Saturday, February 12, 2011

Some college admissions-related apps

The New York Times reports that The Fiske Guide to Colleges is now available for iPads.  Although my son was lukewarm on it, I found the Fiske guide quite helpful.  Some other college admissions related apps were featured in their story.
FutureU SAT — Kaplan’s new test prep video game is a free application that challenges players on the math, reading and writing sections of the SAT. Users can track their progress as they review geometric equations or subject-verb agreement. The free game works on both iPhones and iPads, with additional levels available for $1.99 each.
SAT Vocab Challenge — If you’re stumbling over obfuscate, obsequious and obstreperous, The Princeton Review offers an easy-to-use app that might just help. SAT Vocab Challenge focuses on definitions, synonyms and antonyms, but also includes timed quizzes to help prepare you for test day. Each volume of 250 words costs $4.99.
Peterson’s College Guide — Planning your college search list just got a little bit easier. Peterson’s Guide (free) has reviews and information on more than 4,000 colleges across the country. Can’t decide where to head next? Just shake your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and it will find one for you.
College Search App — Though it may not match the breadth of Peterson’s, the College Search App (99 cents) has some unique options that let users find institutions they may want to visit. Browse by region, type or athletic conference to find a school that may be a good fit.
College Savings — Worried how much your four years at Sarah Lawrence will cost? The College Savings application is an easy way for parents and students to compare just how much they’ll need to save to pay for college. The free iPad app compares how a user’s investments are likely to grow versus tuition forecasts to estimate how much you should be putting away before freshman year.

Adult priorities create dropout factories - Education Action Group Foundation

Spreading the word that "kids aren't cars".  EAG is headquartered in Michigan.

Education Action Group Foundation believes the one-size-fits-all, assembly line public school system requires serious reform.
  • Put the needs of students first.  What do students need in order to be successful?  A quality teacher in every classroom.  Up-to-date teaching methods and supplies.  "Quality-blind" layoff rules are an insult to effective teachers.
  • Put the needs of adults second.  During contract time, the fight is invariably about pay, benefits and retirement, not “what policies need to change in order to increase student achievement.”
  • Empower parents to choose the school option that best meets the needs of their children.
  • State governments should enact reforms to give schools more control over their budgets and personnel decisions.
Found this at Joanne Jacobs

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wikipedia gender gap

According to this New York Times story, less than 15% of Wikipedia contributors are female.   This imbalance may be due to "the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women."

A "participation rate of roughly 85-to-15 percent, men to women, is common" among contributors to “public thought-leadership forums".  It is thought that women possess less confidence to assert their opinions than men do.  This may be especially true in situations where women are a minority, so one group advocates "recruiting women as a group to fields or forums where they are under-represented. That way, a solitary woman does not face the burden alone."  Similar to women going to the bathroom in restaurants?

Apparently, this gender imbalance developed as a result of Wikipedia "letting things develop naturally."  Speaking of things developing naturally, I couldn't help but smile at Richard Whitmire's comment on this story:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cut New York public schools health insurance benefits?

From The Torch, a publication of the Empire Center for New York State Policy
Public schools in New York could save $500 million a year, offsetting fully one-third of Governor Cuomo’s proposed cut in K-12 state aid, if they adjusted their health insurance premium-sharing arrangements for teachers to match those for state government employees, according to a Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) analysis cited by Governor Cuomo in his budget presentation.
State government employees are required to kick in 10 percent of the premium for individual health coverage and 25 percent of the premium for family coverage. Including more generous premium coverage that some districts give to senior teachers, 58 percent of the districts met or exceeded the state’s employee share of 10 percent individual coverage, but only four percent required teachers to pay at least 25 percent of family coverage premiums.  Nearly half set the teacher share of family coverage at 10 percent or less. . . .
As the governor pointed out, districts could avoid threatened layoffs and program cutbacks if their teachers carried a bigger share of the health insurance burden. But as Cuomo did not point out, those benefits are subjects of collective bargaining. Districts now have scant leverage to press teacher unions for concessions under the state Taylor Law. (Layoff threats rarely inspire sacrifices.)
It would be a big help to districts if the state repealed the Taylor Law’s so-called Triborough amendment, which mandates that contract terms remain in effect even after a contract has expired, giving unions less incentive to settle.  Cuomo, so far, isn’t going anywhere near Triborough. He has instead punted mandate relief issues to a Redesign Team comprised of “stakeholders” including union representatives, who oppose any change in the status quo.
Sooner or later, the governor has to put up or shut up in this area. Cuomo can’t keep claiming that districts aren’t doing enough to control spending if he isn’t willing to get behind the Taylor Law reform that would give them the tools to help control compensation costs.
In a future post I will look at our local school health insurance costs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg calls for end to teacher seniority rules

New York City Mayor Bloomberg:.
"If the governor’s budget contains education cuts, it must also contain changes to the law so that we can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions.”...
"And yet Albany rules say that when it comes to teaching, talent doesn’t matter, results don’t matter."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Only in America" with Larry the Cable Guy

Larry the Cable Guy will be playing the role of an American history teacher in his new TV series.  The first episode gives viewers insight into the era of Prohibition while he learns about making moonshine.  Git-r-done, Larry!
Larry the Cable Guy believes the United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the earth and he's out to prove it. In Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy, Larry crisscrosses the nation, going totally off the beaten path to find the people, places and things that define this nation's unique history. Each episode uncovers surprising information about America's history from the story of how moonshine-making during Prohibition gave rise to one of America's most celebrated past times--NASCAR racing--to the history of etiquette from Emily Post's heirs in Vermont, complete with a lesson in good manners. From panning for gold in the hills of California to leading a cavalry charge in a Civil War reenactment in Virginia, Larry gives history a fun, down-home twist.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A view from computer science college professors

I hear from a friend who teaches college computer science that many CS educators agree on the following:
  1. There is too much emphasis on calculus, and more focus should be placed on discrete mathematics (graph theory, logic, automata theory, etc) and statistics.
  2. K-12 education places too much emphasis on memorization at the expense of conceptual understanding.  This leaves college students ill-prepared for their computer science course work.

Cross posted at Kitchen Table Math

"Article of the Week" for prior knowledge deficiency

When a high school senior asked his teacher, "Who is this guy, Al Qaeda?", it quickly became apparent that  a lack of background knowledge was a serious hindrance to learning for his students.  In response, Kelly Gallagher created his Article of the Week strategy, which appears to synchronize nicely with Daniel Willingham's message that skills like “analysis” and “critical thinking” are tied to content.  In other words, when it comes to reading and writing skills, content matters.
When Kelly Gallagher learned that his ninth grade students could not name the vice president of the United States, and when two seniors asked him in all seriousness, "Who is this guy, Al Qaeda?", Kelly was shocked into realizing he needed to do something outside the standard curriculum to build his students' background knowledge. In response, he developed the Article of the Week activity to address the serious gaps in his students' education.
Each week, students read a short article that informs them about the world. Students highlight passages and words they don't understand, consider the author's purpose and intended audience, and work through any confusion. The class then discusses how the structure and craft of the article informs reader comprehension and how they can implement these elements into their own writing.
In 15-minutes, Kelly shows teachers how to integrate the Article of the Week into their own classrooms in a manner that provides the background knowledge that is the foundation for critical reading.
Here's Kelly Gallagher's website with an archive of articles he has used with his classes.