Pink cookie is banned — and in demand

Pink cookies will not be sold at Elyria, Ohio schools, reports the Chronicle-Telegram. The popular cookies  — named Best Cafeteria Cookie by Cleveland magazine in 2009 — have too much real butter and sour cream icing to meet federal guidelines.

A tray of pink cookies are seen at Elyria Schools.  CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

“We could modify the recipe by changing the size, using whole-grain flour or putting on less icing, but in doing that you are not making the same cookies,”  said Scott Teaman, food services director with Sodexo Inc., the district’s contracted food provider. “There is only one way to do the pink cookie, and to do it any other way would not do it justice.”

Forty years ago, Jean Gawlik, the former food production manager for Elyria Schools, used her mother’s recipe for the pink cookies.

You can’t change the recipe of the pink cookie,” said Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. “It’s like eating diet potato chips. It’s not right.” Pink cookies are “one of those things that’s special to our community.”

The cookie ban has spurred demand, reports Reason’s Hit & Run. The bakers are taking special orders for “the perfect cookie.”  If the district can figure out how to ship the cookies, they now have customers around the country and in Canada asking for a box of pinks.

Universities welcome transfer surge

Universities are welcoming — and sometimes recruiting — transfer students as college costs persuade more people to start at community college.

6th-graders told to compare Hitler, Bush

homework_s877x1372 Washington, D.C. sixth graders were told to compare George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler for a homework assignment.

“Now that we have read about two men of power who abused their power in various ways, we will compare and contrast them and their actions,” the assignment reads. “Please refer to your texts, ‘Fighting Hitler – A Holocaust Story’ and ‘Bush: Iraq War Justified Despite No WMD’ to compare and contrast former President George W. Bush and Hitler.”

Parents complained. “In a written statement, D.C. Public Schools said that the teacher acknowledged poor judgment and will apologize to students,” reports USA Today.

Bill Gates likes Big History

Professor David Christian’s “Big History” synthesizes “history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields” into “a unifying narrative of life on earth,” writes Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times Magazine.

More than a thousand U.S. high schools are trying the 10-module course. Wait for the shoe . . . Bill Gates is funding Big History. He discovered Christian’s college course on video while walking on his treadmill. It’s what he would have loved to have taken in high school.

If Gates loves it, a lot of other people hate it, of course. But is it a useful way to make connections? Or a fad? I can’t tell from the description.

Christian’s aim was not to offer discrete accounts of each period so much as to integrate them all into vertiginous conceptual narratives, sweeping through billions of years in the span of a single semester. A lecture on the Big Bang, for instance, offered a complete history of cosmology, starting with the ancient God-centered view of the universe and proceeding through Ptolemy’s Earth-based model, through the heliocentric versions advanced by thinkers from Copernicus to Galileo and eventually arriving at Hubble’s idea of an expanding universe. In the worldview of “Big History,” a discussion about the formation of stars cannot help including Einstein and the hydrogen bomb; a lesson on the rise of life will find its way to Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey.

. . . The units begin with the Big Bang and shift to lesson plans on the solar system, trade and communications, globalization and, finally, the future. A class on the emergence of life might start with photosynthesis before moving on to eukaryotes and multicellular organisms and the genius of Charles Darwin and James Watson. A lecture on the slave trade might include the history of coffee beans in Ethiopia.

Gates hired engineers and designers to develop the web site, which has lots of graphics and videos.

This fall, Big History is being “offered free to more than 15,000 students in some 1,200 schools, from the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies in New York to Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Mich., to Gates’s alma mater, Lakeside Upper School in Seattle.”

I loved Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man when it was on TV, ages ago.

AP U.S. History: Has it moved left?

Critics of the new AP U.S. history framework have gone overboard, writes Rick Hess, a former history teacher.

Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King weren’t removed: The old framework didn’t mention historical figures, except for a few presidents, and the new one follows suit. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are still there.

But he’s concerned about the lack of “attention to America’s motivating ideals or to the resulting governing institutions.”

In the new framework, the only mention that the American Revolution might have had any historical significance is a clause mentioning that it had “reverberations in France, Haiti, and Latin America.” There is little or no discussion of the intermediary institutions that are so critical to American culture, society, and government.

While the standards talk often about ethnic and gender identity, I don’t see any room for a discussion of whether there emerged any kind of distinct American “identity.”

There’s little about economics that’s not about government efforts to combat injustice. Students are introduced to decade after decade of American depravity, but there’s nothing to offer context for 20th century U.S. international engagements.

Democratic presidents are lauded, while Republicans are criticized.  “Where FDR and LBJ are warriors for justice, Reagan is described as a man of ‘bellicose rhetoric’.”

Social history — “as distilled by professors with a taste for 21st century identity politics” — drives the framework.

Critics should communicate their concerns and give the College Board “a chance to act,” Hess concludes.

Here’s a practice exam.

AP’s version of U.S. history must reflect how it’s taught by university professors, writes Checker Finn on Education Gadfly. If it deviates too much, colleges will deny credit. That means “every philosophical, pedagogical, and political fad to overwhelm the faculties of today’s post-modern campuses will creep into the courses taught to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds.”  

. . . ask yourself whether the collegiate version of U.S. history—warts and all, with emphasis on the warts—is what you want kids to learn about the nation’s past while in elementary, middle, and high school. Might it not be more important for them to internalize basic chronology, fundamental events, key people, and major accomplishments than to agonize about the injustices and downtrodden of bygone years?

College Board says students learn all that before taking AP U.S. history. But do they?

Textbook publishers design online classes

Textbook publishers are developing complete online courses with texts, videos and automatically graded quizzes and essays. Students at different colleges and universities take the same course, paying the local tuition rate.  The professor doesn’t have to do anything.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Home Spun Juggling is hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, which is dedicated to “songs stuck in my head.”

Out of step

Via Larry Cuban:

Thinking

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Good principals attract good teachers

Good principals attract, develop and retain good teachers, writes Dana Goldstein in Slate.

In our effort to help teachers close achievement gaps, let’s look beyond tenure panic, incentive pay, and even the Common Core. How about a new education reform push, one that focuses less on the individual teacher in her classroom and more on the principal who supervises teachers’ work?

. . . When McKinsey surveyed top teachers on what it would take for them to move to a higher-poverty school, they responded that the biggest draw, even more important than a raise, would be a respected principal who created a positive school environment.

Today’s principals are expected to be managers and instructional leaders, writes Goldstein.  An effective principal articulates the school’s mission and helps teachers improve their teaching skills.

When an excellent principal is hired at a high-poverty school, time for teacher training and collaboration increases, student test scores rise by 5 to 10 points annually, and ineffective teachers begin to leave — yes, even under today’s often overly restrictive tenure policies. When a good principal departs, the progress unwinds and student achievement drops.

Good principals “multiply the effects of good teaching,” she writes.

By contrast, superintendents aren’t all that important, according to a new Brookings analysis of Florida and North Carolina data.

Superintendents come and go without affecting student achievement by more than a small fraction, the report concludes.

Figure. Variance in Fourth and Fifth Grade Student Achievement in Mathematics Associated with Various Influences, North Carolina, 2000-01 to 2009-10

Efficiency Index: U.S. overpays teachers

U.S. schools overpay teachers, according to the international “Efficiency Index” released by GEMS Education Solutions.

The report was created with the support of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which created the PISA exam. leader

The U.S. ranked 19 out of 30 OECD countries, because teachers earn higher salaries than necessary to attract competent teachers and classes are smaller than necessary. (I don’t know how they calculate this.)

Yet the U.S. rates as “more efficient than effective,” along with countries such as Hungary, France, Britain and Sweden.

Finland, Japan and Korea do the best in efficiency and quality (as measured by PISA scores). Finland and Korea achieve excellent results with relatively large class sizes – the 3rd and 5th largest of the OECD countries – and pay teachers moderate wages, the report noted.

Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and others were effective, but not very efficient.

Brazil, Chile, Greece, Indonesia and Turkey were both inefficient and ineffective.