U.S. teen teaches coding in Cambodia

Mozilla’s Open Standard debuts with a story on Teaching Kids to Code in Cambodia.

Ming Horn, a 16-year-old high school student in California, has founded KhodeUp, a four-week web design and programming course for children in impoverished countries.

She developed the idea last November during a visit to an orphanage in Cambodia where she met a young woman who wanted to study computer science in the U.S., but had no experience.

“She really wanted to come to the U.S. to study computer science but had never had any experience with programming, so she ended up switching her intended major to business while applying,” Horn said.

In May, Horn used the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to raise more than $20,000. That funded her first course in Phnom Penh at the Future Light Orphanage of Worldmate (FLOW).

Horn said the first week of KhodeUp focuses on HTML, CSS and design basics; the second on JavaScript; and the third and fourth weeks are devoted to a final project in which the students – working in teams of two – have to design and code websites for imaginary businesses.

“I give each team a dossier containing client and market information and they have to do further research and make design decisions based on what the client wants and who their market is,” she said about the last two weeks of the course. “The businesses are modeled after actual businesses that could be their clients in the future.”

Horn was adopted from China. Her brother was adopted from Cambodia. “I’ve always been able to imagine what my life would have been like had I not been adopted,” she said.  “When I realized that I could have never had an opportunity to learn programming or tech, which is so much a huge part of my life and my passion, I wanted to give the kids here that opportunity.”

Remediation rates plummet in Florida

Remedial enrollment has dropped by half this year at Broward College. Students aren’t any better prepared. A a new state law lets Florida high school graduates skip remedial courses, if they choose, and start at the college level.

Carnival of Homeschooling

History is the theme of this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted at Homeschool Post.

Are We Crazy About Our Kids?

Are We Crazy About Our Kids? is part of a documentary advocating early childhood education from The Raising of America.

Why do teachers hate Common Core?

What is it teachers truly hate about the Common Core? asks Shawna on The Picture Book Teacher’s Edition.
The Picture Book Teacher's Edition common core

In Why I Want to Give Up Teaching Elizabeth A. Natalie complains that, “In English, emphasis on technology and nonfiction reading makes it more important for students to prepare an electronic presentation on how to make a paper airplane than to learn about moral dilemmas from Natalie Babbitt’s beloved novel Tuck Everlasting.”

Her worth as a teacher will be based on how well her students do on the new Core-aligned exams.

Shawna also links to Robert Pondiscio’s column, What’s Right About Common Core.

It makes sense to have students read more nonfiction, writes Pondiscio. Reading in different genres — “recipes, instructions on how to put something together, a contract, medical news, political views, sales ads and disclaimers, and reasons for or against something” — is a key to functioning in the world.

Pondiscio also says “Broad general knowledge of the world correlates with reading comprehension — the more you know, the more you take from reading.”

Common Core aims to achieve a “knowledge-rich curriculum,” but it’s school districts’ job to develop a curriculum for teachers to teach. “Has your district given you quality content?” asks Shawna.

Do I hate the Common Core Standards or the curriculum (or lack of) my district has given me?”

Do I hate the Common Core Standards, or the data that my district, the state, and the government are requiring me to track?

Do I hate the Common Core Standards, or the fact that I have to teach areas and content in which I am not used to or uncomfortable teaching?

Great teachers “take the standards, the curriculum and what they know is right and they just teach,” concludes Shawna. “They are having meaningful discussions about fiction books, they are using technical vocabulary when reading nonfiction texts, they are talking through different strategies for solving one math problem, and they are showing what they know in their writing and answers.”

Boys, girls and ‘genderbread persons’


Teachers aren’t supposed to refer to “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen” in Lincoln, Nebraska schools, lest transgender students feel excluded or be bullied, reports Watchdog. Suggested terms include “campers,” “readers” and “purple penguins.” If absolutely necessary, they can say “boys, girls, both or neither.”

Training documents tell teachers how to avoid creating a “gendered space.” Among the 12 steps:

Step 5: “When you find it necessary to reference gender, say ‘boy, girl, both or neither,” the handout said. “When asked why, use this as a teachable moment. Emphasize to students that your classroom recognizes and celebrates the gender diversity of all students.”

Step 8: “Be intolerant of openly hostile attitudes or references towards others… on their statements about gender. Being punitive may stop the behavior, at least in your presence. Being instructive may stop it entirely.”

Step 10: “Avoid using ‘normal’ to define any behaviors.”

Teachers also received a handout on “The Genderbread Person.”

I wonder how many Lincoln teachers will have a transgender student this year. One? Two?

Who needs algebra?

Community colleges are trying algebra-light alternatives that teach statistics or quantitative reasoning for students who don’t plan STEM careers. Algebra is “the single most-failed course,” says Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y. For many, it’s an impassable barrier, not a gateway.

Inspirational or just crazy?

The movie Whiplash obliterates “every sentimental cliché of the inspirational-teacher genre,” writes A.A. Dowd on A.V. Club. At a top conservatory, a perfectionist instructor mentors — and brutalizes — a 19-year-old jazz drummer who aspires to greatness.

Different diplomas for different kids

What does a high school diploma mean? Common Core standards are supposed to guarantee that all graduates are ready for “college and career.” (Which college? Which career?)

Absent a miracle, that would man denying most 12th graders a diploma, writes Checker Finn in Education Next. Today, somewhere between 26 percent (ACT) and 40 percent (NAEP) are prepared for college.

Different Kids Need Different Credentials, Finn argues. States should issue a gold-star diploma that signifies college readiness and a conventional diploma that shows the student has passed mandatory courses “to the satisfaction of those teaching them.”

This is akin to the practice for many decades (until 2012) in New York State, where a Regents Diploma denoted a markedly higher level of academic attainment than a local diploma, and it’s somewhat similar to the practice in today’s England, where you can complete your schooling with a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), but if you’re bent on university, you stick around to earn a more-demanding A-level certificate.

Finn is “unpersuaded that college readiness is the proper goal of everybody’s high-school education” or that the new academic standards “are truly needed for success in myriad careers.”

. . . much as I admire the Common Core standards and hope that they gain enormous traction across the land, I have never seen, in any line of endeavor, a standard that was both truly high and universally attained.

About half the states have graduation exams, but they’re typically set at 8th, 9th or — at most — 10th-grade levels, writes Finn. Even then, some 12th graders — disproportionately disadvantaged students  — have trouble passing after multiple tries.

Ed Next has set up a discussion, but everyone agrees that differential diplomas make sense.

Support low-income and minority students to earn stronger diplomas,” writes Richard D. Kahlenberg.

States should award a “diploma plus” to students who’ve achieved career or college readiness, writes Sandy Kress.

Gifted classes help achievers

Gifted classes help disadvantaged students with high achievement scores but average IQs, according to a study of urban fourth graders.

Non-disadvantaged students with IQs of 130 or higher did not benefit. Neither did lower-income students and English Learners with IQ scores of 116 or higher.

Students who “miss the IQ thresholds but scored highest among their school/grade cohort in state-wide achievement tests in the previous year . . . show significant gains in reading and math, concentrated among lower-income and black and Hispanic students.” Math gains persisted in fifth grade. Students also showed gains in fifth-grade science.

Gifted classes are “more effective for students selected on past achievement – particularly disadvantaged students who are often excluded from gifted and talented programs,” researchers concluded.

Mixed-ability algebra classes hurt higher-skill students, concludes another study on Chicago’s algebra-for-all policy, adopted in 1997.

Chicago moved poorly prepared students into algebra classes without additional supports for students or teachers, researchers found. “Simply mandating a college-prep curriculum for all students is not sufficient to improve the academic outcomes of all students.”

Who’d have thunk it?