Friday, September 26, 2008

Data driven mistakes?

Roland G. Fryer Jr., a Harvard economist, has often complained that while pharmaceutical companies have poured billions of dollars each year into studying new drugs and Boeing devoted $3 billion to develop the 777 jet, there has been little spent on efforts to scientifically test educational theories.

Now Dr. Fryer has quit his part-time post as chief equality officer of the New York City public schools to lead a $44 million effort, called the Educational Innovation Laboratory, to bring the rigor of research and development to education. The initiative will team economists, marketers and others interested in turning around struggling schools with educators in New York, Washington and Chicago.

Backed by the Broad Foundation, founded by the billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, and other private groups, the research is intended to infuse education with the data-driven approach that is common in science and business, Dr. Fryer said. He compared the current methods of educational research to the prescriptions of an ineffective doctor.

“If the doctor said to you, ‘You have a cold; here are three pills my buddy in Charlotte uses and he says they work,’ you would run out and find another doctor,” Dr. Fryer said. “Somehow, in education, that approach is O.K.”

In its first year, the research group plans to focus on incentive programs, including controversial ideas like giving students cash for good test scores, an approach that Dr. Fryer has tested in New York since June 2007.

Each of the three school districts working with the institute will use a different plan to encourage high achievement, with researchers tracking the effect of each on student performance.

New York schools plan to continue Dr. Fryer’s experiment of paying students in the fourth and seventh grades up to $500 a year for doing well on reading and math tests. A separate Fryer initiative, which rewarded 3,000 New York middle school students with cellphone minutes for academic performance and classroom behavior, was discontinued because the city did not raise enough money from private donors to pay for it this fall.

Conclusive evidence about the effectiveness of such programs has been scant, and Dr. Fryer said officials are still examining the data on last year’s cash incentives. He said he hoped that the cellphone idea would gain traction in other cities.

Dr. Fryer said the new institute would be able to identify what works so that educators across the country could prioritize their spending.

“We will have the willingness to try new things and be wrong — the type of humbleness to say, ‘I have no idea whether this will work, but I’m going to try,’ ” he said.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Fellow Colleagues,


It’s me, I did it MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA! I allowed students to use their cell phones in my class. Before your gasp of shock, please read my explanation below.

My Senior Government class is engaged in a unit about democracy. The culminating activity is to put into practice what they have learned in the unit. Part of this is to lobby for real change in the school. In order to create their proposals they must contact all sorts of outside agencies, schools, and educational professionals. They are using their phones to contact and interview these individuals (who all keep educational hours and would not be available after school). The cell phones are being used for real AUTHENTIC work in a classroom; they are not calling friends chatting about after school plans.

I apologize if this seems like a rant but it is not. I am using technology in the classroom and using it at a level in which today’s youth must learn to use effectively. Is this not college prepatory skills? Is this not prep for life as an adult? Don’t they need to learn how to communicate, not in only in our traditional method, but in the brave new world they are growing up in?

“But Woolsey it’s against a Chancellor’s Regulation!!!!!” Yes, you are right it is. However, our former principal already set the precedent for using “taboo technology” in the classroom last year. He allowed my Global class to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge for a project on international trade. At the time he stated that if it is for academic use and limited to inside the classroom then it is ok to do so. Seriously, would Joel really drop the hammer on this type of educational experience? If so, what are we doing> Are we playing lip service to progressive education? Maybe so. I would try to find the answer for you but it has been filtered on our EDUCATIONAL computer network.

Next time I will be sure to send out a Community wide email, notify the proper authorities. My kids have been warned and are held accountable to keeping it the classroom before we started the project. If there was an abuse there should be consequences. If other students are asking why them and not me now we can explain it to them.

I would like to thank my AP for her support and understanding…you are my saving grace. Seriously, thank you!!!!!

Either we can fear the snake in our Garden of Eden or we can remember that:

“Do not limit a child’s knowledge to your own for they were born in a different time.” –Rabbinical saying

Thank you for your time and hopefully your forgiveness.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

City to Give $14.2 Million in Bonuses to Teachers at Schools With Improved Report Cards

Flawed report cards mean big bucks for some lucky teachers!!!!

Teachers at 89 elementary and middle schools will receive bonuses of several thousand dollars each, based on the progress their schools made on report cards released this week, Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced on Thursday. The bonuses, which total $14.2 million and will go to slightly more than half the 160 high-poverty schools the city deemed eligible, are part of Mr. Klein’s efforts to boost pay-for-performance programs in the city’s schools.

A dozen principals at those schools were awarded $25,000 bonuses — the largest ever given to school administrators by the city — for placing in the top 1 percent among the more than 1,000 schools receiving grades this week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

CollegeBoard to Debut an Eighth-Grade PSAT Exam

Princeton Review's Kanarek, however, said eighth grade is too late to begin pulling together a college prep portfolio."Eighth grade is not the key year for college assessment. That's sixth grade," he said."

By Gale HollandLos Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 8, 2008

High school students already face a battery of standardized tests on their way to college. Now, the college testing frenzy is reaching into middle school.

The College Board, which owns the SAT, PSAT and other tests, plans to introduce an eighth-grade college assessment exam in 2010, a topCollege Board official said this week.

The new test would be voluntary, said Wayne Camara, the vice president for research and analysis at the New York-based nonprofit, who spoke at a college enrollment conference at USC early this week. But critics noted that the PSAT, which also is voluntary, was taken last year by3.4 million students, and said the new test would just boost the pressures for students considering college.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In tough times for BREC, new principal looks for fresh start

By Patrick Hedlund

When students return to school next week at the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, a new face will greet them in the halls of Chelsea’s largest public high school.

BREC’s newest principal, Nancy Amling, has been busy preparing for the 2008-’09 school year since it was announced at the end of June that she would be taking over at the beleaguered institution.

Her appointment came following a difficult year for BREC, which has recently come under scrutiny for poor grades, violence involving students, and divisions among the administration, staff and the former principal.

Amling, 51, formerly an assistant principal at the Queens High School of Teaching in Bellerose, was hired on an interim basis by the Department of a Education and will be subject to review by the DOE and a committee made up of Rustin staffers in October to determine if she’ll keep the job. But until then, Amling is focused on righting the ship at Rustin and helping guide the school into a new future.

“I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and I’m the woman for this job,” Amling told Chelsea Now on Tuesday, a day before BREC’s freshmen orientation and a week before school officially starts.

Are Advanced Placement Courses Diminishing Liberal Arts Education?

By Paul Von Blum

At this time of year, thousands of academically accomplished students enter selective higher education institutions like mine, beginning their arduous journey toward bachelor’s degrees and beyond. They have stellar grade point averages, high SAT scores, and impressive records of community service. The vast majority also have completed Advanced Placement courses in high school, providing them with college credit and ostensibly preparing them for the rigorous academic work they will face as undergraduates.

Yet, my 40 years of undergraduate teaching in the humanities and social sciences, currently at the University of California, Los Angeles, persuade me that Advanced Placement preparation is overrated and may, ironically, diminish rather than advance the deeper objectives of a liberal arts education.