Carnival of Homeschooling

The new Carnival of Homeschooling at HomeSchoolBuzz looks at how homeschoolers use technology.

3 Is A Magic Number

By popular request, here’s Schoolhouse Rock’s 3 Is A Magic Number.

Hire math teachers in K-5

Americans stink at math but we can fix that, writes Hung-Hsi Wu, an emeritus math professor at Berkeley and the author of Understanding Numbers in Elementary School Mathematics.

Elementary teachers — generalists required to teach every subject  – are dependent on math textbooks that don’t teach “learnable math,” writes Wu.  “It is not realistic to expect all of them to summon up the superhuman energy to learn mathematics at the expense of all their other duties.”

Common Core Standards place even higher demands on  teachers’ content knowledge, he writes.  The solution is “to require K-5 math classes to be taught only by math teachers.”

Wu suggests that Mark Zuckerberg, who’s giving $120 million to Bay Area schools, target a few districts willing to train math teachers to teach K-5 students.

A few elementary schools already hire math or math/science specialists, though I don’t know of any that start in kindergarten.

Many elementary teachers don’t see themselves as “math people.” Should we hire teachers who understand and like math in elementary schools?

Poor kids’ teachers score low, but why?

New teacher evaluation systems tend to give lower ratings to teachers with disadvantaged students. Teacher Beat’s Stephen Sawchuk asks the critical question: Are the ratings biased? Or do high-need kids get fewer high-quality teachers?

Value-added measures (VAM) are supposed to judge teachers by whether they’ve done better than previous teachers at improving their students’ progress. But many question whether VAM is a reliable measure of teachers’ effectiveness.

Evaluation systems also include classroom observations. And those have problems too, writes Sawchuk. “Observations by principals can reflect bias, rather than actual teaching performance,” writes Sawchuk.

Yet we also know that disadvantaged students are less likely to have teachers capable of boosting their test scores and that black students are about four times more likely than white students to be located in schools with many uncertified teachers.

Teachers in low-poverty Washington, D.C. schools were far more likely to ace the teacher-evaluation system, IMPACT, observes Matthew Di Carlo, at the Shanker blog.


The Pittsburgh teacher-evaluation program shows similar results, according to a federal analysis, writes Sawchuk. “Teachers of low-income and minority students tended to receive lower scores from principals conducting observations, and from surveys administered to students. Those teaching gifted students tended to get higher ratings.”

It’s hard to know whether all methods of evaluation are inaccurate or whether a “maldistribution of talent” explains the low scores for teachers of disadvantaged students, concludes Sawchuk.

It will be hard to persuade teachers to work in high-poverty, high-minority schools if they know they’ll risk being rated ineffective.

Free college — but will they graduate?

Tennessee, Oregon — and possibly Texas — are offering two free years at a community or technical college to high school graduates. But “Promise” programs are struggling to get unprepared students to complete college credentials.

Mr. Morton is the subject …

The Tale of Mr. Morton from Schoolhouse Rock.

The lost art of diagramming sentences

The design firm Pop Chart Lab has taken the first lines of famous novels and diagrammed those sentences. This one shows the opening of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis.

Pop Chart Lab has diagrammed the first lines of famous novels, such as Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Diagramming sentences is a lost art, reports NPR.

It’s a “picture of language,” says Kitty Burns Florey, the author of Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.

The first sentence she recalls diagramming is: “The dog barked.”

“By drawing a line and writing ‘dog’ on the left side of the line and ‘barked’ on the right side of the line and separating them with a little vertical line, we could see that ‘dog’ was the subject of the sentence and ‘barked’ was the predicate or the verb,” she explains. “When you diagram a sentence, those things are always in that relation to each other. It always makes the same kind of picture. And supposedly, it makes it easier for kids who are learning to write, learning to use correct English

In a 1877  book, Higher Lessons in English, Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg argued that students would learn how to structure sentences by drawing them as graphic structures. Diagramming became popular — till the 1960s. (I learned in seventh grade in 1964-5.)

 “Diagramming sentences … teaches nothing beyond the ability to diagram,” declared the 1960 Encyclopedia of Educational Research.

In 1985, the National Council of Teachers of English declared that “repetitive grammar drills and exercises” — like diagramming sentences — are “a deterrent to the improvement of students’ speaking and writing.”

Diagramming isn’t mentioned in the Common Core standards, so it’s probably doomed.

What’s the best college for the country?

Washington Monthly’s 2014 college rankings show the most “public-minded” institutions based on social mobility, research and public service.

We all benefit when colleges produce groundbreaking research that drives economic growth, when they put students from lower-income families on the path to a better life, and when they shape the character of future leaders. And we all pay for it, through hundreds of billions of dollars in government-financed financial aid, tax breaks, and other spending.

. . . Instead of crediting colleges that reject the most applicants, we recognize those that do the best job of enrolling and graduating low-income students. Our rankings measure both pure research spending and success in preparing undergraduates to earn PhDs. And by giving equal weight to public service, we identify colleges that build a sense of obligation to their communities and the nation at large.

Only two of U.S. News‘ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Monthly‘s top ten, which is headed by the University of California  at San Diego.

Categories include the best bang-for-the-buck schools, which looks at value for the cost most students will pay, not the sticker price. That’s how Amherst makes the top five.

The Monthly also lists the affordable elites (the University of California campuses do well).

America’s Worst Colleges have high tuition and high dropout and default rates. Of the worst 20, 11 are for-profit colleges and nine are private nonprofits. Art schools and historically black colleges do poorly in the ratings.

The 13 most ridiculous college courses include Skidmore’s Sociology of Miley Cyrus, Tufts’ Demystifying the Hipster and Rutgers’ Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyonce,  according to Thomas K. Lindsay on See Thru Edu.

Occidental has a course titled Stupidity, which teaches that it is “the double of intelligence rather than its opposite.” I don’t follow the math on that. I may not be stupid enough.

Officer Unfriendly

From Anthony Freda Studio:

Photo: Just saw the same idea in Mad....hate when that happens... pretty obvious parody, I guess.

When students default, colleges pay

If too many students default on their loans, colleges risk losing access to federal student aid. That’s motivated community colleges to develop default management plans. But denying federal loans to high-risk students isn’t an option.