Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weeklong NCLB Debate

Check out the weeklong NCLB debate between Richard Rothstein and Russlynn Ali at the LA Times:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Militarization of Chicago Schools and Beyond

Posted, too, at Schools Matter.

George Schmidt has been writing in his brave tabloid, Substance, for some time about the growing influence of the military in the public schools of Chicago. Now the mainstream media is starting to notice, and with Congress lifting the cap on such programs, the urban military school offers an unprecedented opportunity for Washington to develop a steady stream of trained recruitment targets for continuing war plans and other follies of empire.

These new military schools are mostly black and brown, and poor, you understand. Who needs a draft when you can starve potential recruits into the Army? Last week 6,000 people showed up in Cleveland to apply for 300 Walmart jobs. And in Chicago, itself?
In Illinois recently, Masten said, 25,000 and 15,000 people applied at two Wal-Mart stores in the Chicago area, and neither of those is a large Supercenter.

Here's another clip on the school militarization from AFP:

CHICAGO (AFP) — Dozens of teens dressed in uniforms provided by the US Marines stand at attention in the gym of a Chicago public high school as a drill sergeant goes through a list of the day's do's and don'ts.

Bring your books to class. Come for extra help if you need it. And wear your uniform with pride.

"Young men, you think you can get a haircut and say I'm done for two or three weeks. WRONG," Sgt. Major Thomas Smith Jr. intones.

"Young ladies. There's been no problem with your uniforms but there is a problem with your ties. Again, I will go through it again. Wear your ties when you come to my class."

One in 10 public high school students in Chicago wears a military uniform to school and takes classes -- including how to shoot a gun properly -- from retired veterans.

That number is expected to rise as junior military reserve programs expand across the country now that a congressional cap of 3,500 units has been lifted from the nearly century-old scheme.

Proponents of the junior reserve programs say they provide stability and a sense of purpose for troubled youth and help to instill values such as leadership and responsibility.

But opponents say the programs divert critical resources from crumbling public schools and lead to a militarization of US society. . . .

Monday, November 26, 2007

Online Community Organizing Course: Publicly Available (Community Organizing and Urban Education)

This semester I have been teaching an online course: “Organizing for Social Action in Urban Communities.” I have posted the draft lectures for the entire course here, under a Creative Commons license, so that readers are free to use them they wish.

As I note in the “Overview”:

The course is NOT intended to teach students how to be a community organizer. They don't learn how to work with the media, or run a house meeting, nor other practical skills like that. Instead the course is designed to help students learn how to THINK like an organizer.

The actual lectures represent a first draft effort to figure out how to teach "community organizing" to students for whom this is really an alien perspective. The overall structure of the course has evolved in more than five years of teaching in a face-to-face format.

My only request is that if people do read and use this material they send me comments about their impressions and experiences. You are free to post comments to this announcement post. The course is a work in progress, and I will be updating it periodically with newer drafts.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Eduwonkette blog theme of the week: Fordham and Ogbu

In the last few weeks, Eduwonkette has been writing her blog entries in themes. Last week was "Test Score Spin Doctors," focused on the distortions of NYC's Board of Education. This week is Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu's "Acting White" Hypothesis. Because Ogbu's arguments about culture and education, and the 1987 article Fordham and he cowrote, are provocative and the most interesting academic equivalents of the culture argument on the achievement gap, I strongly encourage folks in social foundations to read these blog entries. I'll probably add some commentary towards the end of the week here.

A second issue is Eduwonkette's choice of a weekly theme. I don't know if this is the start of a broader pattern, but if so, it's an interesting (and coherent) way to organize a blog. It's not the only education blog to have tried this (Edspresso had occasional weeklong debates for a year, from May 2006 through May 2007), but for an individual blogger, that's a form of blogging moxie. Most of us are more anarchic than that.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ed Links (Between Disciplines)

From School Links

From The Economist, from broken windows to broken schools, bringing accountability and competition to New York City's struggling schools, imperfect though it is, New York's attempt to improve its schools deserves applause, while elsewhere in America, school reform is slower and messier, but the pressure for change is coming from parents, which bodes well. Research suggests early academic skills, not behavior, best predict school success. Where students can't hug: Draconian bans on public displays of affection in a growing number of schools have parents and students up in arms. Has the concern about harassment gone too far? A review of The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics by David L. Kirp.

Do-gooders can become the worst cheats

Morally upstanding people are the do-gooders of society, right? Actually, a new study finds that a sense of moral superiority can lead to unethical acts, such as cheating. In fact, some of the best do-gooders can become the worst cheats.

Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth By HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr.

LAST week, the Pew Research Center published the astonishing finding that 37 percent of African-Americans polled felt that “blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race” because of a widening class divide. From Frederick Douglass to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps the most fundamental assumption in the history of the black community has been that Americans of African descent, the descendants of the slaves, either because of shared culture or shared oppression, constitute “a mighty race,” as Marcus Garvey often put it.

The Problem With Youth Activism

The institutionalization of activism on college campuses is a key culprit in the absence of visible youth movements in this country.

Review of: Abigail A. Van Slyck, A Manufactured Wilderness: Summer Camps and the Shaping of American Youth, 1890-1960.

Many social and cultural histories have examined changes in American attitudes towards gender, race, class, sexuality and the body, often with attention to prescriptive writings advising parents on how to raise children who might approximate these ideals in body and mind. Yet few historians consider how such many of these ideas were put into practice through the physical manipulation of space and the material construction of social realities.

Even babies judge their companions

Even infants can tell the difference between naughty and nice playmates, and know which to choose, a new study finds.

What Makes Us Moral

If the entire human species were a single individual, that person would long ago have been declared mad. The insanity would not lie in the anger and darkness of the human mind—though it can be a black and raging place indeed. And it certainly wouldn't lie in the transcendent goodness of that mind—one so sublime, we fold it into a larger "soul." The madness would lie instead in the fact that both of those qualities, the savage and the splendid, can exist in one creature, one person, often in one instant.

The Morality Quiz

The deepest foundation on which morality is built is the phenomenon of empathy, the understanding that what hurts me would feel the same way to you. And human ego notwithstanding, it's a quality other species share. While it's impossible to directly measure empathy in animals, in humans it's another matter. Here are some of the dilemmas used to study human morality. Take this quiz to see how you compare to other readers. Then read how scientists are using these dilemmas to study morality.

Voting By Altruists: Some Electoral Implications of Civic Virtue

The present analysis demonstrates that civic virtue can play a complementary role by increasing support for such [redistributive] programs and by increasing the efficiency of public services. Whether altruistic voters are common or not, the analysis of this paper suggests that the altruistic component of civic virtue can play a significant role in making democratic societies more attractive places in which to live. Even a relatively small number of civil altruists can make a difference.

Just Cool: Cellular Visions: The Inner Life of a Cell

The Inner Life of a Cell, an eight-minute animation created in NewTek LightWave 3D and Adobe After Effects for Harvard biology students . . . illustrates unseen molecular mechanisms and the ones they trigger, specifically how white blood cells sense and respond to their surroundings and external stimuli.

Is The Beauty Of A Sculpture In The Brain Of The Beholder?

Is there an objective biological basis for the experience of beauty in art? Or is aesthetic experience entirely subjective? New research uses fMRI scans to study the neural activity in subjects with no knowledge of art criticism, who were shown images of Classical and Renaissance sculptures.

Simple Retro Toys May Be Better For Children Than Fancy Electronic Toys

Old-fashioned retro toys, such as red rubber balls, simple building blocks, clay and crayons, that don't cost much are usually much healthier for children than the electronic educational toys that have fancier boxes, according to developmental psychologists. Children are creative problem-solvers and benefit from a toy that doesn't command the child, but lets the child command it.

Screening Tests To Identify Children With Reading Problems Are Being Misapplied, Study Shows

Screening tests widely used to identify children with reading problems are being misapplied, landing students in the wrong instructional level and delaying treatment for their true difficulties, says new research. The researchers find that oral reading tests fail to distinguish between children who can't understand words on a page and those who have language problems that make it difficult to prove their reading competence verbally. Children with these so-called "word-finding" difficulties can't manage to say out loud what they read on the page.

Student Facebook, MySpace Use Predicted By Race, Ethnicity, Education

A study finds student use of social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace can be predicted by race, ethnicity and parent education, challenging popular notions of the democratic nature of online communication. The study finds less intermingling of users from diverse backgrounds on these sites than previously believed. White students prefer Facebook; Hispanics prefer MySpace. Asian and Asian-American students use less popular sites including Xanga more than other groups.

Money Motivates -- Especially When Your Colleague Gets Less

The feelings an individual has on receiving his paycheck depend critically on how much his colleague earns. Hard evidence for this comes from a brain scanner experiment conducted by economists and brain scientists.

Even Very Low Levels Of Lead Cause Brain Damage In Children

Even amounts of lead in the blood well below current federal standard are linked to reduced IQ scores in children, finds a new six-year study. In the United States over the last several months, nearly 50 specific products, including millions of toys for young children, have been recalled due to excessive lead in the paint, plastics and metal. Researchers note that this study shows the very real dangers associated with low-level exposures, to which lead in toys can contribute.

Trauma Earlier In Life May Affect Response To Stress Years Later

Researchers report that rapes, sudden deaths of loved ones, life-threatening accidents and other such traumas may result in long-term changes in the stress response in some people, even if they don't have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Eating Disorders In Adolescents

A new study, one of the first to examine trends in adolescent weight control behaviors over a 10-year period, found that the prevalence of these behaviors in male adolescents significantly increased, while black females appear to resist pressure to pursue thinness.

Gender Roles And Not Gender Bias Hold Back Women Scientists

Traditional roles of women in the home and a negative bias in workplace support result in less career success for women versus men at the same stage of their research careers.

Model Explains How Abused Moms Decide To Leave

Scientists have found a way to help health care providers, social workers and abused women's families understand the stages that these women go through when deciding to leave their partners.

Early Academic Skills, Not Behavior, Best Predict School Success

Children entering kindergarten with elementary math and reading skills are the most likely to do well in school later, even if they have various social and emotional problems, say researchers who examined data from six studies of close to 36,000 preschoolers.

Neuroscientists Propose New Theory Of Brain Flexibility

Neuroscientists have put forward a new computational theory of brain function that provides answers to one of the central questions of modern science: How does the human brain organize itself to give rise to complex cognitive tasks such as reading, problem solving and spatial reasoning?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book Review of McLaren and Jaramillo...

Here's another review of the new book by Peter McLaren and my new colleague Nathalia Jaramillo. I particularly like the cover art. As I recall, it is a self portrait several times over of the artist.

HT to Peter for the link...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ed Links (Broadly Interpreted)

Do schools kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. With ample anecdotes and witty asides, Robinson points out the many ways our schools fail to recognize -- much less cultivate -- the talents of many brilliant people. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. The universality of his message is evidenced by its rampant popularity online. A typical review: "If you have not yet seen Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, please stop whatever you're doing and watch it now."

[This actually is a pretty fun talk—AS]

Engineers of Jihad

We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both realms. This is all the more puzzling for engineers are virtually absent from left-wing violent extremists and only present rather than over-represented among right-wing extremists.


It’s a general belief that the circuitry of young brains has robust flexibility but eventually gets "hard-wired" in adulthood. As Johns Hopkins researchers and their colleagues report in the Nov. 8 issue of Neuron, however, adult neurons aren’t quite as rigidly glued in place as we suspect.

School Choice in Milwaukee: Follow-up Article on Bradley Foundation Funded Study that found Choice a Failed Reform

[Written by a former member of my Department—AS]

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute's recent study documenting that school choice "isn't a powerful tool for driving educational improvement in Milwaukee Public Schools" is a welcome finding from a conservative think tank that has long championed publicly funded, private school choice.

This report provides profound insight into the obvious.

Findings Could Ease Concerns About Troubled Schoolchildren

Educators and psychologists have long feared that children entering school with behavior problems were doomed to fall behind in the upper grades. But two new studies suggest that those fears are exaggerated.

5 Myths About Art, Age and Genius

"Why do people think artists are special? It's just another job." So said Andy Warhol, one of the greatest artists of the past century. He zeroed in on a myth that lives on in the art world and academia alike. Dazzled by genius, too many people assume that artists are born with mystical abilities unknowable to the rest of us. In fact, many innovations spring not from their creators' innate talent, but from their years of accumulated knowledge. Keep that in mind when you head to an art museum, settle into your seat at a theater or open a new book. Sometimes what looks like creative genius is just regular old hard work.

Social Change Relies More On The Easily Influenced Than The Highly Influential

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2007) — An important new study appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research finds that it is rarely the case that highly influential individuals are responsible for bringing about shifts in public opinion.

Enough to Live On: The case for guaranteed income and the end of the growth economy

If we are to move beyond precarious paid employment and ensure a decent standard of living for all, a critical step in this direction would be the introduction of a basic income—a universal, unconditional income granted by the state to all residents of a country that would meet the cost of essential needs and thereby ensure an adequate standard of living for everyone. Redefining work by providing a basic income for all would be an important step towards both social justice and environmental sustainability.

From Science rewriting book on genetics

From Cato Unbound, James Flynn on intelligence and its implications for education and intervention (and reaction essays). From California Literary Review, a review of What is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect by James Flynn (and more on why dad's not as clever as you). Get Smart(er): You're no genius? Don't worry — you can still beef up your brain with a little effort. Should we talk about race and intelligence? Peter Singer investigates. In DNA era, new worries about prejudice: Research is exploring how DNA explains racial differences, but it could give discredited prejudices a new potency. Science rewriting book on genetics: With better tools for cutting, splicing DNA strands and advances in genome sequencing data, many "certainties" are being overturned. From Graduate Journal of Social Science, Wietse Vroom, Guido Ruivenkamp and Joost Jongerden (WUR): Articulating alternatives: Biotechnology and genomics development within a critical constructivist framework. Getting better all the time: Genetic modification of humanity isn't just possible — it's a moral duty, and vestigial organs seem ripe for transhumanist tweaks. A review of A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life by J. Craig Venter. More on Avoid Boring People by James D. Watson.

Slide Show of C. Wright Mills’s “Intellectual Craftsmanship

[only works in internet explorer]

Risk Of Disability Rises In States With Income Inequality

A massive survey reveals Americans living in states with high rates of income inequality are significantly more likely to have a disability that limits the completion of daily tasks such as dressing, bathing and mobility at home.

Actions Speak Louder: Why We Use Our Past Behavior To Determine Our Current Attitudes

Sometimes it's difficult for us to remember how we felt about a product. A new study reveals that when memory fails, consumers will use postpurchase actions as a proxy. In other words, if we gab about a terrible dinner and a boring movie with loved ones, we might mistake the positive memory of talking about the experience for positive memories of the experience itself.

[Pamela Moss and I found that this was a critical problem for portfolio assessment efforts—AS]

What's In A Name? Initials Linked To Success, Study Shows

Do you like your name and initials? Most people do and, as past research has shown, sometimes we like them enough to influence other important behaviors. For example, Jack is more likely to move to Jacksonville and marry Jackie than is Philip who is more likely to move to Philadelphia and marry Phyllis. However, if you like your name too much, you might be in trouble. Researchers found that found that liking your own name sabotages success for people whose initials match negative performance labels.

Certain Mature Neurons Can Retain A Youthful Form Of Plasticity

It's a general belief that the circuitry of young brains has robust flexibility but eventually gets "hard-wired" in adulthood. However, it turns out that adult neurons aren't quite as rigidly glued in place as we suspect.

Early Teen Sex May Not Be A Path To Delinquency, Study Shows

A new study by clinical psychologists has found that teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex. The study also suggests that early sex may play a role in helping these teens develop better social relationships in early adulthood.

[Study conducted and written by teens, of course—AS]

Little Evidence That Binge Drinking While Pregnant Seriously Harms Fetus, Review Of Research Suggests

There is little substantive evidence that binge drinking while pregnant seriously harms the developing fetus, finds a new study. Consistently heavy drinking throughout pregnancy has been associated with birth defects and subsequent neurological problems. But it is not known what impact binge drinking, in the absence of regular heavy drinking, might have. And this drinking pattern is becoming increasingly common, particularly among women, say the authors. They suggest that further research is required, but in the meantime it might be wise to advise women to avoid binge drinking during pregnancy, just in case.

Consider Supplemental Math Programs For Children

Parents of school-aged children might want to think of giving their children an enduring holiday gift this year: enrollment in a supplemental mathematics program. While it can cost anywhere from $80 to $110 a month, the results of practicing mathematics nearly daily is rewarding and builds self-esteem.

Big Ticket: You'll Spend More Thinking About Your Bank Account Than About Your Wallet

It has long been assumed that consumers are good judges of affordability, but a new study reveals that how much you're willing to spend is influenced by whether you think about a larger pool of resources (such as your bank account) or a smaller pool (the cash in your wallet). Counting calories? You're more likely to eat that slice of cake if you think about how many calories you have allotted for the week, rather than just for the day.

Social Change Relies More On The Easily Influenced Than The Highly Influential

Rarely is it the case that highly influential individuals are responsible for bringing about shifts in public opinion. Instead, scientists find that it is the presence of large numbers of "easily influenced" people who bring about major shifts by influencing other easy-to-influence people.

Brain Matures A Few Years Late In ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern

In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder, MRI scans reveal. The delay in ADHD was most prominent in regions at the front of the brain's outer mantle important for thinking and attention. Both groups showed a similar back-to-front wave of brain maturation with different areas peaking in thickness at different times.

That Friendly Car Is Smiling At Me: When Products Are Perceived As People

A forthcoming study looks at how consumers anthropomorphize products, endowing a car or a pair of shoes with human characteristics and personalities. The researchers find that people are more likely to attribute human qualities or traits to inanimate objects if the product fits with their expectations of relevant human qualities -- and are also more likely to positively evaluate an anthropomorphized item.

Tool-wielding Chimps Provide A Glimpse Of Early Human Behavior

Chimpanzees inhabiting a harsh savanna environment and using bark and stick tools to exploit an underground food resource are giving scientists new insights to the behaviors of the earliest hominids who, millions of years ago, left the African forests to range the same kinds of environments and possibly utilize the same foods.

Men Talk More Than Women Overall, But Not In All Circumstances

A Gallup poll recently confirmed that men and women both believe that it is women who are most likely to possess the gift of gab. Some even believe that women are biologically built for conversation. This widespread belief is challenged by new research. Researchers found a small but statistically reliable tendency for men to be more talkative than women overall. With strangers, women were generally more talkative when it came to using speech to affirm her connection to the listener, while men's speech focused more on an attempt to influence the listener.

Male And Female Adolescents Equally Victims Of Physical Dating Violence, Study Shows

Physical dating violence (PDV) affects almost one in every 11 adolescents, according to new research. The study, which looked at data from the 2005 National Youth Risk Behavior Study, also found that contrary to common general perception, males and females equally report being victims of PDV.

Children's Peer Victimization -- A Mix Of Loyalty And Preference

New research into childhood prejudice suggests that loyalty and disloyalty play a more important role than previously thought in how children treat members of their own and other groups. A study into the 'black sheep effect,' shows that children treat disloyalty in their own group more harshly than disloyalty within different groups.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Model of Student Engagement

(Cross-posted at Technopaideia)

I have been reading* a book recently in preparation of a book review for the Journal of Philosophy of Education. The book, by my good friend David Granger, is John Dewey, Robert Pirsig, and the Art of Living. While some of the book gets mired in somewhat arcane issues of interest primarily to scholars, it is an exceptionally well-written book, with some keen insights into the nature of nature, the arts, and education that might have broader appeal.

I've been paying particular attention to what the book has to say about the dispositions or attitudes of students who are "wholly" engaged in learning. John Dewey describes "aesthetic experience" as experiences with a special quality that marks them off as aesthetic; this special quality often involves some kind of "consummation" in which the various parts and aspects of a situation come together in a satisfying or at least memorable way. People involved in aesthetic experiences often exhibit certain attitudes or dispositions with regard to the experience. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig illustrates these attitudes and dispositions in his description of a "high quality" mechanic at work on motorcycle maintenance. As I was reading Granger's summary of Pirsig's descriptions, I was struck by the similarities between the attitudes and dispositions of high quality mechanics and the Technology in Education students I have worked with who seem particularly engaged in and committed to the quality of what they are working on.

In our TIE program, we often assign our students with projects that require creation of some product such as a web site or hypermedia project. Our projects invariably involve a rubric spelling out the minimal requirements but also require the students to create something that can be used within their particular professional setting, such as their second grade classroom, high school English classes, or school- and district-wide professional development needs. These projects exemplify the kind of authentic tasks and situated inquiry that epitomize the best forms of engaged learning based on constructivist learning theories.

The projects also involve a situation often found in the process of creating art objects: an iterative interaction between a medium or media (the "material") and the plans or ideal ends (the "vision") of the artist. Motorcycle mechanics must pay particular attention to the machine sitting in front of them, and of the qualities and affordances of the materials with which parts and systems are constructed. TIE students must come to see the possibilities and limitations afforded by a particular piece of software or digital medium, and work creatively to figure out how to make their plans come to fruition. The back-and-forth between material and vision, or between medium and ideal, is intrinsic to any creative endeavor, and it requires at a minimum that the creator pay attention to the medium and how it responds to attempts to shape it (or make it run better, in the case of the mechanic).

Such attention requires certain attitudes and dispositions on the part of the creator, mechanic, or student. First and foremost, is a willingness to care about the quality of the product. Such a willingness implies also a a willingness or make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes and push forward rather than being discouraged or dissuaded from the ideal end or ends being pursued. This implies an attitude toward the "self" of the creator/mechanic/student--an openness to personal or professional growth in which the present self doesn't "get in the way" of the emergence of a newer, more competent and creative new self.

What I'm saying is that even the most mundane creative endeavor requires a certain kind of "learning attitude" or set of character traits that involves openness to transformation or at least change in the person, as well as in the medium. Thus, even a "technology in education" student, to be successful in learning not only technical skills but curriculum design and development means a kind of moral or spiritual stance with regard to one's self. Students who come to the class expecting to maintain their old selves while "creating" technology projects will either produce mediocre work or will find themselves challenged in the course of their program. Such challenges are intrinsic to learning of all kinds, whether learning to care for someone, learning to maintain a motorcycle, or learning how to build curriculum webs.


In response to Dr. Horn's post...

Reducing the “achievement gap” to what goes on inside of schools has proven to be an effective way for policy makers to ignore all of the other “gaps” outside of America’s classrooms.

While researcher after researcher has shown that outside influences contribute to student performance and achievement, proponents of high-stakes, standardized reforms continue to press for more “rigor,” as if harder work alone will mitigate every outside factor influencing children’s lives.

Rather than focusing exclusively on the “achievement gap,” policy makers and educational reformers might consider policies that help reduce other “gaps” that exist within our country. Gaps that could be narrowed in order to improve the lives and schooling of all students include but are not limited to:

The incarceration gap, where six times as many African Americans are behind bars compared to their white counterparts;

The homeowner gap, where 72.7% of white Americans own their homes compared to 48.2% of African Americans;

The healthcare gap, where 71.4% of white Americans are insured compared to 53.9% of African Americans;

The earnings gap, where white Americans average over $20,000 more a year than African Americans;

The poverty rate gap, where 8.7% of white Americans live at or below the poverty line while 24.7% of African Americans do so;

The unemployment gap, where 5.7% of white Americans are unemployed while 13.2% of African Americans are without work;

The happiness gap, where 72% of white youths say they are happy with life in general compared to 56% of their African American counterparts;

The murder gap, where 49% of murder victims in the United States are African Americans, who make up 13% of the population.

Close one of these and I warrant the "achievement gap" shrinks.

Or, if I may be snarky for a moment...privatize public schools and hold our breath until the market closes these gaps for us...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Faculty Scholar Productivity

For those interested in keeping up with the Jones, or at least wanting to know what they are doing, along comes another ranking system. This one, interesting enough, measures faculty scholar productivity.

Developed by Academic Analytics, it purportedly measures faculty productivity. As stated on their website:

The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index™ (FSP Index) is a method for evaluating
doctoral programs at Research Universities (across all Carnegie research
classifications), based on a set of statistical algorithms developed by Lawrence
Martin, Ph.D. and Anthony Olejniczak, Ph.D.. The FSP Index measures the annual
productivity of faculty on several factors including:
Publications (books and journal articles)
of journal publications
Federal Research
Awards and Honors

The Chronicle has a searchable database. Here’s the listing for foundations of education from the company’s website.

Foundations of Education
· U. Michigan - Ann Arbor (Educational Foundations)
· NYU (Sociology of Education)
· Teachers College - Columbia U. (Cognitive Studies in Education)
· Syracuse U. (Cultural Foundations of Education)
· U. Oklahoma (History, Philosophy and Social foundations)
· SUNY Buffalo (Social and Philosophical Foundations)
· Auburn U. (Educational Foundations)
· U. Iowa (Social Foundations of Education)
· Indiana U. - Bloomington (History, Philosophy and Comparative Education)
· U. Utah (Education, Culture and Society)

Check out the specifics on the Chronicle website to see book publications, articles, citations, etc. across lots of disciplines and subfields. Be careful, though, with your data analysis. The numbers represent the “z-score” (“a statistical measure (in standard deviation units) that reveals how far and in what direction a value is from the mean”), and NOT the actual number of books, publications, etc.

Work Hard, Be Nice, and Other Lies My KIPP Teacher Told Me

For white philanthropists, the major appeal of the KIPP charter chain gang schools is the non-stop behavioral control system aimed at producing compliant worker bees who learn to internalize any real or potential shortcomings as evidence of individual weakness or failure. If things don't work out, then, as the KIPP brainwashers promise, then who is to blame? This is not a new pedagogical approach--it was used successfully at Hampton Institute in the late 19th Century to train a generation of black teachers like Booker T. Washington, who would become complicit in their own subjugation and that of their brothers and sisters.

For black parents, the KIPP appeal is the promise that for those who "work hard, be nice," there is a new world of opportunity waiting to embrace their efforts. Hope, however groundless, remains the only alternative to despair.

New studies by Pew and reported in WaPo show some disturbing realities that are troubling at least, even though they are likely to be ignored in the keep-on-the-sunny-side world of those who have been KIPP-notized.

A couple of clips here:

Nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults, according to a new study -- a perplexing finding that analysts say highlights the fragile nature of middle-class life for many African Americans.

Overall, family incomes have risen for both blacks and whites over the past three decades. But in a society where the privileges of class and income most often perpetuate themselves from generation to generation, black Americans have had more difficulty than whites in transmitting those benefits to their children.

Forty-five percent of black children whose parents were solidly middle class in 1968 -- a stratum with a median income of $55,600 in inflation-adjusted dollars -- grew up to be among the lowest fifth of the nation's earners, with a median family income of $23,100. Only 16 percent of whites experienced similar downward mobility. At the same time, 48 percent of black children whose parents were in an economic bracket with a median family income of $41,700 sank into the lowest income group.

. . . .

Overall, family income of blacks in their 30s was $35,000, 58 percent that of comparable whites, a gap that did not surprise researchers. Startling them, however, was that so many blacks fell out of the middle class to the bottom of the income distribution in one generation.

Ronald B. Mincy, a Columbia University sociologist who has focused on the growing economic peril confronted by black men and who served as an adviser on the Pew project, said skeptical researchers repeatedly reviewed the findings before concluding they were statistically accurate.

"There is a lot of downward mobility among African Americans," Mincy said. "We don't have an explanation."

Pew hopes to develop some answers in future reports in its series on economic mobility. Reports scheduled to be released early next year will probe, among other things, the role of wealth and education in income mobility.

Mincy and others speculated that the increase in the number of single-parent black households, continued educational gaps between blacks and whites and even racial isolation that remains common for many middle-income African Americans could be factors.

"That's a stunner," said Orlando Patterson, a Harvard University sociologist, when told about the Pew finding. "These kids were middle class, but apparently their parents did not have the cultural capital and connections to pass along to them."

Another reason so many middle-class blacks appear to be downwardly mobile is likely the huge wealth gap separating white and black families of similar incomes. For every $10 of wealth a white person has, blacks have $1, studies have found.

"We already knew that downward mobility was much more likely for blacks," said Mary Pattillo, a Northwestern University sociologist who studies the black middle class. "But this is an even bigger percentage drop than I have seen elsewhere. That's very steep."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Worries About Prejudice…And Old Worries About Poor Understanding of Race

This is in response to a front-page Sunday NY Times article which I found maddeningly imprecise. The journalist confuses the notion of race so many times through the different perspectives that the average reader can only continue to assume that there is such a thing as a fixed and genetic race.

Let me, just because I can’t stand imprecision about this, make a few points. While I am not a geneticist or a physical anthropologist, there are enough fallacies to sink this article. At the heart of the confusion is that she uses two different notions of race seemingly interchangeably, when only one of them is accurate: the first (and correct) notion is that certain groups of people have certain geographic origins, what she correctly referred to as “continental groups.” Such groupings, over tens of thousands of years fostered, amongst other things, divergence of characteristics due to random mutations in isolated populations (if isolated can be used in the sense of continental isolation) and to the fact that these isolated populations most likely had slightly different genetic patterning already based on their divergent wanderings out of Africa. The second (incorrect) notion is that such groupings constitute a coherent, monolithic, and stable “race” such as Caucasians, Asians, etc. Thus when Amy Harmon begins the article by suggesting that DNA can explain the differences of distinct groups of human beings – e.g., the fact that some populations have lighter or darker skin; the fact that Asians sweat less; the fact that West Africans have different resistance to certain diseases – she is conflating the two ideas to suggest that genetic markers equals race. As she states, “genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA.” The rest of the article is then an attempt to deal with the (completely false problem) of how scientists and non-scientists have to then deal with explaining away what seems to lay-people as scientific proof for the genetic difference of races. The most volatile aspect of this is the tired issue of so-called linkages between race and IQ. See the Bell Curve Wars among the thousands of books, articles, web sites, etc for a refutation of this fallacious claim.

But if the journalist had not made the initial conflation, and had just stuck with the facts that different genes in peoples of different geographic origins had different outcomes (disease resistance, darker skin, etc.) all of this hand-wringing would have been moot. All genes are independent of each other. The only reason that we falsely believe that some genes are aligned (e.g., African-Americans have darker skin, fuller lips, curlier hair, etc.) is due to the long-term continental isolation of populations tens of thousand of years ago.

Harmon even quotes several scholars who point out the overwhelming influence of environment and the socially constructed nature of our racial classifications, but these ideas slide off of her just like they do for the student (cited at the end of the article) who now embraces her African-American heritage and goes to a Kwanzaa festival after finding 9% of her DNA is of that West African ancestry.

Let me be clear: of course people make judgments on racial features; of course there is still covert and overt racism even if no such thing as race exists (in a genetic sense); of course racial issues are still volatile and difficult to discuss. But the basic point is that race is not genetic. Certain characteristics are of course genetically based. But these are two very, very different points. And such sloppy reporting only perpetuates our inability as a society to address these complex matters.

More Ed Links: Suffering Children: The Effects of Trauma on Learning, or, Another Reason to Question the Field of Education’s Narrow Focus on Pedagogy

Note: the point is not that traumatized children can't learn. But the effects of trauma create yet another barrier and challenge (on top of other basics like HUNGER) that too many inner-city children, in particular, have to overcome.

How can we expect teachers to respond to the deep needs of these suffering children in overcrowded classrooms? How can we hope to solve the "education" problem if we don't address the effects of trauma?

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

“An anxiety disorder associated with serious traumatic events and characterized by such symptoms as survivor guilt, reliving the trauma in dreams, numbness and lack of involvement with reality, or recurrent thoughts and images.”

How Many “At-Risk” Children Develop PTSD?

Rates of PTSD are much higher in children and adolescents recruited from at-risk samples. The rates of PTSD in these at-risk children and adolescents vary from 3 to 100%. For example, studies have shown that as many as 100% of children who witness a parental homicide or sexual assault develop PTSD. Similarly, 90% of sexually abused children, 77% of children exposed to a school shooting, and 35% of urban youth exposed to community violence develop PTSD.

How Does PTSD Affect These Children?

In one study of children in foster care, 64% who had experienced sexual abuse had PTSD, and 42% who had experienced physical abuse fulfilled the PTSD criteria. Moreover, 18% of the children who were not abused also met PTSD criteria, presumably because they had witnessed violence. . . . .

In addition to the symptoms of numbing, hyperarousal, and recollections of the event that adults experience, children often become unable to participate in the normal developmental experiences of childhood, such as visiting friends and participating in after-school activities. In addition, the quality of schoolwork is likely to be significantly compromised. The compromised ability to participate in the normal developmental experiences of childhood has far-ranging impact, even when and if the initial underlying symptoms that are the basis for diagnosing PTSD are resolved.

Furthermore, a host of emotional and behavioral problems frequently arise as a result of PTSD and are not part of the criteria for categorical diagnosis. These include disruptive behavior disorders, eating disorders, sexual acting out, other risk-taking activities, depression, the full range of anxiety disorders, dissociation, mood lability, violence, and difficulty concentrating.

More Effects on Achievement and Young Brains:

This new understanding of the way childhood trauma affects memory and the brain has important implications for public health policy. One example would be the case of inner-city children who have witnessed violent crimes in their neighborhoods and families. If this kind of stress can cause damage to brain areas involved in learning and memory, it would put these children at a serious academic disadvantage in ways and for reasons that programs such as Head Start may be unable to address. Studies confirm this: in war-torn Beirut, traumatized adolescents with PTSD, as compared to non-traumatized adolescents who were without PTSD, lagged behind in academic achievement.28

Effects on Inner-city Adolescent Girls, in Particular:

Most inner-city adolescent girls have been exposed to some kind of trauma and most have experienced psychological distress as a result, according to a study by researchers at the National Center for PTSD and their colleagues. Many of these girls go on to develop full or partial post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a disorder that can result in poor quality of life for inner-city youth. . . .

  • 85.5% witnessed community violence
  • 55.5% witnessed shootings
  • 38.9% witnessed stabbings
  • 13.3% witnessed homicides
  • 4.5% were shot or stabbed themselves
  • 36% used weapons
  • 24% had been arrested
  • 20% had spent time in jail
  • 67.7% heard about friend or family homicide
  • 32% witnessed physical abuse at home
  • 16% experienced physical abuse at home
  • 11% experienced sexual abuse at home
  • 30% experienced sexual abuse outside of home
  • 10% had been raped
  • 13% could be diagnosed with current PTSD
  • 11% could be diagnosed with partial PTSD

Study of 113 Inner-City Children:

The author of the Philadelphia study, Hallam Hurt, M.D., Chair of the Neonatology Division at Albert Einstein Medical Center (Philadelphia), followed 113 inner-city children from birth until they were seven years old. . . .

By age seven, 74 percent of the children in the study had heard gunfire and 13 percent had witnessed a shooting or stabbing in their own home. 60 percent reported that they worry some or much of the time that they may get killed or die; 20 percent sometimes wished that they were dead; 19 percent had seen a dead body outside their homes.

Even more alarming, children exposed to violence suffered from a variety of personal problems and performed poorly in school.

"This fits," according to Dr. Bremner, "into the context of a range of studies -- both in animals and humans -- showing that stress can have a deleterious effect on brain systems involved in memory. This kind of damage may well underlie difficulties with new learning and cognition that cause poor academic performance in these children." It may also mean that helping these children lead better lives may not be as simple as removing them from the stressful environment.

Effects on the Brain More Broadly: An Explanation of Why PTSD is So Difficult to Treat

Findings show how trauma disables normal brain functioning and highlight deficits in basic mechanisms of learning and memory. Recent findings also show that a common neurological basis explains altered emotional responses in veterans with PTSD, and that fear learning caused by trauma is different from other types and may explain why it is more difficult to treat.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ed Links

The Science Education Myth

Forget the conventional wisdom. U.S. schools are turning out more capable science and engineering grads than the job market can support. [AS: Like I said, education doesn’t create jobs.]

An Ounce of Prevention

A social program that works. Where's the funding?

Gangland USA

Map of gangs across America.

Policy brief links education to public safety

According to the Institute, the states that invest more in education have lower rates of violent crime and incarceration. Other briefs deal with the intersection of policy with housing, employment, and drug treatment with safety and crime rates.

From Rethinking commonsense psychology

I feel your pain: New proof of "mirror neurons" explains why we experience the grief and joy of others, and maybe why humans are altruistic — but don't call us Gandhi yet. Vilayanur Ramachandran explores how brain damage can reveal the connection between the internal structures of the brain and the corresponding functions of the mind. : New research shows how the prefrontal cortex handles the work of associating numerals with matching quantities. More and more on Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought. A review of Rethinking Commonsense Psychology: A Critique of Folk Psychology, Theory of Mind and Simulation by Matthew Ratcliffe. A review of A History of Social Psychology: From the Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment to the Second World War by Gustav Jahoda.

Your Office? Undeserving Bosses Prefer Incompetent Employees

Executives who think they do not deserve their position tend to work among incompetent employees to justify themselves, according to new research. Qualified people prefer to work with competent and sociable partners in jobs that imply responsibility. However, persons who think they are unable to hold a specific job try to work with less competent and sociable partners. Researchers warn that people who have power do not always exercise it properly.

Why Poor Kids May Make Sicker Adults

Scientists have known for years that people living in poverty have poorer health and shorter lifespans than the more affluent. Now researchers have identified several key mechanisms in 13-year-olds that may help explain how low socioeconomic status takes its toll on health.

Why Teens Are Such Impulsive Risk-takers

Teenagers and adults often don't see eye to eye, and new brain research is now shedding light on some of the reasons why. Although adolescence is often characterized by increased independence and a desire for knowledge and exploration, it also is a time when brain changes can result in high-risk behaviors, addiction vulnerability, and mental illness, as different parts of the brain mature at different rates. Recent imaging studies in humans show that brain development and connectivity are not complete until the late teens or early twenties.

Benefits Of Online Interaction For Teens Outweigh Danger, Professor Says

Media reports warn of online predators, hate groups and other 'digital dangers' lurking in online social spaces, and those dangers are not to be taken lightly, says one educational psychology professor. "But we may do adolescents a disservice when we curtail their participation in these spaces, because the educational and psychosocial benefits of this type of communication can far outweigh the potential dangers," according to new research.

Program Reduces Weight Gain In Young African-American Girls

A community-based weight control program has succeeded in reducing the prevalence of overweight children for two years. Changes in dietary intake, particularly in the reduction of consumption of sweetened beverages (e.g., soda) made the biggest difference. The girls did not appear to significantly increase their physical activity, which suggests that even without increased exercise, a proper diet can control weight gain in high-risk young girls.

Mirror, Mirror In The Brain: Mirror Neurons, Self-understanding And Autism Research

A new class of brain cells -- mirror neurons -- are active both when people perform an action and when they watch it being performed. Some scientists speculate that a mirror system in people forms the basis for social behavior, for our ability to imitate, acquire language, and show empathy and understanding. It also may have played a role in the evolution of speech. Mirror neurons were so named because, by firing both when an animal acts and when it simply watches the same action, they were thought to "mirror" movement, as though the observer itself were acting.

Non-maternal Care Linked To Reduced Physical Aggression In Children Of Mothers With Less Education

Among children of mothers with low education levels, those who receive regular care from other adults during preschool years may be less likely to have problems with physical aggression, according to a new article.

Brain Chemical Underpins Social Interaction, And Why People Make Irrational Decisions

New research from the burgeoning field of neuroeconomics examining how people place value on money and other items is helping scientists to decipher how and why people make the decisions they do. Imaging studies of people experiencing real financial losses show activity in brain areas related to processing emotions, a finding that may account for the irrational behavior of financial professionals in high-risk settings. Additional imaging work shows that the same neural network responsible for rationally evaluating risky opportunities is also responsible for the irrational behavior of decision-makers when they face ambiguous situations.

Asthma Linked To Depressive Disorders, Study Suggests

Young people with asthma are about twice as likely to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders than are children without asthma, according to a new study. Previous research had suggested a possible link in young people between asthma and some mental health problems, but this study is the first showing such a strong connection.

Teens Who Smoke Marijuana But Not Tobacco Are Different From Other Teen Groups

A Swiss study suggests that teens who use only cannabis appear to function better than those who also use tobacco, and are more socially driven and have no more psychosocial problems than those who abstain from both substances, according to a new report.

Equation can spot a failing neighbourhood [AS: behind pay wall]

If you worry that your neighbourhood is going downhill, there could be a way to spot the signs before it happens. You might unwittingly be living in an area designed to foster crime, deprivation and ghettoisation, according to two mathematicians who have developed a method to spot hidden areas of geographical isolation in the urban landscape.