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March 14, 2012

"Education News"

Andrew Desmond, a contributor to, sent me a pointer to this "vast resource of education news from K-12 and higher education policy and politics all the way to education technology". 

There are at least two very interesting articles in today's edition. 

"North Carolina to Let Students Rate Teachers". 

North Carolina is spending $600,000 in federal grant money to give students a voice in rating their teachers. The money comes from the Race to the Top program and is being spent on consultants to prepare an effective survey based on Harvard University’s research of effective teaching. The international consulting company Cambridge Education is being hired to make sure the tests don’t feature any kind of popularity contest and instead focus on what their teachers actually do.

It's difficult to describe how discouraging I find this. One commenter writes, "Well I guess grades will go up in NC." 

"Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity" contrasts the "traditional" approach to teaching math with the "reform" approach. The author argues that the traidtional approach has been mischaracterized and underestimated. One key paragraph:

The de-emphasis on mastery of basic facts, skills and procedures has met with growing opposition, not only from parents but also from university mathematicians. At a recent conference on math education held in Winnipeg, math professor Stephen Wilson from Johns Hopkins University said, much to the consternation of the educationists on the panel, that “the way mathematicians learn is to learn how to do it first and then figure out how it works later.” This sentiment was also echoed in an article written by Keith Devlin (2006). Such opposition has had limited success, however, in turning the tide away from reform approaches.

"Consternation": I bet. 


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I'm teaching intro grad stats again this semester, and 3-4 of my brightest students have come to me, individually, complaining that all the drills and exercise using SPSS and explaining the results aren't helping them "understand" stats.

I'm reasonably sure they don't want to actually learn the underlying math, but the connection here couldn't be more clear. [And when I ask them how good they are at algebra they looks I get are priceless.]

If past experience is a guide they'll all"get it" soon. We'll see.

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