Category Archives: Articles of Note

Testing writing

Good article in the Globe today describing the written part of the SAT. These ‘grafs are money:

Les Perelman, director of MIT’s writing program, disagrees. He became so frustrated by what he believed were formulaic essays that freshmen were turning in after the SAT essay was introduced that he conducted an experiment: He trained three high school students, who had taken the SAT once already, to insert some factual errors, use big words, and ignore logical thought on the SAT essay, and each received a near-perfect score.

“They’ve learned to write paragraph essays where they don’t care whether the facts are correct,” Perelman said. “We have to spend a year in freshman composition deprogramming them.”

Bunin and other College Board officials contend that Perelman’s findings are inconclusive, since he only worked with a few students. But they acknowledge that factual accuracy was not crucial in the scoring.

What the essay portion is about is a student’s ability to express himself in writing,” Bunin said. “This is not a research paper.”

I can’t think of another context where content would be irrelevant to one’s writing.

Ghetto Film School

This sounds like an awesome program. I like how honest the kids were:

“One said, ‘I don’t want to come into a place and find out someone is trying to raise my self-esteem,’ ” Mr. Hall said. “Another said, ‘Yeah, it’s not like we want a ghetto film school.’ Everyone started laughing, and I thought, ‘What if we could co-opt a negative term and throw it back out there, do the exact opposite?’ ”

Enough of these half-baked programs — the kids know immediately whether it’s a fake or if real resources have been committed.

Advanced Placement “Brand”

Yesterday’s Times featured an article addressing the AP brand and detailed the ways in which teachers who are offering these courses must submit a syllabus for approval.

One of Paul Vallas’ supposed accomplishments was the vast increase in the number of AP courses offered. I would like to see a story exploring both the eventual test scores as well as the College Board’s response to the syllabi.

I’m sure that the folks at the magnet schools are not experiencing difficulties and I would imagine there are some pretty impressive scores. But what of the comprehensive high schools where these courses have been offered for the first time ? What has their experience been like? Have students done well? Poorly?

Harry Potter and Reading

The NYT has a brief “let’s talk to some teachers, some students, and some experts” article about the impact of Harry Potter.

The ability to find an educational expert to back up every possible opinion is demoralizing. To wit:

Some reading experts say that urging kids to read fiction in general might be a misplaced goal. “If you look at what most people need to read for their occupation, it’s zero narrative,” said Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford University. “I don’t want to deny that you should be reading stories and literature. But we’ve overemphasized it,” he said. Instead, children need to learn to read for information, Mr. Kamil said, something they can practice while reading on the Internet, for example.

This vision will be happily embraced by any and all who are ready to gut whole language and who want to emphasize reading as a skill rather than a love or a vocation. I know I’m a romantic but “reading for information” can’t be the starting point for teachers seeking to inspire their students or for kids learning to read.

Death by Bureaucracy

This article from Friday’s Times describes the plight of a teacher buried by paperwork.

Nothing new there.

What’s most impressive, though, is the way in which the high-level administrators respond, as if nothing could be more natural than five weeks of paperwork to prepare to teach.

End result: new teacher, with lots to offer, departs for another position.
Bureaucrat in nice suit: promoted.

John Street was right !?!

Not a big fan of Mayor Street, but his adamant refusal to allow police officers into Philadelphia public schools was the right call. The columnist, Bob Herbert, from the New York Times, has been steadily documenting the abuses perpetrated by New York City Police Officers on schoolchildren in NYC.

Today’s article — here

Review by Russell Baker

Baker, Russell. “Talking it Up.” New York Review of Books, May 11, 2006.

What I liked was his description of what makes a good conversation:

Both participants listen attentively to each other; neither tries to promote himself by pleasing the other; both are obviously enjoying an intellectual workout; neither spoils the evening’s peaceable air by making a speech or letting disagreement flare into anger; they do not make tedious attempts to be witty. They observe classic conversational etiquette with a self-discipline that would have pleased Michel de Montaigne, Samuel Johnson, or any of a dozen other old masters of good talk whom Miller cites as authorities.

This etiquette, Miller says, is essential if conversation is to rise to the level of—well, “good conversation.” The etiquette is hard on hotheads, egomaniacs, windbags, clowns, politicians, and zealots. The good conversationalist must never go purple with rage, like people on talk radio; never tell a long-winded story, like Joseph Conrad; and never boast that his views enjoy divine approval, like a former neighbor of mine whose car bumper declared, “God Said It, I Believe It, And That Settles It.”

I’d like to snip this and put it in the opening portion of my next few syllabi…