Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Here is a link to Commissioner King's presentation to the NYSSBA last month. It's very well-done and informative. It raises some interesting points -- nothing Earth-shattering to the educational community necessarily, but the presentation is so concise yet comprehensive that I think many audiences would benefit from seeing it. Sort of related, I've been asked to work on this initiative from the university's (meaning system's) perspective. I'm very excited to be part of the conversation.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend and we discussed the core standards and achievement gap highlighted in the NYSED presentation. It is persistent and very troubling. She'd like to work with me on a study. I would love to do it, if I can find the time. Presently my research involves the influence of arts integration on K-12 achievement, and it consumes most of my "free" time, but the issues in the Commissioner's presentation interest me more and are (arguably) more important.

Among the areas we considered in our broad ranging chat were what factors make most home schooling, many private schools and some charters get better results, and why some in the public sector are so resistant to taking lessons from those innovative approaches. I suspect it is because people react that way when they feel threatened. But I think they shoot themselves in the foot by being reluctant to try reform initiatives and that is a reason they get attacked, albeit often unfairly. It's a vicious cycle. I have always thought the way to romance critics is not through disdain and defensiveness, but by being able to demonstrate results.

Regarding home schooling, my hypothesis from the literature is that strong parental involvement, individual attention, the ultimate in self-direction, and much less television watching are the salient factors that erase the achievement gap, prove that SES does not necessarily have to dictate performance, and cause home schooled kids to be two years ahead of public school peers. I used to think it was a weird approach, but I don't any more. It's particularly interesting that the qualifications of the instructor* don't appear to make much difference. Not a message education faculty want to hear! The RAND corporation found that didn't impact performance much either, not looking at home school in particular but at traditional K-12.

We ate at the Patroon Room on campus. Before she arrived, I stopped in to say hello (and goodbye as well) to JES from this site. That is only the second time that I have met "IRL" someone I only know in the virtual world! The other time was years ago, when I first started blogging. Probably should make an effort to do it more often. You get to know people rather well, at least in terms of what they share publicly, when you follow their blog. Very few of my "IRL" friends read this more than occasionally although most want me to email them my stories. I don't post reminders to my facebook friends. I update it too often and I think it might constrain me, given what a mixed bag those folks represent. (I already censor too much.) Not that I write anything I would not say in person, and not that most of it would come as any surprise to my "IRL" friends. But my sense is that it makes them feel like voyeurs. I think if you don't write online yourself you may not "get" it and wonder why those of us who do are OK with putting stuff out there. 

Anyway, after she arrived, we were just sitting down to eat, had our forks poised but had not taken a bite -- the fire alarm went off. I thought it was only a drill, but after a half hour outside, it became clear that there really was a fire! This didn't put a damper on our conversation, but it certainly did on our meal. The worst part (aside from worrying about being late to class and my soup getting cold) was that we had to take the stairs. Now in my pre-2009 days, I only took stairs - a painless way to get a bit of exercise. In my current situation, I almost always take the elevator. Don't want to fall, and in a situation such as a fire, I hate being "tail-gated," get all nervous. But I managed quite well, due to my ankle brace.

Once we got back inside and resumed eating, about 50 high school students who were there for a campus tour swarmed into the room, encircled the salad bar and buffet, and completely blocked access to the food. They behaved as if they had not eaten in a month. (That's a bit of an exaggeration, the truth is their behavior was not that bad, but their large number was a challenge.) My friend remarked, "between the fire and the students, this maybe wasn't the best day to come here."

As I was paying the bill, I asked if they were indeed high school students, and then joked, "I wonder if they are told that this is the only time they will ever see the inside of the Patroon Room." It wasn't much of a joke -- students basically never go there. I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to bring them, because a regular dining hall experience would have been more appropriate.

Linking above to that particular post of JES's reminds me, Andy Rooney died, then Joe Frazier. It always makes me think of the rule of three, and in this case, to run through the various celebrities who might be next. Then I ask myself, how can I, as a religious person who also believes in statistics and scientific approaches put any stock in a silly superstition? It is almost as bad as "step on a crack, break your mother's back." I am not a generally superstitious person and yet the rule of three often does seem to come true. However I do know that it has no basis in fact, it is just because our minds try to make sense of the unknown by finding evidence that it could be true, turning simple coincidence into something spooky. On the other hand, I do love imaginative things (such as seeing faces in the bark of trees on a dark, misty night) so why not?

Last night I got a surprise call. As it turned out, it was a day filled with friends - this call was my "best" from childhood, we met the first day of kindergarten. To use facebook lingo, she is going through the "it's complicated" status on the way to "single." Wants to visit this weekend, with a new -- ahem -- friend. Life is always interesting and full of drama. We thought it would settle down in that regard by age 50, but as it turns out - it doesn't. I told that to my niece once a couple of years ago when she was marveling at the machinations of my social life. 

Our plumber/heating guy is here working on the furnace (pilot light won't say lit) and sink (new faucet). There is only so long you can make do with only a fireplace for heat. Sophie is barking her head off, it is a challenge to focus and write!

*however, skill of the teacher does -- and students do not recover from a bad three years in a row.

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