Archive for February, 2009

EDI 603: An interesting blog debate…

EDI 603 Lessons
 Posted by jeremy on February 25th, 2009

Well, it’s interesting if you’re into stats anyway.

Michael (from Section 02) took issue with some of my frowsy phraseology during our discussion of correlation. After class he made some good points, so I asked him to write up a blog post on the issues. You can read his various complaints against me, and my pitiful attempts at weaseling out of it, here:

The long short of it are these four points:

  1. Michael claims that correlating gender with something isn’t useful and elaborates this view quite well. I argue back several useful points that can be made using this technique.
  2. He warned that you can’t really correlate anything that can be represented as a number. This is a very good point. Sometimes numbers are used as labels, so a higher number doesn’t mean a greater value of anything. However, I argue, you can still calculate a correlation coefficient in these cases; you just can’t interpret it to mean anything.(Also, something I didn’t put in my response to Michael: Zip codes are more meaningful than simple labels. Generally speaking, the further west you go, the higher the zip code. Brockport is 14420, Beverley Hills is 90210. I grew up in 95119. I’ll wager there is a strong correlation between one’s zip code and the time school starts – so long as time is measured in Greenwich Mean Time.)
  3. Michael shows instances when we could expect to see correlation of 1.0 or -1.0, but admits these aren’t really in social science research. He just wanted to make sure you weren’t afraid of seeing a perfect correlation because they do exist.
  4. He explains how causation could exist without correlation. I point out that his example does include correlation, but not a correlation coefficient.

If you ever hear anything in class that makes you go, “Huh? That’s not right!” I want you to blog about it. The blogs are your space, I just visit to gather assessment data. As long as we’re all respectful, I think we can have some very fruitful discussions.'s comments are working now

EDI 603
 Posted by jeremy on February 25th, 2009

As of this morning, Blogspot’s comment system was back online. I posted my comments (which I had saved in my gradebook) for section 01 learning targets. Be sure to check them as you write your final targets.

I’ll wait a day or two before I grade section 01 “My Fav Alt Assessment” posts, so go make your comments if you haven’t already. If you emailed me and your classmates your comments, you are not required to repost them to your classmates’ blogs.

Section 02: Make sure to comment on three classmates’ posts before class tomorrow.

EDI 603:'s comments aren't working

EDI 603
 Posted by jeremy on February 24th, 2009

I’ve received a couple of emails tonight from people who are worried that they cannot post comments to some of their classmates’ blogs. I’ve confirmed that the blogspot CAPTCHA (the system that verifies your humanity by asking you to type random warped letters) is currently out or order.

My suggestion is that you go to bed and try again in the morning. If it’s still not working, I’ll grant a grace period to Tuesday’s section for making comments on other people’s blogs.

Another good headline

In the News
 Posted by jeremy on February 23rd, 2009

When drafting assessment tasks, it’s important to use precise wording. To emphasize the misunderstandings that occur when we’re less careful in our phraseology, I show my students a collection of headlines that could be misunderstood to mean something completely other than what they were intended to mean. “Miners Refuse to Work After Death,” “MSU Honors Student Accused in Assault,” and (my personal favorite) “Police: Crack Found in Man’s Buttocks.”

Well, here’s a new one:


In fairness, the original headline was “Schools try to minimize cases of colds, flu,” and it was ASCD’s news site that implied education could spread the flu.

EDI 603: More on parental involvement

EDI 603 In the News
 Posted by jeremy on February 20th, 2009

Jason posted this comment to my post on the Kentucky bill that would fine parents who did not meet with their child’s teacher. It’s a great story, so I’m reformatting it as a blog post:

I would just like to put a personal slant on this subject. I completed my student teaching at Jefferson High school and was teaching 10th grade social studies. I taught approx. 140 students on a daily basis or at least had that many enrolled in my class. I did not understand how things are done in the city. First, they do not set up individual meetings or as it is sometimes called parent teacher conferences. They have one night in the fall and one in the spring that any parent can come to the school and meet with the teacher.

Well being a student teacher I called every single students house and also sent a letter home personally inviting the parents to the open house. I was very excited about doing this open house on my own since my supervising teacher was coaching this night. I was at the school from 6pm to 8pm and in this time I met with 1 parent.

It was unbelievable to me that 1 parent out of 140 came to see both who was teaching their child and also how they were doing. The next day I decide to ask the students why their parents did not show up to the open house. I believe the response I recieved bothered me more than anything else they could have stated. Most students told me that their parents believe that talking to a teacher would not change whether their child was successful in school. It is the teachers job to teach and if they get the student to learn the content then what are they going to do!

I believe that this type of thinking is a cultural and also socioeconomic problem in the United States. I would bet you would be hard pressed to find many teachers in either Appalachia or Rochester that has been challenged on how or why they are teaching or if the methods they are using are successful for their child. Again this is not a scientific hypothesis but merely an old student teacher observing a serious problem in American education.

EDI 603: My fav alt assessment

EDI 603
 Posted by jeremy on February 18th, 2009

For next week (that would be Feb. 24 and 26), we will be covering what is colloquially known as “alternative assessment.” I’m wondering if you’ve ever experienced such an activity? No, I don’t want to know what you do as a teacher, but what you remember as a student. What kind of assessment was it? (Use your textbook for terminology.) Was it worthwhile? Looking back, do you think it provided useful assessment data to your teacher? Would you do anything similar in your class? Why or why not?

An informal tone is appropriate for this assignment. You’re also expected to comment on three of your classmate’s posts. Here’s mine:

When I entered high school, I begged my mom to get the school to put me in sophomore biology. I was a total science geek, and I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting through the freshman “physical science” course. She relented and the school found a teacher who would take me off the reputation of my older brother (who had skipped the freshman course as well two years earlier). Mr. Cope warned me that I was “on probation” with him and if I didn’t keep up I would be back in with the freshmen. So I set the curve on the first exam and he never threatened me after that.

Anyway, we had a unit on bacteriology, and there was no test at the end. Instead, we started with cotton swabs and petri dishes and free reign of the high school campus. I headed for the most disused bathrooms to gather a sure A+ culture.

For the next four weeks, we purified our cultures, using various microscopes (from the 10x stereoscopes to oil-immersion lenses) and color swathes to classify each culture. I’ll never forget when the teacher called the class over and had us take turns looking at cells from a classmate’s “very interesting” culture. “See how the cells divide along an axis? That’s why they make chains like that. Yeah, this is Streptococcus, so we should probably pour some bleach on the culture.”

I suppose the whole project was one large performance assessment with several checkpoints that were each graded separately. And I think it was really effective. I mean, I still remember doing it and that was… well, a loooong time ago. I think the information my teacher gained was very useful because of the various skills and knowledge we had to employ to successfully finish the lab. I don’t know how or if he integrated all that information into his gradebook.

I would love to do something like that with my students… Wait! I think I do, though it’s probably not as cool as growing our own bacteria. See, I have my students go through the entire process of developing a sound assessment for one unit of instruction. My biology teacher probably knew that most of his students would never do anything like bacteriology again, but he knew we would remember what we did. The same is true for me: My students may never again put this much effort into any of their assessments, but they will know they can, and each assessment they do will be informed by the one experience they have in my class.

Open Education: When people really don't get it

Open Education
 Posted by jeremy on February 16th, 2009

I’ve slacked off on following David Wiley’s excellent course on open learning. I’m dedicating myself to catching up, but the start of the semester has taken its toll on my time. By the way, anyone from the course may want to point their RSS reader to this feed, because it only includes my Open Education posts.

Despite the time off, open ed is still on my mind, and it gets really frustrating when I see things like this: Last March, faculty in the Near Eastern studies department at Cal voted to quit hosting the open, free, and award-winning Arabic Without Walls online course. (I blogged about the work Margaret Merrill and I did on the course.)

Read the article at the risk of damaging your vision of sustainable open education. Hosting the course cost the department nothing, yet they voted to pull the plug because, “because it does not benefit UC Berkeley students.”

“It did take up quite a lot of our department manager’s time and efforts dealing with a variety of paperwork.”

Though this crisis was later averted and Berkeley continues to host AWW, the comments in the article are a stark reminder that many open ed arguments may hold little sway in the real world. “It costs you nothing to give it away,” doesn’t resonate with people whose first question is, “What’s in it for me?”

On stimulating U.S. education

In the News
 Posted by jeremy on February 14th, 2009

Education Week has a good article on the issues surrounding the Stimulus Bill’s huge increase in education funding. Under the recently-passed legislation, congress will increase funding $80 billion, but wait… maybe we should look this gift-horse in the mouth.

“You wonder if it’s really sunk in,” Vic Klatt, a former aide to Republicans on the House education committee, said of proposed increases. “I absolutely think this redefines the federal role [in education]. Not in all bad ways, but in ways that haven’t been fully thought through.”

Jack Jennings, the president of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, said such a substantial injection of aid could pave the way for the federal government to think more expansively about its role in improving struggling schools.

“It not only makes it more legitimate for the federal government to ask for accountability, it also [opens up] the question of what should the feds be doing to help schools,” said Mr. Jennings, who spent nearly three decades as an aide to House Democrats on Capitol Hill.

It is true that these new funds are, in part, meant to make up for declining state support of public education, but the federal government has a nasty habit of attaching strings to its funding at a later date (e.g. NCLB).

Forcing parents to get involved

In the News
 Posted by jeremy on February 13th, 2009

From the leading-a-horse-to-water category….

A state legislator in Kentucky wants to fine parents who don’t meet with their child’s teachers. From the Cincinnati Inquirer:

Several studies have shown that parental involvement is key to the success of a child in school, yet many parents still don’t get involved.

But what if they were forced to, or else risk fines of up to $200?

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, has proposed House Bill 306, which would require all parents, guardians or custodians to meet with their children’s teachers within the first 60 days of the school year.

Those who fail to do so would be given a new date within the next 30 days. Those who don’t comply with that would be fined $50. Subsequent offenses could mean fines of up to $200.

First, look at the opening sentence. I’m not aware of any experimental studies that have established causation between parental involvement and student academic success. If there are, please forward them to me.

Second, I doubt this bill will pass, but I would like to see a quasi-experiment where one district enforces this proposal, while a very similar district offers $200 cash cards to parents for stopping by. Which do you think would work better?

EDI 603: Learning Targets Draft

EDI 603
 Posted by jeremy on February 11th, 2009

For this assignment, you post to your blog seven learning targets as described in Chapter 2 of Nitko & Brookhart. These learning targets must…

  1. Be from a single unit of instruction for which you are willing to build assessments this semester. For early childhood or self-contained teachers, you may span multiple “units” because your units tend to be smaller than at the middle and high school levels.
  2. Be labeled as “Mastery” or “Developmental” as described in the text,
  3. Include a list of at least five verbs from the taxonomies listed on p. 33. These verbs should indicate the types of assessment tasks you believe would provide evidence that students have achieved the learning target.

You may also preface your learning targets with a brief description of your unit, as shown below.

Learning Targets Draft

Causes of the American Revolution Unit

In this unit, we will study the immediate causes and events leading up to the beginning of the American Revolution. An emphasis will be placed on comparing those historical events with current global situations…. [etc.]

  1. Students can employ historical knowledge to analyze new information.
    • Developmental Learning Target
    • Verbs: Examine, Compare, Contrast, Categorize, Investigate (Bloom)
  2. Students can demonstrate empathy for those who suffered through the events leading to the start of the American Revolution.
    • Mastery Learning Target (I’m not asking them to “empathize,” but to show empathy.)
    • Verbs: Answers, Discusses, Helps, Shares, Proposes (Krathwohl)


You will also make substantive comments on at least three of your classmates’ draft learning targets. For example, one could comment on mine:

I notice that you included verbs from more than one level of Krathwohl’s taxonomy. The first three are from “Responding” and the last two from “Valuing.” Why not just focus on the higher level (valuing)?

Because this is a draft assignment, you will only be graded on completion. Post your best attempt, and then let your classmates offer their corrections. The sooner you get your post up, the more opportunity others will have to comment on it.