April 15, 2009

Acquiring Knowledge

In the last post, we discussed the six forms of knowledge:

  • verbal associations - facts and lists: (this one thing goes with that one thing);
  • concepts - sensory and higher-order: (all these things have some features in common);
  • rule relationships: (this set of things goes with that set of things); and
  • cognitive routines: (to read all of these words, or to solve all of these math problems, or to write these kinds of essays, do steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
These forms of knowledge are defined by the logical structure of the knowledge itself. The logical structure is the connections inherent in the knowledge. Learning one of the forms of knowledge means learning those connection.

In this post we'll discuss how these connections are learned and, thus, how knowledge is acquired by a learner.

Acquiring Knowledge

Generally, facts and lists are learned differently than concepts, rules, and routines.

1. Facts and Lists

Facts and Lists (statements that connect specific things) are learned by simply memorizing the connection. The memorization could be long term or short term depending on how long the knowledge is needed by the learner. If the knowledge is important, it is often useful for the knowledge to be practiced (rehearsed) so that it retained in long term memory. Otherwise, the knowledge will have to be reactivated every time it is needed (this is where Google helps tremendously).

2. Concepts, Rules or Propositions, and Routines

In the case of concepts, rules or propositions, and routines, however, the student has to figure out the general idea that is revealed by the examples. The student gets from the examples (specifics) to the general idea embedded in the examples by inductive reasoning. In other words, the learner performs a sequence of logical operations, beginning with examples and ending with a general idea. That is, the learner:

(a) observes examples and nonexamples (examples of concepts, or rules/propositions, or routines);
(b) performs a series (a routine) of logical operations on what it observes; and
(c) arrives at (induces, figures out, discovers, “gets”) the general idea (the concept, rule, or routine) revealed by the examples and nonexamples.

The teacher's job is to induce this learning by helping the student to “get”(see, grasp, figure out, learn) that the examples reveal a connection—a general idea (verbal association, concept, rule-relationship, cognitive routine). The teacher uses examples (and nonexamples) so that students learn (grasp, figure out, induce) the general idea (the knowledge) that connects the examples.

There are a few ways this can be done.

a. Method of agreement.. The student identifies what is common to the examples and not found in nonexamples. What is common is the general idea; e.g., redness. This is because the examples differ in nonessential features but agree in the essential feature. If they are all “treated” the same way (named, solved), it must be because of the way in which they agree. So, the teacher should present a range of examples; help the student to compare and contrast the examples; and to identify the sameness—which is the general idea (concept, rule, routine).

b. Method of difference. The student identifies what is different between the examples and nonexamples. What is different must be what makes the difference. This feature that is different (present in examples, but missing in nonexamples) must be the general idea. Examples and nonexamples are the same in nonessential features but differ in the essential feature. If they are treated differently, the difference (feature) must be what makes the difference. This difference is the general idea. So, the teacher should juxtapose examples and nonexamples; help the student to compare and contrast and to identify the difference that makes the difference.

c. Method of concomitant variation. The student identifies how one kind of thing changes along with (in the same or different direction as) another kind of thing. If one thing changes, and everything else stays the same, and then another thing changes in a regular way, then it is reasonable to infer that they go together—they are in a functional or causal relationship. This form of inductive reasoning is used especially in discovering rule relationships.

Let's now take a look at how these play out in learning concepts, rules, and routines.

A. Concepts

A concept is a set of events or things that have one or more common features. The common features are the concept. The word (“red”) is not the concept. It is merely a name for the concept. “Red” signifies or points to the feature—the redness. So, to teach a concept, the teacher should teach the student what are the common features of the examples and the name of the features (“red”) so that the student can communicate the concept to other persons.

What makes a concept a basic (or sensory) concept, as opposed to a higher-order concept? The “stuff” of basic concepts is right in front of the learners eyes, ears, or skin.
  • Red: Not the word “red”; the color your eye perceives that is called “red.”
  • On: Not the word “on”; the way things are arranged that is called “on.”
  • Hot: Not the word “hot”; the way your skin feels when you touch “hot.”
All of these are basic concepts. Because all the information that defines the basic concept is right there. So, a basic concept should be taught by giving examples and naming them. Then juxtapose (put next to each other, or one right after the other) examples with nonexamples (that are the same in every way except in the features that make the difference), and name them. Here's an example of how to teach the concept "over" using examples and nonexamples.

In basic concepts, such as red, on, and s says /sss/, the “stuff” that defines the concept is right there to be seen, heard, or felt. However, the stuff that defines higher-order concepts is not right in front of the learner's senses. The learner can’t see in one place all the stuff that defines democracy, or justice, or furniture, or symmetry. The stuff that defines democracy (elections, for example) is spread over time and place and groups. So, to teach a higher-order concept the teacher should first give a verbal definition that draws a big circle around all the stuff in the concept. And then give examples and nonexamples so that student sees the actual stuff that defines the concept. Here's a simple example of teaching the higher-order concept "bird":

B. Rules
Rules are statements that connect not one thing and another thing (e.g., name and date), but connect whole sets of things (concepts):
  • When demand increases, price increases.
  • All dogs are canines.
  • Rules can be shown on diagrams; e.g., graphs and models of interconnections.
Rules can be generally taught in one of two ways.

1. Deductive method: from general (rule) to specific (examples). In the deductive method the teacher teaches the rule statement first. Then examples and nonexamples are presented, as with concepts. Then the teacher tests all examples and nonexamples to see if the student has learned the rule.

Teacher: “Is this (verbal description of graph) an example of the demand-price rule?”

Student: “No.”

Teacher: “How do you know?”

Student states rule.

Then the teacher generalizes to/tests new examples and nonexamples. Here's another example of using the deductive method.

“The question is, Is there a connection between how steep an inclined plane is and how long it takes a ball to roll down it?”

The teacher then tells the student the rule-relationship (the steeper the inclined plane, the less time it takes the ball to roll down the inclined plane) and then show examples using inclined planes of different angles. These examples would confirm the rule.

2. Inductive method: from specific (examples) to general (rule). In the deductive method the teacher presents a range of examples first (e.g., different price-demand curves): cars, oil, movies. Then the teacher shows students how to compare the examples and to identify the sameness—the relationship.

One variable goes up and the other variable goes up. “Demand varies directly with price.” Then the teacher present nonexamples, and show (in relation to the rule) how they are nonexamples. “Demand is increasing, but price stays the same. That does not fit the rule. Then the teacher gives new examples and nonexamples, and has the student say if they are or are not examples, and how he knows.

Here's an example of using the inductive method on the inclined plane ball-rolling example above.

The teacher has the student do an experiment by rolling balls down inclined planes of different angles, measuring how long it takes each ball to roll down, and then has the student draw a conclusion.

This way requires more skills. (In the deductive method, the student merely compares examples with the rule. “Yup, the ball takes less time when the angle is steeper.”) For example, the student has to change the angles, measure the times, write the measurements, compare and contrast the instances, and figure out the connection. This means the teacher would have to teach these pre-skills before students do the experiment.

C. Routines
A Routine is a sequence of steps for getting something done. Solving math problems, sounding out words, writing essays, brushing your teeth, brushing someone else’s teeth. Routines are taught in the same way that lists are taught. The teachers models each step (or a few steps), then adds a few more steps (and then models the whole sequence so far, then adds a few more steps; etc., until the routine is complete

Applying Acquired Knowledge

That's how students acquire knowledge, but we also we also want them to be able to apply and extend the knowledge they've acquired to new examples. In general, we apply or generalize knowledge through deductive reasoning. That is, the learner:

(1) has/knows/can say a general idea (concept, rule/proposition, routine);
(2) uses the general idea (definition of a concept, or statement of a rule, or features of the things handled by the routine; e.g., math problems, words) to examine a possible new example using the information in (2);
(3) “decides” whether the new thing fits (is an example of) the definition, rule, or routine (“Can you solve this with FOIL?”); and
(4) “treats” the example accordingly--names it (concept), explains it (with the rule), solves it (with the routine).

Here's an example: If a general rule or proposition (learned either via inductive reasoning or is being told) is that when demand increases, price increases, and if you notice that the demand for oil is increasing, the learner will deduce (predict) that the price of oil will increase.

It is a simple deductive syllogism. When demand increases, price increases. The demand for commodities are increasing. oil is a kind of commodity. Therefore, the price of oil will increase. “How do you know?” “Because when demand increases, price increases, and an increase in the demand for oil is an example of an increase in demand.”

Now we know about the forms of knowledge and how that knowledge is acquired and applied. Next we'll learn how knowledge is retained past the acquisition stage. And, then, we can get to the good stuff -- the differences between novices and experts and why the "struggling" of an novice is not the same as the "struggling" of an expert.

*So far these first two posts have been adaptive from the works of Martin Kozloff, Professor of Education. See Kozloff's site for much more detail on these topics.

April 14, 2009

To Struggle, or Not to Struggle

I want to follow-up on my last post regarding the purported efficacy of designing instruction such that the novice K-12 student is required to "struggle" to learn the new material.

All the material that is typically learned on the K-12 level is amenable of being placed into meaningful relationships (or connections) with pre-existing skills and knowledge of the student. Learning will be more difficult when:

1. the student does not possess the prerequisite skills and knowledge assumed by the new material; and/or

2. the teacher has not displayed the meaningful relationships inherent in the new material or has given an explanation that is difficult for the student to follow.

In these situations learning will require higher-levels of analytic ability. And, the students most likely to learn in these situations are the high-IQ students because these students are better able to solve problems they haven't seen before (or that contain untaught vocabulary).

For the purposes of this discussion I want to focus on the purposeful failure (often for pedagogical reasons) of the teacher to display the meaningful relationships inherent in the new material to novice K-12 students under the belief that the ensuing "struggle" will better learn the new material and the underlying meaningful relationship/connection. (I think it's generally recognized that providing confusing explanations by the teacher and failing to ascertain whether a student possesses the skill and knowledge prerequisites is an indication of poor teaching.)

Let's start with the kinds of information, skills, and knowledge that the K-12 learns and what neds to be taught and learned. I've adapted this explanation from Martin Kozloff's Making Sense of What You Read and Hear, and Making Sense When You Teach.

Regardless of the subject (math, history, science), there are only six kinds of information, skills, or knowledge that can be communicated to and learned by the K-12 student.

Each kind of knowledge represents a connection. To understand the knowledge is to understand the connection. To use the knowledge (to apply it to possible examples of it) is to apply the connection.

1. Facts

Ex: “The U.S. Constitution was written in Philadelphia.”

For purposes of instruction a fact is a true and verifiable statement that connects one specific thing (Constitution) and another specific thing (Philadelphia).

Teach the connection.

2. Lists

Ex. 1: “The elements of sugar are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.”

Ex. 2: “Here is a list of facts about the U.S. Constitution. Written in Philadelphia between May and September, 1787; the draft was sent to the various states for ratification; the Constitution plus the Bill or Rights is a compromise between advocates of strong central government (Federalists) and advocates of strong state governments with a limited central government (anti-federalists); the Constitution was finally ratified in 1789.

Like with facts, these statements connect one specific thing (elements of sugar, Constitution) and a list (of other specific things).

Teach the connection(s).

3. Sensory concepts

Exs: blue, on.

The specific things (examples) of the concepts differ in many ways (size, shape), but they are connected by a common feature, such as color or position.

All of the defining features of the concept are in any example. Therefore, the concept can be shown by one example. However, a range of examples is needed for the learner to see what the common feature is and to cover the range of variations (e.g., from light to dark red).

Teach the range of examples needed for the learner to determine the common feature and the range of variations.

4. Higher-order concepts.

Exs: Democracy, society, mammal.

The specific things (examples) of the concepts are connected by a common feature or features; e.g., making societal decisions through elected representatives (representative democracy).

The defining features of higher-order concepts, however, are spread out. Therefore, you can’t simply show examples to teach a higher-order concept. You have to give a definition (that states the common, defining features) and then give examples and nonexamples to substantiate the definition.

Teach the definition of the common features and then substantiate the definition through suitable examples and non-examples.

5. Rules or propositions

These are statements that connect not specific things but whole groups of things (concepts or categories).

  • Categorical Propositions. Some rules or propositions state (assert, propose) how one kind of thing (concept or category) is part of or is not part of another kind of thing (concept of category). These are called categorical propositions. For example, all dogs (one kind of thing) are canines (another kind of thing). Or, No birds (one kind of thing) are reptiles (another kind of thing). or, Some bugs are delicious.

    Teach the rule or proposition.

  • Causal or hypothetical propositions. Other rules or propositions state, assert, or propose how one kind of thing (concept or category) changes with another kind of thing (concept or category). These are called causal or hypothetical propositions. You can tell that a statement asserts a causal or hypothetical proposition because it states (or suggests) something like “If…. If and only if.… Whenever…. The more… The less….one thing happens, then another thing (happens, comes into being, changes, increases, happens more often, decreases).

    The “thing” (variable, condition, antecedent event) that is the alleged cause of something else can work (have an effect) in different ways. For example, the alleged cause might be considered a necessary condition for something else to happen or change. (“If X does not happen, then Y will not happen.” Or, “If and only if X happens will Y happen.”) Or, the alleged cause might be considered a sufficient condition for something else to happen. (“Whenever X happens, Y will happen.”)

    For instance, Whenever temperature increases (one kind of thing), pressure increases (another kind of thing). [This proposition suggests that a rise in temperature is a sufficient condition (by itself) to cause an increase in pressure.] Or, If and only if there is sufficient oxygen, fuel, and heat (one category of thing) will there be ignition (another category of thing. [This proposition suggests that sufficient oxygen, fuel, and heat are a necessary condition for ignition.]

    Note: When you have identified all of the necessary conditions, you now have a set of variables that are a sufficient condition. Think of a causal model of fire, a cold, and a revolution.

    Teach the rule or proposition.

6. Routines

Routines are sequences of steps that usually must be done in a certain order. Solving math problems, sounding out words, and stating a theory or making a logical argument (each proposition in the theory or argument is like a step that leads to a conclusion).

Teach the routine.

: A routine is a connection of a number of events, such as steps in solving a problem or a listing of events leading up to a war. There are different arrangements of steps or events in routines. You want your students to see what these arrangements are.

  • Sequence in one direction. A leads to B leads to C leads to D. Ex.: sounding out words, solving math problems.

  • Sequence with feedback loops. A leads to B and the change in B produces a (reciprocal) change in A which produces more change in B until some limit is reached. Exs.: Outbreak of war, onset of illness, falling in love, divorce, getting porky and out of shape.

  • Stages or phrases. A sequence of events or steps can be seen as a process divided into stages in a process.

    Ex1: Load rifle: steps a—b—c--d; Fire rifle: steps e—f—g; Clear rifle: steps h—i; Clean rifle: steps j—k, etc.

    Ex2: In history: If you examine enough (examples of) genocidal movements, you notice that one group has some features (e.g., property, social status) that produces envy in another group, or does something that threatens another group (e.g., resists power). This might be seen as the background (first) phase. Then (phase 2) the genocidal group demonizes the first group with racial slurs and propaganda. Then (phase 3) the genocidal group begins to mistreat the victim group; e.g., attacks, job loss, confiscating weapons, special (degrading) clothing. If (phase 4, escalation) the victim group fights back, this provokes worse treatment. If the victim group submits, it furthers the genocidal group’s perception of the victim as degraded. The genocidal group then (phase 5) creates an organization for killing or transporting. Then the killing begins (phase 6).

  • Logical argument. A text might be arranged as a logical argument. There are two sorts of logical arguments:

    a. Inductive. Facts are presented. Then the facts are shown to lead to a general idea, such as a conclusion. For example, examine five examples of genocide and INDUCE (figure out) the common phases and the activities in each phase.

    b. Deductive. Or, text may be arranged so that it presents a deductive argument. It begins with a general idea, such as a rule--first premise.

    “If X happens, then Y must happen.”

    It then presents facts relevant to the first premise—evidence or second premise.

    “X happened.”

    It then draws a conclusion.

    “Therefore, Y must happen.”

In the next post we'll discuss how a student learns this knowledge.

April 10, 2009

Once More into the SES Breach

Here goes some new research on effects of positive parental efforts in their adopted children and the persistence of negative outcomes for these children:

The results show that parents invested more in adopted children than in genetically related ones, especially in educational and personal areas. At the same time, adoptees experienced more negative outcomes. They were more likely to have been arrested, to have been on public assistance and to require treatment for drug, alcohol or mental health issues. They also completed fewer years of schooling and were more likely to divorce. In adoptive families, it appears that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Parents invest more in adoptees not because they favor them, but because they are more likely than genetic children to need the help.

Razib of Gene Expression points out:

In Western countries adoptive parents are screened. Many of them are of higher socioeconomic status, and they adopt children from the general population, with a likely skew toward lower socioeconomic status biological parents. The traits which determine your social status are a combination of environment and genes, the latter mediated through various personality dispositions and attributes. In fact there is plenty of data to show that shared parental environment has a marginal long term effect. This is not to say that there aren't environmental inputs which matter, and which adoptive parents bring to the table, but their direct guiding is not the operative element.

This study is consistent with the results of other adoption studies, such as the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study which found similarly disappointing results.

Apparently, changing a low-SES child's environment to a high-SES environment is not going to magically convert the child to a high-SES child that can be plopped into a fancy suburban school and expect magic results. No, that's not going to happen.

Berliner can put "studies" like this out every year in which he pretends he has some secret anti-poverty potion that will cure the education woes of the low-SES.

If high-SES parents aren't capable of ameliorating the biological/genetic factors of their low-SES adopted children, what's the basis for our believing that any governmental sponsored poverty intervention could produce the same or similar results given that the children will still be saddled with their less-capable biological parents?

Berliner's out of school factors (OSFs) as not as powerful as he thinks or at least his cherry-picked research has led him to believe:

[O]ut-of-school factors (OSFs) play a powerful role in generating existing achievement gaps, and if these factors are not attended to with equal vigor, our national aspirations will be thwarted.

This brief details six OSFs common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

Berliner is overselling the effects of prenatal care, the first of his OSFs.

The remaining OSFs would seem to have been taken care of in the adoption studies, and yet the achievement gaps persisted. In fact, the parents in the adoption studies would have been more likely to ameliorate the "linguistic underdevelopment" and yet they seemed to have been incapable of doing so. See Hart and Risley and Zig's explanation of the effect in the first six or so minutes of this video.

Most of Berliner's OSF's seem to be related to various distractions (hunger, sickness, bad peers, chaotic family environment) that low-SES children must contend with. Berliner seems to forget that middle-class kids and high-SES kids have their own distraction to contend with. We don't worry too much about those distraction but they certainly exist. And, with respect to the linguistic deficiencies, these deficiencies will remain in place unless there is some kind of high-powered instructional intervention put into place, i.e., the kind that form part of any preschool program that the the SES hustlers advocate.

So even if we were to follow Berliner's recommendations to the letter, we're still going to be left with children with instructional needs and language deficiencies that are different than the needs of high-SES children. These kids are still going to require compensatory education and improved instruction that takes into account their deficiencies. This is not the kind of instruction that you find even in high-SES schools.

The problem remains an instructional problem at its core.

April 9, 2009

Compare and Contrast

Because Ed schools do such a lousy job teaching teachers how to teach and how children learn, teachers often develop their own theories on teaching and learning based on their own observations. Often these theories are wrong.

Here's Dan Meyer blogging about a common teacher misconception: the supposed instructional value of allowing/encouraging students to struggle:

The good teacher knows if the learner learns through the ears, the eyes, or the hands just like the good spotter knows where the lifter wants support — at the wrists or under the elbows or on the bar. The good spotter is unhelpful; the good spotter doesn't intervene at the first sign of struggle but realizes that the struggle is essential, that the struggle is the entire reason they are there, and waits as long as possible before intervening.

The good teacher puts weight on the student's intellectual bar and lets her struggle under that weight as long as possible, asking questions to help her cut through the confusion, just like the spotter shouts encouragement at the lifter. (emphasis added)

I hate to ruin a colorful analogy, but the theory is wrong. Students struggling with material is not good for learning, retention, or motivation. Here's Engelmann on the topic:

Always place students appropriately for more rapid mastery progress. This fact contradicts the belief that students are placed appropriately in a sequence if they have to struggle—scratch their head, make false starts, sigh, frown, gut it out. According to one version of this belief, if there are no signs of hard work there is no evidence of learning. This belief does not place emphasis on the program and the teacher to make learning manageable but on the grit of the student to meet the “challenge.” In the traditional interpretation, much of the “homework” assigned to students (and their families) is motivated by this belief. The assumption seems to be that students will be strengthened if they are “challenged.”

This belief is flatly wrong. If students are placed appropriately, the work is relatively easy. Students tend to learn it without as much “struggle.” They tend to retain it better and they tend to apply it better, if they learn it with fewer mistakes.

The prevalence of this misconception about “effort” was illustrated by the field tryouts of the Spelling Mastery programs. Over half of the tryout teachers who field tested the first and second levels of Spelling Mastery with lower performers indicated on their summary forms that they thought the program was too easy for the children. Note that most of these teachers were not DI teachers and had never taught DI programs before. When asked about whether they had ever used a program that induced more skills in the same amount of time, all responded, “No.” Nearly all agreed that the lower performers had learned substantially more than similar children had in the past. When asked if students were bored with the program, all responded, “No.”

What led the teachers to believe that the programs were too easy? All cited the same evidence: students didn’t have to struggle. For them, it wasn’t appropriate instruction if it wasn’t difficult for the lower performers. (p. 17)

This is the danger for a would-be-profession that eschews empiricism in favor of individual intuition.

April 8, 2009

Duncan: More Class Time and More Choice

Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes that American schoolchildren need more class time and more school choice.

One out of two ain't so bad.

More School

Duncan believes that American school children should be in school at least six days a week, 11 months a year if they are to be competitive with students abroad.

I fundamentally think that our school day is too short, our school week is too short and our school year is too short.

You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; eleven, twelve months a year.

Presently, this proposal is a waste of time.

Is more seat time really needed in today's poor instructional environment? If you're in the top third of the student distribution, you're already forced to endure an instructional pace that is too slow, resulting in wasted time and opportunity and plenty o' boredom. if you're in the bottom third of the distribution, you're mostly lost because the instructional pace is too fast. More seat time isn't going to help. Just because KIPP has been successful with an expanded school day and school year, doesn't mean that other schools will find the same success.

Duncan's comparisons with foreign countries is misplaced. The U.S. is competitive with foreign countries once you control for demographics. Our white students are competitive with white students from European. Our Asian students are competitive with Asian students from Asian countries. And no country does a particularly good job educating black and Hispanic students in large numbers.

If we want to do a better job educating students, we need to get government out of the education business and limit its role (on all governmental levels) to the education funding distribution and regulation business which is more difficult to screw up.

This is not to say that our currently antiquated system is ideal. It isn't. But there are bigger fish to fry before we force most students to endure more seat time. Our colleges are the envy of the world and they make due with about 20% less class time than our current system. Maybe we should reduce class time?

More Choice

Duncan also believes that students need more choice.

I'm a big believer that students and parents should have a choice what school they want to go to.

Me too. The problem, however, is that current voucher and charter schools are too tiny to provide sufficient choice or develop an adequate market of educational choice from which students can chose.

Currently, most schools (private, public, and charter) look remarkably similar from an instructional standpoint. If you like your Model T in black you are in luck. There are a few reason for this.

  • Lack of information on the relative merits of different instructional practices. (The Internet is starting to make a dent here.)
  • Popular instructional practices (i.e., the norm) serve the middle-class adequately. (In fact, most instructional practices will provide adequate instruction to this population.)
  • There are other non-instructional considerations (like school environment, extracurricular offerings, peer environment, school prestige, and the like) that are relevant and serve as an independent basis for picking one school from another
  • The measures for measuring the relative merits of instructional are few and far between, not widely used and/or made publicly available, and are population dependent.

To improve, we need a well-functioning and competitive education market which provided real choices to students. And, the best way to accomplish this is to give the public school funding directly to parents and let them decide (within regulatory limits) the appropriate use of the funding. (After the system has been rebooted, naturally.) That stills sounds like a public education system to me.

Three Year Blogiversary

Here are the Stats

Nearly 600 posts. (Maybe 15% were decent.)

Countless typos.

190,000 Visits. (Mostly from the same dozen people)

300,000 Page Views.

317 Google Reader Subscribers

60 Bloglines Subscribers

Top Referring Websites (Other than Search Engines)

1. Joanne Jacobs
2. Kitchentable Math
3. Eduwonk
4. Wapo
6. This Week in Education
7. RRF Message Board
8. EconLog
9. Core Knowledge Blog
10. Rightwing Nation

Most Popular Posts From the Past Year

1. Science Leadership Academy (What they say vs. what their students can do) (Series)
2. Learning Styles are Bunk
3. Today's Chart (Pass rates vs. % Free/Reduced Meal Students)
4. Improving Socioeconomic Status (A fool's Errand)
5. Developmentally Appropriate Practice is Not Developmentally Appropriate
6. Efficiency and Spelling
7. New DI Program: Differentiated Reading
8. Decodable vs. Predictable Texts
9. Theory II: Teacher's Salaries
10. Your Pet Reform is Suckier Than You Think

Most Popular Posts From the Archives

1. It's Official: Everyday Math Sucks (Sept. 2006)
2. Alfie Kohn: Dangerous Jackass (Aug. 2006)
3. How to Effectively Manage a Classroom (Oct. 2007) (Guest Post by teacher PalisadesK)
4. Differentiated Nonsense (May 2006)
5. Everyday Math on Long Division (Oct. 2006)
6. Kid Writing (Aug. 2006)
7. Reading Mastery III Sample Lesson (Part 1) (May 2006)
8. Effective Mathematics Instruction The Importance of Curriculum (April 2007)
9. It's the Vocabulary, Stupid (Nov. 2006)
10. New Way to Teach Penmanship (Dec. 2006)

Thanks to all the readers, commenters, and other edu-bloggers.

April 2, 2009

Duncan Hypocrisy Watch

The NYT reports that during a press phone call yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan "unleashed a barrage of dismal statistics about the South Carolina schools" whose Governor, Mark Sanford "has told the Obama administration that he would not accept some $577 million in educational stimulus money for South Carolina unless he could use it to pay down state debt."

During the putative barrage of dismal statistics Duncan noted that "only 15 percent of the state’s black students are proficient in math and that the state has one of the nation’s worst high school graduation rates."

This is a pot kettle black moment.

Duncan, who up until he was tapped by the Obama administration, served as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Why don't we take a look at how well the Chicago Public Schools has fared under Duncan's astute management?

In 2007, only 10% of 4th Grade black students in Chicago tested at the proficient level in Reading. (Table A-5) And, only 9% of 8th Grade black students tested at the proficient level. (Table A-6)

In 2007, only 8% of 4th Grade black students in Chicago tested at the proficient level in Math. (Table A-5) And, only 6% of 8th Grade black students tested at the proficient level. (Table A-6)

These dismal results were obtained with spending of between $13k - $14k per pupil -- far higher than what South Carolina spends. Apparently, how much a district spends has little to do with how well it educates.

Now there goes some performance information on our public schools that is "embarrassing."