July 2008 Archives


A news story rather than a referral to the site at Stanford (which hasn't been created yet), but it contains a few links in the comments section that may be of value (subscriber only for full access to article).

Anti-Tutoring or Pro-Teaching?

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In the summer issue of Independent School magazine, psychologist Wendy Mogel describes a problem all too familiar to private-school teachers, the student overscheduled with tutoring hours outside of school ("Kicking the Tutoring Habit"). Her solutions are simple, and they boil down to more effective pedagogy for both students and families (in paraphrase):

(1) Encourage parents to encourage their child to see the teacher or turn to a friend for help.
(2) In most families, there are often untapped resources and knowledge to draw on. Have parents ask siblings to help tutor, or suggest that the parents simply be present while students are doing homework, and minimize distractions such as TV, gaming, or web surfing.
(3) Another option is to let students pay the price for poor choices. Consider saying to parents: Don't hire a tutor; let your child get a low grade.
As if that weren't enough, Mogel ends her article with the following claims:

When we act as though the kids no longer have strengths, only weaknesses that can and must be remediated, we communicate unrealistic expectations of perfection. Tell parents to respond to some lower-than-hoped-for grades without panic. Encourage them to demonstrate that they value many varied attributes of their children, including non-academic traits like manners and kindness.


Pat Bassett, NAIS president, writes that good schools are countercultural. In a culture that values easy solutions and showy results over ethics and substance, tutoring for enhancement is a natural but highly costly choice. Opening up a dialogue with parents on this subject is an important countercultural exercise.
I love the idea of shaking up a school's culture a little bit when it needs shaking up. When the school's problem is that it clings too tightly to the culture that has evolved around it, this approach can be extremely difficult to implement. But if Mogel and Bassett are right, being a good school requires this kind of apparent risk.


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I'm linking to three recent stories on the apparent phenomenon of Twitter:

Rob Pegoraro, Washington Post: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2008/07/twitter_status_update.html

Traci Gardner, NCTE Inbox Blog:

After reading Gardner's blog on it, I've been playing around with it a little bit this summer. While I love the idea of the compressed post and the writing decisions that entails, I'm not yet sold on this as something I would either keep up in my own life or ask my students to try. But I think there's a good reason for that.

I'm not addicted to text messaging, and texting is the reason that Twitter is really taking off. With a mobile phone, you can update your status from anywhere, not just from a computer on the internet, which means you can Twitter from the beach, or the store, or the car (let's hope not while driving). I don't text message that much (if ever), and I'm not always in front of a computer, so for me Twitter has limited value (the Facebook status update feature is more my speed). I imagine many of my students will love it, and I may still experiment with it in my composition class this fall. If nothing else, it's one way to get around the "no social networking sites" restriction on campus...
Snippet from http://chronicle.com/weekly/v54/i47/47a09001.htm:

If the proponents favoring the retention of the reasoning test and urging the abandonment of the subject tests were pinning their hopes on the ability of the new SAT reasoning test to better predict college performance, those hopes appear to have been misplaced. After a review of its data, the College Board concluded in June that the new SAT, which now includes a writing section, predicts college success no better than its old test did.
The author, Patrick Mattimore, takes an in-depth look at how this shift in admissions criteria will affect minority enrollments at the UC schools (it will hurt them) and considers whether this move is a kind of end run around existing anti-affirmative-action legislation in the state. No surprise there, since the system's chancellor Mark Yudof dealt with a similar problem in Texas when he was the head of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System (resulting in the 10% rule implemented as a result of the decision in Hopwood v. Texas School of Law).

As a prep-school teacher, I am more concerned with the way this decision puts additional pressure on my California high-school students to get high grades in my classes. My school is already dealing with considerable problems of grade inflation, easily evidenced by a disconnect between students' SAT subject test and AP exam scores and their course grades, whose average (according to the school's administration) hovers somewhere between A and A-.

My concern is that when colleges notice this discrepancy, they won't take even our best students seriously as applicants, which does everyone a huge disservice. Clearly, college admissions have become more competitive than ever before, so small edges are crucial to success. But my experience is that instead of working harder to earn better grades or being content with a grade level that accurately reflects their effort and achievement, students (and their families) simply complain about the workload or the grading standards, and in many cases, the workloads are mandatorily eased or the standards lowered. Neither solution actually helps students and their families with the problem we all hope to solve, which is to help these students get to colleges where they will thrive and find sufficient challenges.

Let's hope the UC system and other schools keep the measures of aptitude in their admissions policy that will help us do just that.
Japan has taken slam poetry to the corporate level...


Macbeth and the Market - washingtonpost.com

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A timely combination (for me) of literature and economics...


Verse of the Turtle - washingtonpost.com

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This is a nice story from the Washington Post about the new poet laureate, Kay Ryan:



Then she tries to explain how a poet laureateship could happen to a 62-year-old woman who grew up in the small towns of central California ("the glamour-free zone"), learned to hide behind the role of class clown, got rejected by her college's poetry club, committed to writing poetry as a vocation only after she'd turned 30, refused to have anything to do with creative writing classes and has lived a deliberately quiet life in which she didn't cultivate connections within the literary establishment.
I think it's something for us to keep in mind when we teach poetry to students who largely don't conform to our personal ideas about it, since poetry comes in many forms and styles and doesn't require creative-writing classes per se, and since poets don't necessarily develop until later in life. In fact, only a few great poets wrote well as adolescents and young adults (John Keats, most memorably), and a few great poets didn't even start writing until they were 40 (Robert Frost, for one).

I will be interested to read some of Ryan's work.

Shelfari working

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The Facebook app for Shelfari is now functional, and I have modified the widget on this blog to show the books I am currently reading (or about to start) rather than the whole list of things I hope to get to eventually this summer. So in case anyone is tracking what I'm reading these days, you'll now have an easier time of it.

Notes from an AP reader

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Came across this insider's view in the Chronicle of Higher Education today: a university professor grading AP US History exams for the first time. Key snippet:

I had always thought of AP as an honors program, so I'm mystified by how many dismal essays we endure. I ask around and get a range of answers. Some say that entire school districts now put all kids into AP classes. Others say that students elect to take AP classes for the extra point it adds to their GPA. Others blame No Child Left Behind. One describes the test as a "cash cow," implying that fee revenues encourage the College Board to allow anyone to take it. High-school teachers, though, emphasize factors that would affect performance, pointing out that the antebellum period was covered six months earlier and that students are stressed from taking multiple AP exams in the same week. Nevertheless, it's clear that Advanced Placement no longer necessarily denotes academic excellence and that many students with very little aptitude take AP courses and tests.
Full article at http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2008/07/2008071101c.htm.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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