KTM User Pages
26 Jan 2006 - 17:08
Another great find from Ken —
Reading, writing and gender bias The gender bias against boys is even greater than the perceptive article "Academic underachievers" (Page 1, Sunday) suggests. Two factors not mentioned in the article are how students are taught and evaluated. Consider the neglect of political and military history, which involve the real forces of politics, war and peace. Boys are more interested in these than are girls, but such subjects are downplayed in favor of "social" history. For example, my son's American history class devoted one class period each to changes in women's fashions during World War II and discussion of the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Consider that when writing is taught, great emphasis is placed on keeping journals and expressing feelings, which generally are more interesting to girls than to boys, at the expense of a gender-neutral emphasis on expository writing and argumentation. Which is more useful in life, the ability to compose paeans to me, myself and I or the ability to set down one's ideas in cogent form? Consider the importance given to writing throughout the curriculum, even in mathematics and science classes, which favors girls over boys. By contrast, no educator has ever emphasized the importance of teaching mathematics across the curriculum: Sciences courses have been stripped of math requirements, and social studies courses neglect statistical topics and even the use of data to illustrate important demographic and population trends. This emphasis exists despite the fact that mathematics is extremely useful in everyday life and for many careers, while few jobs require the kind of writing that schools stress. Consider the revised SAT, with its recently added writing section. Writing again is elevated at the expense of mathematics, which is only one-third the total score. Again this shows bias against boys, who traditionally excel at mathematics, and in favor of girls, who are more likely to like writing. Consider the growing bias in favor of using mixed ability groupings, which downplays individual competition in favor of interpersonal cooperation and places a great burden on students to manage each other. Finally, consider grading practices that emphasize student behavior and assignment completion but not test scores. Tests are far better measures of what is learned, but because girls are better behaved than boys, de-emphasizing test scores favors girls over boys. Unless these deep and pervasive biases in grading and curricula are addressed, boys will continue to lag behind. ROBERT LERNER
As Ken pointed out in his Comment, check out the author.
why I'm a concernocrat on this one Probably a lot of us have 'self-esteem fatigue.' Either that, or 'victim fatigue.' Or both. I know I do. I'm not exactly filled with enthusiasm for launching a whole new Victim Project. But my Bayes-o-meter is registering pretty high on this one, and has been since before I had kids myself. My concern isn't so much with what boys are or aren't learning, or whether their grades are lower than girls, etc. My concern is with telling very young children — and then repeating the message and underlining it in the middle-grades — that there's something wrong with them. And make no mistake, that is the message kids get. They get it from their own parents; Christopher gets it from Ed and me, and we know better. Here's an example. After our team meeting, Christopher's team worked exactly the way you'd want a team to work; they pulled together and they 'de-traumatized' him. The (male) guidance counselor is having him come in once a week for a one-on-one; the math teacher has him in once a week for extra help; his English teacher has been fantastic. She's giving him just the right mix of praise coupled with detailed instruction to make him feel 'safe' and motivated once again. At home, we're telling him, routinely, that his principal is great and his teachers are nice and smart. And we mean it.
PAUSE FOR SPACED REPETITION: This is why we're so keen on our principal, Scott Fried; [update: this statement is no longer operative] it's also why I always say the problem isn't the people, it's the curriculum and the not-teaching-to-mastery. Irvington schools are filled with teacher talent and, simply, with kind-hearted people who care about children. The teachers and administrators here are all people who, if they were my neighbors, I'd want to hang out with. That's what I'm saying.
BACK ON TOPIC So here's my example. Christopher was back on track, and we had a math test coming up. Ed studied with him and he got a 90! Fantastic. This is a kid heading towards a D in math; now he's got an A- on a test. Great, great, great; happy, happy, happy. Next quiz coming up. I've been tracking the class closely. I know everything they've done, every last homework assignment, every last test, every last Lesson in every last chapter. I have the Teacher's Edition; I have the Student's Edition. I have scans of all the tests & quizzes; I've made him go over all the problems he missed and correct them. I've checked all of his homework, every last problem, and made him re-do those problems, too. And I've retaught most of the material. So I'm thinking, I've got this under control. Ms. Kahl's habit generally has been to give one mid-chapter quiz and one final chapter test on the entire chapter. With Chapter 5, however, she ended up giving, IIRC, a mid-chapter test and then 2 or 3 quizzes on the remaining lessons, probably because of holidays and various other interruptions. So we were down to the last untested Lesson in Chapter 5, 5-8: Rational Numbers with Exponents. Fine. Christopher spends the weekend studying with his dad, and by test day has the material down cold. He gets a 68 on the test. He gets a 68 on the test, because the test wasn't on Lesson 5-8, it was on a 'Review Sheet' Ms. Kahl handed out in class that had much harder problems. Of course, this is the first we're hearing about a Review Sheet. Christopher's just flunked another test, and he's telling us, after the fact, that he had a Review Sheet. We say, 'Where is the Review Sheet?' He doesn't know. I look through the binder, and......it's in the freaking binder. Apparently NO ONE in this house, not Christopher, not me, not his dad, is capable of LOOKING THROUGH THE FREAKING BINDER TO FIND THE FREAKING REVIEW SHEET.
pause for self-justification Very soon, if it hasn't happened already, we'll be sufficiently beaten-up around here to REMEMBER TO LOOK IN THE FREAKING BINDER. Nevertheless, I'm not so sure a rational Bayesian-type person like myself should have known to look in the binder, because:
what the book covered Lesson 5-8 is 1 1/2 pages long. It demonstrates how to simplify these 4 expressions:
I assume the kids went over these 4 expressions or something like it; then they did some homework, probably no more than a handful of problems (I don't remember, but 4 problems for homework isn't uncommon). All of the homework problems are drawn from the textbook or the Prentice-Hall workbook. This is the hardest problem in the book:
Christopher went into the test able to do this problem.
what the review sheet covered Here's the most difficult problem from the Review Sheet:
Christopher couldn't begin to do this problem. If he had any idea what these problems actually mean, he could have generalized from the shorter problem with fewer variables to the longer problem with more variables. But he doesn't have any idea what these problems actually mean. (file under: inflexible knowledge) This is cram school, and we're cramming. We're cramming so much we have a new household expression: teach to crammery Christopher made that up. We've added teach to crammery to our other two family mottos:
next move So Ed decides to write Ms. Kahl an email asking if Christopher can take the test again, because he's been sick, didn't get a chance to study, etc. This is only half-true, the true half being the fact that he's been sick & has missed a day of school. (It's possible he's missed whichever day they covered exponents.) The part that isn't true is the part about Christopher not studying. Christopher did study; he studied the wrong thing. He studied the book. Not the FREAKING REVIEW SHEET. Ed figures, OK, we'll plead illness, study the Review Sheet, he can re-take the test. That might have worked, except in the meantime Ms. Kahl has asked Christopher what happened on the test, why he did so poorly, and he has told her he didn't study the Review Sheet. So now we're the Lying, Making-Up-Excuses parents, on top of being the No common sense-y, Bullying, Teach to crammery parents. Oh fine, as Lucille Ball used to say. A good sport, Ms. Kahl says Christopher can re-take the test anyway, even though his parents are lying to her face, and she'll average the grades. Thank you!
onward to the next calamity OK, I handle the studying this time. WE STUFF THAT FREAKING REVIEW SHEET DEEP INTO CHRISTOPHER'S SHORT TERM MEMORY. WE TEACH LONG FRACTIONS WITH MULTIPLE VARIABLES & EXPONENTS TO BIG-TIME CRAMMERY; HE CAN SIMPLIFY THOSE BABIES IN HIS SLEEP
THEN HE HOSES THIS TEST, TOO
who do I need to bully to get this fixed? He hoses this test because the directions say not to leave any negative exponents and he apparently does not read and/or comprehend written directions on a test. He leaves negative exponents all over the place, and he earns a 79, giving him a Grand Average of 73.
the good news The good news is that when we get the second test back, we discover Christopher has in fact lost only 1 point to a wrong calculation as opposed to not reading and/or not comprehending written directions. His 'real' grade would have been a 96. This is good news, because if he's going to keep up with this math track he's going to have to be able to cram with the best of them. He can only do this course if his short-term, emergency memory is good enough to absorb massive quantities of nonsense knowledge & retain it long enough to — yes — REGURGITATE IT on a test. He can do it. He can cram with the best.
who do I have to bully to get this fixed, part 2 My problem is, I'm living in the real world. In my dream world, which does not exist on this planet, Siegfried Engelmann and his army ride into town and occupy the school. They kick out the principal, install their own people, and teach everything to mastery.
the boy problem All of this is incredibly stressful for the family. It just is. I'm sitting around thinking, Does he need vision therapy? Can we afford it? Does he have A.D.D.? Should we take him to Dr. Hollander? Will Ed agree? (no) Do I have A.D.(H.)D.? (yes) Does Ed? (I'm starting to think that's a possibility) If we give him ritalin will he develop clinical depression as a teenager? (panic) and on and on and on All of which churning & burning leads to the inevitable Core Meltdown when, on Monday, Christopher, Ed and I all manage to forget the fact that Christopher has a HUGE science test the very next morning, on Tuesday. This time around we forget because: a) Ed has volunteered to teach a brand-new HUGE undergraduate lecture course and is working 24/7. b) Christopher has decided, suddenly, that he prefers to work upstairs, in our bedroom, instead of downstairs, in my office, thus interrupting the fragile daily check-the-binder routine I have established in the visual context of my office. With my not-remotely-learned-to-mastery routine thus disrupted, I don't remember about the binder or the test until 9:30 pm, when I discover the binder lying on the floor of my bedroom. c) Christopher remembers nothing, ever. Nor does he check his binder, or his planner. This is new. He used to check his planner, back in the good old days when he liked middle school and thought he was pretty good at it. He used to remember things. He has a fantastic memory, which is the only thing getting him through Phase 4 math. Now he's the kind of kid who doesn't check his binder.
We hit the wall. Yelling, screaming (that's me), crying, door-slamming (that's Christopher). The works. Another Total Family failure. We're racking them up. The organized children got their review sheet, remembered their review sheets at home, studied their review sheets, and then scored, on average, a 93 on the test. The disorganized children took two tests, didn't read the directions either time, scored an average of 73, and, after that was over, had a family blow-up about the science test.
the answer is: If the school had a formal policy of teaching to mastery we wouldn't be going through this. The school would know whether Christopher has learned anything or not. The school would be responsible for Christopher's learning, not us. And Christopher would be learning. Right along with the organized kids.
So.....I'm a little off-topic from Boys Don't Get To Study Boy Things, and probably, come to think of it, these should be two separate posts. But I need to go do my KUMON worksheets. My point is that, when you put it together:
teaching to crammery in middle school
the kind of kids who can be taught to crammery
free teach to crammery clip art
USA Today report on 135:100 boys:girls ratio in college
sexism in Everyday Math
boy trouble (New Republic on boys)
slacker boys, middle school, & forbidden positive images of boys in textbooks
throw rocks at them
please remain seated at all times
Ann Althouse thread sums up classroom change
cooperative vs. competitive learning
the girl show (8th grade graduation awards)
the boy show (character ed)
the other boy show
Where the Boys Aren't
letter from Robert Lerner, former commissioner NCES
Tom Mortenson's research
The Boys Project board
for every 100 girls — teachtocrammery
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I think, when it comes to not reading instructions on a test, you have to bully Chris. The school should be bullying Chris too. And the way you bully Chris to read the instructions on the test before doing it is to give him this test (pdf file) or another one of the same sort. I have instructions on how to make him read everything before signing it too if you like. -- TracyW - 26 Jan 2006
I'm pretty sure those tests work best when coupled with public humiliation (as by including a step that requires the test-taker to stand up, say his name, turn around three times, and sit back down; the .pdf test does this). The humiliation, either of the test-taker or of others, dramatically increases the impact. -- DougSundseth - 27 Jan 2006
I have instructions on how to make him read everything before signing it too if you like. LOL! -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
The humiliation, either of the test-taker or of others, dramatically increases the impact. Hey! That's the Teaching Philosophy of Middle School! -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I was talking to one of the teachers at school, who has an ADHD kid in high school, and I was asking her about all of this. She said he'd had so many school disasters he finally learned to read directions, organize his work, etc. B.F. Skinner is turning over in his grave, I'm sure. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
or is that rolling over... -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Ed says he never, ever, gives his students — these are undergrads at NYU — written directions & turns them loose. He always goes over the directions with them. He also repeats every direction 3 times (which is a basic principle for lectures & speeches). Yesterday he told everyone about the first paper assignment and gave a written sheet of instructions. He still got several emails asking him about it. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
oh help I just forced Christopher to check his math homework with me every problem is wrong there are 4 problems, as is customary (sometimes she assigns more) and all 4 are wrong compare that to doing....50 problems in Saxon each night, plus 100 'Fast Facts' and getting most of them right. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
My experience to date is with a three year old, so that colors this comment. But on the "check the binder every night" issue, how 'bout taking an idea from the little kids and creating a star chart? You know, a star each time he checks his binder without being reminded, and some little reward thing when he gets a certain number of stars. Who knows, it could work. -- StephanieO - 27 Jan 2006
Christopher has decided, suddenly, that he prefers to work upstairs, in our bedroom, instead of downstairs, in my office, thus interrupting the fragile daily check-the-binder routine I have established in the visual context of my office. HYPERSPECIFITY It's not just for autistic people anymore. -- CarolynJohnston - 27 Jan 2006
Stephanie Actually, I need to BEG FOR HELP from ktm readers. I'm just not getting this. I've been wondering about a star chart myself. I need to figure something out that works for all of us......in other words, I need to come up with something that we CAN do, and actually WILL do — that we'll SEE..... Obviously, I also need to pull out all my organization books again, and re-read. I was planning to start with David Allen, but I'm not so sure he's going to help me manage someone else's life. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Carolyn, don't even get me started plus it's just so damned mortifying I mean, what am I supposed to say to the school? 'I forgot?' -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
the freaking binder wasn't in its spot -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
how can I look at the freaking binder if it's not in its spot? -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
and you know this only gets worse with age -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
of course, this is why my friend J. spent ALL of last year saying, I'M NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IT I CAN'T DO IT I'M NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IT -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Catherine I'm your friend, and I love you. I am going to give you some very different advice about this math class. It's time to let this go. It's time to stop caring how he does on these tests. Remember how in elementary school, you took ownership of Chris' math, and even started to help him do his homework so you could move on to the stuff that mattered -- the remediation/acceleration you were doing at home? Well, that's where I think you are now; I think it's time to take ownership of Chris' math again. I think you are in a math class that, for whatever reason, is doing more harm than good for Chris. I don't know why that is: perhaps it's moving too fast, perhaps it's simply that his English class debacle earlier has knocked him out of whack, but I do know one thing for sure; it's further stressing an already stressed little boy, and an already very stressed family. And, another thing to remember; this is 6th grade. It doesn't count until 9th grade. He can fail until the cows come home, and it just won't count. I know how it feels, believe me, to have done your best to work within the system and failed. I tried hard to get Ben into a local school with a non-fuzzy curriculum; it didn't work, so now he's doing independent study. You and Chris worked like a dog to get Chris remediated/accelerated to the point where he qualified into this Phase 4 class; and now, by your own lights, he's been pushed to the point where you're afraid he'll hate math so much that he'll avoid it like the plague. You hear that, KtmGuest? Catherine and I tried to play by the rules of our respective school systems, and it didn't work out, did it? Catherine, I just don't think this is worth it, either for Chris or for you. Take ownership of math back. That's my advice. -- CarolynJohnston - 27 Jan 2006
and here I thought she was just being hysterical -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I think you are in a math class that, for whatever reason, is doing more harm than good for Chris. I don't know why that is: perhaps it's moving too fast, perhaps it's simply that his English class debacle earlier has knocked him out of whack, but I do know one thing for sure; it's further stressing an already stressed little boy, and an already very stressed family. It's true. This class is killing us. Not exactly killing.....but you get the picture. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
You hear that, KtmGuest?? Catherine and I tried to play by the rules of our respective school systems, and it didn't work out, did it? I love it! -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I've been thinking the same thing.......but I can't see how to do it.....unless I just let him flunk every test, which isn't going to work This is probably one of those situations where I'm too overrun at the moment to think my way out of the box. We've talked about dropping him down to Phase 3 — what do you think of that??? Should we be thinking about it?? Maybe I should find out exactly what they're covering in the class. If it's easy enough that I could ignore it and he could get As & Bs while doing a real curriculum at home, it might be worth it. However, it would only be worth it if we really could ignore it. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
However, it would only be worth it if we really could ignore it. You have all the Trailblazers material at home, don't you? It's worth at least checking out the option. But maybe in the end -- you and Chris should decide together. The way things are going around here with my own sixth grader, I suspect that's the only way you're going to get any cooperation. Let him know you'll back him no matter what he chooses to do. Even if it means sticking it out in Phase 4. -- CarolynJohnston - 27 Jan 2006
OH MY GOD You just jolted my brain. I wonder if we could get the principal to let us do 'Independent Study' with Chris????? This would be wild; it would be way, way, way out of bounds. No one's ever done it that I know of. But he's an incredibly sweet guy — that's actually the word — he's interested in new ideas, and I have a track record I can show. Christopher desperately needs to be doing what Ben's doing. He needs to work his way steadily through Saxon Math. Period. Last night I just sat there doing my little Saxon lessons, learning something new that I'll still know tomorrow, and I felt sick at heart. Remember two nights ago I showed him unit multipliers? Because all of a sudden we had a unit conversion problem in the middle of an area problem? He said something like, 'Oh, neat!' That's how I felt when I learned unit multipliers. I can now do dimensional analysis (at least the aspects of it covered in Saxon 8/7.) I've got it. I'll be using unit multipliers for the rest of my life. I'd never heard of unit multipliers until Dan brought them up that day. Now, after 2 lessons in Saxon & several lessons of practice, I've got them. And I didn't have to SWEAT BLOOD to learn it. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
But maybe in the end -- you and Chris should decide together. The way things are going around here with my own sixth grader, I suspect that's the only way you're going to get any cooperation. Well, that's where I should start. (Boy, I AM frazzled.) He's brought up moving to Phase 3 a couple of times..... I think he'd like to move EXCEPT then you get ENDLESS ribbing about BEING TOO STUPID FOR PHASE 4 it's endless he's still getting told he was too stupid to stay in Mrs. Roth's class (That's not a big problem, I don't think; but if you add too-stupid-to-stay-in-Phase-4 on top of it it may become one.) -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
i should have homeschooled -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
of course the other thing is, this course is KNOWN to be torture. It's had this reputation for YEARS. Which naturally makes it impossible for me to quit or even contemplate having my kid quit. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
they don't do TRAILBLAZERS in Phase 2/3. TRAILBLAZERS only goes to 5th grade. I forget the book.....it's supposed to be a decent one. I think it was approved by CA, though for a very low-level course. This was the year they combined levels 2 & 3, and what I believe they did was to give everyone the book they were using for Level 2. Level 2 was always defined as kids who were a year behind grade level; Level 3 was on grade level; Level 4 was one year accelerated. So they gave the Level 3 kids the one-year-behind book.... -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
ok, 9 o'clock — I have to go do Saxon myself! (LOVED YOUR STICKING POINTS POST, BTW &MDASH; I WANT TO PUT UP A PAGE WHERE WE CAN COLLECT THESE THINGS &MDASH;) -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
BOYS IN SCHOOL -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
here's an injured boy in school
-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
here's another happy boy! -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I can't read any more magazines -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Catherine, Half a year of taking hits for lack of responsibility at twelve isn't going to scar a kid. If a teacher (or a school) is screwed up for a bit how is that different from what he will find in the "real" world in 7-10 years? How is he going to learn to manage himself if you are managing him? I'm still working on the data sets but I'm not finding any clear distinctions - other than that men are more highly rewarded than women after college for the same level of performance in college. IOW - there is no economic payoff for any edge awarded to women during school. I'm beginning to wonder if the higher rate of matriculation and graduation might not be attributable to innate differences in the importance that each sex attaches to organizational skills. The "leveling of the playing field" back in the seventies may have just revealed women's superiority in completing tasks within an ordered environment. PS - The star chart bit might work but there ain't no star charts for adults that carry the weight of the "you're fired" stick. Pats and raises are nice but no job=no-check=no food=hunger is carries more existential weight. Toss in Maslowe's hierarchy next to Skinner's box and come up with a risk/reward system that Chris can comprehend. He'll figure it out quickly if "close isn't good enough" is the standard. -- RickBallard - 27 Jan 2006
"of course the other thing is, this course is KNOWN to be torture." IMHO, herein lies the source of the problem. A sixth grade math class should NOT be torture--NOT NO WAY, NOT NO HOW! My older daughter's 7th grade accelerated math class several years ago was also pure torture. If my recollection is correct, the teacher had a habit of assigning homework problems and then collecting them for a grade before she covered the material. As a result, my husband taught her math so that she could do her homework. Other parents were doing the same thing. I still regret that we didn't join forces and take action of some sort. I don't know that it would have mattered, but at least my conscience would have been cleared that I had fought the good fight. I think part of our failure to act forcefully at the time was that we had a younger daughter and we were reluctant to rock the boat. Our daughter is incredibly sensitive and as I recall, I think we also were afraid of a backlash. Are there some other parents with whom you could join forces? I have learned from past experience with school-related issues that there is strength in numbers. -- KarenA - 27 Jan 2006
How is he going to learn to manage himself if you are managing him? Rick, first of all, welcome. My own attitude may be colored by my own experience; but not all my experiences are with kids with special needs. We've been involved in the upbringing of 3 boys. My experience with all these boys says that boys are not ready to manage themselves in 6th grade. I would bet girls aren't either, but I'm not that much of an expert. I've had no luck with the notion of leaving kids to either sink or swim for themselves; they have a definite tendency to sink, in my experience. Kids that age have intellects that are miles ahead of their executive functioning and emotional development. With my kid, at least, that's what I'm counting on; getting that intellectual development in place so that the other stuff can come along when it's ready to. You know, this reminds me of the press hoopla when 12 year old Drew Barrymore was found to be a cocaine addict. Her mother had basically given up managing her life. When Newsweek or whatever interviewed Drew's mother, she said, "Drew was having a tough time, and I felt she needed her space." Baloney. 12 year olds need parents that are in their faces, managing them, and either kicking or saving their butts, depending on what's required. -- CarolynJohnston - 27 Jan 2006
Hi Carolyn, Every kid is a bit different but twelve or thirteen is when responsibility for their own actions needs to start kicking in. It's one of the primary elements behind having the kids move from class to class in education and having a formal transition from Cub Scout to Boy Scout in scouting. Not to mention the ancient Jewish tradition of bar mitzvah. I would never wish to be considered to be counseling a sink or swim policy with twelve year olds but I do believe that it is the age in at which attentive counsel should begin to replace active management and I do believe that it is the age when consequences need to begin to be borne by the kid. 12 and 13 are excellent years for that because, as you noted, it doesn't count a whit towards college admission. If the objective is a college degree then taking personal responsibility is just as important as the grades - freshman dropout rates are fair evidence of that fact, as is the actual matriculation/graduation ratio. PS - Four boys between my wife and I with two BAs and one MA to show for it regarding degrees. The fourth is a good landscaper. I doubt that we will see that ratio in the nine grandkids though. -- RickBallard - 27 Jan 2006
Christopher just asked me, 'Why do I have to go see the guidance counselor?' I said, 'He's going to help you get organized, and know what work you have to do.' Christopher said, 'That will take away my time to get made fun of before school.' Then he said he'd seen a show about boys not doing well. Here's his explanation: Girls do better because they're more organized and they listen more, and boys don't pay attention because they're thinking about the girls. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Half a year of taking hits for lack of responsibility at twelve isn't going to scar a kid. If a teacher (or a school) is screwed up for a bit how is that different from what he will find in the "real" world in 7-10 years? How is he going to learn to manage himself if you are managing him? Hi, Rick! That's where you're WRONG WRONG WRONG! Seriously. This line of reasoning is what we all get tangled up in. As I've used it myself, and as I've heard it used at school, it goes: When kids are in high school, they'll need to be responsible.
Therefore they need to be responsible now. When kids grow up, they'll have to compete and fight.
Therefore they should compete and fight now. I remember years and years ago my mom telling me about what people learned after WWII. Which soldiers were bravest & fought hardest? Was it soldiers who'd survived harsh backgrounds with difficult childhoods? No. It was soldiers from 'soft,' protective, middle-class households. When you think about it, of course it makes sense. These 'soft' families develop strong egos in their children. I'm telling you: take a look at boys. Look at their body language. It's not so good. Christopher, though, is great. (I think.) Except that he may be learning to loathe math.....which happens to everyone, almost, and is another story. You're right about this not being a scarring experience: in fact, 3 months (has it only been 3?) of getting clobbered hasn't knocked him out of the game. As I see it at the moment, there are 3 issues:
If a teacher (or a school) is screwed up for a bit how is that different from what he will find in the "real" world in 7-10 years? That's my point! You could make this argument about any child at any age. How is a two-year old going to manage in the real world if we manage life for them? An 11-year old needs to be managed, period. Otherwise they could go get jobs, drink, and drive cars. My friend J. is funny on this issue. Last year there were some girls bullying the heck out of everyone, and J. happened to talk to one of their mothers. (Her kid wasn't a target; the conversation wasn't contentious.) The other mom said, 'I have to trust my daughter. She has to take responsibility.' etc. It was exactly the same line you've just used! Eleven year olds aren't adults. We're legally, socially, and morally responsible for them. This means organizing their lives. My failure as a parent — and at the moment I feel I'm doing a LOUSY job — is in not organizing his life enough. The boys I know who are doing best in school (I know these boys intimately) have a mom who has got everything down. She's read all the textbooks, she knows what the points on the test are going to be, she's got them sitting down at the kitchen table studying the minute they get home. These boys are thriving. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I'm beginning to wonder if the higher rate of matriculation and graduation might not be attributable to innate differences in the importance that each sex attaches to organizational skills. I've been wondering that myself. What really concerns me - not that I trust my judgment on this - is the marriage disparity. Women absolutely do not want to 'marry down.' Period. I don't see that changing. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Pats and raises are nice but no job=no-check=no food=hunger is carries more existential weight. RICK! RICK! RICK! -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
OK, TIME TO WHEEL OUT THE SKINNER CURVE! WHICH I WILL DO! SHORTLY! (Have to go roust Andrew & do KUMON, etc.) Back shortly. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Which soldiers were bravest & fought hardest? "Was it soldiers who'd survived harsh backgrounds with difficult childhoods? No. It was soldiers from 'soft,' protective, middle-class households. When you think about it, of course it makes sense. These 'soft' families develop strong egos in their children. " I tend to agree with this. I'm expecting in middle school I'm going to hear more of the "she has to take responsibility" about Megan. At this point (and through middle school I think), I think she NEEDS to have Mom and Dad to count on and organize and take responsibility for her. She needs to teach her how to organize, especially with her issues. Taking responsibility for a child is not the same as saying your child can do no wrong, and never imposing any consequences. I tell her school is her "job" and there will be consequences if she doesn't work at her "job." My husband and I had a talk about this yesterday--was I being too "hard" on Megan re schoolwork and Math in particular. But I think it's my job to organize and help her. I'll be the first to stand up and cheer when she succeeds and the first to step in when she's in trouble. -- KathyIggy - 27 Jan 2006
Hi, Kathy! progress report:
OK, SKINNER CURVE! I should get this up front, and I hope I will. Possibly the single most important thing I learned in college is that there is a "Skinner curve" showing the effects of pressure on performance. I remember the curve as being a typical bell curve, but I don't know that I was told that. But here's how it goes. Up to a point, pressure — anxiety, fear, desire to win, etc. &mdsah; improves performance. You can watch people do better and better as the pressure increases. BUT there's a breaking point. Once you go past a person's optimal level of pressure, his performance declines. You can watch that, too. You can watch a person unravel once he's passed his 'best-pressure' point. For me, that is a profound insight into human nature — even though, when you think about it, it's an obvious one. ANOTHER THING: each person's 'tipping point' is different. A level of pressure that makes me excel can make another person fall apart. And I have a falling-apart point that I'll hit before someone else would. So far, dealing with school this year, we're past our optimal 'pressure' point, and I can see my 'performance' falling apart. The fact that I can't remember to check Christopher's bindiner — not that I'm great with that kind of detail under normal circumstances, but still — is a sign. The fact that I'm blowing up at Christopher about his science test is a sign. The fact that I can't come up with a possible solution — that I just feel 'trapped' when of course I'm not trapped — is a sign. I'm personally past my optimal pressure point. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
In terms of parent responsibility, I'm back there with "vision therapy." What's up with that? Years ago when I was first teaching chemistry, I had a student (IIRC a junior) who did well on homework and was bright and articulate in class but did unexpectedly poorly on tests. I finally found out that he saw double and thus read slowly on his own. He did well on his homework because his mother read everything to him. -- SusanJ - 27 Jan 2006
I have a great 'pressure point' story. One of Ed's best friends from college was a sports writer for USA Today for years. He told us that THE distinguishing factor between a good athlete — and we're talking really good — and a great athlete is: the great athlete gets better when the challenge is impossible -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Hi Susan — Vision therapy is, unfortunately, one of those areas that's just not 'there' yet, I think. Christopher, apparently, has visual processing problems. All autistic kids have them (I think), and Christopher's got them, too. (So do I.) We did vision therapy for awhile, and Christopher's ability to play soccer radically improved. Radically. The vision therapist told me Christopher is only reading a few words in each sentence; that's all he can get. Here's what he said: "He's very bright, and he's compensating for not seeing. But he's going to hit the wall in middle school. You'll see meltdowns and tantrums." When I teach Christopher math, he doesn't look at the page. He's almost exactly like an autistic kid (the autistic kids in my life) that way. IN FACT, Andrew can look intently at a page of letters — he's far better able to do this than Christopher. With Christopher, I'm constantly saying, 'Look at the page,' 'Are you looking at the page?' Then he screams at me, 'I AM!!!!' And on and on it goes. Ed, who was completely dismissive of vision therapy when we started, is now saying we're going to have to go back. Vision therapy was another realm that was simply over the top for me. Both Jimmy & Christopher were in it, and they were supposed to do 3 DIFFERENT DAILY EXERCISES each and every day, involving 3 DIFFERENT SETS OF EQUIPMENT. And each time we went in they'd suddenly CHANGE THE EQUPIMENT NECESSARY, which meant all of a sudden I was scrambling to try to find where to buy the stuff in Westchester. Plus Andrew 'takes things' and hides them; we can find NOTHING in this house, not just because I'm disorganized, but because we have a nonverbal child who TAKES EVERYTHING OFF OF EVERY SHELF AND HIDES IT SOMEWHERE ELSE. I was so profoundly overwhelmed trying to do vision therapy, and it was so expensive, that I finally caved in and quit. Before I quit I talked to the vision therapy people, several times, telling them that the set-up wasn't working for us; I couldn't keep track of it. They were unresponsive. This is another of those: I'M SUPPOSED TO BE RESPONSIBLE situations. Yes, I'm the mom, I'm supposed to be responsible. But when you've got a parent telling you, clearly, 'I can't do this' you need to make an adjustment. Especially if the mom is paying you an arm and a leg. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Susan Temple is very interesting on the subject of vision. She's a strong believer in Irlen lenses.....which I might look into. She had a student who was completely dysfunctional; just couldn't do anything. She was about to flunk out of the Masters program. Temple got her into Irlen lenses and it changed her life. Jimmy, btw, almost certainly sees double. He wears prism lenses. I can't understand a word Dr. Kaplan says (this is Mel Kaplan, who is the vision therapist we went to) so I have zero idea what Christopher's problem is. Every time I saw Dr. Kaplan he'd tell me that the reason I couldn't understand him was that I had visual processing problems; the reason I 'had to' write everything down was that I was anxious and compensating for vision problems; and on and on and on. As a direct result, I have no idea what's wrong with Christopher's vision, or what I can do with it. I do believe there's something wrong. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Susan one last thing! One of the interesting things Dr. Kaplan said was that as you age, you stop being able to use compensating mechanisms you've always relied on — you no longer have the same 'brain energy' you did to spend on compensation. So problems become more obvious. That's kind of horrifying (or, uh, really horrifying) but I think it's interesting. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
oops, forgot — compensation is probably an issue for kids like Christopher if you're using a fair amount of executive power to compensate for a visual processing problem, then that's that you don't have those resources to draw on to organize your binder, remember your tests, etc. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Rick Every kid is a bit different but twelve or thirteen is when responsibility for their own actions needs to start kicking in. I definitely have to say this: Christopher is a highly responsible child. I'll put his level of responsibility up against any child's, any day. This is a child who helps his 18-year old brother take a shower & get dressed. This is a child who spent an entire evening babysitting the little kids when we had our TRAILBLAZERS meeting. This is a child who wants to do well in school AND WHO IS DOING EVERYTHING HE CAN TO DO WELL IN SCHOOL. He is responsible. What he is NOT is organized. I don't believe in 'moralizing' organizational skills. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
when consequences need to begin to be borne by the kid Christopher has had consequences all his life. Period. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I'm simply not willing to hand this power to a school that is failing to teach math — and until recently also failing to teach reading, writing, grammar, and spelling to my son. The math class is so bad that the ENTIRE focus should be on teaching math to the kids, not 'responsibility for their actions.' -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
12 and 13 are excellent years for that because, as you noted, it doesn't count a whit towards college admission. Not true! As I understand the system here, performance in middle school dictates your track in high school. I'm unwilling to have Christopher knocked out of college prep courses because he doesn't have good clerical skills. Period. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
AND ONE MORE THING! He's my kid, he's going to be responsible. Jimmy, who is severely autistic, is responsible; he's a good guy. We call him a 'good citizen.' Andrew, in class the other day, 'told' the teacher that another child was having a problem. Andrew, too, is severely autistic. Believe me, I raise responsible kids. I raise kids with good character. Character is my job, not the school's. The school needs to teach him math, English, social studies, and science. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
We've never tried vision therapy. You're right--it would be one more thing to be responsible for. For the same reason, we've never tried any of those auditory processing therapy things (like Earobics or FastForward?). I know Megan never does well on visual processing tests. When she took the Leiter IQ test last year, she performed way below age level on the part of the test where you are given a small part of a picture on a card and then have to find his part in a larger picture. She did fine on the first few which were simple uncluttered drawings. But once the page got too "busy" she gets overloaded and gives up. She also loses her place all the time when reading a page with lots of print. The Saxon and Kumon materials are a lot less "busy" than EM. When I make math worksheets, I usually only put 4 problems on a page with lots of white space. BTW Catherine, I like your list. Lists are the big way my husband keeps organized. He has a list for everyday. Megan loves checklists too. We also have a refrigerator schedule (which is 2 weeks behind at the moment:) I am really hyper-organized, but everyone has their breaking point which sends them over the edge. I think mine has been Megan in 4th grade. My Kindergartener seems to remember everything, though, sometimes even when there is no note sent home. -- KathyIggy - 27 Jan 2006
Karen My older daughter's 7th grade accelerated math class several years ago was also pure torture. If my recollection is correct, the teacher had a habit of assigning homework problems and then collecting them for a grade before she covered the material. WHAT??? She gave them homework to do before they did the lesson? How did that work????? She did the homework at home? What were they doing in class? (Were they 'a day behind'? Were they covering the homework from the day before?) -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Karen Are there some other parents with whom you could join forces? I have learned from past experience with school-related issues that there is strength in numbers. This is the course that had the Parent Math Revolution meeting last year, the one I crashed. The parents just went nuts. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
btw, this course has a long history of being torture as far as I can tell. I'm stunned, frankly, that they've put a brand-new, young teacher in charge of it. How can she possibly teach this course straight out of school? The answer is, she can't, and she's got parents going nuts & kids bursting into tears in the middle of tests I'd forgotten that one! On the test before this last one, a child &mdsah; a boy — actually burst into tears in the middle. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Kathy I am really hyper-organized, but everyone has their breaking point which sends them over the edge. I think mine has been Megan in 4th grade. My Kindergartener seems to remember everything, though, sometimes even when there is no note sent home. I just read this! Right — there's that now-I'm-over-my-limit moment..... Unfortunately, I don't usually recognize mine. I'm like those cartoon characters who run off the cliff and don't notice it. They're just standing there in mid-air, still running. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Kathy My husband and I had a talk about this yesterday--was I being too "hard" on Megan re schoolwork and Math in particular. But I think it's my job to organize and help her. I'll be the first to stand up and cheer when she succeeds and the first to step in when she's in trouble. No, kidding! I'm constantly getting the you're-too-hard-on-him message (although that message has become radically attenuated now that Ed, too, is teaching math). The principal warned me not to put too much pressure on Christopher. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Carolyn You know, this reminds me of the press hoopla when 12 year old Drew Barrymore was found to be a cocaine addict. Her mother had basically given up managing her life. When Newsweek or whatever interviewed Drew's mother, she said, "Drew was having a tough time, and I felt she needed her space." I love it! That's what my friend J. was saying about the girl's mom. J. said, 'If she's that independent she needs to move out of the house and get a job.' -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Karen I think part of our failure to act forcefully at the time was that we had a younger daughter and we were reluctant to rock the boat. Our daughter is incredibly sensitive and as I recall, I think we also were afraid of a backlash. Parents feel this way, universally. But I wonder how true it is? Here in Irvington, rocking the boat gets results. Plus there's zero backlash against kids; at least, I've never seen such a thing. We probably have some of the most aggressive, in-your-face parents on the planet, and I've NEVER seen a child take heat for his parents; I've never heard it so much as suggested that a child would take heat because his parents are obnoxious. You know, ktm guest's Comment is evidence of that. He or she is quite angry with me, and furiously angry with the administration, but there's not one word that suggests he or she is angry with the children. That is absolutely standard. There can be all sorts of conflict going on, and there is all sorts of conflict going on. Everyone keeps the kids out of it. (I've mentioned that we routinely tell Christopher 'You have a great principal and your teachers are smart and nice.' I suspect that's typical of parents, too. Parents may be railing at the administration, but they keep their kids out of it.) I'm not going to contact other parents about the math course for a couple of reasons. First, they know they've got big problems with the course. Last year's parents went ballistic; Ed and I have been clear about the problems this year. The math department has obviously been working on the course; changes were made over the summer; etc. As a result of our Team meeting, the teacher is now making further changes. My sense is that she's doing more formative assessment; I wouldn't be surprised to find that she and perhaps the department are actively thinking about how to incorporate formative assessment into what has been a sink or swim proposition. The pop quiz yesterday was a good development. This is the pop quiz she gave on integers. ALL OF THE KIDS DID WELL! That reminds me; I have to send her an email to say thanks & congratulations. She's done a couple of other things like that. Ed has written a fairly long memo to the principal, which I'll post here after he revises it and we give it to Scott; we'll be talking to him more as we go along. When we collect our thoughts, I think we'll suggest some kind of informal committee or gathering — someething along those lines — We're still thinking it through. I'm getting long-winded. Basically, Ed feels that our best role now is as informal.....informal something-or-others. He's an administrator and a long-time professor; I'm a writer who's delved into the literature; plus we're seeing the school from the parents' side. We're a resource, and I think the principal sees us as a resource. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I keep reading about middle school kids and responsibility and consequences. Sure, by the time a kid is 18 he's going to need to be responsible for himself. And middle school probably is a time when kids can start to take some of the responsibility for themselves. But, and it's a big but, you can't pass responsibility onto a kid who has not been taught how to organize their school life. Middle school actually seems like a great time for a "study skills" class (a real one), to teach kids how to start taking more responsibility for the material they're learning. I think middle school is when you start the transition, and (obviously) the transition should be complete by the time a kid goes to college. Every kid is different, and some will be taking this responsibility for themselves automatically. I advocated for myself as early as 6th grade - I was a year ahead in math, but they weren't set up to deal with that. They gave me a 6th grade "supplemental" textbook, covering all the stuff I already knew. After a couple of days, I showed the teacher that I could do all of the problems on the "end of book" test, and they finally found another class for me where I could actually learn some more math (I was competitive and wanted to get further ahead). Obviously, some kids would be thrilled to coast through a year without doing any math. If I had been that sort of kid, my parents would not have noticed, and I would have lost a year of math instruction. That's why you can't pass the responsibility entirely to the kid. They're still a kid. -- StephanieO - 27 Jan 2006
Catherine, after those experiences I'm not surprised you stopped. In fact, I'm amazed you keep going at all let alone writing a best-seller! I know that vision therapy for learning disorders is very controversial. Also that doing anything involving your eyes is extraordinarily stressful. (My mother, who lived to be 91, lost a year of college due to an eye operation and the therapy to strengthen her eye muscles afterwards. She often spoke of how she'd dreaded the therapy appointments.) Can Christopher read aloud fluently? I'm talking about reading a simple story below his grade level but one he hasn't seen before. That should at least give you a clue as to whether there's something significant going on with his visual processing. -- SusanJ - 27 Jan 2006
"What were they doing in class? (Were they 'a day behind'? Were they covering the homework from the day before?)" I think that is what was happening. According to our kid, the teacher did a great job of explaining the material when she did cover it. I think that practice has stopped. I'm guessing her philosophy was this: if the students have tried to engage with the material ahead of time, they will "know what they don't know" when they come to class and then more efficient learning will take place. And, as a corollary, to motivate the kids to do the homework, the "stick" was in the form of a grade attached to doing the homework. BTW, I do not think that approach represented the school's philosophy, nor does it represent mine. I think the art of teaching and parenting is knowing when to use the carrot and when to use the stick. BTW, I personally don't have that mastered yet. And, I'll hold for another day the challenges of teaching a spatially challenged, but hyper-specific teenager to drive. I'm with you on the notion that it does matter what happens in middle school in that there is a great danger that students will just shut down completely if the message is conveyed to them that they aren't capable of doing the work. Then, it is left to the parents or to a teacher the following year to rehabilitate the kids. What is the expression? If you hear something often enough, you start believing it. I am also a firm believer in the idea that "success breeds success." Doing well feels good and motivates us to want to continue doing well. This is where I think Direct Instruction and teaching to mastery comes into play. I have so many thoughts and opinions on this and some of the other discussion topics, and I just have to get my befuddled mind organized to share them in a logical and coherent fashion. I am whole-heartedly with you on the notion that we need to do a better job of educating boys; we also think the culture that "YOUR WORTH IN SCHOOL IS MEASURED BY YOUR ATHLETIC SUCCESS" is particularly damaging to boys. However, based on our experiences with two girls, they face some pretty tough challenges as well, especially if they are sensitive. My brother says that the school environment is even harder for sensitive boys. I think my philosophy can probably be summed up as a "one size fits all" approach to education may be efficient, but it certainly isn't effective. -- KarenA - 27 Jan 2006
New Zig Article: How Scientific is Reading First? posted today at zigsite.com: In her interview with Dr. G. Reid Lyon (1/18/06, Effective Reading Programs Share Common Characteristics, EducationNews.org), Nancy Salvato asked a direct and reasonable question: "What particular instructional programs do you endorse in order for teachers to implement what you've learned through your research?" Lyon's short answer to this question was, "I have never nor will I endorse a program." As part of his long answer, Lyon asserted, "Everything I do comes from my scientific training." If that's true, his scientific training was curious. In his long answer, he observed, "The value of any program is data driven and based on its impact on kids." We know from reports like those published by the American Institutes for Research that there are two programs that have substantial evidence of effectiveness with whole-school reforms, Direct Instruction and Success for All. We assume that Lyon has this information. A combination of these facts would create an argument that goes something like this: Programs are judged according to their impact on kids.
Program D creates a large positive impact on kids.
Therefore, I will never endorse program D.
The argument doesn't make a lot of sense because we assume that the programs an investigator would endorse are the programs that create a substantial impact on kids. We would recognize that Salvato's question was reasonable, something a thoughtful teacher might ask. If the teacher is working with at-risk kids, the chances are 9 out of 10 that her kids are failing. She is failing, and knows that she is failing. She wants her kids to have a chance. So she asks someone who has specific data on which programs create a great impact on kids, and the response is, in effect, "I know the answer, but I'm not going to tell you." [snip] The main problem with Lyon's position is that it is what is called an argument from ignorance. For any program without experimental evidence of effectiveness, the reasoning goes like this: We don't know if program A is effective or not.
Therefore, we'll assume that it is effective.
Translated into a response to the teacher who asks the question about what works, the answer now becomes something like this: "Well, I can tell you this much: There are at least two programs in this group that work, and some that we don't really know about, but instead of identifying which are which, I'm going to treat them all the same because they have some of the same features. So you just have to make your best guess. Good luck." Viewed differently, it's the educational variation of Russian roulette, in which "at least one chamber is empty and the other chambers have some of the features of the empty chamber. Good luck." [snip] Lyon is saying: If a beginning-reading program is highly effective, it has various features: phonics, phonemic awareness, and so on.
Therefore, if a program has these features, it will be highly effective.
No. Programs are effective only if they have been demonstrated to be effective. The features that Lyon has identified (phonemic awareness, phonics, etc.) are global features that do not determine the details of a successful program, merely the details fairly na´ve observers have noticed. In other words, one who knows how to create programs that are effective could design a beginning-reading program that produced horrible results, but that met all the criteria that Lyon specifies. Geoff Colvin and I have written a rubric for identifying authentic Direct Instruction programs. The rubric is over 120 pages long and lists over 40 criteria. All these have been experimentally demonstrated to make a difference. [Ed: we need to get a hold of this rubric] [snip] Thirty-five years ago, a colleague pointed out, "We have warnings and directions for usage on a bottle of aspirin, but not a word of warning about using instructional programs that have not been demonstrated to be effective with children of poverty." Such warning still does not exist and it probably won't occur until the public recognizes that we need some kind of pure Food and Drug Administration for at-risk kids. However, the first step in real cultural change requires a simple resolution that says, "No, kids won't fail. We will consider them FIRST, not as mere victims in the slow development of cultural change, or grist for another effort that keeps commercial interests happy and current prejudices well fed. We will use what is shown to be effective and implement it well. " -- KDeRosa - 27 Jan 2006
Catherine, My apologies for misreading and posting from a misunderstanding. I need to spend an hour in your archives to get a flavor for what's going on. I've watched the development of KTM from a distance and my perspective is colored from my first conclusion: "Catherine ane Carolyn's kids won the "parental draw" lottery and better be able to take advantage of it." I'm pretty sure that the soldiers performance that you mention is predicated more upon the inculcation by caring parents of the concepts of responsibility and duty to others than to a soft and caring attitude. The 'harsh conditions' mentioned will tend (as Hobbes noted) to turn out adults for whom short term personal advantage is the only 'rule of life'. As you are sorting through the areas in which boys are disadvantaged in public education (an artifact that is very young in terms of societal evolution) I believe that the fact that Christopher's cohort (roughly, those born between '89 and '99) has the highest incidence of illegitimacy in the history of the US will have a higher impact on cohort performance than any other. Christopher is also advantaged in that respect. Back to the data mines. -- RickBallard - 27 Jan 2006
Stephanie Middle school actually seems like a great time for a "study skills" class (a real one), to teach kids how to start taking more responsibility for the material they're learning. I think so! So far, Christopher's Study Skills class just hasn't been doing much of anything at all. HOWEVER, apparently she's starting to teach them note-taking skills. That will be GREAT. Christopher's very excited about it. I keep thinking maybe the Mission of our schools (schools in general) is just too blurry......Ravitch says so. She says we need to focus on the core mission, which is academic education. If people stayed focused on that, it might be more obvious that 'Study Skills' should be about note-taking & organization from the get-go. Still, she's starting on note-taking now, and that's great. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Stephanie Every kid is different, and some will be taking this responsibility for themselves automatically. I advocated for myself as early as 6th grade - I was a year ahead in math, but they weren't set up to deal with that. That really is extraordinary. How many kids could do that????? You may be IT. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Actually, Rudbeckia Hirta was put on independent study somewhere in there (was it 6th grade) and she was doing the work! -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
But once the page got too "busy" she gets overloaded and gives up. She also loses her place all the time when reading a page with lots of print. I have a HUGE problem with this myself. PAGE SPLATTER It's much, much worse now that I can't stand to wear my glasses. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Susan J Catherine, after those experiences I'm not surprised you stopped. In fact, I'm amazed you keep going at all let alone writing a best-seller! LOL! Boy, it's true. All that semi-scolding really got on my nerves after awhile. I know that vision therapy for learning disorders is very controversial. Also that doing anything involving your eyes is extraordinarily stressful. It's HUGELY stressful. Amazing. I do believe that vision therapy will turn out to be enormously helpful.....but I suspect we're not there yet. The occupational therapist, at the school, has been tracking the field; she doesn't know what to think, either. My mother, who lived to be 91, lost a year of college due to an eye operation and the therapy to strengthen her eye muscles afterwards. She often spoke of how she'd dreaded the therapy appointments. That's very interesting. Well, that's sure how we felt. Can Christopher read aloud fluently? I'm talking about reading a simple story below his grade level but one he hasn't seen before. That should at least give you a clue as to whether there's something significant going on with his visual processing. oh! You know, that's an excellent point. I 'tested' him on this quite awhile back, when I was starting Megawords, and he was quite speedy. BUT those were word lists. Excellent idea. I'll see what he can do with a prose passage You know what? He's always objected to reading out loud. He doesn't like to do it. THANK YOU -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Karen A I'm guessing her philosophy was this: if the students have tried to engage with the material ahead of time, they will "know what they don't know" when they come to class and then more efficient learning will take place. And, as a corollary, to motivate the kids to do the homework, the "stick" was in the form of a grade attached to doing the homework. oh — you know, it sounds like she was using 'priming.' Priming is supposed to be excellent, but this isn't the way you'd use it.....not with a grade given for how well the child learned when they were 'primed.' -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I'm with you on the notion that it does matter what happens in middle school in that there is a great danger that students will just shut down completely if the message is conveyed to them that they aren't capable of doing the work. Then, it is left to the parents or to a teacher the following year to rehabilitate the kids. What is the expression? If you hear something often enough, you start believing it. I am also a firm believer in the idea that "success breeds success." Doing well feels good and motivates us to want to continue doing well. This is where I think Direct Instruction and teaching to mastery comes into play. That's a great way of putting it.....'success breeds success.' Apparently, success also breeds independence & responsibility, which I hadn't really thought about. But shutting down, at this age, is a real danger (though probably not so much here, where people are hyper-competitive specifically on academics....) -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Ken The features that Lyon has identified (phonemic awareness, phonics, etc.) are global features that do not determine the details of a successful program, merely the details fairly na´ve observers have noticed. In other words, one who knows how to create programs that are effective could design a beginning-reading program that produced horrible results, but that met all the criteria that Lyon specifies. This is JUST starting to sink in for me, and I'm a quick study on these particular issues..... I've been 'fragmented' in my approach to curricula; I've thought about 'features' rather than the one central question, Does it work? Temple wouldn't make that mistake. Really 'getting' this, for most people, is going to take some doing. I'm going to be doing a lot of SPACED REPETITION Geoff Colvin and I have written a rubric for identifying authentic Direct Instruction programs. The rubric is over 120 pages long and lists over 40 criteria. All these have been experimentally demonstrated to make a difference. We need this. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Rick My apologies for misreading and posting from a misunderstanding. You have to watch out around here! The moms will STOMP you! I'm pretty sure that the soldiers performance that you mention is predicated more upon the inculcation by caring parents of the concepts of responsibility and duty to others than to a soft and caring attitude. Oh, sure; at least that's what I'd expect. Who knows if my mom even was right about this (I don't know what she'd been reading) — though I suspect she was. Her point was that middle class kids, who'd been well-cared for, developed a huge amount of ego strength & stamina they could draw on in combat. Ultimately, it's a simple point. A traumatized child grows up to be a more brittle adult. That's probably almost universal (again: NOT SURE!) The 'harsh conditions' mentioned will tend (as Hobbes noted) to turn out adults for whom short term personal advantage is the only 'rule of life'. Good point. As you are sorting through the areas in which boys are disadvantaged in public education (an artifact that is very young in terms of societal evolution) I believe that the fact that Christopher's cohort (roughly, those born between '89 and '99) has the highest incidence of illegitimacy in the history of the US will have a higher impact on cohort performance than any other. I agree, ABSOLUTELY. Fatherlessness is BRUTAL for a child. I can't tell whether it's worse for boys than for girls. But I can tell, just from my own life, that it is devastating to boys. actually....I'll belabor the point Just after Christmas, Christopher was in such bad shape I was starting to get scared, and I don't scare easily, in this realm, at least. He was looking very, very bad. Now he's completely fine. (Obviously I'm new to this age, so I don't have any sense of how much mood-swinging I ought to be seeing.) I can't tell you why, but I know that a huge part of the reason he's fine is his dad. You know that expression, 'has your back'? Christopher knows his dad has his back. I think it's entirely possible that makes him almost 'bullet-proof' where the normal stresses and strains of childhood are concerned. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
Fatherless American by David Blankenhorn best book I've read on the subject -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
I REALIZE I SHOULD ADD (I know I'm repeating myself) that the principal also played a big role in 'de-traumatizing' Christopher. The class switch was a clear message to Christopher that: a) his parents would look out for him b) his principal would look out for him c) the school is a friendly place The math class is going to kill me, and I'm going to spend the next 3 years complaining about the lack of Direct Instruction (I hope we'll get the organization stuff MASTERED sooner than that). But I have zero issues with the school's basic moral goodness. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
"He's always objected to reading out loud. "He doesn't like to do it." I don't know that that indicates anything much by itself. Reading aloud is stressful. You can't read aloud at the speed that you can silently, and whenever you make a mistake, you have witnesses. Until I had a child, to whom I read nearly every night, I hated reading aloud, too. "...I don't have any sense of how much mood-swinging I ought to be seeing." The last half of my 7th grade year and the first half of my 8th grade year, my dad was on a remote (unaccompanied by dependants) tour of duty in Thailand. I remember it as the worst year of my life. And my relationship with my dad has never been really close. (We get along just fine most of the time; we're just not buddies.) Now that experience was compounded by a bad school system (especially surprising for a college town in Minnesota), but at least it ended after a year. I really feel for kids who never have fathers around. -- DougSundseth - 27 Jan 2006
Doug, can you remember why it was the worst year of your life? Did you just really miss your Dad, or were there things going on that seemed just worse without him around? All of a sudden, I would say it started when Ben started school this year, he is a major Daddy's boy. Dad is suddenly more important than everyone else. -- CarolynJohnston - 27 Jan 2006
I really feel for kids who never have fathers around. Absolutely. DADS ARE KEY. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
All of a sudden, I would say it started when Ben started school this year, he is a major Daddy's boy. Dad is suddenly more important than everyone else. Same here. HUGE change. (And Christopher was always crazy about his dad. But this is different.) -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
joannejacob's got a story about a dad suing a school because the girls are doing so much better. heh -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
oh, and here's Dr. Helen who apparently spotted the story first -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006
"Doug, can you remember why it was the worst year of your life?" It was quite a few things all piled up. We had moved from Germany to Moorhead, MN for the year that my dad was going to be gone (in part) so as to be nearer my grandparents. Moorhead is an incredibly insular place, especially for a university town. Fargo-Moorhead has three different four-year universities, and the population of the metro area was about 100,000, but there were people in my classes that had never been more than 50 miles away from the town. They didn't want to hear about anything from other places (bragging, don't you know), which was pretty much all I could talk about. I think I had one friend that year, and he moved during the summer. The schools were exactly the sort that we've been lamenting (this was in 1973, so the problem isn't new), with no algebra in 8th grade, poor science curriculum, though they had a good hockey team and a very good band. (At the end of my 7th grade year, the principal called the school together for an assembly to let us know that we were the worst class he had ever had the displeasure to ... administrate? (Surely not "teach".) I was 12 at the time, so going through all the hormonal issues attendant upon that age. And in retrospect, I suspect I was pretty obnoxious. I vividly remember raging about the unfairness of it all. (It's the raging I remember vividly, not the subject.) While I'm sure it was unfair, I suspect it was rather more unfair to my mom than to me, but kids that age are invariably convinced of their persecution. I rather doubt my dad would have tolerated my conduct; I know I wouldn't/won't tolerate it from my son. (I'm sure the fun will be unending when Alex gets to that age.) And I was also fighting with asthma that was essentially untreated. As you might expect, it's a bit difficult to disentangle the causes of my misery. And it's not at all clear that my misery was especially worse than any other 12 year old. When you're that age, though, it seems a torment created by a cruel world specifically for you. I don't know how helpful that was, but there you go. -- DougSundseth - 27 Jan 2006
In social studies, Christopher is graded on 'artistic expression' — I think that's the term. He can't draw, and his handwriting is horrific (this IS a boy thing; there's no dispute over it). He gets graded down. In 5th grade math they had to create a big project where they were given a certain amount of money to spend on presents, and they had to show what they spent, and add it all up. He did the entire project on his own, start to finish. It was perfect; he put enormous care into it, and picked out thoughtful, sensitive presents for everyone in our extended family — and spent the required sum. He was graded down because the cover wasn't artistic. It wasn't messy; it was the best drawing he could do. He can't draw, and he's never, ever, been taught to draw. (If he were taught, and if he practiced, he could draw.) He was graded down in math because he can't draw. I'm completely against that. -- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jan 2006