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03 December 2013



My current Recreational Impossibility is to find out, school by school, district by district, the average SAT or GRE scores of certificated personnel, teaching and administrative. Let them tell us, in the aggregate, just how prepared *they* were when they first went to college or grad school. College grades matter little; I'd expect a Liberal Studies major from Cal State BF Egypt to have a higher GPA than an average MIT grad.

You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip, and you can't teach what you don't know any more than you can come back from where you ain't been.

George Rebane

Gregory 128pm - Would welcome a byline piece from you on any results that your 'Recreational Impossibility' might yield. Please email it to me if you wish, and I will post it.

Administrivia - Ms Terri McLaughlin and Union editor Brian Hamilton have had a conversation that should conclude the 'Crickets vindicate erroneous charges' post. McLaughlin's summary of that is posted thereunder as its '3dec13 update'.

Paul Emery


How do you propose we "find out" the information you desire in your 1:28 post? Seems like a massive government research project to me. What agency do you recommend to head this up? Federal State or local ? What you propose is a massive project. Are you proposing teachers with say 25 years experience be required to produce their SAT scores from their high school days? What should be the penalty if they are unable to produce shat you require or if their test results are in your view substandard? Is this for research purposes or might the results affect their employment status? So many questions in the big box you've opened.

Russ Steele

These stats were in response to an e-mail by student to a Math Professor at UC Northridge.

CSU Remediation Rates for Entering Freshmen in the CSU
failure rates
Year % math % English
1989 23% 38%
1990 24% 39%
1991 26% 39%
1992* 39% 41%
1993 45% 42%
1994 48% 43%
1995** 52% 43%
1996 53% 43%
1997 54% 47%
1998 54% 47%

*Three years of Highschool math required
**Beginning in this year specially admitted students were not counted
The second column shows the percentage of entering freshmen whose
scores were so low on the ELM test that they were required to take remedial
courses. This data is for all campuses in the CSU. In some cases the
remedial math courses were so basic that they covered 6th and 7th grade
subjects like integer arithmetic and fractions. To appreciate the gap in
minimal expectations between California high schools and the CSU, it is worth
noting that the 1998 Mean HS GPA of students needing CSU remediation in math
was 3.16, or a B+. The 1998 Mean HS GPA of students needing CSU remediation
in English was 3.17, also a B+.

May be it would be good to start with some more e-mail queries.

Interesting that the problem has been known for a long time, and we have failed to do any thing to effectively solve the problem. In ten years the number of students needing remedial match doubled.

Jeff Pelline

Gregory et al.,
What a silly conversation. Test scores and all: that is a mental "you know what' exercise. That's only once slice of "education." What do you think about measuring the success of a post-secondary education after graduation? Did you "bring home the bacon" for your family, did you innovate ore create and make meaningful contributions to your community. Is your child a successful "citizen." Do they want to live with you in your community? Or whatever you choose is the metric. It goes way beyond test scores. Heck, maybe you should just measure the size of your bank account from an education. Truth is, it's much broader than that. As for teachers, did they motivate you to succeed? One problem with scientists is that they are so linear in their thinking. Truth is, you can't quantify "education." But like porn, "you know it when you see it," as a chief justice would say.


Paul, I'd start by asking them, and get it on the employment application for new hires. No minimums, but the average is to be made public. There was a Federal DoE study that found the lower a college student's SAT score, the higher the probability they are teaching 10 years after getting their BA/BS degree. That is the reality.

I needed my SAT's 10 years ago, and while the testing service doesn't have an archeology department, the place that wanted my results was happy to accept a letter from my alma mater confirming the scores.

Russ, one CSU Math professor I've known once shared that, in the elementary math teaching methods class they were teaching, rather than teaching the methods of teaching the subject, they were teaching the subject to their students at an elementary level.

Meaning, the fresh faced CSU Northridge student planning on a career teaching in elementary schools walked into the class with a 4th grade understanding and the job of the math department was to bring them up to a 7th grade level. Unfortunately, the math department flunked so many that the Ed department took the class over and brought the pass rate up.


The problem with professional rhetoricians is all they can do is argue, and I'm quite sure Pelline knows when he's making a fallacious and classic straw man argument.

Testing isn't the be-all or end-all for education, but if you have K-12 teachers predominantly from the least qualified of college attendees one shouldn't be too surprised at bad results of *their* students.


More thoughts...

George, low standards and isn't a left/right issue. The CSUN math professor Russ found a quote from is an out and out hard left socialist who didn't let that get in the way of working with Lynn Cheney (wife of Dick Cheney) of the AEI on math education issues. I had numerous exchanges with him and the rest of the now defunct MathematicallyCorrect.com crowd after finding my son in the grips of the Fuzzy Math favored by the Grass Valley School District.

The math professor I was mentioning earlier was another CSUN mathematician, perhaps even further to the left, who, when he found he'd been referred to as "reactionary" by a Davis whole math curriculum developer mentioned how, back when he was smuggling medicine into Nicaragua for the Sandinistas, he never in his wildest dreams thought anyone would ever call him a reactionary.

George Rebane

Gregory 814am - is there a word missing in your first sentence? I don't want to respond to something you didn't say.

Russ Steele


Common Core is just more fuzzy math. Here is an article on the subject from Fox News



One of Common Core’s most glaring deficiencies is its handling of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers.

Remember “fuzzy math”? It’s back with a vengeance under Common Core.

The classic method of, for example, adding two-digit numbers is to add the digits in the “ones” column, carry the remainder to the “tens” column, and then add the “tens” digits. This “standard algorithm” works first time, every time.

But instead of teaching this method, which enables students to solve problems quickly and routinely, Common Core creates a two-step process.

The first is to let students choose from several alternative algorithms (number lines, estimating, etc.) for doing one-digit additions, subtractions, and multiplications.

The second is probably to extend these student constructions to more complex calculations. (We say “probably” because the standards are not at all clear on this point.)

There is no point where the student-constructed algorithms are explicitly replaced by the very efficient standard methods for doing one-digit operations.

Why does Common Core adopt this convoluted method of teaching math? The stated reason is that learning the standard algorithm doesn’t give students a “deeper conceptual understanding” of what they’re doing. But the use of student-constructed algorithms is at odds with the practices of high-achieving countries and is not supported by research. Common Core is using our children for a huge and risky experiment.

There are also severe problems with the way Common Core handles percents, ratios, rates, and proportions – the critical topics that are essential if students are to learn more advanced topics such as trigonometry, statistics, and even calculus.

As well, the way Common Core presents geometry is not research-based -- and the only country that tried this approach on a large scale rapidly abandoned it.

In addition to these deficiencies, Common Core only includes most (but not all) of the standard algebra I expectations, together with only some parts of standard geometry and algebra II courses. There is no content beyond this.

Hidden in Common Core is the real objective – presenting the minimal amount of material that high-school graduates need to be able to enter the work force in an entry-level job, or to enroll in a community college with a reasonable expectation of avoiding a remedial math course.

There is no preparation for anything more, such as entering a university (not a community college) with a reasonable expectation of being able to skip the entry-level courses.

(Virtually no university student who has to take an entry-level math course ever gets a degree in a technical area such as the hard sciences, engineering, economics, statistics, or mathematics.)

Common Core thus amounts to a disservice to our students. It puts them at least two years behind their peers in high-performing countries, and leaves them ill-prepared for authentic college course work.

Paul Emery

Gregory 09:42 PM

How would you administer this plan you propose? State local or federal?


George, the "and" in the first sentence was a cut and paste artifact I didn't catch before Posting.

Russ, the author of that piece, Stanford's Jim Milgram, was a primary architect of the excellent California State Math standards that were abandoned by rocket scientists at the state Department of Education seeking bonus points for the award of federal grants given to states that adopted the so-called Common Core, even though Achieve, Inc. (the private company that is the actual owner and developer of the CCSS) hadn't even finished writing them.


Paul, that pipe dream of a program would have to be a state law.

Tell me, all else being equal, would you rather your kids attend schools that hired teachers whose average SAT (or GRE equivalent) was in the 30th percentile, or the 70th percentile? Take your time.

Or are you like Pelline, who thinks aggregate quantitative evidence is worthless?

Paul Emery

I believe in local schools run by parent councils and as little government involvement as possible. Good schools would be rewarded by booming attendance, bad schools would fail. What you propose is big government control of local schools.

George Rebane

Gregory 944am - OK. Given the history, leanings, and impact of teachers unions, and the nearly uniform political ideology of the professorial cohort (at least in the non-STEM fields), I have a hard time concluding that "low standards isn't a right/left issue."

Assessing capability and predicting future performance through grades and test scores is so arbitrary and discriminatory ;-)

Ben Emery

We have come full circle on education and John Dewey must be revisited with an infusion of technology of the 21st Century. Cutting infrastructure budgets(public spending) only creates a society behind the curve instead of cutting the new pathway.

General Philosophy

"Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; Education is life itslef" J. Dewey

"The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative" J. Dewey


We have come full circle on education and John Dewey must be revisited with an infusion of technology of the 21st Century. Cutting infrastructure budgets(public spending) only creates a society behind the curve instead of cutting the new pathway.


George Rebane

BenE 1140am - In my talks with young people, in school and just entering the job market, I sense a common pragmatism that unmistakably says education IS a preparation for life. The young will gladly philosophize about the joys to life that continuing/ongoing education will bring, but they want to do that after they feel that they have achieved a suitable career path by being hired into a job that promises a desirable future. And all of them realize that having a proper education with demonstrable achievement is a prerequisite for getting their lives started. I don't sense any of that focus from our left-leaning friends (Pelline's sad 909pm notwithstanding). Thoughts?


"What you propose is big government control of local schools."

No Paul, I'm not proposing anything besides a disclosure of a measure of academic achievement, no more onerous than a nutritional label on a package of lunchmeat at the market. If no parents in the area think that low teacher SAT school is preferable to the high average SAT teacher school across town, there would be no one in the government to push it and the district(s) will continue to ignore any universal quantitative measure in the hiring of teachers.

People who want an antidote to Ben Emery's paen to John Dewey should read "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them" by the notorious liberal, E.D.Hirsch.

George, that the economic interests of teacher labor unions who are happy for curriculums that are based on beliefs such as subject knowledge of teachers is unimportant, and things like "critical thinking skills" can be taught in a vacuum intersects with Democratic Party retail political interests, doesn't make it a left/right split. The Russians and Chinese I have met and worked with were educated under a Communist system that was more regimented and Darwinian than anything that has ever been seen in the good ol' USA and they were quality folks.

A number of the higher ed luminaries fighting Dewey's progressive theories of Education screaming for a wooden stake through their undead hearts are to the left of the Democratic center. The problem isn't left/right, it's Fantasy vs Reality, and the pixie dust marketers are the ones controlling K-12 and retail politics in California.

George Rebane

Gregory 150pm - my experience re Russians and Chinese educated under autocracies matches yours. Perhaps, as I have long argued here, the American progressives' first job in weakening the US into world peerage is to first castrate our educational system. Then under the brave new global autocracy the Darwinian educational system will be (re)imposed because the state will need vetted and compliant brains to maintain the organs of power. In short, the Left's educational policies are adaptive and at this stage of the game are purposed to create an ever larger cohort of sheeple who reliably vote for Agenda21 goals, wealth redistribution policies and so motivated politicians.


George, I think it's much simpler than the near-conspiratorial model you have... in short, a fantasy that matches ones' politics is more attractive than the reality that doesn't. The education progressives and global warming progressives are similar in this... truly believe in the false underlying theory and you have a reason to force others to act the way you'd want them to act even without that theory in place.

It doesn't even take a conspiracy to effect as it is wonderfully self organizing. Click your heels together three times and believe.

George Rebane

Gregory 228pm - you have an alternative plausible point. But please don't characterize what I have described as being in any way conspiratorial. On the contrary, the advanced cadres of progressives have spelled it all out for us for years (decades?), and visibly celebrate every step toward their goal. Just because the sheeple are ignorant of it does not mean that there is any conspiracy afoot, they can't even reliably locate the Atlantic Ocean.


George, the fans of Dewey really do think their way will result in all the women being strong, the men good looking and all the children to become above average. They aren't trying to destroy education, they think they are making it better.

Especially folks like Ben who seem to think their birthright was stolen from them by people like you (and E.D.Hirsch) who think subject matter mastery and growing intellectual capital has something to do with education.

George Rebane

Gregory 419pm - Agreed.

Ben Emery

Authoritarianism reins King on RR once again. You guys truly fall into 5 - 10% of the political spectrum.


Remind me, Ben... you've a high school diploma, or did you take the GED route?


Authoritarianism reins King on RR once again.

Where are you seeing "authoritarianism" in this exchange?

You guys truly fall into 5 - 10% of the political spectrum.



I am with Ben and his little Powerpoint slide show showing little Suzi being taught by her two fat parents how to become just like them by making a meal of a can of Pringles potato chips. I am guessing that the bowl of fruit on table is actually just those fake apples made of plastic and is just there for color. The only thing missing from this progressive lesson is a big bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce and a couple of Snikers bars.

Ryan Mount

I want to point out the shameless (and public!) comments attached to this Dewey web page posted largely by Millennials. This "thank you Wikipedia" method of education that is atrophying our minds. Which, in my mind, brings up another question:

Why, pray tel, spend all this money (both personal and State) on an education if you're just going to screw off and plagiarize?

Ben Emery

Diversity Bad
Hierarchy Good

Ryan Mount

Some forms of Hierarchy (authority, I'm presuming) are not only necessary, but good. Like parents to their kids. Some, not so good, like the current nasty wave of crony Capitalism (among other things) that is controlling and manipulating this Republic's policy making.

Dad: Get in the car. We're going to see your Grandma.

Kid: Dad, following the tenets of Anarcho-Syndacalist doctrine, each of us should be allowed one overruling vote. I vote to stay home and play Magic the Gathering.

Dad: Get in the car now.

Kid: Don't get all Franco on me, dear Father.

George Rebane

Good news! Diversity and Hierarchy are orthogonal. Both may be present or absent independently.

Joe Koyote

A high school administrator told me a story about an expulsion hearing for a disruptive student that concluded when the student pulled out their i-phone and told those present that they didn't need school or an education because everything they needed to survive was accessible on that phone. One again, the moral to the story is you can't educate those who don't want to be educated. Why are Asian students so much better? Unlike America (especially conservative America) their culture values and respects teachers. A good friend finishing an EdD was part of a statewide study at USC on the effects of spending on educational achievement. The result was money made no difference. The defining factor in student achievement was parental attitudes toward teachers and education. If the parents valued an education their offspring did significantly better than those who came from homes where the opposite was true. So, it could be that the continuous attacks on teachers and education put forth by the right is partially responsible for the lack of achievement. The constant complaining, blaming, and carping could be turning kids off to school.

Joe Koyote

addendum -- a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ryan Mount

Why should a young adult care about anything with they're living at the foot of what they think is the Big Rock Candy Mountains*? Research is Googling and essays are hobbled together from a variety stock websites.

I have an elaborate internet filtering system at my house to prevent such things. It has been almost fool proof, because even if the teenagers get through my defenses, I know about the next day and post the log filers on the refrigerator. The rule is this: if you have the balls to ask me to unlock a website, I'll do it. Never been asked.

Occasionally, I'll get one of the teenager's friends who has the nutsack to ask me to unblock a plagiarism site. I always ask a "why" follow-up question. One time the answer was this: "I need to write an essay." (no one ever accused a teenager of using their frontal lobe) I answered this way: "I will unblock it as soon as you write your essay, which I would be happy to review with you. Then we can compare it to the online version."

Teachers, and frankly the curricula are no match for this. Which is why we're moving more and more towards testing in the schools, and certifications in the workplace.

Anyhow, we still have a chunk of the high school student body who are doing well and excelling. I dunno 5-10%? 20%? The rest are mired in mediocrity rising varying sources. Has that ever NOT been the case?


George Rebane

JoeK 1029am - are we then to understand that it is the preponderantly conservative households that produce the underachieving students? And all along I thought the opposite. Set us straight.


Joe K, that's funny... there have also been studies showing EdD's have no effects on scholastic achievement. Disclosure: my father's Masters in some Ed (part of his administrative credentialing) was from USC, and his grand uncle, a trumpeter eventually in the LA Phil (before it was a Great Orchestra) was captain of the USC basketball team a century ago.

I hired a lawyer when an NU math teacher assigned fraudulent grades to damage my son and we would not have accepted a settlement had I known then about two other kids (just from my small circle of musician friends, I'm sure more would have came out of the woodwork had The Union run with the material I gave them), one now with a PhD in Math and another nearing a PhD in Physics who got the same treatment from a guy who just didn't like his classroom mathematics errors pointed out by a boy significantly smarter than he. My boy is also progressing towards a scientific PhD at a rather good school but then I'm not a conservative or self identify as on the Right, so perhaps JK wasn't intending to denigrate me.

Ryan, while I completely support every parent's right to restrict home internet access of their children in any way, I used the honor system with mine and am happy with the results.


I suppose it apropos to note of the two other young men who that math teacher tried to tank, one is from a conservative fundamentalist Christian family and the other's dad is one of the furthest left of the left that I know. Both dads are also engineers and better in math than that math teacher.

Ryan Mount

> I used the honor system

I envy that. Trust but verify? I tried that. Didn't work for reasons too lengthy to go into here. And besides, I believe that that old Bill Gates Maxim: "If you want something done, give it to a lazy person." I prefer to automate this portion of my parenting.

My current system makes the tools the bad guy, not me. Timers, filtering/blocking. And it's mostly carefree.

The Internet is everything now for the kids. I've found that a more effective punishment rather than taking their gear away is to throttle their Internet connections down to say, 33kbits/sec or slower*. Suddenly lawns get mowed. Dishes get put away. And there are pleases and thank yous. And no worry**. Magic.

* Nerd Note: This is done by by blocking 90-95% of upstream TCP packets for specific MACs or IP addrs, which causes a retransmission, which slows down down stream flows. Feel free to drop me a check in the mail.

** Never underestimate the ingenuity of a teenager. VPN circuits. Using proxies. There's even a Google Translate hack that allows people to view porn sites in, well Swahili. All teachable moments. It took a few weeks to plug the holes.


Trusted, didn't verify very much but had I noted any problems I'd have traveled down your road, Ryan.

Throw up roadblocks and you get brain energy devoted to getting around the roadblocks. The Los Angeles USD experience giving kids locked down tablet computers only to have the kids get a work around in a day was priceless. Reminds me of a colony of Japanese monkeys who were being studied a few decades ago, and kept in the place being monitored with piles of food, grains and nuts I think. Monkeys were eating too fast and moving on, so the scientists got the bright idea of mixing the food with small rocks so they'd have to pick through it more slowly. Didn't work too long, as a genius of the community had a brainstorm, carrying a big double handful of the adulterated food over to still water, dropped it in the water and was left with the food floating, easily consumed. The rest of the monkeys figured out what the genius was doing in very short order and all the monkeys were cleaning the bait efficiently in no time at all.

Our little monkeys have social media to share the tricks of the trade, and their genius monkeys are smarter than the Ed.D's running the schools.

Ryan Mount

My house is definitely locked down. I offered a $300.00 bounty to the first kid that can break it. I'd rather them do that then spend hours on Minecraft Youtube videos or porn or illegal essay sites. Bit Torrenting is particularly insidious in the amount of illegal software that's available. (teenage boy + 50mbps of bit torrent bandwidth = lots of illegal games) I shut that crap down because I risk losing my Internet connection which is part of our livelihood.

The biggest issue right now is Tumblr because it mixes vapid and innocuous content with pornography. And these Tumblr sites pop-up like teenage house parties when the parents are gone. So, I have to spend some time grep'ing the log files for *tumblr.

It seems to me that a Big Brother policy is the way to go. But I just call it parenting. And I tell the kids this. Funny, they never complain. And when they're 18 or are paying their own internet, they can do what they want. Just not in my house.

Besides, if they want to go exploring, there are creeks and rivers not to mention the delights of loading the Dishwasher.


"So, it could be that the continuous attacks on teachers and education put forth by the right is partially responsible for the lack of achievement. The constant complaining, blaming, and carping could be turning kids off to school." -JK 10:29

So, parents complaining about lousy schools are the cause of schools being lousy? Here's an idea for you, "Koyote", give malcontented parents a voucher for the entire amount a school gets for a warm body in their homeroom seat at the beginning of the day (for the academic year) and let them go elsewhere for their children's education. Problem solved.

I was invited into Mathematically Correct, a group of mathematically oriented parents (the titular head was a professor of virology at the Salk Institute, another was a statistician at UC San Diego, a postdoc geologist at USC and the CSUN math professor Russ quoted up top were some others) nearly two decades ago as a result of a USENET post I made as a parody of Professor Harold Hill ("The Music Man"), noting that Mathland was just my Think System applied to math education. I bring it up because I, along with the rest of the MC crowd, was provided a copy of a proposed 'contract' of sorts between schools and parents that was authored by the powers that were in the California state Dept. of Education. I believe it was that quoted CSUN professor who was the MC interface with the state on that one, circa 2001.

The section I set a "Danger, Danger, Warning Dr. Smith, Danger Danger" to was a zinger that went something like this:"Parents have a responsibility to support the decisions of their children's teachers and school, and follow their lead". In short, parent's don't have the right to protest actions by teachers or administrators and must just grin and bear it once a policy was set, for the good of their kids.

As a result, it got changed to something more like "Parents have a responsibility to support the education of their children and have the right to dispute school decisions on policy and curriculum". I'm sure there was some Ed.D. policy wonk in the Cal Dept of Ed was pissed that Easter Egg got caught before it was rubber stamped by the state.

Ryan Mount

> Give malcontented parents a voucher for the entire amount a school gets for a warm body in their homeroom seat at the beginning of the day (for the academic year) and let them go elsewhere for their children's education. Problem solved.


However note the talking points from the NEA which attemptb to cut this discussion off at the pass:


The arguments (assumptions really) seem pretty weak and at times confused and plain weird*. Although I would love to see this "research" they speak of in the first bullet item. I think what you'll hear is traditional/current school(gasp, conservative) advocates, is that rather than vouchers they want smaller classrooms as the cure, which provides more face time with the students, etc.

BTW, from Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program: http://epsl.asu.edu/epru/documents/educationalvouchers6.html#different

* "America’s success has been built on our ability to unify our diverse populations." What the heck does that even mean? Sounds a little scary, to be honest.


Ah, the fog of time. I managed to mangle some of the monkey business in my 1:04. The food was sweet potatoes and the learned behavior didn't spread quite like wildfire but it did spread. They even went from fresh to salt water, apparently because they found they preferred their sweet potatoes lightly seasoned.

Here's one of many accounts:


"Head them off at the pass? I hate that cliche." -Hedley Lamarr.

What the NEA is fighting is the idea that parents have a greater authority over the education of their children than teachers and administrators supported by the public school monopoly. In other words, it's a public good to keep kids in failing schools because some parents would choose just as badly if given the choice.

My first wife, when studying for her secondary credentials at National University, the biggest certification mill in California besides the CSU system, was told flat out in n-th generation xerox handouts that parents complaining about "whole language" instruction were religious fundamentalists who should be placated and ignored. It took the statewide STAR exams showing abject failure of WL (and whole math) in places like the Grass Valley School District for it to be abandoned, after a generation of kids were damaged by the experiment.


Ryan, some of the NEA piece is pure fabrication, chief of which was the complete mischaracterization of a Milton Friedman piece as he "dismissed the notion that vouchers could help low-income families". I dug up the Friedman opinion and a larger quote is below, with the NEA quoted out of context fragment in BOLD :
"The problem is how to get from here to there. Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system. The deterioration of our school system and the stratification arising out of the new industrial revolution have made privatization of education far more urgent and important than it was 40 years ago.

Vouchers can promote rapid privatization only if they create a large demand for private schools to constitute a real incentive for entrepreneurs to enter the industry. That requires first that the voucher be universal, available to all who are now entitled to send their children to government schools, and second that the voucher, though less than the government now spends per pupil on education, be large enough to cover the costs of a private profit-making school offering a high-quality education. If that is achieved there will in addition be a substantial number of families that will be willing and able to supplement the voucher in order to get an even higher quality of education. As in all cases, the innovations in the "luxury" product will soon spread to the basic product.

For this image to be realized, it is essential that no conditions be attached to the acceptance of vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore and to innovate. If this image is realized, everybody, except a small group of vested interests, will win: parents, students, dedicated teachers, taxpayers-- for whom the cost of the educational system will decline-- and especially the residents of central cities, who will have a real alternative to the wretched schools so many of their children are now forced to attend."

It is clear the NEA is one of that small group of vested interests that vouchers threaten.

Bill Tozer

What our teachers are fighting
against more than anything is Teacher Evaulations. If we get all the kids to submit to standardized testing to see what they know, then Teacher Evaluations will follow. Its a slippery slope I tell ya. We must not look there, we shall not go there.

When the Chicago Public School District fine educators went on strike, they demanded a 30% raise and settled for a 15% raise. The Mayor agreed and the strike continued. Why? Cause the threat of Teacher Evaluations was the BIG REAL issue. Akin to a hostile work enviroment I tell ya. Judging teachers on their actions and not their intentions? How low can you go?

Funniest quote from the link below:

“Now teachers aren’t as unique,” said Michael Warren, a public school history teacher in New Jersey. “It means anyone can do it. It’s like taking something done by humans and having it done by a machine.”

Yep, they have done such a splendid job haven't they. Each year and now each decade we pay for, a lot more, for less. lol.


Ryan Mount

I can only speak to Language Arts (note, a term/discipline I find indeterminate, foofy and too hippie). Whole Language has no friend in me, as I've said here numerous times on RR. I've found and find it's implementation to be half-baked at best. Whole language grew out of somewhat idealistic [mis]interpretations and misapplications of Chomsky's generative linguistics. The conclusions of its proprietors were too narrow and very ideological. [mix in the 1980s Liberation ideologies, and you have a mess] Probably not the best start to a nationwide curriculum, eh? And by nationwide, I mean California and Texas.

Where Whole Language can/does work, and works well largely because it's not diluted by curriculum committee textbooks and the noise of the classroom, is with home schooled kids. But that variety of Whole Language looks a lot like drill and kill with larger "rhetorical chunks" of language. So my point is Whole Language devices are simply not effective in the context of a 26+ student classroom. Ideally, I would like to see more "rote" instruction in the schools, and more "Whole Language" in the home when we curl up our children to read.

Also, I want to point out that syntax, semantics, grammars are not reading or writing. Those are skills. Just like wielding a hammer doesn't qualify one to build a chair. Well, a chair perhaps you wouldn't want to sit in. Chomsky focused on the the structure of such things and discovered some remarkable findings*. It took people a decade or so afterwards to create Whole Language tenets.

And lastly, there are some excellent things that came out of the Whole Language approach, lest we throw the baby out with the bath water. Sentence Combining comes to mind as a therapy (yes, I said therapy) to choppy and short rhetorical styles. Clause analysis is another as is numerous "brain storming" techniques. These, however, all require a certain proficiency with syntax, semantics and grammars....sorta.

* One can make a reasoned argument, for example, that the definite article "the" is an adjective. Studying English at the level Chomsky did is kinda like watching sausage being made.


Ryan, central to Whole Language was a repudiation of phonics or "phonemic awareness". I asked the New Zealand language expert our local County Ed Superintendent McAteer brought in to give a chat about how great WL was and even she, when asked one on one, said the California WL didn't have enough phoneme awareness to work. She also grimaced and looked in McAteer's direction before answering.

If you think there was good in WL it's probably because of the lip service made to literature and the 'whole story'. Unfortunately, the theory was that kids would learn to read the way they learn to speak, by immersion; that was disastrous, and in any case the concept of literature was always strong in competent traditional reading and language curriculums.

I reject completely the idea that WL sprang from Chomsky, despite believers to the contrary editing wikis to that effect. A rejection of phonics in favor of "see and guess" was in full swing in California in the early 60's before that Chomsky paper in '67; at best, Chomsky was used as Piaget was, a theory that could be used to justify what the Dewey-eyed Romantics had been trying to do for years.

Since then, there has been neurological research that has shown brain activity in fluent adult readers, lighting up areas of the brain associated with hearing phonemes when words are read; reading *is* by phoneme. Chomsky was wrong but he was in good company.

I barely got phonics as a kid, my younger sister got 'see and guess' and never did learn to read fluently.


.... a theory that could be used to justify what the Dewey-eyed Romantics had been trying to do for years.

Good line!


fish and friends, here's a fresh steaming heaping mostly of what I have been ranting:

[E.D. Hirsch's] Cultural Literacy became a surprise bestseller because many other parents were also asking questions about who was responsible for the lack of academic substance in their children’s schools. Hirsch addressed these concerns near the beginning of the book: “The unacceptable failure of our schools has occurred not because our teachers are inept but chiefly because they are compelled to teach a fragmented curriculum based on faulty education theories.” This didn’t happen by chance or because of professional incompetence, according to Hirsch. Rather it was intended, quite deliberately, by the schools of education. It wasn’t that professors of education favored the wrong curriculum, but that they stood for no curriculum at all. Citing romantic theories of child development going back to Rousseau, the progressives argued that, with just a little assistance from teachers, children would figure it out as they went along. That’s because students were capable of “constructing their own knowledge.”
"Redemption of E.D.Hirsch" by Sol Stein

I say mostly because in the last three decades, there's been a palpable slip in teacher quality.

Joe Koyote

George --11:12 "are we then to understand that it is the preponderantly conservative households that produce the underachieving students?" NO. What I am saying is that the constant flow of negativity and complaints by the right about education and teachers could be a factor in all students caring less about an education.. except those who come from households where the parents reinforce education regardless of political affiliation. Kids aren't stupid.. Why should they care about school if no one else seems to?

Ryan Mount

> I reject completely the idea that WL sprang from Chomsky

That's kinda my point as well. Chomsky used empirical methods to demonstrate that language (note: not reading and writing, per se) is generative/transformational in a context of well or not well formed grammars. However it's a long way from Chomsky to Phonics. And I agree with Whole Language detractors that its practice leads to poor language arts performance.

My bigger point is ideologues leave their brains at the classroom door, to paraphrase a popular secular notion about Christians.

Personal Anecdote: I had a mix of both Phonics and Whole Language methods growing up in the East Bay Area. But then again, my parents were school activists who marshaled* me out of more than one New Math/Whole Language elementary classroom in the 70s and 80s. I learned more from their activism than I did in the classrooms in terms of "how to learn" effectively, which turns out to be a very important (and lacking) modern skill. I remember what is was like to re-discover the joys of long division. And the pain of whatever flavor of the month the Math lesson entailed.

I think it is unwise to wholesale reject any methods. It is more important to be critical and approach each technique conservatively and more importantly, appropriately. "Appropriateness," ironically, is a tenet of Whole Language and congruent with Chomsky's well-formedness, and also rarely enforced.

* My parents were founders of the "Academics Plus" School in Pleasant Hill. This was a charter school(we didn't call it that because there was no such name) that focused on Fundamentals in the belly of the East Bay education non-sense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoia_Middle_School_%28Pleasant_Hill,_California%29

Russ Steele

I am not sure what the reading methods were when I was in the 3rd grade forward but it was not phonics. It was about recognizing the word, guessing the meaning, then adjusting the meaning as the other words were added to the sentence. The end result is that I am a very poor speller and proof reader, but a very fast reader. My mind observes the first few letters of a word and guess the rest. Sometimes the guess is wrong and the spelling error becomes reality, as readers of my post are very aware. On the other hand, my well educated English Major wife had phonics throughout her schooling and she uses phonics to spell out most any word. When our two oldest daughters were in Nebraska Elementary Schools they taught phonics, and they benefited from this training. Ellen continued the phonics lesson when #3 was in Nevada City Schools. All are good spellers. When #4 went to Nevada City Schools she was trained in phonics at home. even before Kindergarden she had taught herself to read, with the help of early phonics prompting by her mother and older sisters. Phonics all the way!


" What I am saying is that the constant flow of negativity and complaints by the right about education and teachers could be a factor in all students caring less about an education"

Koyote, you're grasping at straws. The flow of complaints is because there is much that needs fixing, and it is systemic.

George Rebane

JoeK 1236pm - Making that connection is more than a bit of a stretch. As you say, kids aren't dumb, and they do realize that adults who grouse about today's education are not in any way disparaging the utility of education - those are totally independent concepts. Quite the opposite, most kids not only understand the benefits of education, but also understand when they have a classroom teacher who doesn't know his subject. And they do worry about that.

It's the Left that believes that students can't tell when they're sitting in front of a piss poor teacher, and that at least is one reason why they have continued to stick so many of them into classrooms and then keep them there.

Bill Tozer


Bill Tozer

Education means exactly what? Familiar story from across the Pond (from the Lefty point of view).


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