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March 09, 2010

How to fix our schools: stop grading, don't flunk kids

Overcoming Bias : Hard Facts: Teaching Yes, these are somewhat radical steps to take but our schools are pretty broken. The problems are partly financial, but partly structural.
Merit pay for teachers is an idea that is almost 100 years old ahd has been subject to much research. In one study conducted in 1918, “48 percent of U.S. school districts sampled used compensation systerms that they called merit pay.” … The evidence shows that merit-pay plans seldom last longer than five years and that merit pay consistently failes to improve student performance. … [Researchers] also showed that cheating [by teachers] was quite sensitive to the size of the incentives provided for enhancing student scores. … The same problems emerged when merit-pay systems were implemented in the 1980s. … “It is like policy makers suffer from amnesia.” (pp.22-24) … The evidence strongly suggests that students learn better when they are not graded and certainly not when they are graded on a curve. … When drill instructors were tricked into believing that certain randomly selected soldiers would achieve superior performance, those soldiers subsequently performacned far better on tasks like firing weapons and reading maps. (p.38) Ending social promotion harms students and schools, and the strongest negative effects are found in the best, most rigorous studies. At least 55 studies show that when flunked students are compared to socially promoted students, flunked students perform worse and drop out of school at higher rates. One of the most careful studies found that, after controlling for numberous alternative explanations indlucing race, gender, family income, and school characteristics, students held back one grade were 70 percent more likely to drop out of high school. (p.51)

March 02, 2010

Former 'No Child Left Behind' Advocate Turns Critic

Former 'No Child Left Behind' Advocate Turns Critic : NPR
"I was known as a conservative advocate of many of these policies," Ravitch says. "But I've looked at the evidence and I've concluded they're wrong. They've put us on the wrong track. I feel passionately about the improvement of public education and I don't think any of this is going to improve public education." The Death and Life of the Great American School System Ravitch has written a book about what she sees as the failure of No Child Left Behind called The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She says one of her biggest concerns is the way the law requires school districts to use standardized testing. "The basic strategy is measuring and punishing," Ravitch says of No Child Left Behind. "And it turns out as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there's a lot of cheating going on, there's a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards it's actually lowered standards because many states have 'dumbed down' their tests or changed the scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing than actually are."

Sci-Fi in the Dark Continent

The Almanac(k) gets a handful of Nigerian submissions each year,...

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February 28, 2010

Humanities And Inhumanities | The New Republic

Humanities And Inhumanities | The New Republic
The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in The American University By Louis Menand (W.W. Norton, 174 pp., $24.95) Year after year, undergraduates and M.A. students find themselves on fire to do research and to teach. Some of them burn for other things as well, and follow other paths. Some discover that their vocations are not deep enough to last out the process of testing. But many stick it out--and finish--only to find that the completed quest leads into Rats’ Alley. These are the people whom our system is now chewing up. It is hard to keep that pure light burning while you serve as cheap labor in graduate school; and harder still if you join the reserve army of even cheaper labor when you finish; and bitterly hard, in another way, when you actually find a job and then see your aspirations to create a new, more enlightened curriculum crushed by the constraints of professionalism. The old system sinned by exclusion: of Jews and Catholics, of women, of people of color. In recent years those barriers have fallen away. But new ones have replaced them. The English professor William Pannapacker has written movingly and accurately about the plight of young humanists. He recently suggested, with justified savagery, that only those who have private means and backing from elite academics should enter doctoral programs in the humanities. As it was in the beginning, apparently, so it is now: if not back to the Aryans from Darien, then back to the more varied, but still minute and privileged, group who have trust funds and cultural capital. In fact, the authors of a 2004 study of graduate training in history already noted that top programs tended to admit the undergraduate products of elite private universities. So much for most of the progress we thought we had made in peopling the humanities with new kinds of students and teachers. It is a truly dreadful prospect. Yet when a young person with a passion for scholarship comes into your office and asks about graduate school, this is the general situation that you should responsibly sketch for him or her.

February 24, 2010

Dave-o's "Bold Explorer" Will be in the Steampunk Reloaded Anthology this Fall

Ecstatic Days -- Blog Archive -- Steampunk Reloaded–Table of...