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is the title of this followup blog post by Valerie Strauss, who yesterday posted the story by Marion Brady of the school board member who, having taking Florida's FCAT test and done poorly, was criticizing them.  

I am going to suggest you read this followup piece as well.  As Strauss writes about Rick Roach, the board member who has now gone public,  

Roach, the father of five children and grandfather of two, was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years. He was first elected to the board in 1998 and has been reelected three times. A resident of Orange County for three decades, he has a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees: in education and educational psychology. He has trained over 18,000 educators in classroom management and course delivery skills in six eastern states over the last 25 years.

In other words, he is not just some random adult taking the test, but a skilled and experienced educator.

Please keep reading.

As Strauss writes,  

*He said he understands why so many students who can actually read well do poorly on the FCAT.

“Many of the kids we label as poor readers are probably pretty good readers. Here’s why.

“On the FCAT, they are reading material they didn’t choose. They are given four possible answers and three out of the four are pretty good. One is the best answer but kids don’t get points for only a pretty good answer. They get zero points, the same for the absolute wrong answer. And then they are given an arbitrary time limit. Those are a number of reasons that I think the test has to be suspect.”

He then explores those reasons.  I will get back to Strauss in a moment.   Roach is focusing on much of what is wrong with the tests we use -  the artificial time limits, no partial credit for a second best answer (which in reading texts is highly relevant to developing understanding).

There is more -  the key part of Roach's assessment is in this paragraph:  

“There’s a concept called reverse design that is critical,” he said. “We are violating that with our test. Instead of connecting what we learn in school with being successful in the real world, we are doing it in reverse. We are testing first and then kids go into the real world. Whether the information they have learned is important or not becomes secondary. If you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it.

That's absolutely spot-on.  Our tests have little connection to the real world, and are unfairly excluding too many of our young people from advancing in life and contributing to our society.

Or perhaps I should simply offer what Roach has to say about the FCAT tests, and those (like Jeb Bush) who argue for their use,  “They are defending a test that has no accountability.”

Not only that, they are having the effect of destroying the future for many of our young people.

Kudos to Rick Roach, Marion Brady, and Valerie Strauss.

And btw, Valerie has let people know the first column has gone viral.  Hopefully this one will as well.

Originally posted to teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:27 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Teachers Lounge.

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  •  Tip Jar (189+ / 0-)
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    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:27:00 AM PST

  •  standardized tests have always been junk imo (40+ / 0-)

    I never scored below the 90th percentile in the ones I took many years ago...Stanford 9 iirc but it's been 35+ years.

    I spent my working life fixing cars and customers....

    They have no real connection to the world of work or life that I could tell......

    Combined with our singular focus on college rather than the trades which can not be outsourced and can allow a good middle class life, we're screwing our next generations hard.....

    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:35:35 AM PST

  •  A couple of observations (40+ / 0-)

    1. If standarized tests had any predictive value for success in life, I would be one of the 1% rather than decidedly among the 99%.

    2. Even as a person who did not enjoy Math in school, I have to disagree with Mr. Roach's last quoted comment. Math teaches important skills in reasoning and logic that train habits of thinking that extend beyond pure math and are valuable even if the math is not used in later life. Moreover, most people have to develop regular work habits to keep up which is also a useful life skill.

    •  This. It's not about the specific skills (who ever (22+ / 0-)

      needs to prove that an angle is 90 degrees?). It's about learning to think critically, logically and symbolically. That's why math education is so important.

      It's also an irony that schools tend to stop teaching math right at the level when it starts to have real application. Calculus, trigonometry and statistics have loads of real world application, and not just to scientists.

      •  carpenters! (5+ / 0-)

        we need to prove angles are 90 degrees. We use pythagorus all the time. The ol 3-4-5 ft or 6-8-10ft test. Trust me--you won't be happy with your builder who doesn't know this-- especially the concrete guys.

        music- the universal language

        by daveygodigaditch on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 07:10:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Architects may find some time with saw, hammer (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          daveygodigaditch, kyril

          and nails beneficial to designing building plans that can be reliably built with standard materials.  That said, a carpenter with higher math knowledge, imagination and raw IQ may better be able to comprehend and build the sorts of things a Leonardo Da Vinci might dream up.  When it comes to designing wooden sail boats or experimental aircraft, an ability to imagine, foresee deeply, to plan, select and manipulate the proper materials optimally makes a real difference in performance and reliability...and maintainability. It's knowing when and how you want the wood to remain stiff or be able to yield under moderate to heavy loads, whether the fastening and gluing methods will hold in such cases, And it takes even more considerations when the wood project is a classical wooden violin, cello or guitar, wood properties must meet acoustic standards, reliably vibrating across a wide range of produced tone, having fingerboards that hold shape against high stress, yet be of a design able to last generations of use.  Knowing 'French curves' and some of the physics of music help a lot in this endeavor.  Sometimes the guy with the saw or hammer sees how to deliver the difficult but desired outcome and deserve recognition.  Sometimes the designer really does sees a way to solve a deign issue with an even simpler solution to what has always been done before.

          When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

          by antirove on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 10:29:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  1. is simply incorrect (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Unless the correlation were perfect (which NO one is claiming) then it would be possible to get triple 800s on the SAT and make 0 money.

      That's how correlation works.

      Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

      by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:38:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have a higher IQ than Richard Feynman (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil, SeekCa, Mathazar, kyril

      who Oppenheimer thought was the smartest physicist at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, and who won the Nobel Prize in physics.

      Feynman's IQ tested at 125. Mine tested higher.

      I'm sure my check from Sweden has just been delayed in the mail.

      (And no, I wouldn't seriously compare myself to Feynman).

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:57:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's been argued that above 120 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, kyril

        doesn't impart anything special.... just a really super working memory. Mine tested higher too, and I can't do long division. Nor do I need to; I've got a calculator for that. i actually haven't had to write out long division, or figure out fractions, for well over 30 years.

        •  I'm a math major (0+ / 0-)

          and I don't know my multiplication tables. I have to 'count out' from the perfect squares any time I want to multiply. And I do division by multiplying the divisor until I find something that works.

          Arithmetic isn't doing math any more than playing Chopsticks is composing music.

          As for IQ...before I was told mine, I was told quite forcefully that it wasn't polite to discuss it. I will say, though, that there's something funny about how my brain works, and it's got nothing to do with my working memory, which is actually average-to-weak when tested directly.

          "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

          by kyril on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 01:53:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have never done (0+ / 0-)

            well on standardized tests. Used to have to study like crazy and then did pretty well. I am now a Ph.D. in epidemiology. I learned more about how my brain and thinking works from taking the Myers Briggs personality test.

            As a INTP (introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiving,1-5% of population) the reasons WHY I test poorly, yet can accomplish as much academically as I have are obvious. I don't think like the test takers.

            And my IQ is plenty high enough.

            Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

            by hopeful on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 04:11:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  myer Briggs was cooked up by a housewife (0+ / 0-)

              with no background in anything whatsoever, so don't define yourself by it.

              •  yeah (0+ / 0-)

                she sounds like a real research slouch. This is better than most epidemiologic studies that get published these days.

                "By the time she presented the Los Angeles paper, she had also become interested in nursing and stopped at cities on her way home to persuade nursing schools to test their students. She ultimately collected a sample of over 10,000 nursing students from 71 diploma nursing schools and 670 of their faculty."


                And I don't define myself by it. I have found that it reflects me   relatively well. Not perfect.

                Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

                by hopeful on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:18:58 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  So be it. (0+ / 0-)

                  Take a look at Barbara Ehrenreich's writings for a different view of the test. Just food for thought.

                  •  I think that (0+ / 0-)

                    there is a huge difference between using this as a tool to learn about yourself and employers using it to pigeon hole people. I have taken the test several times and my results are remarkable similar.

                    However, if I were younger, the results might not be so consistent.

                    Inconceivable! You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

                    by hopeful on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:49:04 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Those habits of thinking and discipline (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse, jayden

      can be taught through other means, such as music.  (And music is a backhanded way of teaching a fair amount of math and physics.)

      Find out what your kids engage with, and let that be the route to disciplined learning.

      Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

      by barbwires on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:43:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  As a former math major, I agree with #2 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse, kyril

      but I don't agree that high-stakes testing provides a valid measure of how well a student has learned those skills in reasoning and logic. These skills (by your own argument) are secondary to math training and separate from the ability to do math. Hence, testing for math skills does not necessarily provide a good measure of those additional skills. It's just not logical to claim otherwise.

      Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

      by Nowhere Man on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 05:21:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  pt 1 is SO FUCKING DUMBASS. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      this is just the left-wing equivalent of the classic right-wing anti-intellectual line, "if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

      there's a lot more to success than sheer cognitive power -- and many of the traits in that lot are not what i would consider virtues. generally, our society is ordered by sociopaths in order to suit the talents of sociopaths. bill gates isn't stupid, (though he isn't superintelligent either) but if he weren't willing to behave in fundamentally unethical ways, he would never have become a billionaire.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 07:31:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Roach sounds pretty arrogant though (14+ / 0-)

    I don't like his conclusion that 'if I the bigwig school board president can't handle this math test, it must be because this math test is irrelevant'.

    A lot of adults don't quite grasp the fact that the kids today are smarter than us. This is well proven by the constant upward drift in IQ scores. Even the NAEP tests show a constant upward trend since its inception in the early 90's.

    •  I agree about the arrogance (11+ / 0-)

      I am glad that we have a specific test to look at. I disagree that higher math is irrelevant, just as I'd disagree that learning a foreign language is irrelevant. There are thought patterns and higher skills taught that are important and valuable

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:50:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  most state tests do not test higher math (11+ / 0-)

        and even those that have higher math problems are not necessarily a test of math knowledge or skill

        and if the real question is understanding, should not we (a) require students to show their work, and (b) not necessarily reward those who read/think more quickly and punish those who think/read more slowly?

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:52:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  In California, we are testing higher math (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          But I agree, many of these tests are tests of speed rather than competence or skill, something that is often overlooked by people looking at scores. This is why I always got great SAT scores and other girls who were at nearly the same level in classwork and in-class tests were only at the 60th percentile.

          The RTTT bill includes a ridiculously large grant to make new tests based on Common Core that has free response answers where kids do have to show their work more. For example, actually having to click on the graph to put the points/lines down rather than pick from one of A-E. I personally think there's too much money and too little time in the project for it to be successful, but I believe that is a positive direction. It would be nice if it panned out.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:09:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  classified kids get extra time and often a scribe (0+ / 0-)

            and this is as much to help the kids pass as to help the staff look better. take away those mods and the scores fall.

            •  I've looked at the California modified test (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, teacherken

              I think you'd still need to know the material to score proficient.

              And I think everyone should have as much time as they need, IEP or not.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 06:59:57 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  "Classified kids?" It sounds better to describe (0+ / 0-)

              them that way than to come out and say you're putting down the learning disabled. That's just nasty, to suggest that learning disabilities aren't real because you don't have one. I have ADD and a a couple of learning disabilities that weren't diagnosed until about the end of educational career. I had always scored above the 90th percentile. The few tests that I took with extra time didn't really help that much. What did help was not having some rude person making ungodly noises during the test, not having construction work done outside, etc. These things were commonplace during tests and a real problem for me, but since you can't mandate that sort of thing, they give out things like extra time.

              You don't know what your talking about when you refer to "classified kids," and it's nasty and spiteful and ableist for you to suggest that we game the system. The system is broken, and you're cruelly blaming the kids who don't fit well into it? Seriously, how the fuck do you think a scribe is going to help someone who doesn't really need it? Why would that make any difference?

              And what you're not getting is that "classified kids" are merely extremes, and that there are different learning styles that it, if integrated and allowed for, would be helpful for every child. The "classified kids" should be "classified" as instructive rather than as freaks. But then you wouldn't have the opportunity to spew ableist bullshit and myths like the "classified kids" need help to pass.

    •  Say what? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rick Aucoin, freesia, WisVoter, kyril

      Some kids do better, some worse.  And information is easier to get.  But... I deal with kids a lot, and just as in my day, a lot of them are lazy, stupid, ignorant, or a combination of those three.

      Test drift and score inflation do not make students smarter.

      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

      by trumpeter on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:49:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think he identified the problem (5+ / 0-)

      We can hardly expect students to understand the value of mathematics or it's application to "real world" problems when the people making the decisions are mathematical illiterates.

  •  I do have one quibble, and it's a major one... (30+ / 0-)
    If you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it.

    Although it does depend on exactly what he means here.

    I agree, most students are not going to directly "need" high-level math. However, the ability to think rationally, logically, and clearly is an outgrowth of mathematics. Formal logic is an attempt to develop that skill, and it is directly a blend of language and math.

    I'm not necessarily saying that all students should learn high-level math - I'm saying that all students should learn the fundamentals of mathematics well - and I don't just mean arithmetic. Arithmetic is simply an expression of the fundamentals.

    Sets, operations, properties, etc., and the use of these building blocks are the foundation of organizational thinking. If every student really understood these principles, were as conversant with their properties as they are with the alphabet, I would be entirely happy to leave anything above basic algebra to those students who really wanted it.

    Of course, I also believe that as students develop these fundamental skills more, they discover that higher mathematics are much more within their range and interest than they ever dreamed...

    •  thinking logically, rationally and clearly (21+ / 0-)

      is not at all limited to math, it's part and parcel with the study of pretty much anything if done right.

      •  In math it's formalized. (12+ / 0-)


        In other subjects, the formalization is erratic.

        "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

        by nosleep4u on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 12:52:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This. (8+ / 0-)

          Thank you. Exactly my meaning.

          The structure of mathematics provides an interdisciplinary framework for learning all other subjects.

          Heinlein (love him or hate him, he was right about an awful lot of stuff) said that the only essential subjects of learning were mathematics, history, and languages. I used to think he was leaving a huge amount out, until I recognized that he was not saying everything else was unnecessary, only that those three legs made everything else possible.

          •  and yet you never hear anyone calling for more (8+ / 0-)

            historians and language teachers, much less measure the success of our children/the future/civilization itself by their mastery of history or languages.

            which is a deep dysfunction in our society generally, IMO.

            •  Agreed. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joycemocha, wu ming, kyril

              I'm proud to have a nephew whose singular passion is history, and his intent is to teach.

              No polyglots in our family, sadly, save for minimal acquisition for tourist-style traveling.

            •  Well, Chris Hedges pretty much did at his talk to (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, wu ming

              Occupy Harvard. Although I will say that most history that I took in college involved unlearning the propagandist bullshit taught as "history" before then. There are a lot of valid reasons for kids to get alienated by "history" earlier on, but then the same is true for the crap approach to math and science taught before college.

              People used to ask me how I ended up creative if my parents were scientists, which was both hysterically funny and deeply sad to me. Science and math require incredible creativity at higher levels, but kids don't see that because they're just taught by rote memorization at earlier levels. Hedges was right- we need to teach critical thinking, and it really needn't be about teaching it via one field over another. I don't think you're wrong- at all!- that we devalue certain subjects because they aren't "practical," when in fact they're quite practical if you want to think critically. I just want to add that the same "practical" approach shreds a lot of the real value of those subjects we're told are important.

          •  well, yeah.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but history gets shoved aside....many kids don't get social studies, or science, for a full five days a week, to make more room for math and language arts, which of course, are on the tests....

        •  But in many places (8+ / 0-)

          it is not taught well.

          Too many math teachers do not teach the critical thinking part - just the rote memorization of formulas part.  And the testing is on "use formula X", not on recognition of patterns and how and when to use formula X in real life.

          I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

          by trumpeter on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:51:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I dropped trigonometry and never took calculus ... (8+ / 0-)

            because my trig teacher did exactly what you describe, and I couldn't stand it.  I was certain that I'd flunk (and probably would have because I was fighting the entire idea of it), and he never provided even a hint that any of it had any practical application in the real world.

            Years later, when I was studying for an advanced amateur radio license, there were some trig formulas that were involved, and I came to realize that there were LOTS of very practical uses of trigonometry.  Had I realized that back in high school, I might well have continued studying math.

            A relative of my wife worked for the College Board for a number of years, and when I told him this story, he said there was ample research demonstrating that for most students, one of the most important determinants of how well they did in mathematics was how well they understood that what they were learning actually had real-world significance.

            PROUD to be a Democrat!

            by leevank on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:13:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Never got through calculus (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Stein, kyril, Odysseus, leevank

              until I took it along with a really good physics course.  Interestingly, calculus was supposed to be a prerequisite for the physics.  But I found it totally frustrating and meaningless until I was working on the practical applications.  Then all of a sudden I was solving math problems I wouldn't have dreamed of a couple of semesters previously.  Ended up with As in physics and a good solid B in calculus, two totally unexpected outcomes.

              Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

              by barbwires on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:52:12 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Wow. I had the same experience (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kyril, Odysseus, barbwires, leevank

                Calculus was an enigma to me.  I struggled to memorize the rules.  Then in physics all of a sudden integration and differentiation had real physical meanings, and calculus became like magic.  It turned from a nightmare to a delight.  

                Frankly, I blame everything on Nixon.

                by J Orygun on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:28:41 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  I should have scrolled down before I posted my (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            comment. Yours is very well said.

          •  Agree completely (0+ / 0-)

            In fact, I'd go so far as to say the rote memorization of formulas you describe is the exact opposite of the proper teaching of mathematics.

            "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

            by nosleep4u on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 02:00:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  sorry, but not true (5+ / 0-)

          music is quite formalized, as anyone who has formally studied music theory and music analysis well knows

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:12:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not to pick nits, but nosleep's comment does (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            not rule out other subjects being formalized - erratic can easily mean done well here, not done well there, as well as differing degrees overall. And I don't think that anyone is arguing that math is being taught well, everywhere.

            The point here is that the entire purpose and structure of math is formalization, period. It can be taught poorly and incompletely (and often is), but the ability to learn math is the ability to formalize abstract patterns and structure, which automatically promulgates the kind of mental constructs we're talking about.

            This is why I object to the idea that we could dump 80% of math; we could do a hell of a lot better job teaching the lower levels of math, but dumping 80% of what we do in K12 would be societal suicide.

          •  Music training (0+ / 0-)

            does not teach formal logic (which was the subject under discussion).

            Formalized Training, Formal Logic  ... not the same.

            (BTW, 12 years of classical piano and a masters in mathematics here.)

            "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

            by nosleep4u on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 02:06:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Quite right. (10+ / 0-)

        As an engineering-brained person, I find myself almost stupefied when I meet someone who has never had even a basic Physics course in HS or college.  It's not that anyone needs to be able to quote Isacc Newton's laws of motion; but I don't know how people can function without a rudimentary understanding of how the physical world works.  My personal concept of Physics is that it's "organized common sense."  The organization and rationality of simple concepts is useful far beyond the academic halls.

        You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

        by rb608 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:30:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  too many hs physics course do NOT (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bmcphail, rb608, mightymouse, samanthab, kyril

          really teach how the world functions, especially in states with low level tests on physical science -  it is still all about doing well on the test

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:13:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I chose to take physics ahead of chem (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bmcphail, rb608, mightymouse, kyril

          and suggested my daughters both take physics in HS. The physics class is teaching them more about the logic and method of science since so much of the beginning of the course is rooted in fairly simple concepts and experiments, and draws so much on the same math they've been taking. This is something that I think will help them better understand future science classes (like chem) they will take later...yet physics seems to be universally viewed as only for the "science brains" in high school. Go figure.

          "Nothing happens unless first a dream. " ~ Carl Sandburg

          by davewill on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:44:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  well, there aren't many physics teachers (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, rb608

            and not everyone takes physics. My friend, who was dumb as a stump but managed some kind of science degree, was teaching AP Physics for a few years. And his kids passed the tests, because he was good at prepping them for it. But a look at a college problem my wife had in physics stumped him. Her own professor, by the way, also turned out to be unqualified, and was dismissed. My wife wanted to know why her B+ still stood, blemishing an otherwise perfect record, when the dude teaching the class didn't have the right credentials.

        •  My daughter took a non-mathematical physics (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          xgy2, bmcphail, rb608, kyril

          course at the college level during high school. I helped her with her homework, and found out that physics is much more difficult without math than with it.

          Even simple algebra (like my HS physics course) makes it a lot easier.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:10:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  My freshman college chemistry class (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, Odysseus, rb608

          My freshman general chemistry class was taught by a guy that had been basically teaching the same course for 30 years.  We went through the elements of the periodic table, learning occurrence, preparation, properties, and uses.  We learned about mining copper.  We learned about the steel used for curved rails.  We learned about matches and glass and lead-acid batteries.  It was an incredible exposure to all the "stuff" in the world.  I think it's a shame that now they start kids on molecular orbitals and stuff and completely ignore where the materials around us come from.

          Frankly, I blame everything on Nixon.

          by J Orygun on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:34:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The 10 out of 60 on math is inexcusable (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ScottDog, kyril

        It's worse than random - you can't analyze data at all with no math skills at all.

        Everyone should have basic math skills, even educators.

        •  10th grade math... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wu ming

          ... is NOT "basic math skills".  

          Basic math skills means being competent with arithmetic.  It's NOT 'being able to solve quadratic equations".

          2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

          by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:56:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Look at the text (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, kyril


            this stuff is basic:

            5: In 1995, there was a total of 7.2 million acres of pine forests in Florida. All of the forests were either natural or planted by people. Given that 4.4 million acres of these pine forests were planted by people, how many millions of acres of these pine forests were natural?

            •  And I gotta brag (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              My 11 year old daughter did the first 6 problems in under 10 minutes.

            •  That one is. (0+ / 0-)

              But questions where the answers are:  ∠DAB ∠ABC 180 and AB DC are not arithmetic.

              2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

              by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:41:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Can your 11 year old daughter solve this one? (0+ / 0-)

              2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

              by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:54:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Um, yes, she did (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kyril, Odysseus

                in under a second. Now I'm scared.

                What gets me most is that Roach doesn't realize that 10/60 is worse than random when there are 4 choices per question. How the hell can he be making policy choices?

                •  Well, then get her in a gifted school. (0+ / 0-)


                  10/60 with four choices per question?  Now we've got a math problem on our hands!

                  240 possible answers, 60 correct ones.  

                  So guessing A  on every one of them should (!) get you 15 correct answers, right?

                  Still, that's the thing about averages; if he's guessing at all of them them it's entirely possible for him to get 10 out of 60 instead of the average 15.  Or to get 0 out of 60.  It IS possible to flip a coin 20 times and have it come up heads every time.  

                  Imagine a world where we made three years of band class a mandatory pass in order to get your high school diploma.  Can you imagine this?  Can you imagine how miserable the left brained sorts of students would be, forced to do something they really just don't like and they are no good at?

                  Let's also force them all to take Drama and while we're at it we'll make all of them take four years of Art.

                  Can you imagine how much some students would hate school if they had to go and perform a clarinet solo once a week, when they hate band class and aren't any good at the clarinet?

                  That's how a lot of students feel who have the misfortune (?) to be right brained sorts.  But few people really give much of a damn about those students.  "Algebra isn't hard, it's not too much to expect".

                  Says the person who can't comprehend that not everyone is just like them.  :(

                  2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

                  by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 05:10:49 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  c'mon, you're blowing smoke (0+ / 0-)

                  and i'll eat my hat and shit and fall back in it if you aren't pulling our collective legs here. otherwise, she's gifted.

                  •  I never said she was average (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    20 consecutive heads happens one time in 1,048,576.

                    After about 5, you should take a closer look at the coin.

                    The Roach quote that stings is:

                    I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly.

                    The binomial calculator says that 10 or less happens 8.6% of the time.

                    Herman Cain seldom manages to put that much fail into so few words.

                    •  look, I did so poorly on a college Stat exam (0+ / 0-)

                      the professor called me in and asked me to retake the exam in front of him because the answers were so wrong I must have gotten a copy of a different test in another class and cheated. I don't know how he came to that conclusion, but there you have it. After I retook the test he said, you really are fucked up. Why are you taking this class again? For some of us math is one big fucking mystery. I did take Stat years later and got a B+, because it was tied to my grad work and sort of made some sense. Interestingly, my wife is a math whiz and the only class she had a little trouble with ( getting only an A- ) was Stat...different kinda math than discrete structures I guess, whatever that is, but she got an A+ in it. And no I have no idea what it is.

    •  The exact line I was going to quote. (13+ / 0-)

      How do we know who is going to need math?

      If you close out intermediate level math (algebra, geometry, calculus), you close out the options of those who don't take it in the future.

      Plus you propagate the idea that 'math is hard', when we are pushing harder then ever to open the door to STEM careers to as many people as we can who might be interested in them.

      "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

      by Geek of all trades on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:26:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I forced my daughter to take math (5+ / 0-)

        all the way to calculus, which she took at the college level in high school, and dropped rather than flunking it (it was poorly taught, IMO).

        Her college major was classics/religion and her master's in medieval history, so beyond knowing that the 11th century followed the 10th century, she hasn't needed a lot of math.

        But we insisted she take it so that a) she didn't cut off options like a science major too early and, b) she got the benefit of understanding what higher math was about and the logical thinking/problem solving involved in algebra, geometry and trig.

        It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

        by badger on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:16:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And if she ever starts reading (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          about people using carbon dating on manuscripts, or statistical analysis of word usage in texts, she should at least have the background to follow them.

          That said, making sure that math is not poorly taught is also important (and this is both assessing teachers, and giving them the proper training. There was a great article in the NYT a few years ago about a teacher working on developing what I all 'forensic math'. Learning to understand how to find out exactly what kind of errors each student makes so you can ensure you teach them how to fix it).

          "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

          by Geek of all trades on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:59:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree. (2+ / 0-)

      But as every time this has come up before it'll be shouted down.

      You can chose to take drama, or art, or speech, or band, but you are required to take algebra and geometry and such in high school.  Algebra is so difficult for a significant percentage of kids that it measurably increases the high school drop out rate.  

      We're saying "If you aren't smart enough or left brained enough to do algebra, you should just stick to working at McDonalds for the rest of your life".

      I dropped out of high school after failing algebra I for the second time.  And I'm far from the only one.

      Make sure students graduate with a good understanding of arithmetic.  Everyone needs to know how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, work some fractions and percentages.

      But algebra and geometry and trig and calculus should NOT be required in order to get a high school diploma.  

      Do they have benefits?  Sure.  But so does Debate and Drama and Art class but we don't require students to take those; they are (typically) elective courses.

      If you want to teach students how to think logically then offer a friggin' logic class.  Hell, make it mandatory!  But algebra?  No.  A thousand times, no.

      2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

      by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:50:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Algebra... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ScottDog, kyril not that hard. It's not too much to ask.

        •  So says you. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brooke In Seattle, Keninoakland

          Glad you are left brained enough to have had no real difficulty with it.

          Not so glad to see that even a liberal website is populated by so many "I can do it, if you can't, you suck" sorts.

          2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

          by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:34:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh come on. I'm totally right brained. It's (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, Deep Texan

            still not that hard, and it's extremely necessary. You are going to get taken advantage of in life if you can't follow algebra. I see a lot of pleas for a change in teaching approaches- I do NOT see anyone saying here that people who can't do algebra suck. The system makes it painful, and, just like English or History, if you're innately talented it, you're almost certainly doing a lot of self-teaching on the side. The system is fucking over the people who have an innate feel for x,y,z subjects, too.

            •  It depends TOTALLY on the teacher (0+ / 0-)

              If you get a good one, he/she can make it understandable to the majority of the class even if they don't like it. (I hated - and hate - algebra, but aced both Algebra I and II. Thank you, Mr Orioli!)

              A bad teacher, on the other hand, can screw you up on even subjects you should be good at. (I did poorly in Geometry despite having an as-yet unidentified aptitude for Spatial Relations - that teacher (I've forgotten his name) sucked.)

              Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur

              by TheOtherMaven on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 08:23:52 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  It's not hard but, (6+ / 0-)

          it can easily be made incomprehensible.  It is also not amenable to memorize and regurgitate teaching methods.  

          •  It IS hard. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brooke In Seattle

            For a significant number of people.

            Not everyone is left brained.  Not everyone is able to easily think in the sort of logical patterns that algebra requires.  Some people can't do it even with a lot of effort.

            The courses those people might do well in are all electives, generally speaking, and not mandatory.  Such as speech, art, drama, band.

            So they flunk the required courses and do well in the elective courses and end up dropping out of high school.

            All because we insist that algebra is an absolutely essential life kill that you just can NOT live without.

            Good grief.

            2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

            by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:39:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Algebra can be extremely difficult when the proper (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joycemocha, Sunspots, Odysseus, kyril

          foundation is not in place.


          Algebra is an additional stage of abstraction above arithmetic, which is already a transition between concrete and abstract. If a student has never made that transition, algebra will never really make sense.

          It is learnable, the way most everything is - via a lot of sweat and rote memorization - but it is not "easy" for many people, and can quite easily be the final brick in the wall in terms of mathematical development.

          That's why my insistence is on proper understanding of the lower levels of math - and the equal insistence that I'm not talking about "arithmetic".

          I don't believe algebra should be an elective - I just think we need to do much, much better K-5.

          •  Algebra was ok (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I had a good teacher who recognized what was going on with me math ability wise and let me use accommodations and work arounds. I actually aced Algebra I in 8th grade and II and Algebra 2 in 9th.

            Geometry proofs were however a HUGE problem for me, and a requirement, I barely passed it. I never understood the purpose of doing them either, and that's all Geometry seemed to be, proofs, nothing practical. Not even using the theorums, just proving them, and I never did them exactly the right way because my brain just wasn't capable of it (or the teacher didn't bother doing more than read from the text book, I'm sure that was a mitigating factor. He also flunked you if he found out you were getting tutoring).  

            My parents forced me to take trig and pre-calc and I didn't end up passing either of those. But I had the same teacher for Trig I had for Geometry and gave up halfway through. I wasn't the only one with a problem with that teacher, those who were "naturally math abled" were the only ones to get higher than a C in any of his classes. My senior year was my happiest, no MATH! I filled my schedule with lit, history and practical subjects (like one called "beyond High School" which covered budgeting, balancing a check book and cooking, shopping smart, etc. things you didn't learn in advanced math).

          •  Do you think band should be mandatory? (0+ / 0-)

            You say you don't think someone deserves a high school diploma unless they can pass Algebra.

            Do you feel the same way about choir?  No one should be allowed to graduate high school unless they can sing an aria?  Perform competently on the clarinet?  

            Produce an adequate oil painting?

            2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

            by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 05:36:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, yes. Not as strongly, and with strong (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, Odysseus, Deep Texan

              emphasis on that word "competent", but one of my major gripes with public education is the diminishment of the arts - and the promotion of sports.

              •  Well, I can't agree. (0+ / 0-)

                I can't see how it's beneficial to force every single person in the U.S. to either be able to produce a decent oil painting OR be a high school drop out.

                2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

                by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 06:39:03 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  In my high school... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, Odysseus, Deep Texan

     had to a C in a one of the Fine Arts in order to graduate.

              It was a good requirement.

              •  And what did you have to do? (0+ / 0-)

                I took quite a few arts oriented classes in school and I can assure you you could pass that class without having to be competent at the actual task of performing with a musical instrument or producing an oil painting.

                You can NOT pass algebra without being able to solve algebraic problems.

                I do not believe we should make everyone in the U.S either a competent oil painter or a high school dropout.

                I also do not believe we should make everyone in the U.S. either able to solve a quadratic equation or a high school dropout.  

                2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

                by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 06:50:26 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  The quadratic equation?? (0+ / 0-)

                  It's a FORMULA!  You just have to memorize it!

                  I will admit that the bar for Arts participation was pretty low. I suck at the Arts, I can neither sing, nor act, nor dance.

                  But I can read music and I know the names of The Great Artists.

                  You just need a D in Algebra to graduate. That is a pretty low bar also, unless you had evil or incompetent teachers.

            •  No, but (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kyril, Deep Texan

              I think everyone should know a clarinet when they see one or hear one.  Everyone should know what an oil painting looks like, and maybe recognize a few styles of paintings.  Everyone should have heard the 1812 overture and seen the Nutcracker.  

              Frankly, I blame everything on Nixon.

              by J Orygun on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:47:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  So everyone should... (0+ / 0-)

                ... recognize a geometry question if they see one?

                You don't have to take an algebra class for that.

                Imagine making everyone in the U.S. to either be a proficient clarinet player or be a high school dropout.

                And while we're at it, let's make them all pass drama class AND be required to sing opera competently.

                We don't do that, because 19 out of 20 people in this country are right handed/left brained.  They find it relatively easy to handle mathematics.  

                The 1 in 20 who are wired so that they have difficulty with such subjects?  Eh, screw 'em!  Algebra isn't hard!  

                Yeah, well neither is playing the saxophone.  If you have any musical talent.

                Arithmetic.  Everyone should be competent at arithmetic.  You need to be, in order to balance a checkbook (does anyone do that anymore?) or to perform just about any sort of job.  

                But algebra?  Such an absolutely essential life skill that we actually force every single person to either GET algebra or be a high school drop out?

                All happy for all the left brained people out there who get it.  Really, I am.  

                But I sure wish you guys could live in a world where you were forced to perform instrumental solos every week in class and had to write your own one man play and had to learn how to and successfully deliver stand up comedy in order to graduate high school.  

                2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

                by Rick Aucoin on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:00:19 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Balancing a checkbook (0+ / 0-)

                  The problem is, for many of us at least in the past, we weren't taught how to balance a checkbook in favor of Algebra. I have no problem with some algebra being a requirement for graduation, but they should also include practical math. I knew many kids who were really smart in math but had almost no ability to manage money or finances. The question becomes, why aren't they requiring consumer math as well as Algebra, instead of favoring higher math over math people need every day?

                  •  If you actually know algebra (0+ / 0-)

                    then you know how to balance a checkbook. In fact, all you need for that is addition and subtraction. Checkbook-balancing would be an incredibly silly class for a high school. The more complex and interesting parts of personal finance, like compound interest, are actually taught in algebra classes.

                    Now, whether or not you actually do balance your checkbook, whether or not you intuitively understand the need for it, that's a different matter. And it's not one that's easily amenable to teaching. Lots of us who are "smart at math" don't 'get' money as a concept; we're in the same boat as a lot of musically-gifted or artistically-gifted people.

                    We get criticized for it more than they do, of course, because money and math both technically involve numbers. But then, art and electrical wiring both technically involve colour.

                    "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

                    by kyril on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:18:14 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Just because all you need.. (0+ / 0-)

                      is addition and subtraction doesn't mean you instinctively know how to balance a checkbook. That's something I had to learn in a beyond high school class. Yes, once the bank statement was explained and I saw the examples it didn't take me long to master, but for me it was something I had to learn from someone not figure out on my own. I think if we covered consumer math in school there would be fewer young adults in trouble financially because they simply don't know how to manage their money. Things like credit cards, student loan debt, all of that could be explained, as well as different types of savings accounts, cd's, stocks, etc.
                      I never learned compound interest in algebra class, it was all figuring out x or y without any practical application, even in college. Maybe the newer textbooks are different. But if all you ever learn is theory and solving for x without learning why you are solving for x, it doesn't do you a lot of good in applying that to real life, at least not for all of us.
                      What I'm saying is, not to take Algebra out of the curriculum but I think we are doing a disservice to our teens by not keeping the math curriculum rounded to include things they will all use in day to day life.

                      •  But the things you use (0+ / 0-)

                        in day-to-day life aren't math. We can't pretend that "consumer math" is a math course that should be integrated into the math curriculum. The things you're talking about are in the same category as typing and home ec - "life skills." Not math.

                        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

                        by kyril on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 06:16:46 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Consumer math (0+ / 0-)

                          is math. Figuring out percentages, budgeting, comparison pricing, being able to understand (and do the math to figure out) that even though 20% off sounds good, or 20% more sounds good may not mean it's the best deal. Schools don't teach enough life skills. And math as a life skill is much more important to almost everyone than advanced math when it comes to living and planning financing. How to budget savings from a tight budget, what savings accounts and systems are better than others and why. Finance IS largely math, and this is where a LOT of kids get in trouble within their first years away from their parents.

                          Math is numbers, arithmetic, using logic and math skills to solve problems. I'm much more likely to use that in a trip to the grocery store, or painting a room in my home than designing a bridge or doing complex algebra and trig. So are most people unless they are in a career that uses them. I'm not saying get rid of higher math, I'm saying include the practical math that everyone needs. Just because you can do Algebra and Trig DOES NOT MEAN you can figure out how to budget effectively or which credit card offer is better than the other. And there are way too many corporations that take advantage of that. Teaching common sense math is just as important as higher math. I'm not saying spend years on it, but one semester requirement isn't too much to expect.

      •  Unfortunately logic and algebra are (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ScottDog, kyril, Deep Texan

        one and the same......

        We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

        by bmcphail on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:30:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Are not. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rick Aucoin

          Hell, there isn't even any agreement on whether logic belongs to math or philosophy. (Linguists have been staking their claims on the field too.)

          Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

          by Nowhere Man on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 05:27:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Math is deductive, a tautology (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Deep Texan

            Many of our day to day critical thinking problems are inductive, which is why statistics was developed -  originally for gamblers, of course.

            Unfortunately very few of the people who play with statistics get it straight - another area that needs work, including even the basic Correlation Does Not Imply Causation.

        •  No, they aren't. (0+ / 0-)

          But thank you for the input from the 95%.

          Meanwhile, the 5% who aren't particularly left brained will wonder what it would be like living in a world where to graduate high school every student was required to take and pass four years of band and three years of visual arts and three years of drama.

          It must be nice, is all I can say.

          2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

          by Rick Aucoin on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 05:33:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're really stuck (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Deep Texan, xgy2

            on the left/right brain thing, aren't you?

            But the truth is that math is not a left-brain activity. Math is art. Math is poetry. Math is the music of the universe, and it is beautiful.

            Real mathematical problems are understood through leaps of intuition, explored through imagination and visualization, and appreciated through an aesthetic sense of simplicity, completeness, and exactness. Mathematics is as fundamentally right-brain-reliant as any other art.

            The problem for creative young people is that they have to pass through the gatekeepers of mathematics - not mathematicians, but the procedural, rule-bound, linear thinkers who write math textbooks and teach grade-school math classes and write standardized tests. And that's a shame. But it's not the algebra's fault it's been bastardized into a miserable, tedious shadow of itself.

            Please read this:

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 02:28:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Actually Rick (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, Deep Texan

        after 23 years in the field, believe it or not, I see more kids drop out because of gym than anything else. kids who tend to drop out tend not to like changing for gym or even taking gym. We can usually give these kids some kind of everyday math to fill a math requirement, but there's no way around 4 years of gym in NJ. And the course kids hate the most? History, hands down, no contest.

        •  Kids might not like History... (0+ / 0-)

          ... and often that is because history class is taught by some football coach who has to teach two classes a day due to budget cutbacks.

          But drop out due to history class?  Drop out due to gym class?  

          When I went to high school you had to have either credits in gym or credits in band.  

          Making high school students take gym class is pointless and unnecessary.  I did band and athletics, track team and basketball, and never did like having to change clothes or shower with the other male students.  Once you've grown up and have a bit more confidence in yourself okay, but teenagers are a bundle of friggin' nerves anyway.

          And yeah, some students get to graduate without taking algebra, but they get to live with being labeled "remedial" students in high school, a nice stigma to slap on a kid just because they were lucky (?) enough to be born left handed and right brained.  

          I was a terrible Jr. High math student but I was smart and my teachers recommended Algebra in high school instead of the more basic math classes.  The second time I flunked Algebra I was enough, I quit school.  

          2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

          by Rick Aucoin on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:06:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That gets back to the point made above, that (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Deep Texan, kyril

            teaching the basics well is crucial. I hated history the way it was taught before college, and I have a degree in Art History, which is always taught with a lot of social history if it's taught decently- from what was then the country's number one program. That you struggled with a subject taught badly only says so much about that subject.

          •  What's with the "righthanded/left-brained" equatio (0+ / 0-)


            It's nowhere near as cut and dried as all that. It's entirely possible to be right-handed and "right-brained" (I should know!). And NOT all artists are left-handed, and NOT all mathematicians are right-handed.

            The whole "left brain/right brain" thing was a drastic oversimplification that may or may not be meaningful in any real-world sense.

            Mundus vult decipi, decipiatur

            by TheOtherMaven on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 08:37:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  A simplified illustration (0+ / 0-)

              that gets the point across.  Yes, it's far from a complete explanation but the point being there are a significant number of people for whom subjects like algebra are profoundly difficult but who will find Literature both interesting and easy to analyze.

              We devalue the one by making such courses mostly optional and allowing people who are no good at them to skip doing them entirely while making students who are no good at the other either pass those classes or drop out of high school.

              All because they aren't like the majority.

              2.1 million Texans voted Democratic in the 2010 midterms. How many people in YOUR state voted D in 2010?

              by Rick Aucoin on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 11:16:24 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  There would be a lot fewer such tests (16+ / 0-)

    if those who advocate them had to actually take them.  Yes, I am talking to YOU public office holders -- at all levels.

  •  I'd like to see the test. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    memiller, Kinak, rb608, Calamity Jean, kyril

    Maybe it IS a bad test. Maybe an elected official isn't very bright (not that there's anything wrong or unusual about that). I wonder how the 10th graders do on it.

  •  My daughter went .... (0+ / 0-)

    through the California school system.  She did well, but I had major gripes with the local system all the way from K-12....with the system, the teaching and the administration.  

  •  what is "high school math" these days? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    p gorden lippy, mightymouse, Odysseus

    my sister and I were talking the other day about math we use all the time: ratios. We both make jewelry, and silver is priced by the ounce but we use a few centimeters at a time.

    I also have occasion to calculate the circumference of a circle in my jewelry.

    In theory, people could weigh their produce and understand the price, but I see very little of that.

    •  dunno (5+ / 0-)

      kids today are learning excel and graphing functions before they can drive though.

      my high school math was hard.  however, i was in the top classes.  there was about 60 of us total in those classes.  the rest of the grade were in regular or remedial classes.

      if people think you don't need math then i ask what the hell do you do for a living that doesn't require some math work at some point?  plumbers have to calculate just like carpenters and computer engineers.

  •  Excellent post, Ken! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb608, emal, mungley, mightymouse

    And I agree that reading skills are tough to measure with a multiple choice test. That seems better suited for math where there can only be one right answer.

    •  That's probably the #1 reason (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, mightymouse, Odysseus

      I loved math in school.  In working a math problem, you could know when you had the right answer.  It was proveable and certain.  With the "soft" subjects, the answers were often subjective.  I preferred the certainty.

      You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

      by rb608 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:35:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are correct (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rb608, kyril

        but often times it could be something really really dumb, like forgetting a sign or some little mistep in a long complex solution that might give you the incorrect to get fully penalized for it when perhaps 90% of the concept being evaluated a student was accurate, and that is still a disservice in terms of measuring mathematical ability, especially if a diploma is reliant on here

        Show me the work and that would tell me just how much a person has an understanding of mathematical concepts. ...and it'll more accurate reflect what kids really know.

        48forEastAfrica-Donate to Oxfam The Plutocratic States of America, the best government the top 1% and corporations can buy. We are the 99%-OWS.

        by emal on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:52:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The downside to that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It's not good enough for engineers, scientists, plumbers, and doctors to be 90% accurate. Correctness needs to be evaluated or else people get sloppy.

          •  I remember a class in differential equations (0+ / 0-)

            On the final, I did 2 or 3 pages of work, and then in the last step integrated sin to cos instead of -cos.  I got zero credit.  I complained, but the instructor said my bridge would have collapsed.  

            Frankly, I blame everything on Nixon.

            by J Orygun on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 11:52:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  this is highschool math (0+ / 0-)

              not college...different standard imo...I'd rather have a kid who understood the concepts, how to apply them, but made a simple mistake then one who just happened to make the right guess on a multiple guess test.

              48forEastAfrica-Donate to Oxfam The Plutocratic States of America, the best government the top 1% and corporations can buy. We are the 99%-OWS.

              by emal on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 05:26:46 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Then penalize them (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            in the engineering department.

            I still have, somewhere in my house, a test. It's a college-level math test in linear algebra. On this test, I got every single answer "wrong." And yet my score is over 100%.

            Why? Well, on that particular test, my professor had gotten it in his head to ban calculators (because the graphing calculators we all had calculators could do matrix operations, and he didn't want to give an advantage to people who could bring in other calculators). And I can't do arithmetic reliably, at least not in any reasonable amount of time. The number of multiplications necessary to multiply two 3x3 matrices is high enough to virtually guarantee that I will make a mistake.

            But I knew the linear algebra. I did every step of every problem right. And since I knew I was making arithmetic mistakes that would make my process harder to follow, I wrote out in plain English what I was doing and why for every step. There was simply no question that I knew the material. And my professor, being the great guy that he was, simply decided he was grading linear algebra, not arithmetic.

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 12:44:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Anyone who understands statistics (13+ / 0-)

    understands the idiocy of evaluating a teacher based on how one class' students do relative to some standardized tests.

    It takes exactly one kid with an undiagnosed learning disorder, or whose parents are going through a divorce this year, or whose mom lost her job, to have a statistically meaningful result on the averages.

    And it takes exactly one once-in-a-decade genius to make the teacher look like God's gift to the profession.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:08:47 PM PST

    •  Oh, the noise in the raw data makes virtually any (8+ / 0-)

      testing worthless. That's one of the reasons the analysis formulas are so complex (another is that it helps obfuscate just how naked the emperor is). There's just no cheap and easy way to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher, which is the heart of the false promise of standardized testing.

      •  I taught grad school for a few years. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue aardvark, kyril

        I was simply unable to understand why I could not convey information I considered simple to otherwise intelligent people.  I couldn't determine whether I was the world's worst lecturer or my students were as dumb as a box of hammers.  I had to quit.

        You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

        by rb608 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:37:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Your first sentence is simply incorrect (7+ / 0-)

        Statistics is about separating signal from noise.  The more data, the easier it is to separate these.

        If you substitute "difficult" for "worthless" then the sentence would be correct.  

        Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

        by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:35:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's a point in statistical analysis where it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          barbwires, Nowhere Man

          becomes objectively impossible to separate statistically significant results from the data "noise". Too much variance, too small samples (actually one of the largest stumbling blocks, since class sizes usually hover around the min threshold of n>30), and way too many variables to control for (learning disabilities, skill level at start, home life, etc.) put these standardized tests in that category.

          Given the nature of the populations and the knowledge that they're trying to tease out of it, it's a fool's errand and most any result, no matter how complex the analysis, is meaningless. It's akin to predicting a presidential election by asking 5 people who they're thinking about voting for a year from now.

          •  Nope this is wrong (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ManhattanMan, ScottDog, kyril

            If you use multilevel models, then the sample size is all the students that are tested in the population you are testing, not just the students in one class.

            And the variables to control for are mostly handled by the fact that, with multilevel models, each kid serves as his/her own control.

            Now, your argument is much more valid for classroom tests made up by a teacher. In that case, the sample size is just the students in one class.

            In short, you are making an argument for standardized tests, not against them.

            Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

            by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:03:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Again, multilevel testing won't tell you much (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Nowhere Man

              about the quality of any particular teacher. The fundamental sample sizes (population size, technically, since we're evaluating all of the students of a particular teacher and using that to evaluate the teacher) are too small and granular to merit valid comparisons. Multilevel testing may show that one class or student is underperforming in comparison to other classes, but it can't give meaningful explanations of why. And it certainly can't reveal if a class' underperformance is the direct result of bad teaching.

              The people who push for standardized testing use complex statistical methods as a way to hid the fact that standardized testing is a pisspoor method of evaluating teacher effectiveness.

              •  It can't prove why, that's true (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                you could always have some other variable that you aren't controlling for.  But it would have to be something that interfered with a particular class, not some characteristics of the students themselves, since those qualities would be involved in the random intercept.

                Also a lot of teachers (especially after the early elementary years) teach more than one class.

                Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

                by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:43:36 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, but this is at best, only partly right (5+ / 0-)

      and I do understand statistics, and psychometrics.

      Your second and third paragraphs are simply incorrect, if the statistics are used properly. Partly you need to understand how to deal with outliers, but also see below.

      Of course, if the statistics are used IMPROPERLY (which they are, in many cases) then anything can happen.

      I interviewed for a job with the NYC Dep't of Education, in the department that does evaluations. THEY ALL AGREED that the way we do the testing is STUPID, and these are the people who make up and administer the tests!

      The problem is that, instead of listening to experts on testing (people with PhDs in subjects like psychometrics; people with teaching experience; kids) we are taking our advice from politicians who know nothing about the subject.

      Take the NCLB tests. These are thoroughly awful. In NYC., at least, they are given once a year, in January and April (one month for reading, the other for math). This is silly.  It is a horrible way to try to evaluate students or their teachers.

      The NCLB tests are LONG. This is a bad idea. It puts stress on the kids and makes them partly a test of endurance.

      The NCLB tests are high stakes. This is wrong; it makes the tests partly a test of operating under pressure.

      The NCLB tests are narrow (reading and math) and this is also wrong - there are lots of important subjects.

      But all those are problems, not with standardized tests, but with how those tests are used.

      Testing (standardized or not)  should be frequent, low stress, varied and short.  We are 0 for 4.

      But if you  try to use a hammer a screwdriver, it's wrong to blame the people who made the hammer.

      Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

      by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:56:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Did you catch the qualifier about (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nowhere Man

        "evaluating a teacher"?

        When my daughter in law was teaching she had 35 kids at a time in her class. If you compare that set of 35 test scores to the test score set of the other 3rd grade teacher at that school you are measuring the noise. If you compare them to the 3rd grade teacher across town you are measuring the neighborhoods and the noise.

        Now if you want to measure progress across an entire school district from year to year you might get some meaningful results.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:50:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't miss anything (6+ / 0-)

          Of COURSE if you just compare one class with another without taking anything else into account, you get garbage.

          But that isn't what you should do.  As dumb as NCLB is, even it isn't quite that foolish. They try to account for where each class was at the previous testing. They don't do this very well, but they try.

          When you  have lots of classes, you can control for lots of variables.  It is actually EASIER to do this on classes than on districts, because there are more of them.

          But it would be much better to use multilevel models with multiple imputation for missing data. And it would be better to use computerized adaptive testing.

          IF standardized testing were frequent, low key, varied and short, then you could easily deal with the noise (such as whether each kid is in a good mood) and you could control for a lot of variables easily, simply because kids would serve as their own control. I'd suggest a random intercept model with varying slopes, and probably an AR(1) covariance structure as a good starting place for such analysis.

          Sorry for getting technical, but it's a highly technical field.

          Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

          by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:58:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  What is needed is a baseline (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            plf515, bmcphail, barbwires

            and then measuring changes relative to the baseline.

            I don't disagree it is possible to measure teacher effectiveness using tests. I claim that looking at one number per year (or two) is damn stupid.

            In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

            by blue aardvark on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:24:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  All true. I'm following your argument. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Unfortunately, the problem is not so much the test as what people are trying to use the test to do....figure out which teachers to hire or fire.  When evaluating a single teacher, even one with many students, it is extremely unclear that the competence of the teacher is the main factor or even a significant factor contributing to the tests variance.  

            The fight against innumeracy should begin with people in charge naively interpreting test scores.

            We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

            by bmcphail on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:40:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, what else do you think is contributing? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Because, if you do it right (NOT the way it is done now) then each student would serve quite well as his/her own control.

              So, anything that affects one teacher but not another would have to be something that happened to that teacher's class, after the first tests were given, and did NOT happen to other classes.

              There certainly could be such things - a school could have a major fire, just as an example - but these would, I think, be relatively rare, and probably could be dealt with on a case by case basis.

              It could not be something about the students (e.g. poverty, learning disabilities etc); a random intercepts (and possibly random slopes) model would deal with this.

              Of course, to do this right, you'd need data. That's why I think testing should be frequent and short, rather than once-a-year and long.  

              Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

              by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:53:36 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Pretty much everything about the way it is done (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                right now is the exact opposite of "doing it right."

                We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                by bmcphail on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 09:44:47 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  How about students who don't make (0+ / 0-)

                adequate progress due to extrinsic factors like having enough to eat/stable homelife/dealing with gangs/etc?

                Does a teacher who has a roomful of such students get compared directly to one with a class full of yuppie offspring?

                If the class A makes half as much progress as class B, does the teacher of A get half as much pay as the teacher of B?

                Even if you weight by district, school, course, and section, where we are heading with this is that the criteria would have to be virtually individual to be fair.

                Which leads directly to the next question: after atomizing the stats to the individual class, is it clear  that a one-dimensional "learning outcome" is superior to and should outweigh all other factors that might go into evaluating a teacher's performance?  

                We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                by bmcphail on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 09:53:28 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Let's see (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Done correctly, students will be their own controls, which means that the teachers are compared on the progress of their students, after controlling for measured extrinsic factors, which would certainly include SES, although it could not include everything.

                  How the students progress affects teacher pay is not really a statistical question, but a political one.  I am not expert on the politics of this, just the statistics: That is, could student performance be used to measure teacher performance?

                  For your final question, I would say that many factors, including student performance, should go into teacher performance, including things like attendance, being at parent teacher conferences, and many other things as well.

                  Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

                  by plf515 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 10:40:12 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  And that's the bottom line (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    How the students progress affects teacher pay is not really a statistical question, but a political one.

                    .....since the whole point of this is that there is a political attempt to use standardized testing not to improve student outcomes and teachers' professionalism .... because the tests are completely not designed to be helpful in either case...but to provide a pseudofactual basis to  1. scapegoat teachers and 2. undermine public education in general.

                    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

                    by bmcphail on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 04:28:26 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The tests, as currently used, are (0+ / 0-)

                      a massive fail.  I agree.

                      But, if the tests were done properly, then they would measure part of teacher effectiveness, and that should be part of teacher pay, possibly; it could also be used to help teachers learn to be better teachers, or to identify teachers who are having problems with particular types of children; or possibly to identify teachers who are grading unfairly.

                      They could be useful for all sorts of things.

                      Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

                      by plf515 on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 04:32:39 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

    •  how about this Wisconsin, the new (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark

      framework for evaluating teachers includes a significant component for math and reading scores schoolwide.

      So, 10% of a phy ed teachers performance is based on how his students do in math and reading standardized tests.  10% of the science teachers performance is based on math and reading standardized tests.  10% of art and music teachers performance is based on math and reading standardized tests...  Really.  That's the plan.

      50% of the evaluation is based on student growth (including the standardized tests in math and reading...for all teachers) and 50% is based on individual professional development.

      (How many of you groaned when you read the subject line of this comment?)

  •  min. need: math to understand a budget & mortgage (9+ / 0-)

    which means understanding DECIMALS (as a high school photography substitute teacher, I was APPALLED at how many kids didn't get it)

    Estimating skills would be very useful. Probability would help a lot-like what's the probability of being a super model or basketball star, vs being a cosmetologist or delivery person? How likely are you to lose at black jack?

    Even knowing that a formula EXISTS for calculating interest compounding would be more useful than being clueless about what something is REALLY going to cost.

    What about math and physics to understand amperage and wattage?-I think that's grade school level, but how many could put that understanding into buying a stereo or figuring their electric bill?
    back to grade school: using a ruler. both to draw a straight line and to measure.

    torque? stress load? How is anybody gonna get a mechanics or woodworkers job if they don't have some math.

    •  Yes. (5+ / 0-)

      Pretty much everyone in manufacturing and construction needs algebra. Everybody should be able to calculate interest rates, pay-off periods, etc. If they were, we would have had fewer foreclosures over the last years, even given the fraudulent and deceitful banksters.

      Mark E. Miller // Kalamazoo Township Trustee // MI 6th District Democratic Chair

      by memiller on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:21:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  sorry, but going to disagree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        that people have to know how to calculate interest, especially compound interest -  too easy to get to apps and online calculators.  That people should have some awareness of the impact of compounding of interest, yes, but that can be learned w/o having to learn how to calculate it.

        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:15:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  From my experience (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ManhattanMan, kyril, Deep Texan

          the best way to get an appreciation of how a function works is to know its mathematical form, and to have worked with it, graphed it. Then when I see the formula for future value, let's say: FV = PV*(1+i)^n

          ... I can visualize what this is going to look like; I can have an intuitive sense of how the variables relate  to each other. I think I am then less likely to be taken in by somebody waving their hands trying to sell me a bill of goods.

          Yes, someone could use an online calculator -- but I do not think they would be in as good a position to understand all the implications. Do they 'have' to know this? No.

          Mark E. Miller // Kalamazoo Township Trustee // MI 6th District Democratic Chair

          by memiller on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:03:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank You - N/T (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:20:34 PM PST

  •  i was under the impression (7+ / 0-)

    that jeb bush's enthusiasm for the FCAT was based on the fact that his brother neil was involved with the company that created a lot of these tests.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:41:40 PM PST

  •  Roach's statement is awful (9+ / 0-)

    it's one of the worst things I've read about school and education, and, taken literally, it would mean the complete destruction of teaching as  a profession and of education as anything more than breeding peons.

    School is not, and should not be, mostly about what we will use when we get out of school.

    A huge majority of us will never use ANYTHING we learned in art or music or drama, I know I haven't. Let's dump them.

    Most of us never use biology or chemistry or physics. I know I haven't dissected anything since high school, I haven't balanced a chemical equation, and the only time I've used physics is in my own reading, for my own pleasure.

    If we listen to Roach, it would greatly INCREASE the role of tests (of one kind or another) and make them affect a child's life even more than now - because only the kids who are "good" at something would get more of it.

    Brave New World here we come.

    Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

    by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:46:32 PM PST

    •  Actually, if you think about it (0+ / 0-)

      I think you would surprise yourself how often you use chemistry, physics and art/music/drama in day to day life. Knowing which household cleaners to use for what, and what not to mix is basic chemistry. So is knowing what to use when you get pepper sprayed at an OWS protest (we used this to open a chemistry discussion with our home schooled children).  Cooking also uses chemistry, though it's at a lower less thought about level.

      Biology and physics you use in daily logical issues. How is that new set of shoes fitting? How can you stretch them just right?  How hard do you need to throw a ball to your kids? How high? What angle do you aim the hose at to spray your girlfriend who's helping you wash the car? Do you play pool? What do you need to do to lower the chances of a vermin infestation? How do you keep squirrels from coming in your eaves?

      Art/music/drama  You use these in your daily leisure activities at least. Why did you like this movie over that one? This song by the new artist, is it one you should bother with? Which is better, the book or the movie?

      •  No (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, kyril

        To know which household cleaner to use, I look at the labels. I don't mix them at all.  

        Knowing what to use when I get pepper sprayed is a matter of doing some googling before I go anywhere where I might get pepper sprayed (I think I read something about washing in milk ....)

        At best I am using the fact that some OTHER people know chemistry.

        How are my shoes fitting? Come on! My 9 year old can tell me if his shoes are loose or tight! And kids learn to throw balls LONG before they know physics. And baseball pitchers do not need to know physics.

        People know what music they like without knowing any music theory whatsoever. And I'd bet most people learn what musical artists they might like from friends.

        Your examples prove my point.  I could do ALL of these things using NOTHING I learned in high school, and people who never went to high school do all of these things, as well.

        Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

        by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:40:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Then I'm sorry (5+ / 0-)

          Because I use things like this every day, and use them to teach my children every day how physics, biology, and chemistry work.   And yes, milk works well because pepper spray is an acid and milk is a base! A base cancels out an acid. Never mix Chlorine bleach and Ammonia cleaners unless you want to end up in the hospital or dead. Basic chemistry.   Baseball pitchers may not need to remember physics, but they use it every single pitch. And if they've learned it in school, even the basics, they will be a better pitcher.

          And yes, he knows if his shoes are too tight or loose or wear, but can he figure out how to stretch out a leather shoe properly so that it fits better or even if it will stretch at all?

          When I listen to music, I hear influences, classical and modern, and use that to evaluate the music and why I like it. I also know from school that the key of F and bflat are not my best vocal selections and how to alter those to better keys on my own.

          So yes, while you could get by without it, your life will be better for using it and evaluating and thinking about your decisions, you'll get more enjoyment from life, and make better decisions. I couldn't imagine going around life without knowing the basics of biology, chemistry, physics (which I learned on my own after elementary school, never took that one), not to mention the arts. Life would be so much more dull on one level and insanely challenging on another.

  •  critical thinking is built by having solid (6+ / 0-)

    logical/analytical skills. Nothing in education has as clean a collection of logical and analytical components as math.

    Maybe physics or logic are second.

    There are so many kids who clearly "get" money but are completely unable to generalize that to non-monetary decimals. A friend's son, a product of the LA schools, was fifteen, finished with being a sophomore, and did not understand place value. I asked him some money questions, and he got everything spot on. He had never learned the connection between dollars and cents and anything other than 2 decimal places. Sad, really, that he had got so far without that being remedied.

    He went on to become an air force helicopter mechanic and flight navigator, so eventually he obviously made up for lost time.

    Being able to be logical with math skills can also be generalized into critical thinking about non-mathematical matters. The arguments learned in logic can be very helpful when listening to political debates - reducto ad absurdam, false dichotomy, etc. , etc.  - or when being exposed to advertizing.

    This is not to say that one-test-fits-all is a good thing.

    And no one has mentioned the amount of MONEY being made by people who huckster these tests and the curricula required for the big-stakes, one-test-decides-your-life day.

    Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

    by p gorden lippy on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:49:17 PM PST

  •  Partial credit (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, kyril

    Ideally, kids should get different amounts of credit for differently wrong answers. This can be done pretty easily using item response theory.  I don't know of a standardized test that does this, but it wouldn't be hard to do.

    Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

    by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:01:42 PM PST

  •  I am very good at tests... (9+ / 0-)

    I did not see Rick Roach as arrogant.  I see it as a way to establish the point that if an educated, successful professional has trouble with the test then is the test really effectively measuring whether someone can be educated further to become a successful professional?

    I have a high IQ (I was a member of MENSA) and I score exceptionally high on mathematics aptitude tests.  That and about $1.50 will buy me a cheap cup of coffee in some places.
    Our society measures intelligence in three ways:
    1.)    When you are a student, math and communication skills determine your peer’s and teacher’s opinion of your "Smartness".  
    2.)    As you begin your adult life, your ability to articulate ideas that other people already believe in a manner in which they had not yet figured out how to express it themselves determines whether you are a genius or not.  
    3.)    And third, as you age, it is how much money you have because if you were really all that smart, you would have figured out how to get rich by now.

    Actually, all of those methods are ineffective and completely irrelevant.  Intelligence cannot be captured on any test so far conceived by anyone.  Intelligence is a combination of aptitude, interest and opportunity.  A pygmy in Africa that can track animals by understanding their habits and small clues has a type of intelligence that is not measured on any IQ test I have taken yet is a vital resource to their very existence in their community.  Advanced statistics?  Not so much…    I suck at sales.  I know people that can read another human being like a book and say just the right things at the right times to sell a person anything they want to sell them whether it is a good deal or not.  That takes a type of intelligence that is not found or measured on a pencil and paper test.

    Standardized tests are like the speedometer in your car.  They tell you one particular piece of information about one particular characteristic about one function of your car.  No one would ever say that the car is in good condition or bad condition because it says you are doing 60 mph.  Now, that doesn’t mean that the speedometer is not important… it just means that the user has to understand what that information does and does not tell you.  If you have really low oil pressure, your speedometer won’t let you know until the engine locks up and therefore the speedometer stops moving.  (also, that doesn’t mean you go out and buy a new speedometer when that happens just like you do not fire old or hire new teachers when kids don’t score high enough on a test).
    The No Child Left Behind act was designed as a money giveaway for “scientifically” approved school book manufacturers and a way to drag down education so that it could be privatized.  Teaching more memorization and less critical thinking was just a bonus.

    "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

    by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:12:20 PM PST

  •  SHOULD an adult do well on a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ltsply2, kyril, Deep Texan

    10th grade test?

    If so, why?

    Forget standardized vs. not standardized for now.

    In 10th grade, IIRC, I learned some European history, some computer science (I was weird in math), some biology, some English literature (I forgot what we studied that year - I think we studied Hamlet that year) and so on.

    I did OK on the tests (I don't know EXACTLY but I pretty much always had about an 85 average. If I took those tests now (the unstandardized ones) I would do very poorly on the biology and English literature, and not well on the computer science (IIRC, we studied AND gates and NAND gates and ALGOL).

    So what?

    There are legitimate criticisms of the way standardized tests are used. The fact that an adult might not do well on them is not one of them.

    Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

    by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:16:33 PM PST

  •  Disabilities and Standardized Tests (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is only taking into account "normal" kids and abilities as well. They don't allow kids who are not on a 'normal' educational level to skip or even alter the tests much. You get an autistic child who has trouble focusing and dealing with routine changes (and testing is a HUGE routine change), or a kid with dyslcalculia, or a kid who is in the moderately mentally handicapped and they are still expected to pass the same test to graduate as a kid who breezes through with straight A's. Not to mention test anxiety and all the pressure they put on kids even as young as 1st grade over these things.

    My son is in 10th grade and doing pre-algebra this year, partly because it took him three years to catch up to his peers after self-contained classrooms which stuck to nothing but addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division  without any fractions, decimals, graphing, etc. Partly because it took him longer to master some of those, though without knowing what they were doing in school (no text books sent home, little homework) I largely wasn't aware of this delay. Every year they told me he passed the FCAT, but that he was behind where he should be, but not how far behind or why. I don't know how he even passed through elementary years, other than he's smart and makes relatively good guesses on tests even when he doesn't know the answer.

    I have pretty severe dyscalculia due to head trauma when I was young. I often can't do basic math without a calculator, I switch numbers around, and I look at some of the samples and just think "forget this, I'll just guess" because doing math will literally give me a migraine. Sometimes I can use logic to weed out certain answers and make a better informed guess. I managed to get through college algebra with accommodations and a LOT of work. But I was reading on college level in 5th grade according to the reading tests I took at the time, and I was in the IEP program for the gifted. I wouldn't have passed the math portion of the FCAT.

    To make these tests determining factors in teacher's careers is a cruel and unusual practice. There are SO many factors that weigh in to results on these things, and if you're a special needs teacher, well, you're likely pretty much screwed. Most of my son's public school teachers were excellent, and the failings of the program wasn't their fault.  Many of them I liked, he liked and worked very well with him, and he did advance. His success or failure on the FCAT meant nothing to his academic success in real terms.

    •  ALL of these things could be taken account of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in using standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

      In fact, it would be easier to do this with standardized tests given to huge groups of students than with classroom tests given only to a few.

      I should know. I'm learning disabled and I have a PhD in psychometrics.

      (My two blogs are and


      Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

      by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:42:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps, if they did it right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        To show improvement through the years, but that's not what they're looking for, they aren't looking at each child and comparing it with how that child did the year before.  They are looking at the tests purely from a country wide statistical viewpoint, and disabled kids don't always proceed at the same rate as 'expected'. If you have a classroom of Autistic children with low IQ and speech capabilities, where you spend as much of your day working on social skills and redirecting focus as you do on academics, you're going to be at a great disadvantage come FCAT testing time. If you are working with the severely mentally disabled children, with kids whos IQ's are in the 20's, and capabilities at pre-k levels in 10th grade, you could be making huge strides with each child in function and what they are learning, but have no hope at all for the FCAT.

        Also, in some classes as much of the teaching is about behavior and impulse control as the subjects themselves, and that can't be assessed on a math or reading test. And it's just as important as the academics, sometimes even more so. IEP goals are not all "tests well" goals and for disabled students these are the important things.

        As for my dyscalculia, a few teachers made a huge difference in teaching me ways to get around the disability. NOTHING is going to help me memorize math facts or do certain tasks, I can learn ways to get around them through logic. The teachers who penalized me for not being able to do the work their way only made my life more difficult, and taught me to hate the subject. Those who taught me how to figure out multiplication through tricks for some tables then add on to get the right answer, and to check each answer 3 times to make sure I hadn't mixed them up are the ones who saved me. But these methods take longer and do not work well in conjunction with timed tests. (I couldn't pass the fifth grade multiplication timed tests our district required, I could pass them when the teacher waved the timed component.)

        As for psychometrics and statistics, I'll take your word for that. Those are well outside of my pervue and as an adult I'm very realistic about what I can and cannot understand and master.

        •  If you are saying (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FloridaSNMOM, kyril

          that NCLB is doing it wrong, I agree, 100%

          So does every psychometrician I've talked to.

          If you are saying that math and reading are not the only important things learned in school, I again agree 100%

          And if you are saying math is taught badly by many teachers, I agree 100000000 %  :-).

          Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

          by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:06:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes, that's it... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            it's very wrong, and even more wrong in the case of Special needs teachers and students than mainstream, and it's bad enough in mainstream classrooms.

            And yes, as to the math I've had several very bad math teachers, but in my case it was above and beyond how they taught, some of it was just my mind's being damaged and unable to get it and their lack of understanding of that fact. I have a damaged left parietal lobe, including a soft spot over that area still. I learned ways to function in life, but I'll never understand psychometrics for example. Statistics, I can understand the basics, but the math itself is beyond me, I switch numbers too much. Graphing is an impossibility for the same reason (try plotting an x/y graph when (34, 3) is just as likely to be (3, 34) it's impossible without someone else checking every single part of it).

            This testing system is messed up, doesn't prove much of anything and is harder on disabled kids and those who teach them than it every should have been.

            •  There are certainly some people (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              who have LD that make certain subjects impossible.

              I, for example, cannot draw. Many people have tried to teach me. It just doesn't work.

              I also can't estimate time.

              Lots of other things too.

              Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

              by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:28:21 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  I know I deal with Calculus daily (0+ / 0-)

    when I brush my teeth

    and the trigonometry I tried to absorb at a spanish-speaking high school is my go-to resource for the other dilemmas I meet in life

    "Well, on second thought, let's not go to Camelot -- it is a silly place." "Right"

    by leathersmith on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:28:27 PM PST

  •  The problem with jettisoning standardizes tests... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, johnny wurster that without them, there are very few ways of objectively (and efficiently) determining how kids are doing in school, and how effectively teachers are teaching.  If we started testing more for real-world skills, the evaluation process would be far more laborious and difficult (not to mention subject to the vagaries of individual graders).

    Law school exams, however, are based upon real-world scenarios, and require detailed, written analyses that are not only correct, but cogent.  As such, they are a bear to grade.  And yet, professors grade them.

    If we can do as much for budding lawyers, we should be able, and should be willing, to do as much for our kids.  It's an investment, not an expense.

    We reach for the stars with shaking hands in bare-knuckle times.

    by TheOrchid on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 02:58:08 PM PST

  •  To me it's always more important (0+ / 0-)

    to see the processes, the steps, the individual analysis for a given answer ...that to me is often more revealing as to depth of understanding and reasoning abilities. If a student can justify an answer through some well thought out reasoning, that is really really important and more informative and indicative to me about how a student thinks and can give me a level of sophistication in their reasoning.

    48forEastAfrica-Donate to Oxfam The Plutocratic States of America, the best government the top 1% and corporations can buy. We are the 99%-OWS.

    by emal on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:02:44 PM PST

  •  Thank you for the diary. Commenters are missing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TheOrchid, moose67, jayden

    the main point of the discussion.
    These tests are used to evaluate teachers and how schools are funded. They are not being used just to evaluate students.

    Arguable a student who can see more than one right answer to a question is a good thing. Mindlessly repeating what one is told is not a sign of a good education.

    The goal of the FCAT as currently administered is to put public money in private hands.

    Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn. - Poor Richard's Almanac 1755
    The government exists to protect us from the thugs who got rich ripping off our ancestors. - Mungley 2011

    by mungley on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:11:50 PM PST

  •  Slightly OT but I was helping my 4th grader (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with his math HW.

    GEVALT. What silly homework!

    Follow me on Twitter @PeterFlom

    by plf515 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 03:46:42 PM PST

  •  Seriously, does this infernal bragging about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xgy2, emal

    one's brilliance have to occur each and every time one of these test diaries are posted??


    "Repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed." --J. Steinbeck

    by livjack on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:04:24 PM PST

  •  Reveal the Tests (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, johnny wurster

    I'm not nearly as interested in the subjective and speculative credentials of this school official as I am in the tests they bombed. Where's the tests, or equivalent questions? We all want to see how hard they are. That's what this story is about.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 07:02:35 PM PST

  •  i really am sick to fucking death of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rumaikiya, Deep Texan

    leftists apologizing for ignorance.

    i just took a gander at the publicly posted 2006 exam for 9th/10th graders, and i have this to say: anyone who can't answer at least 5 of the first 7 questions is a mathematical illiterate who should be ashamed to claim the title of "educated".

    end of the fucking story.

    these questions are not difficult, and they're not stupid. they are straightforward questions; at least one of the first 7 is a question that any literate 4th-grader should be able answer.

    i'm embarrassed for America, i'm embarrassed for leftism, and i'm embarrassed for all of you sorry whiners. jesus, if you can't manage to teach kids to answer these questions, what the hell can you teach them?

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 07:25:45 PM PST

  •  sorry, this is pathetic (0+ / 0-)

    How can we have come to a place where a random school board member takes some standardized tests, doesn't like them, and that becomes some kind of basis for questioning the exams? I'm not saying the exams themselves are good or bad, I'm just saying how can we be be at a place where there is no accepted content, curriculum, standards, teaching methods, and testing, everyone running this way and that based on their own limited experience, based on the guru of the hour (Michelle, Duncan, Obama, Gates, Superman, whoever that is), based on the fad of the decade (charter schools, value added evaluation, ending tenure, merit pay). This is all just plain nuts. Nuts!  And every day teachers gotta go in and teach, and the kids gotta go in and learn, and they do, best they can, despite the howling outside.
    Public education, teachers, unions, are under assault by people who do not mean well. They thrive on lies and confusion. Calm refutation with investigation and evidence, political organizing to resist them, experienced, authoritative voices that know the truth and can clearly state it, that is where efforts should be directed. Ken has led much such discussion here - that we spend energy on a minor thing like this is a little depressing.

    Bold at inappropriate times.

    by steep rain on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 08:45:48 PM PST

  •  zero for 60? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, johnny wurster, Deep Texan

    Didn't this 90-caliber guy that took the test say that he was unable to do the calculation for a single one of the 60 math problems?

    Not a single one? Huh?

    As other commentors said, a carpenter can do some of those equations.

    But not mr. big shot.

    •  One of my favorite examples (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      has been quoted often by psuchologist Wayne Dyer after he took a standard IQ test with a section on reading comprehension. To his surprise, one of the reading segments was from a section of one of his own books. This was followed by five questions about the reading. He scored 80%. The one of the five questions he actually got wrong was a question about the author's intent. And he was the author!

      •  i think that is fairly common (0+ / 0-)

        too many opinions on what the author (creator) was thinking.  

        it's like many today trying to figure out Da Vinci.  he isn't around to speak for himself but everybody thinks they know his intentions.

  •  No. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, Deep Texan
    If you really did a study on what math most kids need, I guarantee you could probably dump about 80 percent of math scores and leave high-level math for the kids who want it and will need it.
    That's absolutely spot-on.  Our tests have little connection to the real world, and are unfairly excluding too many of our young people from advancing in life and contributing to our society.

    No, it's not spot on. In fact, it's a downright dangerous line of reasoning, because it takes a priori the assumption that our schools are nothing but institutions of vocational training whose purpose is only to give children the bare minimum tools they need to survive.

    It's a short jump from saying "we don't need to test abstract mathematics because the kids don't really need to know it" to saying "we don't need to teach abstract mathematics because the kids don't really need to know it." And then we replace the poetry of algebra with the drudgery of statistics and spreadsheeting. And then we apply the same reasoning to other subjects - plate tectonics, painting, poetry itself.

    There are good reasons to object to standardized testing in math and language. There are reasons that arise naturally from an appreciation for math and language as art, as something beautiful, as something that shouldn't be reduced to formulas and vocabulary lists, as something that can't be tested adequately through timed-multiple-choice exercises. But arguing that 'the kids don't need to know this stuff'? That's offensive.

    Schools aren't vocational training institutions for corporate drones. Schools are, in theory, places of education.

    "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

    by kyril on Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 01:44:05 AM PST

  •  I guess he's just a dumb guy. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Texan, kyril

    I downloaded a NY regents test just for the heck of it, and it wasn't that hard.

  •  Test content not the problem; how it's used is (0+ / 0-)

    I took a look at sample questions from both the reading and math section of the test, and I have to join the chorus of the horrified that people are claiming this test is some kind of gotcha that is unfair to expect 10th graders to be able to do. The sample reading test I looked at included an excerpt from a user manual for heaven's sake... how much more practical and connected to life does the school board guy want things to get? IMHO, the test was dumbed down if anything!

    I'm anti-high stakes testing, and I'll admit to having been mystified how such an emperor has no clothes person like Michelle Rhee could gain so much prominence. But looking at the article and then the test, I think I see some of the issue. Anti-high stakes testing advocates lose their credibility when we complain about the content of a test like this. It does make us look like we have no standards or expectations for high school education.

    We need to refocus the conversation away from the content of the tests--which is fine--and back onto how the tests are used. If kids are failing tests like this, IMHO it's not some simple issue of incompetent teachers. It's much more likely an issue of poverty interfering with education, both in terms of home life and school. Kids who are hungry aren't concentrating well. Kids who are sleep deprived or living in fear aren't going to retain information well, much less concentrate well in a high stakes testing situation. Kids who don't feel safe in or out of school won't test well. Kids in crumbling schools with antiquated testbooks aren't going to see reasons why they should care about paying attention.

    Yes, these are harder problems to solve, but we need to redirect the conversation there. IMHO, the most powerful point we have--especially right now--is that all of this testing diverts funds. We need to remind people that their choices are high stakes testing or classroom supplies and subsidized lunches.

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