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

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.

## 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.

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