Happy 4th Of July!


How To Save Health Care: Homeopathy

h/t PZ

Sarah Palin To Resign!

From KTUU:
WASILLA, Alaska -- In a stunning announcement, Gov. Sarah Palin said Friday morning she will resign her office in a few weeks.

Speculation has swirled for weeks, perhaps months that Palin would not seek re-election in 2010 as she pursues a political career on the national stage. The former vice presidential candidate has long been rumored to be considering a run at the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Palin did not address those rumors at the press conference at her Wasilla home, during which she did not take questions from reporters.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will be inaugurated as her successor at the Governor's Picnic at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks on Sunday, July 26, Palin said.

Parnell said he will seek election to the governor's office in 2010. Parnell ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Don Young in the Republican primary last year.

Palin made the announcement flanked by Parnell and most, if not all, of her cabinet.

Update: She may have resigned due to this.


Richard Feynman: Be Confusing!

He was a genius and Nobel Laureate as well as a bongo player and wildman. But fundamentally he was a teacher; yes, he was a perpetual student, but being so smart he had to teach himself much of what he learned, making him a teacher, mkay?

This video is a glimpse into his pedagogy, though I don't think that was the film's purpose. Feynman is so all-over-the-place in terms of curiosity that his pedagogy just slips out.

I find his notion of confusion as classroom practice refreshing, and right.

He's a joy to listen to, even for an hour!


About Finland And Singapore...

Good Working Conditions and Respect for Teachers - A Foreign Concept

You would never know it, but there was an important meeting yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington DC about education. The title of the meeting was Top-Scoring Nations Share Strategies on Teachers (Ed Week carried the article) featuring speakers from Finland and Singapore, two very different approaches but models of high performance.

The story will never be covered by the corporate owned media in this country because the business leaders and politicians who sat through the meeting have their own agenda - and despite what they might have heard at the meeting, like making working conditions for teachers better or respecting the profession of teaching - there's just no money in that.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is busy pushing "technology" as the new panacea for transforming education and propelling the U.S. to its rightful place in the global race to the top. There's lots of money to be made and it's the gift that keeps on giving. Teachers stormed the Hill this week looking for more money for technology - perhaps they should focus more on trying to gain some basic RESPECT.

Here's a clip from the Ed Week story:
Yet in some respects, those two nations have risen to the top in very different ways.

That was one of the lessons that emerged yesterday at what was billed as the Global Education Competitiveness Summit, which brought state officials and business leaders together here to discuss lessons from high-achieving countries that could be applied to U.S. school systems—an omnipresent theme in American education circles these days.

Two of the speakers whose nations are perched at or near the top of recent international test results offered insights on their home countries’ educational models: Low Khah Gek, the director of curriculum, planning, and development for the Singapore Ministry of Education, and Timo Lankinen, the director general of the Finnish National Board of Education.

The forum was organized by the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy and research group; the International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, in Eugene, Ore.; and the Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash.

Attendees seemed especially keen on learning how the two countries recruit and train teachers, and the speakers gave them two distinct perspectives.

In Singapore, the selection of teachers is heavily directed by the central government, specifically the Ministry of Education, and the candidates are elite: The government recruits from the top third of graduating classes, Ms. Gek said.

Teacher-candidates attend one year of preservice training, but they are also given continuous retraining throughout the school year and their careers, she added, receiving at least 100 hours of professional development annually. In addition, the Singaporean government actively works to establish career “tracks” for teachers, according to Ms. Gek. It encourages young educators to become master teachers or subject specialists, and one day, school administrators.

“We feel that is the pinnacle of education service,” Ms. Gek said of the jobs of administrators, because of their influence over instruction and the school environment.

Singapore also has a thorough system for grading and evaluating teacher performance, she told the audience, and it awards bonuses for effective instruction that can equal between one and three months’ pay.

An Elusive Formula

The Finnish approach to cultivating and retaining teachers, as described by Mr. Lankinen, is in some ways strikingly different.

Like the United States, Finland has only “very limited” performance pay for teachers, he said. A far more pressing concern, he said, is “how to maintain good working conditions in schools”; national leaders believe such conditions are essential to luring talented people into classrooms and keeping them there.

While Finland, like Singapore, has a national curriculum, Finnish teachers are given broad authority to shape lessons and use strategies they believe will help students meet standards.

At one point Mr. Lankinen was asked by an audience member about Finnish leaders’ overall impressions of the U.S. education system. He remarked that the broad American emphasis on testing, and on measuring student and school performance, was “striking” and a source of curiosity in his home country. Mr. Lankinen said American school officials routinely ask him about how his high-performing country uses high-stakes tests—only to have him explain that those exams are largely absent from the Finnish system.

Finland tests representative samples of students primarily as a way to gauge trends in school performance, and teachers routinely assess students’ progress in class, in order to improve instruction, he said.

Although he and other Finnish education leaders have had general discussions about adding high-stakes tests to the mix, that idea has not taken hold because “it’s difficult to say if it’s helping educators to do their job better,” Mr. Lankinen explained, after his presentation. Finns regard having “well-trained, educated teachers” as more essential to raising student achievement, he added.

It follows that Finnish teachers, like their Singaporean counterparts, are an elite group. All Finnish teachers must have master’s degrees, and admission to teacher education programs is highly competitive. Mr. Lankinen estimated that fewer than 15 percent of applicants are accepted.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one common feature of the Singaporean and Finnish education systems—like those of some other high-achieving nations—is the respect that their societies have for educators, and the general view of teaching as a top-tier profession.

In Finland, Mr. Lankinen said, “people dream to be teachers.”


Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Obit Edition

Senator Al Franken

It's over. Coleman gave up, Pawlenty will sign the certificate. Awesome!


Monday Cartoon Fun: Infidel Whore Edition

Kids Need Adults To Talk With Them

A study in Pediatrics indicates that having conversations with kids is a great way to develop healthy language.

I have known, through experience, that having conversations with my students made them more curious, better listeners, and more receptive to input. I also know, through experience, that my parents talked to me, and I talk(ed) to my son, and we are really smart!

National standards, longer school days/years, busting teacher unions, chartering all the public schools, firing teachers, and changing curricular materials are not the means by which we are going to solve the problems the achievement gap creates. Early childhood education (as well as talking to your kids!!) is the best way to begin the huge job of creating a society where education is valued, and poverty is not allowed. Here is the abstract:
OBJECTIVE: To test the independent association of adult language input, television viewing, and adult-child conversations on language acquisition among infants and toddlers.

METHODS: Two hundred seventy-five families of children aged 2 to 48 months who were representative of the US census were enrolled in a cross-sectional study of the home language environment and child language development (phase 1). Of these, a representative sample of 71 families continued for a longitudinal assessment over 18 months (phase 2). In the cross-sectional sample, language development scores were regressed on adult word count, television viewing, and adult-child conversations, controlling for socioeconomic attributes. In the longitudinal sample, phase 2 language development scores were regressed on phase 1 language development, as well as phase 1 adult word count, television viewing, and adult-child conversations, controlling for socioeconomic attributes.

RESULTS: In fully adjusted regressions, the effects of adult word count were significant when included alone but were partially mediated by adult-child conversations. Television viewing when included alone was significant and negative but was fully mediated by the inclusion of adult-child conversations. Adult-child conversations were significant when included alone and retained both significance and magnitude when adult word count and television exposure were included.

CONCLUSIONS: Television exposure is not independently associated with child language development when adult-child conversations are controlled. Adult-child conversations are robustly associated with healthy language development. Parents should be encouraged not merely to provide language input to their children through reading or storytelling, but also to engage their children in two-sided conversations.

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