August 7, 2014

Rehashing the Math Wars in an Understandable Way, Again

The Math Wars never seem to go away. Those who created the idea that children learn better by not being taught recycle and repackage it, year after year.

The latest incarnation is Common Core math. True, CC are just standards...but, they really aren't. Nothing is ever free of interpretation, especially standards. This is especially true when purveyors of fuzzy math are in charge of teacher education, curricula, tests, and everything else imaginable in public education.

Read this article by Elizabeth Green that started the latest dust-up. In a nutshell, she asserts what fuzzy math supporters have always asserted: fuzzy math is good and will raise our test scores if only teachers were trained properly in how to teach it. She and others believe that Common Core math will succeed if only there were better teacher preparation schools out there. Again, the most wonderful teacher prep paired with the best teachers the world (paired with extra bright, with-it parents who can teach this "new" math to their children) could provide will not make something that could just be ill-informed and unworkable.

It doesn't make sense to start 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year old children thinking about and having to explain math when they don't know math. Of course, children mature at different rates. Children also grasp different things at different times, as well. However, by signing up for Common Core standards, there is NO deviation from the Common Core timetable of what is taught and when it is taught. The timetable will be rigid because of the testing component.

Then read the Tom Loveless article, "Six Myths in the New York Times Math Article By Elizabeth Green." His article hits on many of her myths (or points).

Lastly, read this article by Barry Garelick entitled "A common-sense approach to Common Core math standards." It is long, but it spells out what you need to understand about what math does and does not do right now. Also, the author gives an easy example with 1st grade math standards. 

After reading everything I've suggested, you'll have a better idea about the main math issues that have bled into Common Core. 

July 4, 2014

Public Ed Dread is Homeschooling!

I started homeschooling in October of 2013. I had always resisted homeschooling. Instead, I opted to go the private school route because we could afford it, and because I had always thought Montessori was great. My husband and I had already decided that our son wouldn’t go to public school. I taught public school; I have VERY strong opinions about government school (just read my blog a bit). My first to last choices were as follows: private school, homeschool, and public school as the last resort.

Public schools can only do one-size-fits-all because they are (or should be) trying to educate the masses on a budget. Public schools only seem to be able to handle a few kinds of kids well, like the ones hanging around average intelligence and who have more manageable temperaments. In general, public schools favor girls because they like to sit quietly, color, and they like to work in groups. Boys don’t do as well unless they are mostly calm (or they can daydream through the coloring and group work). I have a boy.

Anyway, my son was in Montessori school, but I always seemed to have to teach him things at home because he demanded it. We did the afterschooling, unschooling type of thing. He’d get interested in something, and I’d get it for him or teach it to him. This started when he was 4. So, he was slowly advancing beyond what was going on at school. He didn’t seem very patient there either; he was often in trouble. I decided I may as well go in all the way with him. He’s a tough one to homeschool. He’s a 7 ½ year old boy who needs constant challenge and learning. He doesn’t deal well with frustration yet either; he’s a perfectionist. I don’t know where he’d fit in but in a homeschool situation.

Our first year of homeschooling went surprisingly well. It turns out he isn’t the Montessori type at all (he got such a wonderful foundation at the classical Montessori school he was at). He loves quiet, few distractions, and workbooks! He’s very self-directed. I find materials that he can do on his own while learning on his own. He’s also very okay not being around a lot of kids all the time. His social and emotional development is not anywhere as advanced as his academics. But, being around a lot of kids didn't seem to help that either. There is always time for everything. Homeschooling makes nearly everything possible.

When I tell people that I am homeschooling, they show their approval of MY homeschooling only because they consider me "qualified" to do it. After all, I have a Master's in educational psychology and current teaching credentials in my state. I always tell them that a degree or a credential isn't necessary. I learned things and learning things is always good, I guess. However, did any of that help me to be a good teacher? No. What is learned from colleges is what the colleges want you to know. Often, what is learned in those places is the wrong thing.

There are so many wonderful online resources. If you're interested, start with what you don't like. Once you know what sort of education you don't want for your child, you can begin to explore what you want. For example, if you don't want anything Common Core (and who would?), you can start finding resources that are not in any way aligned with it. Start here at The Homeschool Resource Roadmap.

June 15, 2014

How would America look without public schools?

Some find it unimaginable to think of life without public schools. What would we do? How would people learn? Would America still be civilized? Are we civilized now? Does it even matter?

Someone from, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., thought enough about it to give us a starting point. In the article here, the roadblocks and the hypothetical public school-free future was briefly outlined:
In short, the market for education would operate the same as any other market. Groceries, for example. Where there is a demand, and obviously people demand education for their kids, there is supply. There are large grocery stores, small ones, discount ones, premium ones, and stores for groceries on the run. It is the same for other goods, and it would be the same for education. Again, the customer would rule. In the end, what would emerge is not entirely predictable — the market never is — but whatever happened would be in accord with the wishes of the public.
Sure, this view could be simplistic, but isn't the whole idea of universal education rather simplistic? Has public education done what we all expected it to do for EVERY single child who's gone through? It isn't like those who seek to privatize education are trying to get rid of something that works well everywhere...or even mostly well, or kind of well some of the time. We spend so much money for such irregular results. We have layer upon layer of bureaucrats who aren't even in the classroom with kids. As we spend more, their numbers only rise. 

March 10, 2014

The Parent Created Achievement Gap had an article that highlighted a very real consequence of government school policies that do not take into account what parents find important, causing an ever expanding achievement gap in our government schools. Why The Debate Over Cursive Is About More Than Penmanship noted the difficulty that many students faced with the de-emphasis of cursive during a practice SAT when they were asked to sign their names:
“But not all of the kids in my class were lost. There was one who copied the statement in seconds, and then sat up straight, patiently waiting for his classmates to finish. After the test I asked him if he learned to write in cursive in elementary school.
“No,” he said. “My mom taught me because she thought it was important.”
And that is the true issue. The dilemma is not truly whether the “art of cursive” writing is important. The dilemma is the growing chasm between kids whose parents have the money, education, and time to enrich their children’s learning, and those that don’t.” 

Parents who elect to put their financial and personal resources into doing what they feel is right for their children—often, the very things many schools have deemed unnecessary—are the reason why the achievement gap exists and is getting wider. It isn’t the schools or the teachers that shrink or enhance achievement gaps, it is the parents. Parents drive their children to succeed, drive their children off cliffs, or neglect to drive them anywhere. It’s as simple as that.

Parents who think their children should learn cursive will teach their children cursive. Parents who want their children to learn math fundamentals, not fuzzy math, will help at home or put their children in tutoring. Parents who don't like Common Core will homeschool. Parents who think their children should do their homework will ensure that their children do their homework. Parents will homeschool, afterschool, or weekend school.

 What can the government do to correct the fact that some parents will go the extra mile for their kids, while others do not? They’ve been trying for a very long time to help all parents become more active parents with little positive results. Some parents do not put as much effort into their children’s lives as others do even with parent education. If there were a way to prevent the active parents from spending their time and money on helping their children, maybe they’d try it. They are, after all, trying to do what they need to do to reduce or erase the achievement gap.

December 14, 2013

Public Education - Is There a Good or Bad Kind of Profit?

I’m so confused by all this talk about how bad it is that businesses are profiting off of public education. Since Common Core became the lightning rod that it is, the blame has gone squarely onto Bill Gates, his foundation, and private companies in general. I just don’t get it.

Is it this simple?
Schools controlled by government are good; schools that are controlled by private businesses are bad. Charter schools run by corporations are bad; charter schools run by public schools are good. Teachers that are trained by universities -- which make money hand over fist—they’re good; teachers that are trained by, say, Teach for America are bad. Companies like Apple, which have made millions (dare I say billions) over the years selling their usually un-upgradable computers and various computer or tablet related products to public schools are good; companies like Microsoft, owned by Bill Gates, making money by selling their computers and products to public schools are bad. 

I guess it is all in how it’s done and when it’s done. Various private and public entities steering public education policy in the shadows is good; various private and public entities that come right out in the open to steer public education policy are bad. Companies like Pearson making money off designing textbooks, tests, and curriculum pre-Common Core are good; companies like Pearson making money off designing textbooks, tests, and curriculum in the Common Core era are bad.

Ah, and people like Diane Ravitch, someone who has made quite a career out of critiquing others for taking their shot at “reforming” public schools, she can make as much money as she wants. Excuse me, she has never been some blogging mom in her pajamas. 

Obviously, private entities making money off of public education are bad. Public employees and agencies making money off of public education are fine. Ah, and former public employees who become consultants, owners of education reform companies, and hawkers of “new” ways to teach are good too, I guess, because they used to be public employees? The whole system is incestuous, just like many other government monopolies and their employees. The terrible public school teacher who becomes a terrible principal who becomes a terrible school administrator who spends her off time teaching soon-to-be teachers at the nearest college or university her terrible techniques. This is the Peter Principle in action.

Thus, we live in this unreality. It more okay to waste people’s tax dollars because you may not be aiming to make money as your primary goal. Why do we continue accepting certain behaviors from certain people based on the good and bad intentions they may or may not have? Why is wanting to make money an instant bad? Why do we know that city governments, state governments, and the federal government waste money and grease palms better than anyone in private business, but we still think they’ll all do better than private entities at educating our nation’s children?

November 17, 2013

Arne Duncan, Social Planner

Last week, Arne Duncan stepped in very telling territory when he spoke a few truths to a group of state school superintendents as reported in the Washington Post:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told an audience of state superintendents this afternoon that the Education Department and other Common Core supporters didn’t fully anticipate the effect the standards would have once implemented.
“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”

Yes, he spoke the truth. Our public schools, especially the “good” ones, are not really all that good. Our kids are the victims of grade inflation, artificially induced self-esteem, and they can’t think. But, most of us already knew that.

The other truth accidentally spoken was how arrogant social planners like Arne Duncan really are, especially when they get in a group with other social planners, like school superintendents. There are just different levels of arrogance depending on where in the pecking order each social planner resides. 
When Arne is in a group with social planners on his level—other federal social planners—they’ll all be smugly musing about what little the state superintendents know about really important social planning. Needless to say, we minions are the ones looked down upon from very high. We are what their paternalistic and controlling hopes and dreams depend on. 

What can we minions do to help the social planners get over themselves and leave us alone?

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