Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Online textbooks

Online textbooks

To me, this is a mixed bag feeling. On the positive side, I am always up on trying new ways of presenting information to students instead of totalling relaying on the traditional textbooks. There is so much information out there on a specific topic plus the information is always changing, particularly in the sciences. However, on the uncertainty/negative side of this issue, printing out the pdf files from a textbook can be quite expensive. This would cost the student tons of money. For instance, the printing could cost anywhere between $0.05 to $0.20 per page depending on if the page is printed in black and white or in color. Also, it would be a huge paper usage. A high school science textbook usually has about 500-600 pages. So, if the student printed out every page...the total cost for one textbook could range between $25/$100 to 30/120 (depending on if the pages are printed in black & white or in color). After the term or school year is over, what happens to all of the pages used? Thrown in the trash or recycled?

tutoring in the mornings at schools

Tutoring in the mornings at schools

As of right now, there are only four states (Alaska, North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia) that allow low-income students early access to schools for tutoring. It can do one or two things, either help these students to catch up with their peers or help them on their homework. When these two students go home in the evenings, they rarely get a chance to complete their homework assignments. Tutoring services are provided by private companies approved by the state Department of Education. Tutoring can take place before or after school. Some tutors meet with small groups of students; others work with individual students in their homes. Some providers even offer online tutoring. The online tutoring may be difficult for these students to obtain due to their limited living income.

Hopes for science

Hopes for science

Can testing between science back after it has been ignored by mathematics and reading? In the past 6 years, elementary and middle schools has considered science to be unimportant in hopes to raise reading and mathematics test scores. This is a shame because reading and mathematics can play a role in sciences. These two subjects do not leave once a student either goes to another class or the teacher switches to another subject in the classroom. When a student makes a calculation during a laboratory assignment, that is mathematics. Also, while a student reads their textbook or directions on an assignment, that is reading.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Help from TV for mathematics problems

TV and Mathematics problems

This is an interesting idea on how to teach mathematics. Students can e-mail or call people that run "Count on us" for help on mathematics problems. Sometimes it helps the student see on how to solve a math multiple times in order to learn how to solve similar types of problems. The first hour is aimed at elementary school math; the second half is for middle school math. Unfortunately from the article, the level of math is not much higher than 8th grade math, which in unfortunate. I feel that watching someone solve a mathematics problem can benefit high schoolers too. Hopefully in the future, the level of math on this show would extend into high school level.

Varying state standards

None of the state standards are relatively similar to one another

Reading vs. mathematics standards

schools aim too low

It is amazing that no state has similar standards in terms of the state reading and mathematics exams. Even though NCLB is a national act, the states determine on how they want to run their educational systems. Each states sets its academic standards and designs its tests and scoring methods, including the required number of points to pass a test – called a cut scoreI wish that they can agree on common grounds on what is passing on the state exams. In this way, it might be easier to compare states in terms of how much progress they are making on a yearly basis. Also several reports indicate that reading standards are much lower than the mathematics.

For instance:

  • In reading, Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan generally had the lowest proficiency standards.
  • The highest standards in reading were found in South Carolina, California, Maine and Massachusetts.
  • In math, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were cited as having the lowest proficiency standards.
  • The highest math standards were found in South Carolina, Massachusetts, California and New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

teachers and microphones

Save your voice

According to this article, teachers in France have found that they damage their vocal cords due to trying to talk over noisy classrooms. As a result, they are encouraged to use microphones in save their vocal cords. I wonder where I can get a small microphone to use a classroom because I am pretty soft spoken. Sometimes it is difficult to hear me if a student is talking while I am talking. This unfair to everyone.

Poor rural districts in CO on top in terms of reading scores

We can do it

Most people believe that if you live in a poor school district, the students would not be able to perform well on state reading tests. In most cases, this might be true. However, there are several poor rural school districts in Colorado did the exact opposite. In these 5 school districts, the fourth graders out-scored students in Denver and Colorado Springs. Every teacher and administrator in these poor rural communities helped the students achieve to the best of their ability. This shows that if there is a will, there is a way.

how difficult are the standardized exams

Testing the standard

This above article indicated that students are expected to learn tons of information while they are in school. To determine how adults would perform on a sample standardized exam, they asked 6 professionals of various educational backgrounds to take the exam. The majority of them got somewhat frustrated with the sample test. I took it online and it was not terribly bad but it was no walk in the park. Out of the 35 questions, I missed only 7 of them.

Parents and online credibility

The Internet can be a powerful tool in terms of getting important information. However, there are websites that are not useful to be used for a term paper or a project. According to some recent surveys, parents feel that teachers need to teach students on how to evaluate websites for their credibility. This can be tough to do because the teacher needs to know how to evaluate websites in order to teach the strategies to the students. Evaluating websites can be time-consuming because the online user has to know what to look for, which takes many hours of practice. Also, there are some teachers that do not like to use online material in the classroom, which would mean that they would reluctant on teaching students how determine the credibility of a website.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

more about students cheating on exams

When a student is confronted about cheating on an exam, they usual response is that everyone does it and it is no big deal. According to several studies, about 75 percent of high school students admit to cheating, and if you include copying another person's homework, that number climbs to 90 percent. As a future science teacher, I do not mind that students help each other on homework assignments, but cheating on the assignments?

In the past, the weaker students tend to cheat so that they would not get bad grades in their classes. Only a few number cheated in high school. But now, it
is accepted as a normal part of school life, and is more likely to be done by the good students, who are fully capable of getting high marks without cheating. It is the students with very good grades that are cheating. The students are under so much pressure to get admitted to the good colleges that they resort to cheating in order to keep their grades up to par. Nationally, 75 percent of all high school students cheat. But the ones who cheat more are the ones who have the most to lose, which is the honors and AP (advanced placement) students. Eighty percent of honors and AP students cheat on a regular basis. Wow!! This is absolutely nuts. Some students claimed that if they get one B average, their application is tossed into the reject pile. So they have to perfect in every way in order to get into the good colleges. As a result, cheating is like their safety net to be successful in life.

Top 5 Ways to Cheat

-- Copying from another student

-- Plagiarizing by downloading information or whole papers from the Internet

-- Cell phone cheating - text-messaging answers to another student, taking a picture of the test and e-mailing it to another student, or downloading information from the Internet

-- Getting test questions, answers or a paper from a student in a previous period or from a previous year

-- Bringing a permitted graphing calculator into the test loaded with answer material previously input into the computer portion of the calculator

Top 5 Ways to Curb Cheating

-- Create an honor code with student input so they're invested in it

-- Seriously punish cheaters according the academic integrity policy

-- Create multiple versions of tests to make purloined answer keys useless

-- Ban electronic devices in testing rooms

-- Develop multiple modes of assessment so the grade is not determined primarily on tests

Are high school graduates ready for college?

Somewhat surprising answer to this question is no. This is truly unfortunate for many students that want to go to college after high school. However, there is a big difference between high school and college. Students are forced to enter remedial coursework due to either their high school coursework or grades. This costs everyone involved with the college student's education tons of money in terms of tuition and time. There are several things that are addressed in high school that students need to develop before reaching college. One of them are critical-thinking skills, such as analysis, interpretation, problem solving, and reasoning skills. Key content knowledge is the essential knowledge of each discipline that prepares students for advanced study, or study of the "big ideas" in each content area. Also students need to develop academic behaviors include skills such as reading comprehension, time management, note-taking, and self-awareness of how one is thinking and learning. Otherwise, college would eat them alive because it in not all fun and games. Students need to learn how to balance their social life with their academic life. It can be tough at times but sometimes we have to make sacrifices. I know that I had while I was working on my bachelor's degree.

Abolish the SAT exam?

There is an on-going debate about whether or not the SAT test should be abolished and replaced with the subject tests. I feel that the SAT test needs to stay around for several reasons: 1) the majority of America's college campuses accept it for a means of admissions criteria and 2) it possible that the test can show how a student performs on basic aspects of education: math, reading, and writing. Two of these are essential to do well in college. The subject exams only test to demonstrate on how a student performs in that particular subject. If the student performs poorly on the general SAT but performs well on the Subject tests, this can show that the student might be capable of performing well in college.

High school students stealing exams

In a town in New Hampshire, about 50 high school students were involved in stealing final exams from their teachers in advanced subjects such as Calculus and Algebra II. I wonder how these students were able to steal the exams. Where is the honor system in terms of cheating? Are the stakes so high that it requires for students to find means of cheating in order to get good grades? I feel that students need to live by a honor system when they are in school. As for me, my exams would never be left in my classroom for sake of students finding them then cheating in my classroom. I will be fair if they are fair to me.

how much advanced math & science are needed?

A study recently came out indicating that majority of parents feel that they students do not need to study advanced science such as chemistry and physics. The majority of the parents felt that physical science and biology are the only essential science classes needed in schools and forget about chemistry and physics. I might be biased but I feel that students going to college need to have a year of chemistry and a year of physics, particularly if the student wants to study a field that has science embedded in it. If the student takes only the required science classes to graduate from high school then eventually goes on to study science in college, they would need to start at the lowest level. This was ultimately cost the parents money in terms of college tuition. Also, it would take the student longer to graduate from college.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What should students know before they enter college?

This question is up to debate...what should students know before they enter college? College professors and school educators have different thoughts about this issue. College professors believe that the state content standards focus on the wrong things while the school educators indicate that the standards help them and the students on what needs to be covered. Every state except for Iowa has a set of state standards in the various core subjects. Why doesn't Iowa have a set of state standards?? I could not find an answer to this question.

High school teachers are working very, very hard at following and teaching their state standards. However college faculty feel it was more important for students to learn a fewer number of fundamental but essential skills. In terms of science, high school teachers consistently rated factual knowledge more important than process and inquiry skills, such as understanding a hypothesis. This is where the high school teacher and college faculty can agree on. College faculty generally ranked evaluating the similarities and differences, or strengths and weaknesses, of scientific viewpoints important. Whereas, high school teachers were more likely to cite understanding the physics principles involved in collisions.

What is the correct way to teach physics??

Interactive Engagement or Traditional style?? "Traditional” teacher-centered methods such as lecture and questioning remain the default for many instructors. Also implies structural barriers, such as classroom organization and limited instructional time can make the use of more constructivist methodologies difficult. Whereas, interactive engagement style implies the use of strategies that seek to let students work together on content-related activities, such as through “think-pair-share”. This is very tough to decide which is better. Sometimes it is necessary to give a lecture on the new information but that can only go so far in terms of the students' engagement. The interactive engagement style can help students acquire information from each other, not just the teacher. Sometimes, a student would more about a topic than another student.

Harry Potter and love for reading

Several years ago when the Harry Potter came out, a good number of parents wanted to be banned due to its spiritual nature. I would tell the parent to be happy that their child found something interesting to read. It is very difficult to find a book that would get a reluctant reader engaged. Harry Potter books are not small books and they have a large amount of words that the student is learning while they read the book.

This coming July, the last of the series will be published. There is nothing after this book for Harry Potter fans to look forward to. Harry's effect on many young people – and their love of reading – may be magical enough to last a lifetime. More than half of Harry Potter readers said they hadn't read books for fun before the series, and 65 percent said they have done better in school since reading the books. The study also found that the reading habits of boys – who consistently have lower literacy test scores than girls – changed the most as a result of reading the books.

Text Messaging

This is one of the minor distractions that can bug me...it is very difficult to catch a student text messaging in the classroom. It is amazing on how many text messages teenagers do on a daily basis, a whooping 62 messages a day. Don't their thumbs ever get tired and sore? Also, this much activity can break the buttons on the phone. It can also give the user carpal tunnel syndrome -- the painful swelling and inflammation of the fingers and wrists associated with excessive typing that increasingly affects excessive users of mobile phones. When I was a kid, I usually develop this pain after playing video games. But now, teenagers have it on a daily even hourly basis. Ouch!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Comics in public schools?

Can comics be used appropriately in public schools? According to an educator in Maryland, the answer is yes. Since I was a student, one can always see comic books somewhere near the student's desk. Now, it is potential that using comic books can meet the needs of struggling readers in elementary and secondary schools. However, there are several things that need to be taken into consideration. One, is that the comic books were not too violent. Two, they did not contain inappropriate language. So, it is important for the teacher to scan the various comic and graphic novels in order to determine which ones can be used in a classroom setting. Also, it is important to note that using comic books should not replace the traditional forms of reading instruction. Students can have opportunities to design their own comic books from what they read rather than doing traditional book reports. In this way, the students can be creative in their classes.

New graduation requirements in Oregon

Starting this year, seniors in Oregon high schools are required to submit a career-related project in order to graduate. This project can be a wide variety of forms of media such as doing job shadows, a community project and a research paper that must pass inspection by a judging panel of community members. The purpose of this requirement is to the students to demonstrate what they have learned in their high school classes. Also, they must complete at least one career-related learning experience, from attending a job fair to interning in a workplace. And they must do something called an extended application, the senior project. This is suppose to allow the students to learn more about careers that interested them. I feel that is a beneficial way for students to learn more about themselves before they leave high school. For the most part, the majority of high school seniors have no clue on what they want to major in college. This graduation requirement is a good step to allow them investigate careers that meet their passions.

Bush defends NCLB

Recently, George W. Bush defended the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed in 2001. He said the purpose of the act is to help schools rather than fail them. Schools tend to give more attention to kids who often struggle the most, which are the ones that are near the passing mark. However, the students that struggle are sometimes overlooked such as the TAG and lowest achieving students. This is truly unfortunate. I believe that students, teachers and schools need to be held accountable but not punished for their progress in school subjects. I feel that he needs to make the expectations alittle more realistic than getting every kid to at 100% by 2014. I know that every kid can learn but not at the same rate. If a student showed good progress in understanding subject material but did not perform very well on the standardized tests, does that mean that he/she is failure? I do not think so because there should be more an emphasis on how students are doing in the classroom than just the yearly standardized exams. It is not fair to compare two years of eighth graders because they are not the same students. Sometimes one year, the students perform very well on that state and the next year, they might not fare very well.

Science & NCLB in elementary/middle schools

In some states, science and social studies were taught separately but now, they must share their time in order to accommodate more time for mathematics and reading. For instance, in some middle schools that used to offer a full year of science and social studies give a semester of each. This means that the teacher and students do not get much time to be fully engaged with either subject. They only get a slice of the surface in either subject. Also, the teacher would have to be quick in terms of teaching a full year of either science or social studies curriculum. But this could also mean that science instruction would increase from 45 minutes to 60 minutes on a daily basis. Also, if the subject is not taught at an early age, the students would not pick it as an elective in middle and high schools. Elementary teachers feel that they do not have enough time to teach science in a meaningful way.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crash course in AP

Another segment of the road of AP courses. In the last segment, the College Board, who administers annual AP courses required for potential AP teachers to send their syllabus for evaluation in order to determine if it meets college requirements. Now, the College Board offered teachers necessary workshops on how to develop AP courses and curriculum. However, there were mixed feelings after the workshops. Some of the indicated that they enjoyed the workshops and hoped that the lessons would give their students a good, all-purpose tool in education. But they were also worried that they could be setting up students to fail by moving so fast. In an AP course, the teacher and students have to move through the curriculum at a much rapid pace than what is demonstrated in a regular classroom because the annual exams are given during the month of May.

AP courses, tough and easily compared across jurisdictions, are often used as a measure of how much a school is challenging its students. The teachers in the class backed their expansion, saying it would allow talented students to take tough courses no matter where in the county they went to school. Some students take advantage of AP classes in order to determine if they are ready for college. I am one of those people. I took AP Biology during my senior year because I wanted a challenge plus I ran out of required science classes that were given at my local high school. I did well in the class even though it was challenging. However, I did not perform very well on the annual AP exam so I did not get any course credit for biology. But, I felt that I knew what I should expect from a college class in biology. The very first midterm, I received a low B, which in my mind is a job well done.

California & NCLB act

California oppose the deadline of NCLB which is 2014. It is important to meet the needs of each student that walks into the doors of a school building. However, California wants to do it without a definite time line. There must be another way of determining if educators are meeting the standards and needs of students than requiring mandated state examinations. The teachers want schools to be judged by criteria other than tests alone, such as graduation rates and attendance. And they want schools that improve to be seen as successful under the law; currently, even an improving school can be deemed a failure if it doesn't improve fast enough. Right now, in California, 24.4 percent of students are supposed to score at grade level in English this year, and 26.5 percent have to do as well in math. Next year, the percentages climb to more than 35 percent. As a result, the fate of the 2014 deadline remains unclear.

Washington and NCLB

Recently, the state of Washington has decided to delay requiring science and math for exit exams from high schools. They delayed the decision for 5 years in order to study the effects of exit exams and/or end-of-course examinations for high school students before they required it. Also, the governor removed part of the bill that would have set up regional appeals boards for students who fail the WASL and sections that exempted some English-language learners from taking the exams. Is this indicating that students cannot retake exams that they have previously failed? Also, it is not fair that English language learners cannot be exempt from taking some of the sections of the exams. The governor also indicated that high failure rates show that the system, not the students, is the problem. This is unfortunate for meeting the demands of NCLB Act.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

To offer an AP course or not....that is the question

AP courses can vary in the level of content material and how it is taught at the high school level. In the past decade, the number of high school students taking AP courses has grown exponentially that there is questioning on if it rigorous enough to meet college standards. As a result, teachers teaching AP courses need to submit their syllabus and course information to the College Board, who administers the exams on a yearly basis to students that hope that they can gain college credit before they go off to higher education.

When I was in high school, I took one of the AP exams and it was tough. I felt that I was not ready to take the rigorous AP Biology exam. I did not think that anyone in the class was fully prepared to meet the demands of the test. Even though I took the course, that does not mean that I automatically get college credit unless I got a certain score on the test.

As admissions into higher education becomes more competitive, AP courses may offer information that the student might be ready for college. But this is not always the case. I think that AP courses need to meet standards that are relatively similar to a college level course.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Elimination of Texas' traditional exit exams

While I was in a Texas high school, I had to take an exit-exam during my sophomore year in order to receive a diploma. Recently, a change in the exit-exam has been issued in which 12 end-of-course exams would be administrated in the core subject areas (science, math, English, and social studies). Students have to get a cumulative score of 840 on all 12 exams in order to get a high school diploma. These tests would be given online which would mean that it would take several days to administer the tests. Also, these tests would have students to take end-of-course exams during all four years of high school.

These are the end-of-course exams that students would need to pass in order to get a high school diploma in Texas.

English: English I, English II, English III

•Math: algebra I, geometry, algebra II

Science: biology, chemistry, physics

Social Studies: world geography, world history, U.S. history

By looking at this listing of test areas, not many students would be able to take the physics test unless there are differential levels of physics in a high school. Also, not every student learns at the same level or pace. So, this means that each of these tests would have to be at different levels. Or, will there be only one test given to each student?

Evolution in schools

Teaching evolution in schools is a touchy issue. What is the correct way of teaching it? This is a very tough question to answer. The Oregon education standards require the teaching of evolution in schools. This means that if I end up teaching a unit on evolution, I cannot avoid it 100%. However, science educators need to come up with ways of teaching the controversial topic without getting too many students and parents upset. In a recent article from the Oregonian, a new teacher went the wrong way of teaching the curriculum over evolution, which ultimately cost his job. It is important for an educator to learn and understand the culture of the community before he/she teaches about evolution.

Cheating & NCLB Act

I read an article about how high-stakes testing can promote people to cheat. Cheating on tests has been a fact of life. However, what is amazing is that it is the teachers that are doing the cheating. Sometimes the teacher would copy some of the questions from a previous year's state test and distribute to their students. These questions end up being passed from teacher to teacher. When it comes to testing day, the questions are usually relatively similar to the copied questions. In my opinion, this is wrong. As an educator, we are suppose to be teaching our students about ethics and moral values. This act of cheating illustrates that it is alright to ignore ethical values in order to do well. Cheating does not get a person to succeed in life. Sure, it may help one's test score to increase but the person would not truly know the information. The main result of cheating is that it would eventually catch up with you. This is exactly what is occurring with the teachers that copy test questions and distribute them as a worksheet to their students and fellow colleagues.