by my darling daughter having made it, very successfully, through her supposedly high level school systems including her second year of college without knowing her multiplication tables…there is such a thing as calculators that got her by…doesn’t change the point that she doesn’t really know basic math…

I agree with a lot of what’s written here, but think most of it is overthought…keep it simple, stupid…as someone else said here, strive for teachers that engage students, set the bar high for students, somehow engage all parents into caring about their childs education…

Simple, but oh so hard…it can be done as evidenced by certain districts around the state…I also coached math olympiad courses to select students and was completely impressed with their curriculum…it was fun, the kids actually taught themselves…

If each kid had Bill Nye the Science guy as a teacher, we’d elevate our science *scores* exponentially…start with that concept and the rest will sort itself out…

125. Don Joe spews:

Here’s the description for Schools for a New Century from Amazon.com:

This book presents optimistic alternatives to the current educational reform movement, which has not produced substantial improvement. Dwight W. Allen advocates structural reform of education in virtually every aspect–organization, staff, curriculum, and political accountability. His central proposal is for the establishment of a national system of experimental schools, well-funded for research, experimentation, evaluation, and demonstration, but with realistic operating expenses. The biggest obstacle to reform is the lack of confidence in those who might establish, coordinate, and implement it. The establishment of an extensive, coordinated national experimental school system with voluntary participation by all those involved would provide a relatively nonthreatening environment in which to try new alternatives in all aspects of public education. The first requirement is a new vision of education–one that has the capacity for quick implementation of new curricular and instructional programs. Allen advocates the creation of a well-designed national curriculum which would enhance local control of schools. With a portion of the curriculum standardized, local school districts and teachers would have the time and resources to develop local curriculum options.

I was able to find the text of the book on questia.com. A title search should suffice.

126. skagit spews:

Don Joe . . .
Will try again at the site. I did get there but failed to find the proper link.

Do you have extras of the book? I wouldn’t take your only copy. . .

G Davis . . .
I thought perhaps you were ignorant of the number bases. I hadn’t realized there was a number base question on the test. In all my life I’ve never heard of number bases except for one basic level math class in college. I’ve never seen them referred to or used since.

FMI: Is knowing number bases actually useful?

Finally, I think your synopsis: “keep it simple, stupid…as someone else said here, strive for teachers that engage students, set the bar high for students, somehow engage all parents into caring about their childs education…” says it all. And, as you also said, it is the simple version of hard because those variables seem to be outside anyone’s control.

I do disagree with one thing . . . at least the way we currently assess science. Bill Nye does activities with content which I like. But, inquiry-based science teaches and assess methodology. That is quite different. Even The Science Guy would have trouble in most districts today.

127. skagit spews:

Finally, thanks Don Joe for the summary. I wonder if self-selected students attending experimental schools would/could skew outcomes . . . I think of myself as pretty creative and out-of-the-box but I’m not sure about this. I have gut-level responses that question more than accept right now. I’ll have to think about his ideas before fully responding. For me, everything always takes a second look!

128. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

“Do you have extras of the book?”

No, but I can arrange to have one delivered to you that wouldn’t by my copy.

129. skagit spews:

As long as it didn’t cost you . . . I’d be happy to accept one. If you sent it to Dave Elliott, Coe School, 2424 7 Ave W, Seattle, WA 98119 I would be able to pick it up there.

But, please don’t spend your own money. I think this would be of interest to many.

I’m sure you understand that I do not wish to post anyone’s address!

130. skagit spews:

I meant to say no one’s personal address!

131. skagit spews:

Finally, if you do send it, please reference “Skagit” on it so Dave doesn’t think it is for him! Thanks.

132. skagit spews:

Finally, I’m done for tonight.

133. G Davis spews:

skagit…perhaps Bill Nye would suffer under our current evaluation system(s), but that illustrates again what’s wrong with the evaluation systems…

Kids watch him and learn without effort…and love it…and generally want more…which to me is the whole point of an education system, that the kids actually learn the dang subject matter…and have a thirst for more knowledge…

What we have now forces our entire education system to teach to this arbitrary, and largely useless in everyday life, test…it does nothing to excite our kids, to actually teach them anything, and severely handicaps the few really outstanding teachers we do have…

Get your hands on a WASL test and tell me if any of it is worth spending a spit of time on…it’s full of areas akin to the base math BS, and no there is no use to any but a tiny minority for that material…

One thing I will give to at least the district that my dear daughter went through…when she got to college, she was far ahead of her peers as she knew how to study…she actually complained her first year of being somewhat bored as many of the mandatory underclassmen units were geared to the lowest common denominator…

She quickly solved that problem with extracurricular activities…her first project was doing a social commentary study on frat row! ;0

Seriously, it’s good to debate the whole system and I have no clue how to fix it…my inclination is to go back to the *one schoolhouse* theory of each student seeking their own level in their own time…get back to the basics but put the bar high enough that those that want push on while all are expected to have a firm grasp on the practical application of all the material…

That would require a whole hell of a lot more teachers, less administration, and probably more schools…therefore, more tax money…

I wonder, though, if folks would balk if kids actually came out knowing how to calculate, read, write and communicate other than through IM…

BTW, Don Joe…I have bookmarked your Dwight Allen ideas page, but the old eyes are too tired to read it tonight…look forward to it with my morning joe…thanks…

134. Stephen Schwartz spews:

Joe:

I do have more than anecdotal data but it is dated now that our kids have passed to other stages.

As for ideas, yes I do:

1. Schools in the public system should be allowed to compete. One way to do this in Seattle would be to abandon the dated idea of local high schools and replace them with central schools based on different and competing models.

The evidence that Bronx Science, Boston Latin, etc. work is long standing.

This does not address the elementary issue but it is an achievable goal that has worked in many city systems.

2. The District needs to take a tougher stand when negotiating the contract .. esp. in regard to differential pay for specialized knowledge. Teachers of information rich subjects (Math and languages amongst these) should pass regular exams on content.

I suspect this also means a need at the State level for a change in how we allocate salary funds. I would like to see at least some teachers on 12 month salaries including summer school and internships at the UW or industry.

3. I DO NOT see the WASL as testing the teachers. That is a part of it, but a student who can not pass a critical test (assuming the test is competently written as a competence exam), should not graduate REGARDLESS of whose fault is behind the failure. A HS diploma needs to mean that the kid has competence in a defined set of topics. If we want to award an attendance certificate, that is OK by me.

4. Experimentation. I am more interested in parental choice rather than experiment per se. Even as a leftish liberal, I know the vlaue of a free market. If there are schools that are “better” parents will choose them. The District’s job ought to be standards setting and resource allocation.

That said, the reality we are heading toward is that Seattle’s “lower” classes, often meaning those with more melanin, are increasingly located in the southern extremes of our longish city. Offering good choices in the southern reaches of Seattle as well as in Laurelhurst is a real priority. However, I suspect the number of S. Seattle parents who WANT their kids to attend N. Seattle schools (remember I am proposing that ALL High Schools move to central city)would be small enough that the transaportation cost would be modest .. this means a choice based rather than a race base busing program.

5. The District needs parental and professional leadership. The SSB (Seattle School Board) has a horrible record. This is inevitable given the unpaid, very demanding job. I also question why the board should represent the tax base rather than the parent base?

I see a number of alternatives.

One is to replace the SSB with something more like a board of regents .. community leaders chosen by the city council (NOT the mayor) for long enough terms to provide some continuity. This would change the job into something with both prestige and clout.

Another is to formalize the PTSA into a governing body, suing some sort of representative structure to elect a small board of site holders.

6. Norm Rice vs alternatives.

I am for Norm only is he is willing to take the job on an open ended basis. I am unimpressed with “professional” educators. This job is not a technical one requiring expertise in teaching theory, it is a political job requiring leadership skills. That, however, raises a scary issue …. the Emmert phenomenon. Our STATE University is paying a non-academic with impressive political skills over 700,000 to “lead” the UW .. meaning to do exactly the sort of political things we need a superintendent to do. Frankly, the price of folks like Emmert is why I prefer a regents model where we can seek out folks like Rice, maybe Gates Sr, Emmert, A Boeing guy, etc. to serve as the Districts politcal muscle in retunr for the clout and glory rather than $$.

7. Finally, I believe we should explore possible synergisms with the UW. One way of doing this, if one can get by the NEA, would be to emply grad. students as teaching aids. The UW needs salaries for TAs and the Districy needs people with expertise in many areas. There is a rwal potential for synergism. Maybe Norm can get Condie Rice (former head of Seattle Community College) involved?

Enuff ideas??

135. G Davis spews:

Stephen…I would be interested in your evaluation of the WASL test after having taken it yourself…

I have and it’s completely worthless if we’re striving to empower our kids with *competence in a defined set of topics*…assuming of course that we hope those sets of topics have any bearing on everyday life…

I like your idea of central specialized schools…but will taxpayers foot what would be a huge in addition bill for that switch?

I also like the concept of integrating our K-12 schools and our higher education facilities…problem with most TAs today is they lack English language skills, according to the darling daughter anyway…

Pennsylvania and California have fabulous K-12/higher education setups…I loved Penn State’s *farm system* concept of not all kids starting at the huge central campus…an entire system of smaller branches are spread out all over the state to accommodate most kids…easier transitions socially and academically with the cream of the crop getting to the main campus…California is similar, but they add a wonderful network of community colleges to their mix allowing many kids to get technical training when they figure out higher level academics aren’t for them…

Tough to change the system wholesale however…lots of political baggage goes with that…plus a ton of tax money…

Off to rest the old bones…good reading…thanks…

136. Roger Rabbit spews:

44 skagit says: Best and brightest . . . satire again, Rabbit? 11/29/2006 at 3:24 pm

I used to think you had to be smart to be a lawyer.

137. Roger Rabbit spews:

45 skagit says: Seems like that money hasn’t bought you much of a life. 11/29/2006 at 3:26 pm

Wrong. I don’t have to work anymore.

138. Roger Rabbit spews:

46 Most lawyers in the trenches, who represent real people, act to serve values beyond simply enriching themselves.

I agree. Lawyers as a group get a bad rap. However, I’m compelled to say justice is imperfect, in part because lawyers are committed to winning, not finding the truth. Trials, more often than not, produce fiction.

139. Yer Killin Me spews:

G Davis:

You mention “Bill Nye The Science Guy.” My granddaughter (4th grade) watches Mythbusters. I watch it with her when I can, and we discuss science content as much as we discuss Adam’s antics or how funny it is to watch Buster make that 30-foot drop yet again. I think it’s a subversive show; not only does it teach some elementary science like how a battery works, or what a Doppler effect is, it also teaches some critical thinking skills and reinforces the message, “Never believe anything just because you saw it on the Internet or in the paper. Check it out.”

She’s a bright kid and socially very forward, but she’s inherited some mild learning disabilities from both of her parents and is still struggling to read at grade level and with her multiplication tables. I worry a bit about WASL because I tell her she can be anything and do anything she puts her mind to, but I don’t want her to get the message from a number on a test that that is not in fact the case.

140. Don Joe spews:

Wow. Lots of good stuff from you folks after I turned in.

G. Davis, I think you missed Skagit’s point about Bill Nye. Bill Nye was great at conveying scientific knowledge, but I don’t recall one of his shows that probed deeply into scientific methodology: the process of making observations, forming hypotheses (or theories or models) that might provide a systematic explanation of those observations, and devising ways to test those hypotheses. And, while it’s easy to produce an entertaining exploration of what we know, it’s not at all easy to come up with an entertaining exploration of how we know what we know.

In this particular area, I’m a big, no huge, fan of the Socratic method. Unfortunately, that requires a level of interaction that’s not possible using television.

Dr. Schwartz, thank you for taking the time to write out those ideas. I asked for them not quite so much as a challenge to you to produce the ideas themselves, but more as a means to get us past discussion of diagnoses about which there isn’t a great deal of disagreement and into a discussion of potential solutions. From the tone of your response, I’m afraid you took some umbrage at the tone of my challenge. My apologies if that came off the wrong way.

Having said that, I agree with quite a bit of what you have to say. In many ways, the educational challenge we face is one of leadership. Dr. Allen makes this point more eloquently than I can, but there’s a side of this that deserves mention. Quality leadership requires quality leadership salaries. Unfortunately, the debate around the question of paying for quality leadership often devolves into one about “throwing money” at the problem.

I have to confess that I find it difficult to trust the motives of people who raise the “throwing money” objection (that’s not to say that I anticipate you raising that objection–I’m just using your remarks as a spring-board). One of the tacit assumptions behind this objection is the notion that the current generation of adults were the recipients of a quality education. One can find ample evidence to the contrary in the comments over on (un)Sound Politics with respect to global warming.

How many students come into your courses with a sound understanding of basic epistemological concepts? I know that I didn’t come to understand those concepts through my elementary and secondary education.

I think a significant part of the problem is the fact that there have been problems with our educational system that go back over a couple of generations. Frankly, it’s difficult to conduct an honest debate with people who can’t tell you why they believe what they believe to be true, or worse, ideologues for whom facts are nothing but tidbits that ought to be used to buttress a foregone conclusion.

Which brings me, in a rather round-about way, to what I think is the real underlying problem not just with education but with politics and governance in general. I think we have a fundamental character flaw in this country. Democracy is supposed to be about the currency of ideas buttressed by cogent arguments, and I think there was a time when that ideal was the norm rather than the exception. Sadly, the current situation has deteriorated almost inexorably.

To Janet S and headless lucy, as someone who has been subject to very vocal and very public criticism of my particular professional work, by people who not only don’t understand my profession but by people who take pride in their ignorance of my profession, I have to say, Janet, that I find your dismissal of Lucy to be deeply disturbing. Lucy might well be abrassive in this forum, but Lucy stands on an educational wall that’s no less challenging, and no less important to our future, then the walls guarded by the members of our armed services. For that reason alone, Lucy deserves your, and our, respect.

Abbrassiveness might well be something of a character flaw, but the character flaw under which people think it’s entirely appropriate to criticize from a position of ignorance is far more pernicious a detriment to public discourse than you can possibly imagine. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a causal link between the ignorant criticism and the abbrassive response such criticism engenders.

You did well, Janet, to discuss what’s happening with Math curriculum in the Bellevue School District. For that contribution to the discussion, I want to commend you. However, your dismissal of Lucy has, most definitely, not been a positive contribution to the discussion. Stick to what you know, Janet, and have the humility to recognize when people know more, and have far more pertinent experience, than you do.

Lastly, Skagit, unfortunately the only way I can put a copy of Allen’s book in your hands is by spending some of my own money. I can, however, do so at a price substantially less than the retail price listed on Amazon.com. My offer still stands, and it is my money, but generosity is not something that ought to be imposed on people.

Which leaves me in something of a quandry. So, here’s what I propose. Goldy, you have my e-mail address and Skagit’s e-mail address. Please forward my e-mail address to Skagit. Skagit, you think about the offer, and if you’re willing to accept, send me a message via the e-mail address you get from Goldy.

141. Roger Rabbit spews:

BUSH FLUNKS NEW CITIZENSHIP TEST

“By Suzanne Gamboa
“AP

“WASHINGTON (Nov. 30) – The government wants to make the citizenship test for immigrants more meaningful, requirng a better understanding of America’s history and government institutions. … Applicants could … be asked why there are three branches of government.”

http://tinyurl.com/vwvhp

Roger Rabbit Commentary: I know who can’t pass THIS test!

142. klake spews:

Don Joe says:
KLake,
“Mr. Joe have you read the book First Break all the Rules?”
As a matter of fact, no. My interest in management texts was centered on viewing “competition” in terms other than price competition in a commoditized world. That book is more about managing people, and, thus, is pretty much outside my area of interest.
So, how would that be a great way to weed out the “misfits”? Better yet, is there some compelling reason to think that the “misfits” need to be weeded out?
My grandmother used to say that if two people think exactly alike, one of them isn’t necessary. You seem to subscribe to a world in which uniformity reigns, where anyone who doesn’t fit into some pre-determined categorization of “correctness” needs to be ostracized. Is that what you’re saying?
11/29/2006 at 10:01 pm

Mr. Joe do not judge the book by the title but by the content. What might be misfits in one team structure could be a leader in another. Webster’s misfit “to fit badly-n. an improper fit. A maladjusted person.” The beauty in the military today we form teams by their strengths and not by their dysfunction. Then you teach them to accept the other person’s short coming in order to succeed in your mission. What you see with that team is what your grandmother used to say, and that cames about with the abandonment of Political Correctness. In order to make this happen you use the principles that are presented in the book First Break all the Rules. That includes forcing folk to work, play, and think out side of the box. Their greatest challenges is dealing with their fears and trusting others when the chips are down. Teachers today need to teach people how to communicate better, accept others short comings, and if that subject matter isn’t their strengths find one that does fit them. Reading this site you will find folks to be judgmental, less understanding, and expressing themselves in an unprofessional way.

143. headless lucy spews:

re 140: It’s all code for WASP. That’s all they understand.

144. klake spews:

Don Joe says:
KLake,
“Mr. Joe have you read the book First Break all the Rules?”
As a matter of fact, no. My interest in management texts was centered on viewing “competition” in terms other than price competition in a commoditized world. That book is more about managing people, and, thus, is pretty much outside my area of interest.
Mr. Joe, I find it quit rewarding reading something outside my interest because I learn something about someone else experiences. That is why I think purging libraries should be a crime, but practice today even in this county.

145. klake spews:

“WASHINGTON (Nov. 30) – The government wants to make the citizenship test for immigrants more meaningful, requiring a better understanding of America’s history and government institutions. … Applicants could … be asked why there are three branches of government.”
http://tinyurl.com/vwvhp
Roger Rabbit Commentary: I know who can’t pass THIS test!
11/30/2006 at 7:52 am

Roger most of your students graduating from Seattle Schools today. Most immigrants know more about this country than those born in it and probably speak better English. Now disregard the accent and you would have to agree.

146. G Davis spews:

Don…again, I think you and others are seriously overthinking…you’re also missing the point that societies job is to educate ALL kids to a competence level out of high school…

When I speak of Nye or YKM mentions another show that educates, I am speaking only to the idea of exciting kids to learn…not all kids will be enamored with science, but all can get to a level of everyday competence through excited educators opening the door for them…

You and others are speaking to the subject as if all kids will go on to higher level education…one of the biggest problems with our system today in my ever so humble opinion…

K-12 public education has the job of opening minds to a variety of subjects…prepping all kids for the same path using the same methods is foolhardy and seriously detrimental to many students…

If we can’t excite our kids to learning for the sake of learning, we have failed…spending all our time and resources funneling kids into pigeonholed test based systems will kill our natural curiousity and doom even more generations…

Quit overthinking…talk to a variety of kids and their parents…take these dumb tests we’re foisting on our kids…

Keep it simple stupids…open the kids minds and excite them to learning and they will lead you in good directions for our education systme…

147. skagit spews:

Don Joe, I would be a grateful recipient of your generosity. If you do send it to Coe to the attn of Dave, please reference Alex C. instead of Skagit. I appreciate it.

148. Don Joe spews:

Skagit,

I ordered the book this morning with a 2-3 day delivery. It should be there by Monday. I used the gift message option to notify that it was for Alex C. Thank you for allowing me to do this. I think your passion deserves to be honored by more than just lip service.

G. Davis,

The scientific method isn’t complicated. I’ve started it with my two eldest children when they were 6 and 7 years old. My youngest is almost ready to start. As I mentioned, however, using the Socratic method is critical to success.

There are a number of ways to get started with this process, but it generally involves making observations about nature and asking the kids to see if they can come up with an explanation for what you’ve observed. One of the simplest is to start with Galileo’s experiment.

Regardless of the experiment, the key point is to first ask the kids, “What do you think will happen if we do this?” Then you perform the experiment. When you get the results, you ask the kids to try to explain the results. Once they’ve come up with an explanation, you then ask them how we might test that idea.

And, no, that doesn’t always work out the way you’d really like it to, but that’s not the point. The point is to get them in the habit of trying to explain what they see, and then trying to figure out why things in nature behave the way they do. As they grow and mature, they’ll get more adept at it. Just like a baby learning how to walk, they’ll first have to crawl for a while. After a while, they start asking the questions.

149. Thomas Trainwinder spews:

Skagit @ 54:

You asked about documentation. Here it is.

2004-2005, Bellevue 10th grade WASL MATH: 72.1%
2005-2006, Bellevue 10th grade WASL MATH: 69.4%

Source: OSPI http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?schoolId=108&reportLevel=District&orgLinkId=108&yrs=
Riley has an incredible PR machine…checking the data is highly desirable.

150. skagit spews:

G David:

You are so right about the inquiry method. It is just that teachers don’t have the luxury of just modeling/enjoying and sharing the vocabulary. We have to make it harder . . . kids are required to keep science journals, write using particular vocab – “observation” being a big one. Including several sentences clearly explaining predictions, observations, cause-effect and what do you think . . . That is where it gets harder for kids. And the science is not comprised of fun activities that are unrelated. Units are ongoing sometimes interesting/sometimes less interesting observations in the physical, life and earth sciences. And all this starts at K. Also, believe it or not, there are kids who could care less even about fun activities in science. Not every kid finds even the science guy fun.

But, not to parse too much. I agree that making science more inviting and simply modeling the procedure is a start. Your kids are lucky. Many parents always tell . . . those kids are the hardest to get engaged in the classroom.

Having said all this, I am a huge proponent of the NSF science kits currently used by the District. They are very well done.

151. skagit spews:

Trainwinder:

If you look at that same report card, you’ll find that Mercer Island does even better. Wonder why?

I’m thinking the proportion of low income, perhaps minority populations, might correlate a little. What do you think?

If Mercer Island can achieve in the 90 percentile, why can’t Bellevue?

152. skagit spews:

Don Joe:

My comment back to G Davis should have been posted to you. It is obvious to me that your kids will do well in spite of schools. Just seems like their time in school shouldn’t be wasted.

153. skagit spews:

Don Joe:

(I’m adding this line because the original comment got caught in the filter and I’m resending it.)

My comment back to G Davis should have been posted to you. It is obvious to me that your kids will do well in spite of schools. Just seems like their time in school shouldn’t be wasted.

154. skagit spews:

Well, guess it didn’t . . . what can I say.

155. G Davis spews:

You guys are still overthinking…and I suspect you’re addressing older children than what I’m referring to…

We have schoolhouses full of kids of every stripe…somehow, we have to figure out a way to engage ALL of them, opening whatever doors of curiousity we can along the way…

The vast majority of children don’t have parental involvement of the level mentioned here…some are lucky to know their parents at all…there is no way on earth, in today’s education structure, we can expect teachers to engage on the level you’re posing here…when I tutored it was through the TAPS program…failing kids with home problems on top…those kids were all plenty capable of learning, thinking and getting excited when in my charge but simply got lost in the shuffle of regularly overscheduled, undertitilating mainstream curriculum…my Math Olympiad teams came from every stripe of achievement, familial involvement…all of them thrived when challenged appropriately in smaller group settings and lots of peer interaction…

So where do we start? My inclination is to wish the present day older students well, and focus on the K-5 level trying to revamp the environment into one of energizing kids rather than dumbing them down…the one schoolhouse concept, central schools, smaller classes with more student to student involvement…get our kids thinking, acting and really excited about learning using whatever methods available in as many different scenarios as possible…

Get rid of the dang test syndrome…not all kids will fit that mold, not all kids will excel or even have interest in higher education, but they still need to learn to think, deduce…the testing syndrome mandates set curriculums on set timetables that do nothing to advance actual learning or curiousity.

Tag it all you want…what I’m seeing here is folks deeply entrenched in our current system with all it’s labels and little effort to get outside the box…

156. skagit spews:

Well, were going in circles now. Nobody disagrees with your desire to think outside the box. But I don’t think you’re the first person to think of it. AS I posted much earlier, we have several alternatives currently. Goldy’s montessori is just one of them.

I agree we may be overthinking and overtesting.

. . . and focus on the K-5 level trying to revamp the environment into one of energizing kids rather than dumbing them down…the one schoolhouse concept, central schools, smaller classes with more student to student involvement…get our kids thinking, acting and really excited about learning using whatever methods available in as many different scenarios as possible…

This sounds good. So, why isn’t anybody in any country doing it?

my Math Olympiad teams came from every stripe of achievement, familial involvement…all of them thrived when challenged appropriately in smaller group settings and lots of peer interaction…

What did your team do? How old were they? How many on your team? What did they learn? How do you know each of them learned and can apply what they learned? How much time did you spend with them?

Finally, I actually think Goldy is on to the one practical answer when he says that we need earlier intervention (preschool for all) and full-day K with reasonable class sizes. I think we also need a longer day and a longer year. And a whole lot more societal emphasis on the need for excellence and effort in education: teachers and students alike.

157. G Davis spews:

This sounds good. So, why isn’t anybody in any country doing it?

Money…

My MO team was 3-5th graders…a small group, as I said, and it was only once a week we met then had competitions with other teams once a week…what I know is that all of my team turned into high achieving, competitive students in later grades and to my knowledge all are at recognizable 4 year colleges…

That’s not the point, though…if one volunteer can energize 6 kids in a couple hours a week, then think what we could give the populace of students if we approached learning as exciting and relevent rather than rote and test bound?

I agree about earlier intervention, more school hours earlier, and hell, I’d toss in year round school with significant winter, spring and summer breaks…say 3 weeks each…gives plenty of family time, disallows kids losing everything they gained over a long summer vaccuum…hell, you could even fit in a decent harvest in 3 weeks time… ;0

Instead of closing schools, open them to alternative methods for smaller student populaces…use them for extra tutoring, mentoring work…involve the community if the parents can’t or won’t get engaged…

But all that costs money…too bad we can so cavalierly throw tax credits/subsidies at corporations, but can’t pony up to educate their workforce practically…

158. Thomas Trainwinder spews:

Janet S… with so many advanced math students…you’d think they’d have an increasing WASL pass rate (like Issaquah, Northsore, Lake Washington) — not decreasing!

159. Thomas Trainwinder spews:

Skagit – we’re talking improvement…not overall numbers…..all the districts around, except Bellevue, have improved on 10th grade Math WASL the past two years. Bellevue, noted above, has gone down…