My Photo

March 2005

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Blog powered by Typepad

« Disguised cheaters and prating mountebanks | Main | Rant Reorganization »

Friday, November 12, 2004



YES! This is exactly what I--a humble statistician--have been looking for. Parts 2, 3, and 4, please.

Dr. Cookie

Professor, is this really rhetoric? I mean in the old fashioned sense. Logic set forth in rules of language, in order to persuade, offer evidence, etc.

In my quest to understand how to teach reading comprehension, sometimes I wonder if it's really just old-fashioned rhetoric with a new name.

Zippy The Pinhead

Professor Plum:

No offense intended, but back in the day when I suffered through all those silly credential classes, one of my main beefs with the professors who taught them was that most-- if not all of them-- were ivory-tower types who had no real experience teaching in the K-12 arena. In other words, they were basically pushing theories which they had never themselves tried to implement. So I'm curious to know if you have any personal experience "from the trenches," as it were, or not.

When I did my tour of duty in K-12, which consisted of a semester at a middle school, followed by three years at a high school, I found that such work could be profoundly depressing. I came to believe that the public schools-- at least in the district where I worked-- had passed the point of no return. In other words, fighting over curriculum at that point was analogous to fighting over how to best re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

When I read articles like the one which follows, I remember my days working in K-12, and I remember feeling like my own efforts to teach well and make demands on my students were basically a waste of time. As I recall, in most of my classes, I spent probably 75-90% of my time and energy dealing with a small minority of kids who just didn't want to be there.


Saturday, November 13, 2004
Fires ravage limping Baltimore schools
Number of small blazes set by students rises. Some say the arson is evidence of larger problems.

The Associated Press

BALTIMORE – Four firefighters and a firetruck are stationed outside Walbrook High School every day. The chances are good they'll be needed.

Two months into the school year, Baltimore's public schools have been hit with at least 76 fires - most of them small, most of them set by students - compared with 168 in all of last year. Walbrook High alone has reported about 20 blazes, versus 24 in 2003-04.

"I've never seen it this bad before," says math teacher Eugene Chong Qui, who has taught in the city school system for eight years. "I don't know what it stems from, but it's systemic. It really seems as if the students are so far gone out of their minds, they'll do anything for attention."

In a school system struggling with a $58 million deficit, some say the surge in fires is alarming evidence of deeper problems - staff shortages, cutbacks in extracurricular activities, overcrowded classrooms and rising alienation among the 95,000 students.

So far, the fires have caused little damage and no serious injuries. But across the city, a pattern has emerged: Firefighters get a call about a fire in a trash can or locker, a toilet or stairwell; the students are evacuated, and they stream outside; with so many people in one place, violence sometimes follows; school is usually canceled.

On Oct. 20 alone, firefighters got more than 10 calls from Baltimore schools about deliberately set fires.

At Walbrook High, school officials decided not to even evacuate the students during the last several fires because of the fights and the lost class time, Chong Qui says.

So far, there have been 61 fire-related arrests, compared with 144 last year, says city fire spokesman Kevin Cartwright.

The Fire Department is offering rewards of up to $500 for information leading to a conviction, and has stationed four-person crews at three high schools as a deterrent and to enable firefighters to get to the scene more quickly. Also, the school board last month voted to spend $1.5 million to enable 15 schools to hire 37 more hall monitors and 34 more security officers.

Fire officials have encouraged teachers to patrol in or around toilets, stairwells and empty lockers between classes. And school officials have been talking with parents to try to put a stop to the fires and other troublemaking.

"We are asking all of those concerned about the city that they join us, help us, work with us as we work to create better, safe schools," school board chairwoman Patricia Welch said last month. "We can't do it by ourselves."

At Walbrook High, situated in the city's working-class West Baltimore section, 16-year-old junior Christopher Spruill says students are setting the fires to get out of class. "They want to be out on the corner instead of getting an education," he says. He says students are too afraid to speak up, reward or not: "People know who's doing it, they're just not saying."

Chong Qui says Walbrook High's fires "probably started out with a handful of kids. But that handful has contaminated maybe three or four other handfuls who aren't strong enough to say 'No' ."

Part of the problem, says Bebe Verdery, education director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, is that officials, trying to fix the financial crisis, have increased class sizes - 40 or more in some classrooms - and cut staff - more than 1,000 people last year, with 250 fewer teachers.

"You have a net reduction of the adults who are able to supervise students," Verdery says. "When you combine that with the increased class sizes, the schools seem much less capable of controlling the violence and the fire-setting."

Robert Balfanz, a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Organization of Schools, says the vandalism stems, in part, from the loss of counseling and extracurricular programs at schools in the city's poorest areas.

"The mismatch between the level of kids' needs and the level of resources available to help solve their problems leads to kids' feeling lost," Balfanz says. "When kids feel lost and frustrated, they act out."

And the misbehavior "is like a contagion."

In August, before the school year started, a judge ordered the city and state to put an additional $30 million to $45 million into the Baltimore schools after the ACLU argued that the system's plan to solve its financial crisis hurt the quality of education. But the state has appealed, and the money has not been released.


Zippy the P asks THE question. "Does any of that guff about the logic of learning/instruction have any conecttion to the real world.

The answer is, Yes.

I taught autistic children for many years; developed and then tested education programs for them and their families for abouot 20 years after that.

Point deux. The giif about the logic of instruction cuts through all the flappdoodle and gets to the heart of the matter. If it came across as airy, tjat would be my fault, but it is as down to earth as you can get. How do you communicate so that kids get it.

This leads to the third point. If teachers taught/communicated more effectively, more kids would experience more success more oftenm and you'd have fewer acting out problems in school.

Of course, talking about the (true) philosophy of education alone doesn't come close disclosing all there is to teaching. There is of course how you pace instruction (fast), how you engage students (act crazy, for one), how you come up with interesting material, etc

I'll get to that if you want.


We want.


How ... you communicate so that kids get it.

Yes, please. Bring it on!


I started reading the Carnine/Englemann book, THEORY OF INSTRUCTION yesterday. The first chapter says the ONLY way kids learn is by induction, and they demonstrate learning by deduction. I'm a big fan of DI, I assure you, but it's the "only" way?

I suspect that for students with language deficits, letting THEM develop the generalization from the specific examples IS the best way to achieve "perfect" knowledge. However, for students with a better grasp of language, I believe they can grasp the generalization from the description (giving them the "rule" they could have induced on their own) and use that knowledge for deduction.

I've often wondered why DI was better suited for learners from "disadvantaged" backgrounds, and this might explain why: kids with language deficits need to induce the concept for themselves from concrete examples in order to achieve anything like "perfect" understanding. To kids with stronger language skills, perhaps just stating the information gives the student enough information to sufficiently "get" the concept.

Granted, I'm not very far into the book, but I experience "disequilibrium" (See? I've learned something in my education classes!!) when I'm told that the ONLY way to learn is induction from expertly chosen examples. Right now I'd have to say it is ONE way, and perhaps is demonstrably the BEST way, but that it surely is not the ONLY way.

They claim it may be the most important education book ever written. Being that I haven't read much (if any) of Piaget, Dewey, or anyone else they mention, I won't be able to say. I AM glad you suggested it.

Scott W. Woods

TOI does not say that induction is the only way to learn anything, but that it is the only way to learn a concept. This is not true just in DI programs, or just with disadvantaged children, but with everybody and all concepts. This comes from the nature of concepts themselves. TOI does not say that induction from expertly chosen examples is the only way to learn concepts, just that it is the best way. It does say that all concept learning comes from induction from examples, and that without expertly selected and communicated examples many students will fail to learn the concept, or will learn a misrule about it, for instance, that reading is about looking at the shape of words and guessing what they say.

Regarding rules, some concepts are easier to get if the rule behind them is given first (the method for doing this effectively is given in TOI), others don't have a useful rule. For instance, very basic concepts often are taught best without a rule, since the rule will probably be more advanced conceptually than the concept. How can you teach "getting steeper" with a rule if the learner really doesn't understand "getting steeper"? You will find that TOI goes into considerable detail about which kinds of concepts under which circumstances are best taught with rules or not.

DI programs work well for disadvantaged children because they were designed and tested to work with these children. Have you seen evidence that they don't work well with "normal" children? Please post it if you have.

If by "DI programs" you mean programs written and tested according to the principles of TOI, what possible objections could you have? Who would not benefit from well-designed, thorough, instruction? Quite obviously, excellent instructional design takes skill, intelligence, time, and money. The fact that there are few really well-designed programs available designed for other than disadvantaged children is not a good argument against DI programs, but an argument for designing better instruction for all

The comments to this entry are closed.