About Joanne

Singapore up, Finland down

Singapore’s students are the best in the world in math, science and reading, proclaims Quartz, which has been crunching the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) numbers. “Finland has fallen from its perch (though it remains a very high performer).

Singapore students earn very high scores on international tests in math, science and reading.

Singapore students earn very high scores on international tests in math, science and reading.

You can compare U.S. results to other countries here.

Massachusetts and North Carolina students were tested separately.

In science, Massachusetts teens scored far above the U.S. and international average in science, and also were above average in reading and math.

The U.S. isn’t going to turn into Singapore, but perhaps more states could emulate Massachusetts.

Canada also does well on PISA, while spending less on education than the U.S.

U.S. math scores are falling

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-10-25-17-am2+2=??? Don’t ask an American 15-year-old. The U.S. ranks near the bottom in math compared to 35 industrialized nations, according to the latest PISA results.

U.S. scores fell in math and remained about the same in reading and science, near the international average.

PISA is given to 15-year-olds in 72 countries.

Higher performing nations teach fewer math topics in greater depth, Andreas Schleicher, who runs the test, told journalists. Students master a topic and then move on, rather than cycling back to the same concept each year, he said.

PISA results matter, writes Robert Rothman. “PISA is designed to measure how well students can apply what they have learned to real-world problems.” In a follow-up study, Canadian students’ results correlated with their success in college and the job market.

The usual excuses don’t apply, he argues. U.S. students aren’t more likely to live in poverty than children in other OECD countries. U.S. 15-year-olds are slightly less likely to be enrolled in school.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-10-25-39-amHong Kong has lots of poverty — and high scores for all students. Estonia also is an equity champion.

The U.S. improved on measures of equity, notes Amanda Ripley in the New York Times. “In 2006, socioeconomic status had explained 17 percent of the variance in Americans’ science scores; in 2015, it explained only 11 percent, which is slightly better than average for the developed world.”

PISA scores don’t correlate with education spending, Ripley observes. The U.S. spends more than most OECD countries for average or below-average performance. Malta spends about the same — and outperforms the U.S.

Luxembourg is the biggest spender, with mediocre results, followed by Switzerland, which has high scores. Taiwan, which spends less than average, and Singapore, which spends more, have similar, very high math scores.

Ripley summarizes what matters:

Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.

“I’m confident the Common Core is going to have a long-term impact,” Schleicher said. “Patience may be the biggest challenge.”

Why teach in Oklahoma?


Shawn Sheehan won “teacher of the year” honors in Oklahoma, but earns less than novice teachers in many other states. Photo: Oklahoma Department of Education

Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma’s teacher of the year, has six years of experience as a high school math teacher and a master’s degree, writes Matt Barnum on The 74. Sheehan earns $35,419 year, or just over $38,000, including benefits.

Teacher pay is very low in the Sooner state, reports Barnum.

The average starting salary in the state is just over $31,000, among the lowest in the country. A Tulsa teacher with a master’s degree and 13 years’ experience still makes under $40,000; a teacher with a doctorate, National Board Certification, and 33 years’ experience makes just less than $60,000.

Teachers can move to any of the states surrounding Oklahoma and expect a significant pay raise — and many do just that.

South Dakota and Mississippi, which pay even less, are raising teacher pay.  Yet, 59 percent of Oklahoma voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have raised the sales tax to boost teacher pay by $5,000 a year.

Oklahoma is turning to uncertified teachers to cope with a teacher shortage.

‘Know the signs’ — or stigmatize loners?

I’ve seen a lot of praise for this ad, which was produced by Sandy Hook Promise to promote its “Know the Signs” program.

The group, which was founded by some family members of the Sandy Hook victims, wants to show “how to recognize an individual exhibiting at-risk behaviors” before they hurt anyone, reports Ed Week.

Watch the warning signs in the video. Do we want kids like this to be reported as possible killers? What percentage of adolescents are loners, occasionally picked on, sometimes hostile?

Teachers are good (or bad) in different ways

Image result for good teaching cartoon

There’s more than one way to teach effectively — or to flop — concludes a new study.

Analyzing test scores doesn’t measure teachers’ strengths and weaknesses, writes Meredith Kolodner on the Hechinger Report.

When children in Classroom A and Classroom B show the same improvement on their math tests, Teachers A and B get the same evaluation score, and the assumption is that both teachers excel at the same things.

But that assumption may be entirely wrong. Teacher A is a rock star when it comes to imparting math content while Teacher B is not, but Teacher B excels at getting students to persevere when they hit obstacles. So the Classroom A students did well on their tests because they knew the content, while the Classroom B kids did well because they didn’t give up easily and reviewed their answers.

Matthew A. Kraft, who works at Brown, and David Blazar, who works at Harvard, “used student surveys and test score results and pored through hours of video of teachers at work in four urban school districts,” writes Kolodner.

They examined four measures of students’ skill that have been demonstrated individually to predict future academic success and job prospects – high math scores, good behavior, happiness in class and perseverance in the face of difficulty. Their research looked at whether “good teachers” were indeed successful at improving all four of these outcomes.

It turns out they’re not.

“What we find is that teachers who are successful at raising test scores are not [not necessarily] the teachers best at improving behaviors,” said Blazar.

Happy students are more likely to have higher test scores. the researchers found. “However, teachers who improve test scores do not always make students happy in class.”

If distinct teaching skills can be analyzed, they can be taught to new teachers, said Blazar. “We have millions and millions of teachers who work in classrooms, and we do a disservice to the profession if we say we’re only going to try to find those teachers who have that natural spark, when we have evidence that these skills are teachable.”

Is football too risky for kids?

Is football too dangerous for teens HBO’s Real Sports looks at the risks of head trauma — 17 players have died in the last three years — and at USA Football’s safety initiative, “Heads Up Football.”

“We believe in hitting a lot,” says John Collins, coach of the San Antonio Predators. His players practice full-contact hitting for 90 minutes a day, three times the recommended limit.

Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens has cut concussions from 20 a year to two by banning contact tackling in practices. Players tackle sleds and dummies. All eight Ivy League football coaches voted year to ban full-contact tackling in practices, reports Ed Week.

Incredibly loud and not even close


“I’m sorry Jeannie your answer was correct but Kevin shouted his incorrect answer over yours so he gets the points.”

Why poor blacks don’t want to be professors

Most science professors are white or Asian males, reported Ed Yong in The Atlantic.

Image result for black latino scientists

Furthermore, women and underrepresented minorities are less likely than white and Asian men to be interested in faculty careers.

Readers responded: So what? It’s patronizing to assume that “women and minorities are wrong about their own interests and priorities,” one wrote.

A postdoc recalled trying to persuade two black female lab techs to go to graduate school.

They told us that we were women in our early thirties who couldn’t afford to buy houses or have children, who spent our nights and weekends working, who didn’t have retirement savings, and who were still struggling to get permanent jobs. Why on earth would they want to be like us?

A black scientist who left a Harvard immunology lab for Big Pharma said the biggest issue is pay. After three years at the lab, he earned $32,000. He started in the pharmaceutical industry at $70,000; after a year, he was earning $90,000 with shorter hours.

Academics aren’t just a ‘white thing’

Standardized tests are a “racist weapon,” argues Ibram X. Kendi, a history professor at the University of Florida. “What if the intellect of a poor, low testing Black child in a poor Black school is different—and not inferior—to the intellect of a rich, high-testing White child in a rich White school?” he asks.

Image result for bell curve testing

“Gathering knowledge of abstract items, from words to equations, that have no relation to our everyday lives has long been the amusement of the leisured elite,” writes Kendi. He prefers to measure literacy “by how knowledgeable individuals are about their own environment.”

A Mexican-American and a first-generation college graduate, Liz Reetz teaches sixth-grade social studies. Testing shows  how “our schools are not educating all students,” she writes on A Plus Colorado.

She “built a curriculum based on teaching students to think, read, talk, and write about history as it relates to identity and social justice,” she writes. Her non-elite students can handle abstractions, if they have “the opportunity to engage with ideas that are meaningful to them.”

Kendi’s ideas are dangerous, she believes.

“Equally intelligent in different ways” says to me: value survival skills in poor and brown people but leave the thinking about big ideas, governing, or improving the world to wealthy people and white people.

. . . You give the power to white teachers, white administrators, white legislators to say “you can’t hold me accountable for the fact that he can’t read, his intelligence is different” or “It’s not my fault she isn’t grasping algebra, her culture doesn’t value numbers or abstract thinking.”

The “notion that communities of color have fundamentally different kinds of knowledge” is racist and ahistorical, writes Reetz.

Pre-Columbian societies tracked the movements of stars and planets, understood complex mathematics, used chemistry and biology to create rubber, and engineered roads and buildings. Do not tell me that my culture doesn’t value abstract thinking.

Abstract thinking “is the heritage of humanity,” she writes. It’s not a “white thing.”

OSU attacker was studying ‘microaggressions’

Abdul Artan, who tried to kill his Ohio State classmates with a car and knife, had a group project due this week on “microaggressions,” reports Robby Soave in Reason‘s Hit & Run. Born in Somalia and mostly raised in Pakistan, Artan came to the U.S. as a refugee with his mother and siblings two years ago.

Abdul Artan was interviewed by Ohio State's Daily Lantern at the start of the school year. He said he was afraid to pray publicly. Photo: Kevin Stankowiecz

Interviewed by a student journalist at the start of the school year, Abdul Artan said he was afraid to pray publicly.

Artan, “who reportedly became radicalized after learning about injustices committed against fellow Muslims,” was enrolled in  class called Crossing Identity Boundaries.

“The assignment, worth 15 percent of his grade, required students to find a dozen examples of microaggressions on social media and explain which identity groups were the victims, according to the syllabus,” writes Soave.

The purpose of the class is to promote “intercultural leadership” and transform students into “actively engaged, socially just global citizen/leaders.”

. . . According to the syllabus, the point of the microaggressions project is to make students “recognize the role of social diversity” and “demonstrate an appreciation for other points of view and cultures.”

A friend claimed Artan “loved America.” However, in his final Facebook post, Artan vowed to “kill a billion infidels” to save a single Muslim, called radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki a “hero” and complained about the treatment of a Muslim minority in Burma.

He was shot and killed by a campus police officer. All his victims survived.