Archives for September 2007

Mozart isn’t brain music

Listening to Mozart or other classical music doesn’t make babies smarter. It’s possible music lessons raise children’s IQ but there’s no research yet to back that up.

Carnival of Education

The new Carnival of Education is up at Global Citizenship in a Virtual World.

NAEP spin

Fourth- and eighth-grade math scores continue to rise and reading scores are up in fourth but not eighth grade, according to the just released Nation’s Report Card.

Black and Hispanic students are improving faster than whites, observes Education Trust.

Since 1996, the percentage of our nation’s fourth-grade students performing below the Basic achievement level in math has been cut in half, from 39 percent to 19 percent, with even stronger improvement among poor and minority students (from 73 percent to 37 percent for African Americans, 61 percent to 31 percent for Latinos, and 60 percent to 30 percent for poor students). At the same time, higher performers also posted significant gains, increasing the ranks of students at the Proficient and Advanced levels.

In reading, the gains are coming at the bottom and middle levels; eighth-graders aren’t improving, notes Time.

This kind of stagnation, along with the disappointing results in 8th grade overall, will further fuel the current debate among educators over how America teaches reading. It appears that the recent emphasis on phonics and reading mechanics, encouraged by the Bush Department of Education, is helping in early years, but something different is needed to take students beyond an elementary level.

No Child Left Behind defenders are claiming credit for the progress. Critics say scores were rising faster before NCLB kicked in.

I agree with Kevin Carey’s analysis on The Quick and the Ed:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NAEP results, particularly in elementary math, absolutely disprove the notion that public education is unreformable and nothing can be done for disadvantaged students. And while there’s a lot of talk about how NCLB’s focus on bringing up low-performing kids is pulling down the top and short-changing the gifted, I’ve yet to see any compelling evidence that this actually true. Our society is relentlessly focused on providing all manner of opportunity to people with an excess of talent, money, and social capital, and no federal law — particularly one narrowly focused on education — is going to change that.

More here on the likely consensus: We’re moving slowly in the right direction.

Update: “The Eclectic Linda” Seebach, now retired from the Rocky Mountain News and blogging, mocks the Minnesota spin on NAEP results: Yes, Minnesota ranks above average but only because the state’s students are “way whiter than average.” Minnesota’s black and Hispanic students do not outperform similar students elsewhere.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Eric Novak of Voice of Experience is hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling.

Lecturing on

Lectures bore students, and yet most professors continue to teach as they were taught, reports the Washington Post.

Some professors use PowerPoint, which they think matches their students’ lifestyles. But others say that’s “making a bad thing worse.”

Students spend all their time scribbling down what’s on the PowerPoint presentation, they say, and that leads professors to structure lessons around the visual presentation rather than creating a lecture with a beginning, middle and end that tells a story and can excite students.

The clicker, a remote control students can use to answer questions, encourages interactivity.

Last week, (University of Maryland Physics Professor Edward) Redish asked the students to use the clickers to state whether the acceleration in an experiment was positive, negative, zero or impossible to know. Within 10 seconds, he knew that most students had chosen incorrectly.

“Eighty-six percent got the wrong answer,” he said. “Physics is about data. Our first intuition is not quite right. We have to modify our intuition.”

Students say clickers keep them engaged, if not entertained.

“I feel like I’m in ‘ask the audience’ on ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire,’ ” said Landon Katz, 18, a freshman.

I remember sitting in the lecture hall calculating how much tuition I was paying per minute of boredom.

New on the blog

Welcome new edubloggers Edbizzbuzz and Eduwonkette.

What geniuses need

Genius kids don’t need acceleration — taking the same old classes faster — writes Richard Rusczyk on Britannica Blog. Rusczyk, who specializes in identifying and educating ultra-talented math students, is responding to the Time story on genius students.

Our top students nowadays usually are accelerated in school. And they’re still bored and underserved.

The problem our students face in their regular schools is that the standard curriculum is not designed for high-performing students, just as PE classes are not designed for our best athletes. The classes are too slow and too easy. And skipping grades or going to community college doesn’t address the core issue either. It puts these students in yet another class that isn’t designed for them, only now the other students in the class are many years older, which creates its own social problems. A better solution is to create a specialized curriculum for honors-level students, just as there’s specialized training for the basketball team and the band. I don’t mean honors classes – these are usually taught from the same books and with the same material as the regular classes. I mean books and classes developed specifically for our future mathematicians, engineers and scientists.

My daughter’s half-sister enrolled in college this month at the age of 14, skipping high school entirely. She took some college classes last year, when she was in eighth grade, and did very well. It seems to be a good option for her. And it’s hard to imagine a high school with enough students like her to offer the Latin, Greek and religious studies classes that interest her. Even if she were a math-science genius, which she’s not, would there be enough geniuses to create separate classes?

If the shoe hangs

Newark is fighting “shoefiti.”

Counting commercials for credit

Lynn G’s daughter’s sixth-grade math homework was to watch 30 minutes of TV and count the commercials, she complains at Kitchen Table Math. The assignment is called the “Great TV Ad-Venture.” Mom is not impressed.

B & E & C

At ultra-competitive Hanover High in New Hampshire, students charged with breaking into school to steal tests face more than suspension and an F on the final: The “Notorious Nine” face criminal charges. So far, they’re accused of Class B misdemeanors, which bring a fine but no chance of jail time. But the prosecutor has warned the charges could be raised to felonies if the students take the matter to court instead of pleading guilty. The Boston Globe reports:

While some stood sentry in hallways, others entered a classroom and used stolen keys to break into a teacher’s filing cabinet and steal exams for advanced math honors, advanced math, Algebra II, and calculus. Five days later, another group stole chemistry finals. In total, some 50 students are suspected of participating in the thefts, either helping to plan them or receiving answers from stolen exams.

The school will apply traditional academic penalties against everyone involved, but thinks b&e is a police matter.

The Notorious Nine’s well-connected parents — including a Dartmouth professor, physician, hospital president and local newspaper columnist — are furious, reports the Globe. They think the Nine should be charged with “violations that carry no criminal penalties, penalties they say could harm their children’s chances of attending college or securing employment.”

Because why should theft or breaking and entering affect a kid’s future?

Some Hanoverians “have questioned whether the intense competitiveness of 750-student Hanover High forced students into positions of having to cheat.”

Those poor little dears. They just wanted to get higher grades than their classmates without doing the work. They had to cheat.

My daughter knew two boys at her ultra-competitive high school who stole a key, broke into a school building and copied two finals for their own use and that of their friends. They got away with it. Teachers knew they’d done it, but couldn’t prove it. She competed against cheaters for spots at elite colleges. And she ended up with a Stanford degree, so it’s no tragedy. But I’m a little bitter about it.

See this for West Coast cheating.