How Brazilians learn English

Brazilian teens practice their English skills by video-chatting with elderly Chicagoans.

Core enables life, the universe . . .

After criticizing Common Core’s implementation in New York, state teachers’ union president Karen Magee asked, “If not standards, then what?A free-for-all? Everyone does what they please?”

On NYC Educator, Arwen E. gets a little sarcastic. “We never had standards before the Common Core was handed down to us, writes Arwen. “I discovered a picture of our planet pre-Common Core, barren, desolate, dry of ideas and pathetically ‘standardless’.”

The Educational Landscape Pre-Common Core:

Common Core made civilization possible. Now, look how far we have come:

Teach programming, statistics — not calculus

Get rid of high school calculus to make way for computer programming and statistics, writes Steven Salzberg in Forbes.

With computers controlling so much of their lives, from their phones to their cars to the online existence, we ought to teach our kids what’s going on under the hood. And programming will teach them a form of logical reasoning that is missing from the standard math curriculum.

With data science emerging as one of the hottest new scientific areas, a basic understanding of statistics will provide the foundation for a wide range of 21st century career paths.

Most students won’t need calculus, Salzberg writes. Those who do can take it in college.

If a few top universities announced they value programming and statistics as highly as calculus,  “our high schools would sit up and take notice,” he writes.

I’m not sure everyone needs computer science, but I would like to see non-calculus alternatives for non-STEM students.

When my daughter was entering 12th grade, I suggested she take AP Statistics, which I thought she might be able to use in the future.  The college counselor said AP Statistics was considered second rate. Elite colleges demanded AP Calculus.

My daughter earned a C in calculus her first semester. The counselor said she’d doomed her college chances. So Allison dropped the course to do an independent study on American poetry, was rejected by Yale, Brown, Penn, etc. and went to UCLA, where she earned an A+ in statistics. After two years, she transferred to Stanford, where she dabbled in programming. (“Everyone knows Java,” she said.)

Which colleges raise graduates’ pay?

A new college-ranking system claims to show schools’ value in raising graduates’ earnings, reports Ed Week.

The California nonprofit Educate to Career and the data company Job Search Intelligence created the ETC College Ranking Index. It analyzes entering students’ SAT or ACT scores and socioeconomic background, their total college costs and their labor market outcomes. Elite colleges that recruit affluent, high-scoring students don’t rank high because their graduates would have done well in any case.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tops the value list, followed by California State University-Los Angeles, the University of California-Merced and East Carolina University.

Some schools in the ETC’s top 10 have low graduation rates, but they make a difference for students who make it through.

Graduates’ earnings are a valid measure of college quality, argues Ben Miller on EdCentral.

Obama signs job training bill

President Obama signed the bipartisan workforce training bill and said federally funded training programs will have to make public how many of their graduates find jobs and how much they are paid. That’s been the law for years, but the Labor Department has granted a lot of waivers.

Bel Kaufman dies at 103

Bel Kaufman, author of the classic 1966 novel Up the Down Staircase, died on Friday at the age of 103.

“Largely epistolary in structure, Up the Down Staircase is organized as a series of dispatches from the front as it follows Sylvia through her first year at Calvin Coolidge High, a fictitious yet all-too-real New York public school,” writes the New York Times.

Ms. Kaufman at home in 2011 when she was 100. Credit: Chester Higgins Jr./New York Times Credit: Chester Higgins Jr./New York Times

Kaufman’s family fled the Russian Revolution when she was 12 and came to New York City. She was placed in a first-grade class. Later, she was denied a teaching license for several years because of her slight Russian accent.

Her book is filled with Kafkaesque memos from administrators:

“Dear Sir or Madam,” one directive reads. “In reply to your request for resignation, please be advised that yours was filled out improperly.” Others range over subjects like “Lateness due to absence” and “Polio Consent slips.”

Amid the laughter, Ms. Kaufman’s book explored deeply serious issues, from classrooms with chronically broken windows and too few chairs to teenage pregnancy, trouble with the law and a student’s attempted suicide.

. . . “One morning a boy came to class three months late,” Ms. Kaufman wrote in 1991, in her introduction to a new edition of Up the Down Staircase. “I greeted him with a feeble joke: ‘Welcome back! What happened? Did you rob a bank?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘A grocery store.’ ”

Kaufman was the granddaughter of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, reports the Forward.  In addition to her Russian accent, the teacher examination board said she’d misinterpreted a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Kaufman “had the chutzpah to send the essay to Millay herself, who replied approvingly, much to the dismay of the Board of Education examiners. While Kaufman was finally allowed to teach, thenceforth only dead poets were included on future certification exams.”

That anecdote is in the book.

After her book became a bestseller and then a movie, Kaufman advocated for a “teachers bill of rights” which would guarantee a “right to respect, to a decent and safe classroom, to a salary commensurate with worth,” reports the Forward.

Yale designs robot ‘trainers’ for kids

Some day, robot “personal trainers” will teach kids to speak, read, exercise and eat their vegetables, say Yale researchers. A $10 million federal grant is funding the five-year project.

“Socially assistive” robots will help children “learn to read, appreciate physical fitness, overcome cognitive disabilities, and perform physical exercises,” the Yalies predict.

“Just like a good personal trainer, we want the robots to be able to guide the child toward a behavior that we desire,” said Brian Scassellati, a computer science professor at Yale and principal investigator for the study.

“We want them to help children learn language, we want to help them learn better eating habits, we want them to learn new social or cognitive skills through their interactions with these robots,” he said.

The robots will support the efforts of parents and therapists, Scassellati said. Robots will be designed for children with special needs — and for average kids.

Support or replace? I suspect someone thinks robot trainers will act as competent parents for kids whose human parents are inferior models.

 

42% of obese kids think their weight is normal

Forty-two percent of obese children and teens think their weight is normal, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report. Among those who are overweight, about three quarters consider themselves to be “about the right weight.”

Half of underweight kids also say they’re normal.

Nearly a third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.


‘Fairness’ means excluding poor Asians

Making New York City’s elite exam schools “fair” means excluding lower-income Asian immigrants, writes Dennis Saffran in the New York Post. The beneficiaries are likely to be children of the professional classes.

In 2004, 7-year-old Ting Shi arrived in New York from China, speaking almost no English. For two years, he shared a bedroom in a Chinatown apartment with his grandparents — a cook and a factory worker — and a young cousin, while his parents put in 12-hour days at a small laundromat they had purchased on the Upper East Side.

Ting mastered English and eventually set his sights on getting into Stuyvesant High School, the crown jewel of New York City’s eight “specialized high schools.”

When he was in sixth grade, he took the subway downtown from his parents’ small apartment to the bustling high school to pick up prep books for its eighth-grade entrance exam. He prepared for the test over the next two years, working through the prep books and taking classes at one of the city’s free tutoring programs.

Ting got into Stuyvesant, earned a diploma and will start at New York University in the fall.

White, black and Latino enrollment in the exam schools has fallen as Asian-American newcomers — disproportionately poor and working-class — “have aced the exam in overwhelming numbers,” writes Saffran. “White enrollment at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech has plummeted . . . dropping from 79 percent, 81 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in 1971 to just 22 percent, 23 percent and 20 percent today.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for “holistic” and subjective admissions criteria, such as extracurriculars and community service, will penalize students like Ting, who works after school in the family laundromat. His family can’t afford a”service” trip to Nicaragua.

“Subjective evaluation measures like interviews and portfolio reviews” open the door to unconscious bias, writes Saffran. Interviewers favor people like themselves.

Sure, the decision makers will do their best to admit a few more black and Latino kids (especially those from the same upper-middle-class backgrounds), but the primary beneficiaries will be affluent white students who didn’t study hard enough to perform really well on the test but seem more “well-rounded” than those who did.

Compared to the exam schools, the city’s “screened” high schools that use “multiple criteria” for admissions admit fewer Asian-American and lower-income students, Saffran writes. Citywide, the exam schools are 13 percent black and Hispanic, 24 percent white and 60 percent Asian. The top screened schools are 27 percent black and Hispanic, 46 percent white and only 26 percent Asian. Half the exam-school students qualify for a lunch subsidy compared to 37 percent at the screened schools.

Ivy League sheep?

Don’t send your kids to Ivy League colleges, writes William Deresiewicz in New Republic. After teaching at Yale for 10 years, he thinks elite colleges are filled with talented, driven, anxious conformists with “little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose.”

So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them.

Bright students would learn more — and meet a more diverse bunch of people — at their flagship state university, he argues.

David Brooks made a similar argument in 2001 in The Organization Kid.

Deresiewicz has a book coming out next month, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and The Way to a Meaningful Life.

Daniel Drezner, also a professor, responds:  Entitled little shits are a minority at elite colleges.