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Proposed Law Would Give DHS Power Over Privately Owned IT Infrastructure

Londovir Re:Telling idiots what they want to hear... (300 comments)

Please. I'm a teacher, my wife is a teacher, and my relatives who are far, far older than I am (read "grand" style older) were also teachers. That is such a specious argument it's laughable.

Since we're all teachers in our family, we often speak about how things were and are for ourselves. If I've learned nothing else, it's that being a teacher has become far more onerous a task, with far more oversight put upon the teacher, that I cannot fathom a conversation between ourselves that goes something like, "We're not as held accountable as you guys once were." My grandparents tell me all the time how they used to be able to teach the curriculum in the order they wanted, spend the time they wanted on the sections they could see students struggling with, and so forth. They didn't have proscribed "curriculum maps" which dictated not just the topics, but in some cases the exact page numbers in a textbook they must teach, nor did they have "curriculum timelines" that dictated not just the order of the topics ("you must teach Chapter 5 before Chapter 2 - don't argue, just do it!"), but also the exact number of days you must teach each unit.

In other words, when the students I teach have spent their requisite time on differentiation, if they still have trouble with the derivatives of trigonometric functions, tough luck, sucker - we have to learn integration of trig. Wish I could help you, Johnny, really do, but we'll just have to do that outside of class after school - and I hope you don't get further behind either!

Now, to blame those kind of issues on teachers - as you are doing - is deceiving and disconcerting simultaneously. My student test scores (on my own teacher-made tests, which I worked my way through my master's in education to learn how to improve and reinforce) have steadily declined, even though I've actually become better and more informed as an educator in my subject area. The most glaring reason I can see (beyond sampling error in my students, which is always an issue) is that I have lost the creative freedom I once had 6-7 years ago as an educator to organize and present my curriculum in the most meaningful, most easily connected way possible. In the past, I saw my administrators when they felt there was a need to tour my room, or when I invited them to come, and the district kept its hands off of my teaching. Now, instead, I have administrators doing daily walkthroughs, which is counterproductive to the learning of my students because they [and myself] spend more time worrying about whether or not the student in the back with the cut-off shorts may get pulled out by the administrator for a dress code violation, and myself disciplined because I allowed the student to sit there in cut-offs and [gasp!] learn. I have district personnel who are mandating a progression of curriculum who have no degree in the subject area at all - and therefore no business in dictating how it's taught - but have the authority granted to them by the school board to make such decisions. (Case in point: Try teaching how to apply the Law of Sines or Law of Cosines to solving an oblique triangle before you're "allowed" to teach students what sine or cosine even is. Sure, it can be done, but why?)

The reality is nothing is ever as simple as you portray it. What I've described already shows you how teachers such as myself are being micromanaged to the point of being made automatons. Accountability is high for us as well, especially in our state where test scores are essentially all that matters. Our annual evaluations, and potentially job retention, by law must be > 50% determined by the state assessment. The problem is, the test is a single-day, 3-hour long test. Students can, and do, have bad days. I've personally seen students who were outstanding, 4.0 GPA candidates, and had an especially strong case of the flu, and took the test and failed it that day. There's no recourse for them but to take it again the next year - but the teachers of that student are marked down, along with the school, because of that single test. Admittedly this is a rare occurrence, but you would be naive to presume that every single student will always perform at their true level of ability on a single-day test. What about deaths in the family, or other situations?

What ends up invariably happening, though, is that districts become nervous about these results, so they mandate that schools must include practice curriculum into their schools. This, in turns, leads to knee-jerk reactions of new programs be instantiated, which in turns leads to the need for progressive, formative assessment throughout the year. Naturally, this means a poor student will be subjected to anywhere from 4-6 different testing days scattered throughout the year so the school can get a "snapshot" of their performance. The end result is a student who is so tired of testing by the time the true state test comes around that they are "burned out". The scores end up lower, the school ends up lower, the teachers end up lower, and the problem perpetuates itself while politicians control education without any formal training in education at all. It's not a recipe for success, and it's one which our political society loves to throw completely upon the shoulders of teachers because, quite frankly, it's easier for the common Joe to believe that there's a bunch of lazy and useless teachers out there keeping their kid down than to accept that politics needs to stay the F out of education. After all, if I have power in Washington, do I want my job to go away or some nameless teacher in my district?

more than 2 years ago

Survey Shows That Fox News Makes You Less Informed

Londovir Re:Sheesh (1352 comments)

I'm not saying that subjective questions can't be allowed in a poll at all; however, if you are trying to use peoples' subjective impressions about the world as data to back up your ostensible claim that media organizations are spreading false information, that's a tenuous set of questions to be using.

Look, if they want to ask questions like, "According to the news channel you watch the most, more scientists believe climate change is occurring than scientists who believe climate change isn't occurring," I'd say you're doing something to minimize confusion and also pin that on the news outlets. But when you phrase it as, "Do you think", you're just leaving the door open for debate on whether we can blame false impressions on the media or on the poll respondent. For instance, you can have a person watch 15 news stories in a row about research studies that find no link between autism and vaccinations, but if their own views are very strongly held about it, that may discolor their ability to predict/opine/discuss how they think other people (scientists) may think about the whole thing. Would that, then, make our claims that their false impressions were caused by what channel they watch? No. All the questions serves to do is probably show that people tend to listen to people who have the same viewpoints as themselves, which isn't exactly a new phenomena.

(By the way, the actual question wasn't addressing global climate change being caused by humans, just whether or not it was occurring at all.)

As for the subjective nature of "most", see my earlier post above. Although the word itself has a clear objective definition (ie, "most is >50%"), people's opinions of what it means in the context of a question can easily be subjective. I asked my statistics course what percentage they would feel comfortable using to represent "most people", and in a room of 35 students, I got almost 10 different answers. Are 9 of those answers "wrong"? Sure, by the definition. But, can I fault those people for having their own conception of "most"? Not really. Imagine a police lineup for a robbery suspect. If 10 eye witnesses all walk in, and 6 people ID the robber while 4 people all point at "fake robber #1", how comfortable would a jury be in using that as determination of guilt, since "most of the witnesses" picked the one guy? What about 51 people against 49? See what I mean? "Most" can be open to personal feelings, but "more people" cannot be open to feelings.

more than 4 years ago

Survey Shows That Fox News Makes You Less Informed

Londovir Re:Sheesh (1352 comments)

Funny anecdote: today at our school the students were asked to take a survey about their opinions regarding the educators and administrators at the school. I thought that was hilarious timing considering this post today. The number of questions on the survey: 60. You're right, they gave up around question 10 or so. Who could blame them?

more than 4 years ago

Survey Shows That Fox News Makes You Less Informed

Londovir Re:Sheesh (1352 comments)

Perhaps because I was addressing the parent post that had contended that there was essentially only "one question not provable by facts", when there clearly are questions that are opinion only.

If my conclusion wasn't supported after I looked at the questions, what would have been the point of even posting at all? That makes little sense in this case.

more than 4 years ago

Survey Shows That Fox News Makes You Less Informed

Londovir Re:Sheesh (1352 comments)

Unfortunately, this organization is going to great lengths to try to state that there's a direct causation between media misrepresentations of facts and individuals' understanding and beliefs of those facts. In that sense, even though they are repeatedly asking questions to establish bias on the respondents' parts, they then try to draw connections between which news service those respondents' pay attention to as a means of supporting their thesis. There's no attempt to simply state that, you know, people might just believe what they want to believe.

I agree that nonresponse bias is always a potentiality and doesn't always make a survey more flawed, but my contention here is that in this one case, it may be critical towards deflating their entire thesis. First off, we don't know how many people truly said "I don't know" versus "I don't want to tell you", since this [scientific] study puts them together as one response. That's a bad statistical design. It's important, because if every one of those was "I don't want to tell you", I'd have good reason to be suspicious about the process itself or the reasons why people might not want to say. Plus, "I don't know" could be just as telling because it would almost counteract their contention that people get too much false information from Fox News, for instance; if they simply don't know the answer at all, then how are they getting false info...they didn't get any at all!

We'll go our separate ways on #35. As you point out, survey writing is a subtle art, but I've seen too many cases (especially when dealing with otherwise "clueless" people) that they'll take cues from anywhere they can get them. Since the purpose of this entire survey was to test how flawed some peoples' understanding of factual information is, it's [in my mind] unfortunate for any preamble to signal any position on the question before it's posed. To me, it would have been "safer" to just make it multiple choice, such as "I believe President Obama was (a) born in the United States, (b) not born in the United States, (c) possibly born in the United States, but I'm not certain," or something similar. Maybe I'm being picky, but I am what I am. :-)

more than 4 years ago

Survey Shows That Fox News Makes You Less Informed

Londovir Re:Sheesh (1352 comments)

As to your points:

Q11: What if a person does not file income taxes at all (not even a 1040EZ since their income level is either nonexistent or well below the standardized deduction)? In that sense, it's perfectly plausible that the person would have no conceivable notion of what direction their taxes have gone, and therefore any response they offer would be inherently "subjective" since it's not based in objective fact. I don't dispute the idea that the question could be definitively answered (and I even spoke to that when I pointed out that it is, indeed, factually based), but let's be realistic: if the respondents are picked in an SRS fashion (or stratified, or clustered, or whatever), what's the odds the people picked will all know [correctly] how their taxes have changed? How many people even file taxes?

Q32a: This question was posed regarding specifically Chrysler and GM. The ironic part of it, of course, is that even though you say "none" is objectively wrong, even that interpretation is subject to opinion. GM openly disclosed that the majority of the money they paid back came as escrow holding from the bailout funds themselves, which begs the question of whether or not that truly represents paying money back. Otherwise, I agree that "none" is wrong, but I don't agree that the question isn't subjective since it clearly asked "do you think, in the end, the government will recover" rather than "has the government recovered...".

Q34: We'll politely agree to disagree. "Most" does indeed mean a simple majority if you look at the definition, but the capitalization provided in the poll (their emphasis, which is a bad poll design anyway) seems to lean towards an overwhelming majority, rather than perhaps a simple majority. I asked my smaller statistics class of students about this after I posted it originally and got widely varied concepts of what students considered "most" - some of which is reflected in their programs of study. The science majors held a far higher standard of "most" in this case (some went as high as the 75% figure you mentioned), which perhaps reflects their need to find consensus of data in their own fields of work. Given that for "normal respondents" there is some vagueness of what is being asked in the question, it's a poorly written question at best.

I don't argue that they are "less than desirable", but when it comes to trying to describe correlation (fine) and causation (not fine at all from a survey of all things), desirability doesn't factor into it - it must be dropped altogether. Even if we ignore the obvious confounding variables involved, the simple way to at least remove ambiguity is to rephrase the questions to eliminate confusion on the respondents part: "Do you agree or disagree with this statement: More than half of all scientists believe that climate change is occurring." (Note that I still don't like the question as a rule, but at least I know now that they mean literally 50.0001%)

more than 4 years ago

Survey Shows That Fox News Makes You Less Informed

Londovir Re:Sheesh (1352 comments)

Is every other question a "definite yes or no answer easily verifiable"? I don't agree with that at all.

From the actual survey, let's see some of the questions they asked people:

  • Q8: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama has been handling the situation in Afghanistan? (Subjective)
  • Q8b. What is your impression of what the Obama administration has done in regard to the number of US troops in Afghanistan? (Subjective>
  • Q9. As you know, the American economy had a major downturn starting in the fall of 2008. Do you think that now the American economy is still getting worse, starting to recover, don't know/refused? (Subjective)
  • Q11. Since January 2009 have your Federal income taxes gone up a lot, gone up a little, stayed the same, gone down a little, gone down a lot? (Subjective interpretation of factual change, which is non-defined)
  • Q18. As you may know, in 2009, Congress passed a package of legislation to stimulate the economy, also known as the stimulus bill. Do you think this stimulus legislation was a good idea or a bad idea? (Subjective)
  • Q32a. Do you think that, in the end, the government will recover [bailout money] none, a little, most, all? (Subjective, despite potential objective factual basis; are they questioning whether people believe the companies are obligated to pay back the money or whether people cynically expect no money to ever be repaid?)
  • Q33. There is a system called “cap and trade” that is meant to reduce the emissions that cause climate change. Just based on what you know, do you favor or oppose the US adopting the cap and trade system? (Subjective)
  • Q34. Do you think that MOST SCIENTISTS believe that climate change is occurring, not occurring, or evenly divided? (Subjective based upon understanding of "most" - is it strictly 50.01% or higher?)
  • Q36. As you may know, a new health reform bill was signed into law earlier this year. Given what you know about the new health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it? (Subjective)
  • Q37. What effect do you think the health reform law will have on the federal budget deficit over the next ten years? (Subjective)
  • Q39-B143: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president? (Subjective)
  • Q41. In the election that just took place on November 2nd how often did you encounter information that seemed misleading or false? (Subjective - Likert scale interpretation of what people feel constitutes "rarely")
  • Q42: Do you think that the level of misleading or false information was higher than usual, lower than usual, same as usual? (Subjective)

This "poll" is so insanely poor it's not even funny. As a statistics teacher, I'm frankly thankful for things like this because it's fodder for my classroom discussions as we tear apart the problems with the poll. It's rife with bias (in the statistical sense, not in the political sense), on a variety of fronts. First off, there's potential undercoverage bias, since they "scientifically" randomly choose participants based off of telephone numbers and residential addresses - two types of situations that can typically undercover for bias. What if a person has no phone number to choose (or an unlisted/cell number)? Let's not overlook the simple possibility of people who are currently homeless - perhaps as a result of the economy being quizzed about.

Next, there's always nonresponse bias involved. They selected people and asked if they'd like to participate. From the results posted, it's impossible to tell how much nonresponse bias is present since they always lumped together "don't know / refused" for their data reports. Classically simple way of fudging how many people refuse to respond to a question.

There are a handful of potential response bias situations in the questions being asked, of course. Question #35 deals with people's belief in Obama's birthplace. However, the question is preceded by the statement: "As you may know, some people have suggested that President Obama was not born in the United States." That potentially taints the value of the question, as people who might not have thought otherwise may be inclined to now think it's unclear based upon that information. The same could be said to be true for Question #34a.

As I said, the value of this "poll" is sketchy at best, although from my educational perspective it's a fantastic opportunity to talk about everything that's wrong with it. I'm a little disappointed that university level statisticians would put their names on this, unless of course they are being paid to do so - which is very possible.

more than 4 years ago

Flash Is Not a Right

Londovir Re:Two senses of "closed." (850 comments)

So, what you're saying is anticompetitive behavior is perfectly acceptable as long as there are alternatives? What's your opinion on Microsoft? Are they "demons", or a legitimate monopoly concern?

When Intel was demonstrably shown to deliberately cripple the performance of source code compiled using their compiler for any CPU other than "Genuine Intel", which is part of the reason they eventually settled with AMD, that was something AMD and everyone else should "get the f--k over"? It's perfectly fine because if people don't like it, they can just use something else? Nevermind that many corporations licensed and used Intel's compiler and had their own products possibly reduced in functionality or lost business as a result. They should have just chose a different compiler, right?

Or, what about Microsoft? Sure, Internet Explorer is wired directly into the operating system. Sure, everyone is forced into using it whether or not they want to. Sure, Microsoft just so happens to be the OS on most computers. Ahh, heck, it's no problem - people should just get over it because they can always download Firefox, or Opera, or Safari. No reason to get your panties in a wad, right?

This isn't always about people being pissed at Apple for locking out Flash. And I agree with TFA in that people seem to be thinking of this as a deity-provided right. That's probably the wrong way to look at it. I look at it as the slowly growing and likely dominant force in mobile electronics deciding on their own what's right for the marketplace, and using their de facto power as such to control what happens.

We're looking at 1 million+ iPad units sold in about a month. As other articles state, they are killing netbook sales. They are well on their way to becoming the only viable choice in the market for portable electronic computers - just as they are for portable electronic music players - just as they are slowly becoming for portable phones.

When Apple has that position and leverage, that gives them the power to dictate everything about it. If they deny Flash, they are putting a strangle on a [proprietary] product. This is very similar to Microsoft and the entire Internet Explorer antitrust debacle. Microsoft was found guilty of using their installed base as a means of pushing Internet Explorer above all other browsers (even though choices for users existed), and they were also accused of modifying their APIs to be accessible and favorable for IE over other browsers. They were accused of using their market share as leverage against 3rd party OEMs by binding them into capricious and damaging contracts.

Apple is turning into the same beast. Naturally you can write in their language or make the choice to not write for Apple at all. You have an option...but a poor one. You either write for Apple using what they tell you to do, and address a market of 1 million+ iPads, or you write in the language you want (Flash, etc), and sell to a market that's getting smaller day by day.

This isn't "me me me" crap - this is an erosion of the concept of competition. It wasn't allowed for Microsoft, and it shouldn't be allowed here. Apple is taking away my choices as a programmer who wants to make a living developing applications. For now, it might not be so grim because there are other choices; look to the future when the market is just Apple and that's it and the future is much darker. (Ask the people who were waiting for Courier or Slate to be alternatives to iPad...so much for that...)

It's exaggerated hyperbole to the extreme, but your specious argument is tantamount to saying you get a choice of "death by strangling" or "death by evisceration and strangling with your entrails". In either case, the end result isn't good for you...but hey, quit bitching because at least we gave you a choice!

more than 4 years ago

School System Considers Jamming Students' Phones

Londovir Re:a slippery slope, best stop this nice and quick (785 comments)

At the risk of being rude, are you a teacher yourself in the classroom on a daily basis?

It never ceases to amaze me how the behavioral problems of students in classrooms is, like everything else, immediately the fault of the teacher. Johnny is enjoying playing on his brand new 3GS iPhone in class? It must be because the lesson plan is boring or the teacher doesn't care. Give me a break.

I guess the reality is it's easier to blame everyone else except the student (at first) or the parents (next) for the behavior of their students. Every single class I've ever taught (and I primarily teach advanced elective courses) will invariably have the 1 or 2 students who feel as though the rules and policies do not apply to them. There'll be 20 students eagerly enjoying the lesson, using the AirLiner to share answers with the class on the LCD projector, or competing in our class competitions. They're engaged, learning, and having fun. And then you have the 2 in the back with their Nintendo DSs or their PSPs or their iPhones playing games against each other.

I guess I'm at fault because I was only 90.9% effective at engaging the students. I guess it's my fault that I explained the rules of the classroom and tried to punish students. I guess it's my fault when I followed county policy and had a security guard take their PSP to the office to be returned at the end of the day - and then got accused by the parents of stealing their PSP. (I would give my arm for video cameras to tape my classes every minute of every day!)

I agree that jamming probably isn't the solution here, but in our litigious society, anything we do about it tends to make a sue-happy parent come after the teacher, school, or district. What's your suggested solution?

more than 5 years ago

School System Considers Jamming Students' Phones

Londovir Re:It's not that complicated... (785 comments)

That's a nifty idea, but I know our district has outlawed any practice that involves using grades as a means of disciplining a student. We're not allowed to touch their grades if the reason is anything other than a completed assignment, assessment, or some such.

Heck, we can have a student miss 160 out of the 180 days of school, and we're required by the district to give them every single assignment and assessment they've missed, and give them a grade for it if they complete it by the final day of class. If not, we're in trouble because we're "denying the opportunity for an education." It's the same policy that prevents grading down.

more than 5 years ago

School System Considers Jamming Students' Phones

Londovir Re:I might be too old... (785 comments)

Amen to everything you said!

I teach in an "inner city" high school with a minority rate of somewhere around 65% or so. By definition of the vocabulary word, I myself would be qualified as a minority when I walk on campus.

If I try to punish all of my students for infractions like cell phone usage, cheating, disruptive behavior, etc, it is a statistical certainty that a majority of students thus affected will be a "minority". Still, I have been called a racist by parents at least three times over the last 4 years of teaching. Luckily I've had the support of my administration, along with a fair number of letters of praise from past parents of students that attest to my integrity and equity. It still shakes you a bit, though, to have someone call you a racist when you're just trying to do your job. (Reminds me of this whole Gates fiasco, actually.)

We're also not allowed to discipline students by punishment any longer. It's part of the county-wide PBS system (positive behavior system). We've had teachers written up for using referrals. You are to encourage positive behavior by giving out rewards, and presumably the worst attitude students will magically become attentive learners once they realize they won't be earning a pizza party. Never mind the students who have been caught with weapons on campus, of course.

We're on our umpteenth teaching methodology this coming year (I've gone through Bloom's, to Pioget's, to Curriculum Maps, to Avid, to Kaplan, to Write Score, to I don't give a crap). I've watched as the newest drive is to put every kid possible into my Advanced Placement Calculus course, including those kids who got Fs and Ds in every math class they've ever taken, because the "newest thing" in educational theory now is Kagan learning, and somehow the kids who have difficulty with basic Algebra skills will magically learn by being paired with the "MIT graduate by 18" student. I'm expecting osmosis learning to come next.

I got into teaching because I have a passion for helping students learn new concepts, but with the shackles of insanity that I face every day now in public school I've accelerated my plans to earn my Masters Degree and move on to teaching in the community college (or higher) level. The ability to teach and innovate young minds has been lost to bureaucracy and paperwork, along with constant parental threats. I don't recommend teaching in K-12 any longer to anyone I know either.

more than 5 years ago

School System Considers Jamming Students' Phones

Londovir Re:back in my day (785 comments)

You are partially joking in your response, but you are more correct than, perhaps, you even realize.

I've been a public school teacher at a high school for 4 years now, and to be honest, cell phones are an utter nightmare. The cheating of students using texting to get answers is rampant, well beyond anything that, as teachers, we were never warned about. Students have become masters of texting "under the table", and it has gotten bad enough that I now feel the need to make 12 different versions of a test for the 6 classes I teach a day - versions A and B for each period. I know that if I don't, by the end of 1st period, all of my students in periods 2-7 will have the questions (and answers) by the time I get to them. The "rookie" teachers who haven't learned that realize it awfully quick when the grade distributions go steeply upwards by the end of the day. Even then, with the prevalence of iPhones and Blackberry phones, cheating is becoming even more widespread since students can easily websurf to the answers for test questions. I have to hawk around my room constantly looking for phones under desks. It's amazing.

As a county, we've tried everything to penalize the use of cell phones, to no avail. We've tried detentions (students never serve them), we've tried suspensions ("Oh, a day that I don't have to go to school, great!"), no deterrents worked.

Then we tried getting "tougher". We tried to take the cell phone away from the student until the end of the school day. That lasted about 2 weeks, until we were told we couldn't do that any longer because a parent decided to get a jazzy lawyer and sue the district. They, apparently, were convinced that we were endangering their student by taking away their ability to call for help in an emergency. Rather than fight it out in court (and risk losing, as these things tend to go), the county settled and changed the policy. Now, supposedly, the plan is to confiscate the battery, but let the student keep the phone. Of course, students now carry spare batteries, so it doesn't matter.

We were the school a few years back that had the lockdown that made CNN news, when a deputy sheriff and his police dog were both shot and killed less than 2000 feet from our school. It was a massive manhunt that made national news. We were locked down for about 9 hours, with about (literally) 200 police with assault rifles and body armor, with armored vehicles, and eventually they bussed us out of the school under very heavy armed guard. During that time, the cell phones became a fiasco. Every student with a phone was calling their parents, and every parent was coming to the school to try and get their darling children out, despite the reality that a gunman with 2 automatics who had already killed a cop was anywhere around. The police were stretched thin trying to keep the roadblocks up to keep the idiot parents away. Insanity.

It gets worse then that, of course. I've had cases where I pass back a test at 8am to a 2nd period class, and I get an email from our secretary at 8:30am saying that the students parent called and wants to talk to me about the grade their daughter got on the test. Last year the newest craze was students getting "disposable" cell phones and using them to call in bomb threats to the school. Of course, any time a threat comes in you have to go through the evacuation drill, just in case, and according to our resource officer it can be difficult for them to trace the "disposable" cell phones. Plus, as before, any time some drill does come in, it's only a matter for 15 minutes before a bunch of parents show up ready to check their kids out of school.

I couldn't be happier as a teacher than if they blocked every last cell phone on campus. I don't have a phone in my classroom (very few of us in our high school have one in the room), but we each have intercoms we can use to reach the main office, and we had no communication problems during the dangerous lockdown. I don't need to use a cell phone during the school day, at least not once in the 4 years I've been there.

more than 5 years ago

US Adults Fail Basic Science Literacy

Londovir Re:Science is last on the agenda locally (1038 comments)

I'm an 11th/12th grade teacher over in Polk County. I agree with 90% of the things you said, as I see them over here in Polk also.

We got saddled last year with a new evaluation system where 11% of our annual evaluation is based directly on the percent of students who receive "C" or higher in our classes. The higher the number who receive those grades, the more "effective" you are seen by the evaluation matrix. So...choose between academic integrity and self-preservation of your job. Choose now.

As to your FCAT Science assertion, I would respectfully disagree. Perhaps in the elementary setting (of which I have no firsthand knowledge) the test is primarily a reading test - I wouldn't be surprised. However, there is a fair amount of science knowledge directly tested on the Grade 11 FCAT Science. I teach Physics, so I'm [of course] forced into daily FCAT Science practice lessons, and I've looked at released tests and seen the material that is tested. (I've also "peeked" over students' shoulders as they've taken the real thing - which technically means I've potentially forfeited my teaching license for looking at test questions...oooooooo....). It's not a very rigorous knowledge test, but there's certainly questions on Earth/Space Science, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, etc.

You guys are getting the budget cuts worse than us, but we've heard it's going to be bad next year too. We're probably going to lose most of our Fine Arts programs, probably some Physical Education programs, and many of the A.P. and I.B. programs will be gone. That's what's wrong with Science education today, folks - when money shortfalls cause the advanced classes to disappear. I was gearing up to begin teaching AP Physics next year...but that's gone now.

more than 5 years ago

US Adults Fail Basic Science Literacy

Londovir Re:Merit Pay (1038 comments)

Well, that's the problem, isn't it. You can't correlate things that way. You can't say "Little Johnny is only getting Cs in English" and then declare his teacher sucks, any more than you could make the declaration that his teacher's fantastic if he's getting Bs. You don't look at a single student, you look at a body of students over time. If an English teacher consistently produces an above-average number of well-performing students, and this trend continues over a couple of years, then you can start making at least some sort of preliminary statistical statements.

Thank you! I am a public high school teacher in Florida. I am certified in three areas: Math 6-12, Physics 6-12, and Computer Science K-12. This year has been an epic disaster of a year, and we are having issues with student apathy to a degree I've never experienced in my years of teaching.

As I posted elsewhere in this thread, I gave an exam today to a group of 28 Precalculus students (honors level, theoretically). This was on a unit covering Trig Identities. We've been teaching the material for 3 weeks, and this was the culminating exam. Within the first 10 minutes, I had 7 students turn in a "Christmas tree'd" exam with no work. Within the next 40 minutes after that, I had another 10 students turn in exams that had perhaps half the problems attempted, and the rest left blank. The mean score was a 25 for that class (out of 100).

Now, on the face of it some would say I was an ineffective teacher. Let's not forget that over the last 3 years this same assessment was given to prior Precalculus classes, with mean scores of around 78-89, depending on the time of year (honestly!). Clearly that would seem to show there is some unknown variable at play for this year that didn't exist in prior years. I would argue that, more than likely, I am not the most significant contributer to this scenario; I have taught the same curriculum each year, and have offered the same "office hours" for students to come for help. This year, though, no single student has ever come for help.

Now, the part that burns me is when everyone wants to evaluate teachers based upon student performance. This year, in my district, 11% of my annual evaluation is directly based upon the percentage of my students who pass with a "C" or higher. Digest that for a moment. Can you see something inappropriate about that?

If a student "Christmas trees" my test, or refuses to try it, I can't control that. If a student on my roster is out for 4 weeks due to maternity leave (which I have 2 of this term), and is now completely behind, I can't control that. If a student's parent looks you in the eye at a parent conference and tells you their student is "too stupid to go to college", I can't control that.

But I'm getting evaluated on that? Could someone please explain that to me from the perspective of equity and fairness?

I don't entirely agree with blaming teacher unions, however. I'm not a member of a teacher union since, ironically, I don't feel that they are worth the money I'd spend - at least in my county. Our union regularly gets steamrolled by the school board, backed by the state. We can't strike (unlike other unions), so when push comes to shove we will always lose. The union fought the evaluation I described above to the hilt, and yet an administrative magistrate sided against the union (as always).

What I've always wanted to see done for my observations is something every privacy advocate would scream over: put cameras in my classroom and tape me every day. Seriously. Then, perhaps, you could see the students who are talking all the time (and the times I try to get them to be quiet). You could see the students who are sleeping all the time (and my failed attempts to wake them, mindful of the legal ramifications of touching students). You could watch my teaching methodology, my explanations, my interactions and accommodations. Get a full context over a semester, rather than looking at grades on a report card. And, quite frankly, let parents come in to school and watch video of their darling children as they merit the referrals they earn.

more than 5 years ago

US Adults Fail Basic Science Literacy

Londovir Re:Surprise. (1038 comments)

Another good reason is simple: the almighty dollar.

I was the product of a private school education from 2nd - 12th. (Catholic parochial) The bottom line was my father (and mother as well) were on me like ants on honey the entire time because it was in their best financial interest to do so. The private schools I was sent to were expensive (though not prohibitively so), and for a simple lower-middle income family, they made a lot of sacrifices to send me there.

If I were to screw around and get kicked out (which the private schools had no problem doing since they had waiting lists), my parents would have lost the $$$ they paid to get me in (non-refundable).

What's the difference with public schools? Parental apathy. I'm a public school 11th/12th grade teacher. I'm triple certified in Mathematics 6-12, Physics 6-12, and Computer Science K-12. (/. is like my second home)

Just today I gave my Precalculus class an exam on Trigonometric Identities. (You know, things like the Pythagorean Trig Identity, Cofunctions, etc.) Out of 28 students in this class (an honors class), I had 7 "Christmas tree" the test in the first 10 minutes (including bubbling 25 answers for a test with only 20 questions on it). I had another 10 beyond that stare at the wall for 45 minutes or so and turn in a test with half the answers left blank. The final mean score was a 28 out of 100. Last week the Honors Physics class dropped me a mean score of 47 on a test on Fluid Dynamics. (Buoyancy, Pascal's Law, Bernoulli's Law, Pressure, etc.)

The root problem? Students don't care, and you can't get parents to care either. I've tried calling 3-5 parents on a daily basis for almost 2 weeks, never receiving an answer - parents have even gone so far as blocking our school numbers on their phone. One parent I reached told me that their child was "too stupid" to go to college (so much for trying to support your child). I've also had 2 of the students miss about 5 weeks of this semester so far because they were out for maternity leave (for themselves).

Now...how do we, as public school educators, combat those problems? With all apologies to President Obama, teacher merit pay isn't the solution by a mile. I could have 3 doctorates, be a textbook author, and be a nationally recognized educator (I'm not, of course), and yet the common reality is you can't teach someone who isn't there physically or mentally, who doesn't have parental guidance/support, and who feels that they will simply get by with a basketball scholarship.

more than 5 years ago

ACM Urges Obama To Include CS In K-12 Core

Londovir Re:Yes! Absolutely not! (474 comments)

I agree - up to a point. I don't agree that schools are all doing a miserable job. You know the phrase "garbage in, garbage out"? It really does apply to K-12 students.

I've taught 10th-12th grade for 4 years now at an inner-city style school (59% minority rate, 78% free/reduced lunch), over a variety of Math/CS subjects, including Precalculus, AP Calculus, Honors Physics, and AP Computer Science. You'd think I would have the top of the stack, the elite students, if you will. If I do, it demonstrates the problem with some U.S. Science & Math students in the 21st century: the students at some schools (at least mine) have no desire to put in the effort required to master a difficult subject.

Students are looking for classes they can pad their schedule with that look good on college transcripts, but which require very little work. If it's an AP class, they want the AP teacher that gives out extra credit like candy, assigns 3-5 problems a night for homework, and gives "open book" tests.

I came from a tougher school of thought, so in return I expect work from my students; I assign 1-2 hours worth of work every night, every test is "closed book", every quiz is unannounced, and there's no such thing as extra credit. You should hear the crying of unfairness and cruelty. (The funny thing is for the 4 years I've been at my school, my AP class has had the highest passing rate of all AP courses taught at our school.)

My AP Comp. Sci. course, for 3 years in a row, was filled with ambitious MySpace, Facebook, or other "texters" who thought a CS course was going to be something where we sat around all day and wrote the next "How L33T are you?" quiz. Some thought we'd be writing the next Line Rider game the 1st class. When I tried to get them to understand OOP, or to think of what a Model & View architecture really meant, it blew their minds. A simple assignment (almost pointless, but done anyway to try to get something out of them) of picking an everyday real life object and writing down all of the things it's made of and things it can do, netted me about 20 papers all describing a pencil as being made of lead, eraser, and plastic, which can write and erase. Deep stuff.

You should have seen how well they handled writing a simple "Guess a number" game. Basic IF structures (logic) completely eluded them.

It's not their math skills that was hurting them (although you'd be scared to see how many AP Calculus students I routinely teach who can't grasp working with reciprocals or fractions in general work) - it was their inability or lack of desire to employ critical thinking skills. If it wasn't something that could be put on the back of an index card (to cram the night before) or typed into their cell phones (to cheat from the day of the test), they wouldn't do it.

We have to get past that laziness, that lack of work/study ethic, in K-12 education before we tack on anything else. CS, done well, cannot be learned in any meaningful fashion if there's no desire to use reasoning, deductive logic, or problem solving skills.

I pray it's not this bad at other K-12 institutions around the country, but I'm fearful that it's the same everywhere. It's the chief reason I'm pressing onward with my MA or MS to get my foot into the door of college teaching. I know you still get your share of lazy students there as well, but they might just want to work hard and pay attention, and I won't feel like I'm just spinning my wheels every day I try to teach another young mind. And I'm fully aware that I'm not helping the problem, if I'm even able to, by "bailing" on the K-12 arena, but there comes a point when your work begins to feel like an ice-cream salesman standing in Fairbanks, Alaska.....you just have to move your stand to somewhere you can get something done.

P.S. This year the county canceled my AP Comp. Sci. class and rolled my BC Calculus course into my AP Calculus course as an "independent study". Due to budget cuts, having 12 or less students means the class gets folded. So much for even the wannabe texters...

more than 6 years ago

Court Refuses To Rule On ECPA Warrantless E-mail Searches

Londovir Re:'ripeness' is valid (122 comments)

In the same spirit of respect, I have to disagree with what you posted.

If you read the entire opinion, the following was mentioned:

- The government sought permission twice from a magistrate judge to gain access to the guy's email records. (So it's not a warrant, but it WAS an official court order)
- The government had to demonstrate to the magistrate that the records they sought contained information "relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation" (So it wasn't a blind or frivolous fishing expedition)
- The government was ordered by the magistrate to delay giving notice since the judge felt there was a credible chance of the guy tampering with evidence
- The judge sealed the court orders related to the searches

My point is, unlike other abuses of government warrantless work, at least this one had some measure of judicial review involved. That makes this case different, IMHO, than other warrantless wiretapping and such, and care should be taken to not draw conclusions about either with a broad stroke here.

The court also felt that not only was the case "not ripe" for ruling (which has a very clear and painstakingly discussed meaning in the opinion), but that the guy partially argued on the wrong grounds. They almost suggest he MIGHT have had a shot of having his case heard if he'd argued 1st Amendment rather than 4th Amendment (since he alluded to the idea of a "chilling effect" when it comes to emails) - but he didn't, he argued 4th Amendment.

In fact, from reading the opinion, it seems as though this guy completely "screwed up" his entire arguments. It sounds as though he sued on the grounds of future, potential searches, rather than on particular admissability of the emails that were gained during the prior 2 searches. It definitely was an issue that the guy sought to overturn ALL of 2703(d), for everyone, rather than just his particular case. The court makes great pains to state how they refuse to make a potential constitutional ruling for a general class situation where each person's particulars may be widely different.

I'd say the court did a reasonable thing with this decision, all things considered. The guy clearly should have known from his Yahoo TOS that his emails weren't going to be fully private in the first case - and in fact it was pointed out in his own TOS that "emails will be provided to the government upon request." (That argues, possibly, that the government may have been able to get the emails from Yahoo without any court involvement at all - depending on how Yahoo wants to proceed)

All in all, seems like nothing more to see here to me. Let's focus on FISA, where the real problems are, not on this non-case.

more than 6 years ago



Londovir Londovir writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Londovir (705740) writes "Recently our school board made the decision to block Wikipedia from our school district's WAN system. This was a complete block — there aren't even provisions in place for teachers or administrators to input a password to bypass the restriction. The reason given was that Wikipedia (being user created and edited) did not represent a credible or reliable source of reference for schools. My question is: should we block sites such as Wikipedia because students may be exposed to misinformation, or should we encourage sites such as Wikipedia as an outlet for students to investigate and determine validity of information? What's your opinion?"


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