Mon May 20 00:00:00 -0700 2013
About a month ago, I talked about using real data with our intro classes. After looking at the correlation between school’s SAT scores and free and reduced lunch rates, it was time to turn the students loose.
The assignment: Find some interesting data out and do something with it. Make a web page that shows what you did and what you discoverde. We had already looked at the NYC Data Mine as well as a few other sources but students were encouraged to find new data sourcess.
The results were terrific. On top of the requirements, some students figured out how to incorporate Google Maps, graphs, and other niceties well beyond what we’ve covered in class.
That’s just a sampling.
Well done guys.
Thu May 09 00:00:00 -0700 2013
The buzz word is “accountability.” Why are teachers special? Why don’t they feel they need to be evaluated like other professionals? Why do they feel they need a “job for life?”
Of course, the job for life line is nonsense – teachers have tenure, but that’s just due process - not a guarantee of a job.
Friends in the private sector ask “if a teacher is doing a good job, why do they need tenure? In the private sector as long as you’re producing, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Well, first I dispute that last sentence. second, K-12 education isn’t the real world. It’s rife with stories of administrators that go after teachers for no apparent reason. Why? Because accountability doesn’t mean accountability - it means we can fire teachers at will. No one wants accountability to apply to anyone except the ground troops. I don’t have an exact attribution, but Mayor Bloomberg is frequently quoted as stating “If parent’s don’t like the way I run the schools, they can boo me at parades.”
Beyond that, the powers that be state that teacher accountability revolves around flawed “value added” metrics but other bloggers such as Gary Rubintein have already done a great job debunking that.
The solution is to simplify. There’s a better way. Let’s start by making the principals accountable. Bottom line is that they’re responsible for a school’s success. If the school doesn’t cut the mustard, then they’re out. But, how do we measure this?
How do we tell if a high school is a success? Simple – one year and two years after graduation determine how many kids are either in college or gainfully employed. There should be a way to get this info - state tax records maybe? If a high school starts with 60% of its students at grade level, about 60% of that cohort should be in college or working a year or two after graduation - simple. If the percent goes up, even better.
Even easier here – track the kids into high school. If kids are doing comparably well in 9th and 10th grades, its a fair bet that the feeder middle schools are doing pretty well. By 11th or 12th grade, the results are probably more due to the high school. The system will lose some kids to private schools or families moving, but it should still be a pretty good measure.
Same thing – look at the middle schools.
With this measure in mind we can truly hold a principal accountable. By looking at a bottom line measure, the principal can staff and evaluate their schools as they see fit. Teachers don’t have to teach to the test or have their creativity destroyed by standardized lessons – as long as they get results, a principal would want them.
We still need to have enough structure to make sure kids get a well rounded education and are not just “job shops.”
Related, we have to make sure offerings such as art and music don’t fall to the wayside, but then, they’re currently first on the chopping blocks.
Very high performing schools such as Stuyvesant would need a modified metric.
Tue Apr 30 00:00:00 -0700 2013
Earlier in the term, our intro classes spent a little time learning some basic HTML. We don’t spend a lot of time on it, just enough so that the students can present their work in a static web site. The end goal, though, was to programatically generate the web sites - there’s nothing quite as empowering to a student as when they can present their work to the world.
Finally, it’s all coming together.
Now that the classes are comfortable with Python, we can have some fun. We all remember Mad Libs - that wacky word game where you select unknowingly select words to substitute into a basic story and hilarity ensues.
We did our own versions using Python files, lists and dictionaries.
Here are some of the results: