Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tea party gets involved in school board elections

News from Utah
UTAH COUNTY -- Tea party activists are getting involved in school board elections across the country, including here in Utah. 
Utah tea party organizer David Kirkham says most of the time, it's more about being good citizens than victory for specific candidates.
"I really believe, and I think most tea partyers believe, if we have good people running for office and educate the voters, they will vote the right people into office," he said. "Our schools will be better, our city councils will be better, our Legislature will be better -- the whole state will be better for it."
Kirkham lives in Provo but says tea partyers got involved in the Alpine School District Board race last fall. A North Carolina school board got national attention when voters put in five conservative members to do away with socioeconomic policies they didn't like.
"The goal is to have well-educated children. In order to have well-educated children we need well-educated voters and we need well-educated people running for those school board offices," Kirkham said.
Kirkham says tea partyers he knows in Utah don't have a specific agenda for school board elections.
Apparently, any tea party connection to the North Carolina school board efforts to 'abolish integration' is weak.  However, the tea party idea of reducing government spending does seem to have taken hold among many public school activists here in New York and elsewhere.

Found at Instapundit, who writes 'YOU’LL SEE MORE OF THIS'

Friday, April 22, 2011

Robots will take over writing?

Although I am reluctant to admit it, this seems like a no-brainer.  From NPR comes news that a software program generated a better story than the one produced by a human reporter, who wrote a sports article in which he failed to highlight how the featured college baseball match was the first perfect NCAA game since 2002.  When the robot had a chance to do a rewrite and appropriately emphasized the story's noteworthy aspect, it was deemed to be a superior article.

Narrative Science provided the robot article.
We Turn Data Into Stories
Narrative Science transforms data into high-quality editorial content. Our technology application generates news stories, industry reports, headlines and more — at scale and without human authoring or editing. Narratives can be created from almost any data set, be it numbers or text, structured or unstructured.
Whether you maintain your own proprietary database, or cover subjects supported by broadly available data including public data sources, our technology cost-effectively turns facts and figures into compelling stories in real time.
They offer "Long & short form articles, headlines, summaries & more".  Hmm, I wonder how much Narrative Science charges to write blog posts . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Only about 60% of recent college graduates hold jobs that require a college degree

It appears that mal-employment, defined as working at a job that does not require a college degree, is on the rise.
Sum said mal-employment has significantly increased in the past decade, making it the biggest challenge facing college graduates today. In 2000, Sum said, about 75 percent of college graduates held a job that required a college degree. Today that's closer to 60 percent. 
The poor economy is most certainly a reason for this unfortunate situation, but are other factors at play?  Has the the percentage of college graduates qualified to perform professional work decresaed?
The problem is that too often both liberal arts and business degree programs are producing graduates who haven’t learned much of anything during their four, five or six years in college.  The authors of Academically Adrift have joined others in chronicling how "many of the modern-day trends in higher education have lowered the quality of the educational experience".
Some details here:
But even those working full time are often in jobs that don't fit their education, said Northeast University's Andrew Sum. According to his analysis of 2010 data, just 64 percent of those younger than 25 with bachelor's degrees who had found work had professional jobs, and blacks and Hispanic graduates had lower rates still.
Related:  Is college debt worth it?

Is college debt worth it?

“In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it’s time for their kids to go to college,” said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of and, who has compiled the estimates of student debt, including federal and private loans.
Now, that's scary.
Some education policy experts say the mounting debt has broad implications for the current generation of students.
“If you have a lot of people finishing or leaving school with a lot of debt, their choices may be very different than the generation before them,” said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for Student Access and Success. “Things like buying a home, starting a family, starting a business, saving for their own kids’ education may not be options for people who are paying off a lot of student debt.”
This is Joanne Jacobs' concern:
I don’t worry about students who can get into elite colleges. They’ll get an education — and a high-class brand. It’s the students borrowing for non-elite private colleges who are at risk of going into debt for a brand of marginal value. Will they get an education? Depends on the student.
While students in elite colleges will receive an education, I'm not completely convinced it will be a great one.  However, at least they will receive a high-class brand.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First draft of New York teacher evaluation regs available for comment by the public

The first draft of the New York teacher and principal  evaluation regulations has been posted online for comments from the public.  It looks like it might be a slog to go through the 40-page document, but the six-page summary is here.  The deadline to submit comments is Friday, April 29.

In my first look at the proposal, it hit me that I probably oppose any evaluations based on New York state tests.  "Something fishy" about New York State Regents scoring
Last year, legislation was enacted requiring an annual performance evaluation of all teachers and principals. These evaluations will play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including promotion, retention, tenure determinations, termination, and supplemental compensation, and will be a significant factor in teacher and principal professional development. The Regents Advisory Task Force on Teacher and Principal Effectiveness -- composed of teachers, principals, superintendents of schools, school board representatives, school district and BOCES officials, and other interested parties -- has been meeting regularly since September 2010. And the Board of Regents has discussed various topics related to the evaluation system at its meetings in January, February and March 2011.
Earlier this month, at the Regents April meeting, the Task Force submitted a comprehensive report containing recommendations for implementing the evaluation system in New York. The Board of Regents reviewed and discussed the recommendations at a full day meeting with representatives of the Task Force.  As part of that meeting, the Commissioner and Department staff embraced the Task Force report's core recommendations, but also proposed a small number of modifications.  At the end of the meeting, the Board directed State Education Department staff to prepare draft regulations consistent with the day's discussions. Yesterday, those draft regulations were circulated to the members of the Task Force and, this morning, they were posted on the Department's website -- the Department is seeking comment on the regulations from the Task Force as well as the public. The draft regulations will be on the Regents agenda at their meeting in May.
(Cross-posted at Kitchen Table Math)

If merit pay is introduced for teachers, will we see more male teachers?

Men are more likely than women to seek jobs in which competition with coworkers affects pay rates, a preference that might help explain persistent pay differences between men and women, a study at the University of Chicago shows.
Advertisements were listed on internet job boards in 16 of the nation's largest cities.
“When the salary potential was most dependent on competition, men were 94 percent more likely to apply than women,” List said.
The study found that although women were much less likely to pursue jobs where individual competition was a factor, the deterring effect on women could be overcome by having workers compete in teams, rather than individually.
Teacher merit pay would be based on comparative performance, which might act as a draw to attract more men to careers in education.

We keep paying more for worse results, in both public education and health care

All through the health care debate the president and the advocates of his horrible health care bill repeated again and again how we pay more than other leading countries for far worse results. Why do they not make the same argument about public education? Instead it’s always how we need to pump more and more money into the system.
We both know the answer, but it would be nice to see some Republicans ask the question.
I agree with Glenn Reynolds that this is an interesting point.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A liberal arts education need not be a "a waste of time and money"

Should B-students get a liberal arts education?  Not according to a Wall Street Journal essay by "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams, who claims it is "a waste of time and money."  "Wouldn't it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?"

Adams goes on to list some of the skills that instead should be taught to B students in our colleges.  However, it should be noted that many of these same skills are learned from a rigorous liberal arts education.  In fact, the definition of a classical liberal arts education embodies the development of such fundamental skills and knowledge as the ability to write persuasively, speak confidently and think critically.  These and more are the goals of liberal arts majors through the study of literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science. 

The problem is that too often both liberal arts and business degree programs are producing graduates who haven’t learned much of anything during their four, five or six years in college.  The authors of Academically Adrift have joined others in chronicling how "many of the modern-day trends in higher education have lowered the quality of the educational experience".

I don't argue with Adams about the value of the entrepreneurial skills he believes should be taught to B students, but I think we should look beyond his advice in considering what a college education should offer both A and B students.

Related:  Why some employers value a solid liberal arts education

Can blended learning improve higher education efficiency?

Louis E. Lataif  lays out some details of  the higher education bubble in Forbes:
Higher education in America, historically the envy of the world, is rapidly growing out of reach. For the past quarter-century, the cost of higher education has grown 440%, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Education, nearly four times the rate of inflation and double the rate of health care cost increases. The cost increases have occurred at both public and private colleges.
Like many situations too good to be true--like the dot-com boom, the Enron bubble, the housing boom or the health care cost explosion--the ever-increasing cost of university education is not sustainable.
Just 10 years ago the cost of a four-year public college education amounted to 18% of the annual income of middle-income families. Ten years later, it amounted to 25% of that family's average annual income. The cost of attending a private university is about double the cost of public universities. Think of higher education as the proverbial frog in boiling water. It feels very warm and comfy but soon will be cooked.
Can blended/hybrid learning increase productivity?
Yet colleges and universities can improve their life expectancy--and their relevance--if they focus on becoming more productive. There are many innovative ways that can be accomplished. It will involve taking advantage of disruptive technologies. Technology-assisted pedagogy can be enormously effective.
It's difficult in today's universities to talk about "productivity" or "efficiency" the way business does. Faculty members associate that idea with larger classes, a higher teaching load or lower quality. And given the lifetime tenure system and the co-governance structure of most universities, orderly change will not happen without the cooperation of the faculty.
But everyone, particularly faculty scholars, favors high-quality learning. Universities need to embrace the concept of "deeper learning"--increasing the value of a college education by delivering more education, and doing so in ways that increase retention. In other words, learn more per dollar spent, and retain what is learned longer.
Deeper learning means getting 150% or 200% of the knowledge formerly delivered in a given course. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported: "Several studies have shown that students learn a full semester's worth of material in half the time when online coursework is added."
There is so much classroom time that can be off-loaded to technology tools for self-paced learning in asynchronous time. And then the time spent in the classroom on the same subjects can be much richer with robust discussion and debate about the strengths and limitations of those tools and techniques.
Hybrid learning in elementary school:  The combination of a strong teacher with Khan Academy - too good to be true?

Monday, April 18, 2011

"The reality is you can't do more with less, only less with less,"

"The reality is you can't do more with less, only less with less,"
These are the words of Jeanne-Claire Cotnoir, president of the Briarcliff Teachers Association.  Their community is divided over plans to trim school spending, with passionate sentiments on both sides of the issue.  Former school board member Joan Austin voices an opposing view.
"A leaner school system might just be a better one."
Per pupil spending is $29,964, but proposed budget cuts will trim that slightly.  Plans include teacher layoffs as well as downsized music programs and AP classes.

The teachers union says taxpayers need to increase education spending, but some taxpayers believe that more money does not necessarily lead to better schools.

You can read the entire article after the jump.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beer pong practice

The scenario:
Just past midnight and a chaperone hears loud noises coming from a hotel room where a group of eight-grade boys are staying during an overnight class trip
The evidence:
Ping pong balls, plastic cups filled with soapy water and the hotel ironing board
The explanation:
Training for beer pong
The lesson:
Never underestimate the creative minds of middle school boys.