For Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 2

For many students Standardized Tests don’t measure facts or process.

Standardized tests measure the parents income and education as much as they measure the student’s skills in a particular subject. There is so much debate and literature on this that I’m not even going into it. My purpose here is to show parents, other teachers, and policy makers what MY experience has been, what I did about it, and perhaps influence a few decisions about assessment.

The vast majority of my students had math skills and knowledge far below grade level. Read Part 1 for the statistics. Rather than rehash my earlier arguments let’s look at examples of what I encountered with my 14 to 17 year old, high school, algebra students.

Multiplication of decimals – a 5th grade standard

Suppose you were giving a multiple guess test and you gave the problem:

 34.6
x .03

With the following answer choices:

A)   34.4
B) 10.38
C) 1.038
D)   34.9

What would the student answers tell you about their math skills?

Read moreFor Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 2

For Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 1

One more issue to be polarized over – Standardized Tests

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to assess, evaluate, judge, test or whatever euphemism makes you comfortable. Many of us just don’t absolutely need what currently is used for standardized tests.

We just got through testing (and graduation) season and a new semester is upon us. There have been the usual complaints about standardized tests. I agree with all of them. Some universities have even stopped considering the SAT and ACT. I agree that standardized tests in the aggregate show us more about financial background and demographics than they do about actual skill levels or individual motivation. More importantly, for the lower grades, standardized tests don’t do a good job of telling us what to teach, or how to teach it.

There’s the rub.

I have encountered many adults (and that includes parents, administrators, and some teachers) who seem to assume that just because a child has reached a certain age or grade level that they are ready for whatever academic rigors that class or grade level demands. It ain’t necessarily so. My experience has been: you can’t just teach a ‘one size fits all’ Algebra (or any other) curriculum due to social promotion [for a more complete discussion of the destructive practice of social promotion read: Unspoken Obstacle]. Don’t assume that we can ‘Just bring them along’, as I’ve often been told to do.

If we are to reach each child, we teachers need to know what to teach each particular child, and how to teach it. The best way to accurately do that is through some sort of assessment. Few who are against standardized testing have put forth a solution to the need for assessment and what kind of assessment will tell us what we need to know. If you think all assessment is suspect and does no good you can stop reading now. My experience has been that some sort of assessment is necessary – just not standardized testing as it is done today. Here’s why I believe that, and what I did to assess my students.

Read moreFor Educational Policy: Reject Standardized Tests, Embrace Facts Part 1

Sex Abuse 105: How Hollywood Romances Teach Sex Abuse

Hollywood Romance Movies Actually Teach Sex Abuse!

What do Al Pacino, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Sean Connery, Kristin Scott Thomas, Arthur Godfrey (and too many others to list here) have in common? They’ve all made movies or records which show some sort of sex abuse and/or violence as the path to romantic love.

Sex abuse scandals are in the news daily. There is plenty of outrage but still no one is talking about how to effectively end sex abuse (or at least keep it from being so ubiquitous) other than simply telling the abused to ‘speak up’ (a worthwhile strategy, but limited). No one is asking the right questions. Those who are outraged continually act as if any behavior that they think constitutes sex abuse is obvious, has always been obvious, and everyone knows it’s obvious. Well folks, here on Planet Reality, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Read moreSex Abuse 105: How Hollywood Romances Teach Sex Abuse

Sex Abuse 104: The Chimpanzee Lecture

Sex Abuse and The Chimpanzee Lecture

This lesson/lecture is amazingly effective at getting students (as well as adults) to reflect on how they respond to social/sexual interactions and how biology plays a hand in sex abuse. It is culled from a wide variety of readings but you can find most of these ideas in two books: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1991); [and even more importantly]: Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1997). Both by Jared Diamond the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.

This post is part 4 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. Part 2 is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. In Part 3 I examined a common misunderstanding of the law (Attractive Nuisance), empathy and social norms. Part 4 (The Chimpanzee Lecture) is my biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at the misunderstandings or power plays that lead to sex abuse. I have used this lesson in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. Part 5 is about how Hollywood ‘romantic movies’ actually teach men to abuse women in order to be loved.

This is not about blaming or excusing anyone.

This is not about declaring any one gender or opinion right (i.e. I’m not trying to say that the girls should learn to act or feel like guys or vice versa). It’s about understanding the biological differences in what we feel and what needs to be taught to everyone. This is not intended for those broken souls who are incapable of learning. There will always be those humans who are so crazy, or so convinced that the way they see the world is the way everyone else does or should, that they are not bound by any social norms. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are things which need to be taught.

As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the classroom) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach everyone to treat others with dignity and respect.

What got me started on teaching this lesson.

I started developing this lesson after trying and failing to get our girls to think about how they were dressing. It got so bad [see Naive Sophistication] that, one day, in frustration, a female administrator came over the school PA system and said, “You girls have got to start covering up. This ain’t no barbecue and we don’t need the meat!” I used The Chimpanzee Lecture in my life skills classes, my financial planning classes, and any time a student asked a personal/social/sexual question in which I thought this lesson would be helpful.

I always give the following warning to my students. This warning concluded my last post (Attractive Nuisance): we ignore biology at our peril. Having equal rights socially does not mean we have the same goals biologically.

I quoted Rosalind Wiseman from her excellent book The Guide:

Girls are “…trying to achieve the impossibleby pleasing both girls and straight guys,
two groups with competing agendas.”

So what does biology teach us about what those competing agendas really are?

Read moreSex Abuse 104: The Chimpanzee Lecture

Sex Abuse 103: Attractive Nuisance

Sex Abuse and Misunderstanding the Law

This post is part 3 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. Part 2 is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. Here in Part 3 I’ll examine a common misunderstanding of the law (Attractive Nuisance), empathy and social norms. I have used it in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. Part 4 is my biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at what happened (Part 4: The Chimpanzee Lecture).

This is not about blaming or excusing anyone. It’s about understanding what needs to be taught to everyone. This is not intended for those broken souls who are incapable of learning. There will always be those humans who are so crazy, or so convinced that the way they see the world is the way everyone else does or should, that they are not bound by any social norms. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are things which need to be taught.

As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the classroom) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach everyone to treat others with dignity and respect.

Don’t “SHOULD” on me!

The psychologist Dr. Pat Allen warns against use of the word ‘should’ and I also want to warn you. So when I use the word ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ in the following paragraphs, read it as if it was capitalized, bolded, italicized, and in quotation marks – meaning, beware of this word and your thinking.

I’ve heard males say, “Why do girls (women) wear provocative (tight, short, low cut etc.) clothing if they don’t want to attract attention? Girls shouldn’t dress that way. They’re just asking for it.” Girls will say, “We should be able to dress however we want.” The boys are demonstrating a lack of understanding of the law and good manners. They are corrupting the concept of attractive nuisance. Girls are ignoring biology. Let me explain…

Attractive Nuisance or Girls shouldn’t dress that way.

Read moreSex Abuse 103: Attractive Nuisance

Sex Abuse 102: My Hollywood Experience

Sex Abuse

This post is part 2 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. This post (Part 2) is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. I have used it in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. I think it shows a common misunderstanding of the law (details in Part 3: Attractive Nuisance) and a biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at what happened (Part 4: The Chimpanzee Lecture).

This is not about blaming or excusing anyone. It’s about understanding what needs to be taught to everyone. As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the class room) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach those around us to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Not a Hollywood Sex Scandal Yet…

Early in my West Coast musical career I was living with a beautiful, talented singer named Laura. To give you an idea of how beautiful and talented Laura was, think of Jennifer Lopez in the movie Selena. One day I was returning from a rehearsal and I found Laura crying her eyes out on our living room couch. I asked what was wrong and between sobs she told me.

Read moreSex Abuse 102: My Hollywood Experience

Sex Abuse 101: Mixed Messages

Sex Abuse is in the news again.

Sex abuse is in the news again. We’ve heard very disturbing accounts from the accusers. We’ve heard strident denials from the ‘alleged’ offenders. And we’ve heard outrage from pundits and politicians. But we haven’t heard (much, if anything at all) from those parents and teachers, like me, who are trying to teach appropriate conduct, particularly as it pertains to sex, romance, and preserving each other’s dignity.

I don’t have any clear cut answers. I do have some guiding questions, and I do have my own experiences which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences as additional information in our mutual quest to teach those around us to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

So what did I try to teach?

Read moreSex Abuse 101: Mixed Messages

Homework Cure: Change the System

The Real Value of Homework

There is a debate about the value of homework. The debate rages in school districts, states, faculty meetings and homes. There are parents who insist on homework and there are parents who feel homework is an unnecessary intrusion in their child’s life. There is no one solution. I recommend flexibility in the classroom and curriculum. What do we do if we are unsure of the value of homework? The following are some (not all) ideas to guide your thinking. If you want to change the system examine your cherished beliefs and promote flexibility in the classroom.

Question cherished beliefs like ‘School should be fun’.

Read moreHomework Cure: Change the System

Homework Help for Parents

When you can’t change the system:

When you can’t change the system and your child has homework you have to examine how you feel about it and then find a way to cope with it. I’ll be dealing with homework from the teacher/school perspective in a later post. If your child is already a straight ‘A’ student you probably aren’t worried about homework other than the fact that the load might cause burn out. That’s a subject for a later post. Also I’m not going to be directly dealing with those families where the parents don’t speak English. That too is for another time.

Right now we are dealing with,
“My kid has homework. She needs help. What do I do?”

I know you’re busy. I know your time is valuable. So what do you do if you believe that at least some homework (practice, reenforcement, continued engagement) can have value. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. I’ll help you.

Read moreHomework Help for Parents

Insulting the Teacher

7.21.15 ShoutMerely Vulgar or Is It Insulting?

Which matters more, who says it or how it is said? Many of our students treat us with love and affection – or at least grudging respect. But some do not. We teachers (at times) are subjected to all kinds of insults and vulgarities. In my last post, The Old Rugged Cross and the ’N’ Word, I wrote about the students’ constant use of the word ‘nigga’ and how I was repeatedly told, “We can say it but you can’t because of your color.” I warned that, although I was not advocating the use of vulgarity, making such a distinction because of race was a dangerous and outdated concept. But what about student vulgarity in general? When is it simple-minded, low-class behavior and when is it insulting?

I have been called just about every insult and/or compliment you can imagine. I’ve been called an asshole, a buster ass mark, a fool, a sycophant, Jubal E. Harshaw and Dad! My looks have been compared to every bald guy with a mustache from Dr. Phil to Sean Connery sexiest-man-1989-0r-2007(I have no problem with this last comparison!). The most shockingly vulgar insult I have ever heard from anybody came from the mouth of a second grader (I’ll spare you the vulgarity here because it isn’t necessary to quote it to make my point. If you really want the prurient details – write me at my contact page). But it really bothered me when I was called an old bald eagle. Why?

To examine if a word or behavior is insulting, I posed the questions earlier, does it matter who says it or how it is said? Let’s look at this symbol of honor used as an insult.

Read moreInsulting the Teacher

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