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Tag: money

3-2-1 For 10-9-16

Three readings worth your time this week.

Following visits to elementary schools in Finland, the 2016 Kentucky teacher of the year wonders “What If High School Were More Like Kindergarten?”. The absolute best idea is the observation of a Finish business owner: “education is important, but learning matters more.” So why can’t we apply the “playful curiosity” approach to learning inherent in most young children to high school? (about 6 minutes)

I’ve playing with and watching the concept of virtual reality over the past few years and see a lot of potential for learning in the technology. However, there is also a lot of hype (some of which is on display in the Google announcements from this week). This article from the BBC offers some good examples of how VR might be used to help people understand places and experiences foreign to them, and maybe tell stories in new ways. (about 16 minutes)

A writer, comedian and “former Googler”1 asks Do You Take Yourself Seriously? Read this piece; then turn it around and apply the concept to your students. How many of them take themselves (and their ideas) seriously? What are you doing to help them change that attitude? Or possibly, maybe unintentionally, to reinforce it? (about 4 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

One distinctive feature of the societies pictured in Star Trek and other science fiction is the lack of money. But some countries here on Earth in 2016 are moving quickly towards a cashless life. Freakonomics Radio takes an interesting look at some of these efforts and asks Why Are We Still Using Cash? Personally I love Apple Pay and think it would be great if every business would stop taking my money. (45:59)

Much of the political discussion about immigration is framed in very stark black and white. But there are many, many different pieces, including the issue of guest worker programs that shouldn’t be included at all. The DecodeDC podcast offers an interesting look at the problems US farmers are having in finding workers to pick their crops, and how Congress is getting in the way with their simplistic fights. (34:01)

One video to watch when you have a few minutes.

Why are most middle and high school students in US schools sent down a math path that begins with Algebra and aims straight towards Calculus? Especially since “[a]t most, 5 percent of people really use math, advanced math, in their work.”, according to the author of The Math Myth. In this segment from PBS Newshour he discusses why students need mathematical literacy far more than that the formal structure of our current curriculum. As a former math teacher and member of NCTM, I can’t support the president of that organization interviewed in the video. (7:03)

The High Cost of Testing

noun_51139_ccMost of the time when I write about the “cost” of standardized testing, I’m thinking of the high price paid in terms of time and focus. All the human and instructional resources that are diverted to prepare for and support the assessment infrastructure in schools, plus the loss of opportunities for students to learn anything outside of a narrow group of testable topics.

However, there’s also the obscene amounts of money involved.

In just one state, Florida,

Agency staff said state-required tests cost $90 million each year. That includes the Florida Standards Assessments, college-readiness exams and others, but not required end-of-course exams chosen by each school district.

I’m betting that figure is just state expenses and doesn’t include additional costs incurred by local districts. It would also be interesting to know how much of that turns into profits for Pearson and other companies that administer and grade the various exams, plus sell a variety of test prep materials to schools.

Anyway, extend that to the rest of the country and you have a large chunk of change not being spent on actual student learning. And there’s more to come as the federal DOE forces new rules on teacher training programs.

The Education Department estimated that it would cost colleges and states about $42 million over 10 years to comply with the new data reporting requirements.

California education officials wrote in a separate letter that the proposed regulations would cost their state alone approximately $485 million each year. The California State University system said it would cost that institution approximately $4.7 million over 10 years to comply with the proposed rules.

While the reality, of course, probably lies somewhere in the middle, it’s still money that’s not being spent on instruction, either at the colleges or in the K12 schools of the states that fund most teacher prep programs.

Even worse, part of the DOE’s new regulations will tie teachers graduating from the prep programs to the “academic performance of the students they teach”. Which will further solidify the testing culture that is already the primary instructional focus of most schools in this country.


Image: Created by Laurène Smith for the Noun Project and used under a Creative Commons license.

Take the Money and Run for Office

If you’re not a regular listener to This American Life (I’m not), you still need to hear their program from last weekend, Take the Money and Run for Office.

Produced by the people behind the essential Planet Money podcast, this is a rather depressing hour about how US congress critters spend their time raising money to run for office (more time, in many cases, than on their actual jobs) and what it buys for those contributors.

That flow of money traded for influence has long since moved from the exception to the rule.

That’s our system. If a congressman went in front of a town hall meeting and said, for $5,000, I’ll sit down with anyone of you and have breakfast. You can tell me exactly how you’d like me to vote. He’d be booed off the stage.

But that’s the case for pretty much everybody in Congress. They don’t even have to say it.

I think the worst part of the hour, however, was listening to the incredible hypocrisy of John McCain, co-author of the last major piece of legislation to address campaign finance, as he whined about a situation he continues to wallow in.

Anyway, spend the time to listen and then pass it along to friends and family. If you teach US Government or American History, play it for your students and ask for their responses.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe one public radio program is going to change anything. But it would be nice if more people paid attention to this crap instead of naively believing the old Schoolhouse Rock version of the legislative process is still the way things work.

Throwing Money

The morning Post tells me that our new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, gets $5 billion from the newly approved economic stimulus bill to support “educational innovation”.

What the article doesn’t do is offer a clear idea of what anyone in charge means by “innovation”.

However, I have a couple of ideas for where to start.

Kill off No Child Left Behind and go looking for classrooms that don’t look like they did fifty years ago, including those not in the US.

And don’t send a dime to KIPP or anyone pushing AP classes as their one and only solution.

Feeling the Numbers

Which price is better: $29.99 or $30?

Most people, if they take the time to think, would say the two are pretty much the same.

However, in an interesting article at the BBC, marketing researchers say that shoppers make those price comparisons emotionally rather than logically.

One theory is consumers just aren’t up to the maths. Dr Jane Price, lecturer in psychology at the University of Glamorgan, says we “tend to put numbers in categories like ‘under £5’ or ‘under £6’ – rather than them representing a value. Shoppers are aware of what is going on, but don’t respond to it because they don’t think logically about how close numbers are – such as £99.99 and £100.”

She thinks shoppers tend to focus on the big denomination – which the pound sign draws the eye to – rather than the smaller denomination: the pence. There is also the emotional incentive – people like to feel they are getting better value for money.

I wonder if there’s any connection between these feelings and people holding on to the concept that buying more lottery tickets with the same “lucky” numbers will increase the odds of winning.

Is this pricing philosophy related to the illogic behind adding 9/10 of a cent to per gallon gas prices?

Anyway, then there’s also the fact that many people seemingly don’t even care about the pence at all.

For consumers, the saving is minimal and the copper coins they receive as change when paying with a note seem to be more of a hassle than a benefit – in 2005, Britons discarded or stashed away £133m [about $265 million] in unwanted coppers, according to Virgin Money.

Virgin Money? Is there a business that Richard Branson isn’t involved in?

I think I read somewhere that the cost of making a US penny is more than the coin is worth.

Man! This post is even more rambling and pointless than normal. :-)

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