essentialsaltes: (islam)
"My child's personal religious beliefs were violated,” said Edmisten, adding that her seventh grade daughter took zeros on the section on Islamic history after a teacher didn’t allow her to opt out of the curriculum and standards and do alternative studies. “Those are zeros that we proudly took and we will not compromise.”

Some people can't even face learning about something.

When I first saw the story on HuffPo, it seemed like it was just one crazy mom, but sadly that's not the case.

She got applause for her rant, and a board member made a motion to remove the textbook “because it does not represent the values of the county.”

And then there's this:

Hughes said Sullivan County must follow the law and standards “"whether we like it or whether we don’t.”

“I think everybody on the board agrees with the public. We live here, too,” Hughes said.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
The Smartest Kids in the World focuses on the high-performing countries in the PISA test. Or at least higher-performing than the US. There's some good background and discussion, but one strong focus of the book is seeing these schools through the eyes of foreign exchange students, primarily three US students that spent a year in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.

One of the big differences, and probably the hardest to change, is that the general national cultures buy into the idea of education. Finland has 'stoner kids', but they show up in class, turn in the homework, and write their assigned essays.

South Korea may take this too much to the extreme, since everything builds up to the college entrance exams, where getting into one of the top three universities assures you of a sweet life, and anything else is failure. Although it's absolutely charming to hear that during the English language portion of the exam (where I presume the students have to listen closely to canned English speech) the country shuts down air travel for those hours. It's less charming that everyone sends their kids to after school hagwons, for-profit tutoring classes that run all night. Indeed, there are police task forces dedicated to shutting down hagwons that run past the 10 pm studying curfew. And since the kids are studying in the afternoon and night with the best-paid tutors, many actually sleep in their regular classes, since they find the hagwons are better. The other horrifying thing is that no one seems to like the current system, but they are all on the treadmill. Even the rockstar hagwon teacher pulling down $4 million a year in his education empire is looking to find ways to change things to be more humane.

But one concrete way that societies can buy into education is to have better teachers. That's at least part of what boosted Finland. It's not fair to say that, in America, 'those who can't, teach', but certainly the requirements for education school are generally not demanding, and there are education schools under every rock. In Finland, education schools are few in number and hard to get into. And the teachers are paid equivalent to college graduates in other fields.

Another theme was expecting more of students. A heartening US success story was a school that got rid of its lowest track. The teachers were complaining that there would be big problems, but (at least anecdotally) no one seemed to notice any difference when the brown reading group got mixed in with the silver reading group. And the complaints stopped.

A few illustrative quotes:

Like all Finnish teachers, Stara also had to do original research to get her degree, so she wrote a two-hundred-page thesis on the ways that teenagers' spoken Finnish shaped their written Finiish. Now, consider Kim's math teacher back home, Scott Bethel. He'd decided to become a teacher mostly so that he could become a football coach.

[Elina] thought she might have more trouble in the U.S. history class, since she was not, after all, American. Luckily, her teacher gave the class a study guide that contined all the questions -- and answers -- to the exam. ... Elina was unsurprised to see she'd gotten an A. She was amazed, however, to see that some of the other students had gotten Cs. One of them looked at her and laughed at the absurdity. 'How is it possible you know this stuff?'

In [Elina's] experience, American kids didn't study much because, well, they didn't have to. ... [American high school] was like elementary school in Finland," she said. In that history class, she remembers, the class spent an inordinate amount of time making posters. ... "It was like arts & crafts, only more boring."

The Polish kids who took the first PISA in 2000 had grown up under the old system. ... They were the control group, so to speak. ... [They] ranked twenty-first in reading and twentieth in math ... Three years later ...[they] ranked thirteenth in reading and eighteenth in math, just above the United States in both subjects.
[I note these numbers don't quite gibe with the Wiki page, though if anything it's more impressive, at least for reading: 25th to 16th.]

Also read a later edition (1975 over the original 1958) of Harlan Ellison's The Deadly Streets, with stories of New York juvie/gang life. The second edition includes a few additional stories, including the "The Hippie-Slayer", which shouldn't have been. Set in Los Angeles (and written after Harlan's move here), the story was originally published under a pseudonym. "And her ripe young body was outlined in the minidress the way all descendants of Cleopatra, the queen teenie, show their snaring sexuality in foxy gear."

It was the 60s.

But most of the stories are bad boys and bad girls doing bad things, written with words that ain't half-bad.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
I got the NDA annual report. And it's even addressed to the new house. Papal spies are everywhere.

But it's always good to get a reminder of the importance of education, inspiring me to give some money to public schools through DonorsChoose...

I was sorry to see that Danny Loporto had passed away.
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
Interesting discussion from the NCSE about evolution questions on science literacy tests. First, given certain cultural biases against evolution, one has to be careful to navigate the difference between knowledge of, rather than acceptance of, evolution. "Life has evolved over several billion years." vs. "Scientists have formed the consensus that life has evolved over several billion years."

Even for these apparently(*) more neutral questions, there are problems. Although the correct answer is positively correlated with other measures of science educational background and knowledge, it is still more strongly correlated (in a negative fashion) with religious belief and religious service attendance. Should we use questions like this as a measure of science literacy, when in fact it is a better measure of something else? It's enough to make your head spin.

(*)Although "Scientists have formed the consensus that life has evolved over several billion years." is more 'neutral' about the student's belief, I would also note that one of the memes pushed by the antievolution crowd is that there are many scientists who reject evolution, and that the pendulum is swinging away from evolution. So students may give the incorrect response on the question, because they've been lied to by people they trust. Creationist students have been lied to about the science, and they've also been lied to about what scientists believe.
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
Wyrd Con 5 is Memorial Day weekend at the Westin LAX.

Live Game Labs will be running a number of events:

The Association for the Advancement of Rights for Fairytales Creatures


Thursday night, I'll be involved in supporting a benefit to support Seekers Unlimited, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit dedicated to using live role-playing in education:

But most importantly...

On Saturday I'll be running "A Happening":
May 1969. The famous, the infamous, the obscure, the sublime, and the ridiculous gather together in a hotel in Los Angeles, just to find out what happens. A rules-light role-playing experience, where you portray the historical or fictional person of your choice (as they were in 1969).

Some character ideas.
Some background on the history leading up to May 1969. I'm inordinately happy that the calendar for 1969 is the same as 2014. I'm also inordinately happy that, on Mat 24th, 1969, Apollo 10 is on its way home from lunar orbit.
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
Fascinating story about some friction between the administration and the faculty and students of Bryan College in Dayton, TN. Not only is that the home of the Scopes Trial, but the school is named after William Jennings Bryan.

The friction started some time ago with some other unpopular actions, like the president covering up the arrest of a faculty member on attempted child molestation charges. But most recently, the school unexpectedly and without consulting its faculty altered its statement of belief to require the belief that Adam & Eve "are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms."

In the ensuing aftermath, one trustee has resigned, and the faculty, upset at "the secrecy and swiftness" of this change, carried out a no confidence vote of the president.

"We knew that it would go public," he said. "We knew that it would be damaging to the president's reputation and the college. But we felt that the damage that had been done to the institution outweighed that reservation."
essentialsaltes: (Secular)
First the North Carolina school wouldn't allow the Secular Students Alliance club to form.

Then the school would allow it to form.

Then due to threats and verbal abuse against her and her family & friends, the would-be club founder has decided not to form the club after all.
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
Sixth-grade [Louisiana public school] teacher Rita Roark has told her students that the universe was created by God about 6,000 years ago, and taught that both the Big Bang theory and evolution are false, according to the lawsuit. She told her students that “if evolution was real, it would still be happening: Apes would be turning into humans today.”

One test she gave to students asked: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The correct answer was “Lord,” but C.C. wrote in something else. Roark responded by scolding the boy in front of the entire class.

When informed that C.C. was a Buddhist and therefore didn’t believe in God, Roark allegedly responded, “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God.”

When the outraged parents confronted Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb about the incidents, she allegedly told them “this is the Bible belt” and that they “shouldn’t be offended” to “see God here.” Ebarb advised that C.C. should either change his faith or be transferred to another District school where “there are more Asians.”

The lawsuit claims that other teachers and faculty members also push Christian beliefs on their students. Prayer is often lead by teachers in classrooms and during school events. Religious literature that denounces evolution and homosexuality has been distributed by faculty members to students. The school’s hallways are filled with Christian iconography and electronic marquee in front of the school scrolls Bible verses.

In possibly related news, Shreveport, Louisiana is ranked the 5th Bible friendliest city in America.

Providence, RI, home of HP Lovecraft, takes the honors as least Bible friendly. Out of the 100 metro areas ranked by the American Bible Society, Los Angeles comes in at #73.

ETAThe ACLU complaint contains lots of other horrifying information:

53. Another display in the main foyer of the school informs students that “ACTIONS
SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.” It features several posters, including one of a child praying
that instructs students to “Pray,” another that urges them to “Worship,” and another that
encourages them to “Believe.”

essentialsaltes: (City Hall)
Probably it's because I have played the course a number of times in GTA V, but Dr. Pookie and I were invited to the LA Country Club. Another possible explanation is that Tartan Hall had its Christmas party there. I wore Grandpa's 65 years as a Mason pin, and got a free vodka martini.
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
Because of its size, Texas exerts a lot of influence on school textbooks, and this often has detrimental effects on the science content of textbooks, but things have been improving.

A reviewer (a chemical engineer by training) predictably complained about the evolution content in Pearson's (dba Prentice Hall) Biology.

Miracle #1: Rather than mushifying or deleting the 'offending' passages, Pearson stood up to the criticism. And produced a lovely (if rather technical (because actual biologists)) document rebutting all of the points.

I say it's a miracle, because this was something of a risk, since the text now faced further scrutiny by the Board of Education, which appointed a panel of experts.

Miracle #2: the Texas BOE appointed a panel of actual experts in biology.

And the book was approved.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
PZ linked to an article that features some hilarious/sad multiple choice questions from Accelerated Christian Education, a Texas-based provider of homeschool curricula. As the blogger (or rather, the blogger's mom) notes, it's not the creationism, conservatism, and Christianity. We expected that. “It’s the crapness!”

I mean, you're allowed the occasional stupid/funny multiple choice question/answer, but there seems to be an awful lot. A select few:

"The correct answer, for those puzzled, is piano tutors. It’s not that ACE doesn’t believe that sports coaches or librarians can touch students’ lives. The point is that the exact sentence “Piano tutors can touch the lives of their students” has previously appeared in the PACE, and the student is expected to remember this. Verbatim regurgitation of previously seen material is the entire point of the ACE system."

essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Great article on the 'Homeschool Apostates' -- kids raised in overly strict and/or abusive religious homeschooling environments who are not just leaving the movement, but banding together into networks to try to effect changes in the law and in organizations like the Home School Legal Defense Association.

And yes, I can't resist the Schadenfreude that one of the few social activities that these organizations supported was debate. The goal was that this "would create a new generation of culture warriors with the skills to “engage the culture for Christ.” "

“You can’t do debate unless you teach people how to look at different sides of an issue, to research all the different arguments that could be made for and against something,” Stollar says. “And so all of a sudden, debate as a way to create culture-war soldiers backfires. They go into this being well trained, they start questioning something neutral like energy policy, but it doesn’t stop there. They start questioning everything.”
Swanson, who helped bring debate clubs to Colorado, said he’d seen a “significant majority” of debate alumni turn out wrong, becoming “prima donnas” and “big shots.” “I’m not saying it’s wrong to do speech/debate,” Swanson told his listeners, “but I will say that some of the speech/debate can encourage sort of this proud, arrogant approach and an autonomous approach to philosophy

Holy Cats, they start weighing all sides of an issue and thinking for themselves? What have we done?!?

(Yes, yes, I know a few of you out there in the friendosphere are homeschoolers (or homeschooled) but as far as I know, none of you are batshit insane.)
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
The best article in this month's Smithsonian magazine is the profile of Caroline Hoxby, who has studied the relationship between family income and the likelihood of a high-performing student applying to a top tier school. Maybe the most interesting tidbit of information is the relationship between income and students who perform at the 90th percentile or better on the college tests.

Yes, it's weighted toward richer students, but honestly it is nowhere near as skewed as I expected. The poorest 25% of families still produce 17% of these higher achieving students. BUT, these students just do not apply to Harvard. Harvard wanted to do something about it, so they made tuition FREE for poorer students. This had very little effect on their applications pool. So Hoxby's next step has been to work with the ETS so that high performing students on the college tests get a special packet, which not only encourages the students to apply to top schools, but also includes vouchers for free applications to these schools.

The other interesting tidbit was that, although many schools focus on urban areas to locate disadvantaged students of promise, her work discovered that there is also a lot of untapped potential in smaller towns and rural areas, where bright students do not choose to apply to faraway top tier schools.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Just skimming through the nglewood Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team report on Inglewood Unified, and it makes for dismal reading. The state came in a while back and took over, when the district had a $55 million shortfall.

"Stated reasons for fiscal insolvency included: Overstating [attendance], understating California State Teachers’ Retirement System payments, understating certificated salary expenses, continued deficit spending, and declining enrollment."

And the board is just as dysfunctional as I thought: "There is evidence of conflict between board members as well as in-fighting, nepotism, and mismanagement by district leaders."

But let's just forget the fiscal mismanagement and leadership problems. Let's talk results.

"On the California Alternate Performance Assessment, ... [students scoring] proficient and above ... in math and in English language arts (ELA)." --- 1.3%

California Modified Assessment
Proficient and above in math --- 2.4%
Proficient and above in ELA --- 2.5%
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Interesting results of a global test of adult performance on reading, math, and problem solving.

"Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college-educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.


The median hourly wage of workers scoring on the highest level in literacy on the test is more than 60 percent higher than for workers scoring at the lowest level, and those with low literacy skills were more than twice as likely to be unemployed.


This test could suggest students leaving high school without certain basic skills aren't obtaining them later on the job or in an education program.

'There is a race between man and machine here. The question here is always: Are you a worker for whom technology makes it possible to do a better job or are you a worker that the technology can replace?" he said. For those without the most basic skills, he said, the answer will be merciless and has the potential to extend into future generations. Learning is highly correlated with parents' education level.

'If you want to avoid having an underclass — a large group of people who are basically unemployable — this educational system is absolutely key,' Kirkegaard said."
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Holly had warned us that we shoulda looked into Alcatraz tours some time ago, but we were trying to do a mostly unplanned vacation. Next morning, we made our way to the Alcatraz ferry and found out that tickets were sold out for the next three weeks. But that put us on the Embarcadero and we wandered about through the shops and nauticality. We toured the USS Pampanito, a WWII-era submarine. It was very cool to crawl around inside her, and Wikipedia has answered a remaining question: "Why is there a broom lashed to the conning tower?" To celebrate the sub's clean sweep patrol.
continued, with more photos this time )
essentialsaltes: (NukeHugger)
Math, Science Popular Until Students Realize They’re Hard:

“If more science graduates are desired, the findings suggest the importance of policies at younger ages that lead students to enter college better prepared to study science,” the researchers write in the paper.
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Some of you know I'm on the board of directors of Seekers Unlimited, an educational nonprofit (status still-fucking-pending) that is involved in producing educational live action role-playing games for schools.

We've just launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money to polish and publish our first suite of edu-larps, which have had their initial runs at various schools around Southern California.

Too many schools are stuck in the rut of teaching to the standardized tests. Student performance and student interest in education are at shamefully low levels. Art, music, and drama have been reduced or cancelled. Our edu-larps help to insert some liveliness and humanity back into the curriculum.

Please spread the word and maybe toss a few (or many!) bucks our way. Rewards range from a stylish pen/light to a custom educational game run at your local school. And somewhere in the middle, you can get copies of parlor larps (not primarily educational) written by [ profile] aaronjv and myself, including my finalist entry in the 2013 Larpwriter Challenge.

Also, an earlier Seekers Unlimited edu-larp, focused on teaching about Ancient Mesopotamia, is available for free from Educade/Gamedesk.
essentialsaltes: (Christian Disposal)
Recall the exercise in intercultural communication that got people riled up? And the professor who was placed on leave for safety reasons?

He has now been reinstated, however he "will only teach online because of security concerns."
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
Objecting to religious messages on license plates isn't just for atheist scum, anymore. This guy is going ahead with his suit against the 'Rain God' on the OK plates:

"The appeals court’s decision says Cressman “adheres to historic Christian beliefs” and believes it is a sin “to honor or acknowledge anyone or anything as God besides the one true God.”"

To be fair, we have no idea if he objects to other religious license plates that have been issued (or proposed) by various states.

From the incandescent rage desk comes this story of a teacher fired from her job at a Catholic school because her abusive ex-husband is "threatening and menacing". Unfortunately for her, she taught religion classes, and the Supreme Court has indicated that religious schools have much greater leeway to fire employees who are 'ministers'. Anyway, since they're worried about the safety of the students, I guess it only makes sense that the school kicked out her four kids as well.


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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