Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Today's Random Thoughts

-my latest pet peeve: people who complain about schools hiring people during a recession.  Why are we so bitter that people are finding gainful employment?

-The entire American educational system is not in crisis.  The entire system could be improved, yes, but only one portion (the same portion attended by children from low-income families) is truly in crisis.  That's essentially what Nicholas Lemann wrote in the New Yorker, but for some reason Joel Klein and others felt the need to write in and point out that a number of schools really are in crisis.  Am I the only one who fails to see an actual disagreement here?

-Not sure of the exact statistics, but Linda Perlstein writes that Macke Raymond told her that most charter school lottery "losers" actually end up at other charters, private schools, or move rather than attend the local public schools.  I'd like to see an actual statistic (e.g. is "most" 60% or 90%), but it sounds plausible.

-Albert Shanker was, apparently, full of good ideas.  I always wondered when I was teaching why a few exemplary lesson plans weren't made available for teachers on every topic so that they could get ideas and adapt them to their classrooms.  Wouldn't that make a lot more sense then asking every teacher to reinvent the wheel every time they teach?

-Another pet peeve: people who fundamentally misunderstand statistics and argue that a correlation doesn't exist because there's an exception to the rule.  Kevin Carey is far too smart to make that exact argument, but he falls into the same type of trap by pointing out that students in DC became poorer (it's unclear if this is true, but it's certainly plausible) over the past couple years at the same time that their test scores increased . . . which apparently means that income doesn't perfectly correlate with a child's test scores (?) or something like that.  Of course, we already knew that the relationship between poverty and academic performance is complex, that there's not a perfect correlation between income and test scores because a million other factors also impact test scores, and that children living in urban poverty are capable of improving their test scores.  So I'm unclear on exactly what this proves other than that people still don't understand that the exception doesn't disprove the rule and that a correlation doesn't mean that two things always move in lockstep.

-On a more positive note, I stumbled across this Freakonomics quorum on how to close the achievement gap the other day.  It's 2 1/2 years old, but it's still fairly interesting.

1 comment:

Cory Bougher said...

Although I might be personally jealous of those who have found employment in education during the recession, I am downright bitter at the media portraying education as a "recession-proof" industry - it clearly is not if an estimated 135,000 people were laid off.

And I am absolutely furious at people using education as a "back-up" career choice! As if that decision is somehow more noble than someone who was always pursued such a career from the beginning.