Posts Tagged ‘Eugenia Francis’

Election Night, It’s all about percentages!

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

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This evening many of us will be riveted to our television screens waiting for election results.  For those of us in California, it will be interesting to see whether Meg or Jerry wins. Gallup polling predicts Jerry. The Fiorina/Boxer race appears to be close.  As you watch the results this evening, why not take a few minutes to explain to your third grader how tonight is about not only counting the votes but about analysts making predictions based on the early returns.  What does it mean that X candidate will win by 25%?  How is it X candidate is the projected winner based on an early lead of 12%?  Will that percentage change over the course of the evening? Tonight math matters.

                                        [Image from worldofstock.com]

Halloween Candy Entrepreneur?

Friday, October 29th, 2010

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Sunday night your little goblins, witches, pirates and fairy tale princesses will be dragging home bags full of Halloween candy.

Now like any good parent, you will want to go through the bag with your child.  Maybe you don’t want them to eat all the sugary hard candy or squirrel away bubble gum that somehow appears in their hair the next morning.  Maybe you want to limit them to an assortment of favorite candy bars.  Snickers was a real get in my house.  At this moment your little princess or pirate will make a sour face and loudly protest that it’s not fair that mommy or daddy is taking candy from them.  Whoever  popularized the notion that something was as easy “as taking candy from a child” did not have children and, therefore, never experienced the outrage of a five-year old Dracula or the weepy indignation of a Strawberry Shortcake.  What is a concerned parent to do?

I suggest you and your child lay the Halloween loot on the kitchen table in order to decide how much and what kind of candy your child keeps.  Sort by type.  This is a good lesson for the little ones.  Instead of counting all the candy, arrange in rows of 5 or more and then multiply to find the answer.  You’re taking inventory just like a candy shop owner would. 

Now after you and your child have determined what and how much to keep, offer to buy the candy you don’t want your child to have.  Why not a penny for each of the hard candy, 5 cents for the candy bars and so on?  The idea is to have your child do the math.  Let your child see the value of what she or he has collected.  A few dollars in exchange for the candy can be saved for a special non-candy treat.  Your child has not only learned a math lesson but also a lesson in entrepreneurship:  this much candy earned me this much cash.  “Hmm, how much can I collect next year?” your child may be thinking.  So this Halloween taking away some of your child’s candy will seem less of a mean trick and more of a  . . . fair exchange.

                           [Image from 97thfloor.com]

Should we be funding mediocrity? Rating teacher effectiveness

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

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The documentary, Waiting for Superman, has put the the failure of our educational system under a scorching spotlight and ignited a debate between those who defend the status quo (largely the teachers union) and those (parents and taxpayers) who are frustrated with the desultory return on their tax dollar.   Adding fuel to the fire, The Los Angeles Times published evaluations of  6,000 city school teachers.  These evaluations were based on how well each teacher’s students performed on standardized tests. Included in the evaluation was a “value added” analysis that factors in where students started at the beginning of the school year and tracks their progress in subsequent years.  Within hours of being posted on the Times website, over 200,000 had viewed  the database.  Not surprisingly, the teachers union objected to the publication of this database saying it was unreliable measure of a teacher’s effectiveness. No one is arguing that this should be the sole criterion for gauging a teacher’s effectiveness but it should be one of the criteria. 

Los Angeles spends $30,000 per pupil .  Education accounts for 40% of the state budget.  However, the graduation rate is a dismal 40%.  Are our high schools “factories for failure” as one principal in Waiting for Superman claims?   Consider that almost 60% of Los Angeles high school students did NOT graduate yet only 2% of LA Unified teachers are denied tenure.  Doesn’t this discrepancy astound you?  Sixty out of 100 students don’t graduate but only two out of 100 teachers are dismissed.  Something is wrong with this ratio.  I applaud The LA Times for publishing this database.  Other city papers will follow suit and meaningful education reform will ensue.

                                    [Image from blogs.babble.com]

“Libraries Are the Medicine Chest of the Soul”

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

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This quote, an inscription over the doorway of the library in Thebes, appeared in a friend’s blog (www.PinkFrenchie.blogspot.com).  Her blog entry prompted me to write the following:

Books we’ve read reveal
who we were at a certain time.
Leafing through them
we see snapshots of who we were.
Why was that novel chosen?
And what did it mean to us then?

Great books we’ve read
take us back to a moment in time.
They’re like a visit with a good friend.
The conversation resumes
and we settle in and enjoy.

Every home should have a library which includes your favorite books.   Children’s bedrooms should have a bookcase filled with treasured books.  Be sure to add to their collection through trips to bookstores.

If on a budget (and who isn’t?), borrow books from the library or buy them through the “gently used” bookstore run by your local library.  Should your local library not have one, you can usually find a used book bookstore in your town.  At a quarter per book, you will soon have a box of books to take home. 

By making a trip to the library or bookstore a highlight in your child’s week, you are embarking with your child on an extraordinary journey, filled with great characters and wild adventures.  Books like good friends can comfort us during difficult times as well as inspire, teach and entertain.  Good books are lifelong friends.

A Teacher’s Perspective

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

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A friend sent this email:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:   ‘Let me see if I’ve got this right.  You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.  You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.  You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure they all pass the final exams.  You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language by email, telephone, newsletter, and report card.  You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for a supermarket position?“ 

My commentary:

Let’s help our teachers by promoting the best and compensating them well.   Let’s make it easier for truly gifted individuals to enter the teaching profession.  Why is it a teacher must have a teacher’s credential to teach high school English and yet that same individual can teach freshman English at our top universities as a TA with two-weeks of instruction and yearlong mentoring?  Why not do the same in our K-12 program?  Let’s bring the BEST and the BRIGHTEST into our classroom?

                          (Image above from blogs.babble.com)

Waiting for Superman

Saturday, October 9th, 2010
Child in Waiting for Superman

Child in Waiting for Superman

Have you seen Waiting for Superman, a documentary on the lamentable state of our public education system?  This documentary has ignited a debate in the editorial pages of our newspapers. This week Rupert Murdoch of The Wall Street Journal praised the film and called for reform in our public education.

geoffrey-canada7If you watch the news, you may have seen Davis Guggenheim, the director, discuss this documentary or Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, one of the heroes of this film. In the late ‘90’s, Geoffrey Canada proved that children from the most blighted and drug-infested areas of Harlem could not only succeed in his charter school but go on to graduate from college.  So remarkable and inspirational is his story that 60 Minutes interviewed him, so too have Charlie Rose and Oprah.

Stop to consider the social consequences of high schools whose drop-out rate is 60 per cent.  These high schools in our inner-cities are nothing but factories for failure.  It is time for education reform in our country.  It is time for the teachers union to weed out ineffective teachers and improve their ranks.  Bad teachers make it difficult for the good teachers to their job as they must spend so much time  doing remedial work with students taught by these teachers.

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Parents must demand accountability from the schools.  At the same time, they must provide an environment at home which fosters learning.  As I’ve said time and time again, a parent is a child’s first and primary teacher.  Make sure homework gets done,  Monitor television viewing.  There should be NO tv in a child’s bedroom.  The distraction is too great.  Teachers must be accountable but so must parents.

 

I urge you to see this film and join in the debate.

 

  

 

 

Our California Summer Came After Labor Day!

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

We’ve had such a cool summer in Southern California but last weekend a heat wave landed on our doorstep with a thud.  At 5:00 p.m., it’s 103 degrees outside and feels like a scorching Texas, fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk summer day!

After running errands, I stepped into Barnes and Noble to cool off before coming home and turning on the AC.  My home office upstairs with plantation shutters shut tight is now tolerable.

To escape Sunday’s heat, we headed down the Pacific Coast Highway to Crystal Cove in Laguna.   Our blue Pacific was refeshingly cold.  I spent the morning riding the waves, bodysurfing.   Just two weekends ago, the days were so overcast that I was the only one in the water but yesterday O.C. residents dotted the beach with their umbrellas in hot tropical colors. After putting up ours, we rushed in the water.

After bodysurfing, I swam behind the green crystalline waves, ocassionally swimming out to a large one that was cresting.   After swimming most of the morning, we sought the shade of our umbrella and read Sunday’s LA Times, refreshed again by the sound of the pounding surf, knowing the cool water was just a quick dash from where we sat.  Here we were twenty minutes from home, enjoying a mini-vacation.  Loved it!

So our REAL taste of summer came after Labor Day!   We may yet have a furnace of an October as Santa Ana winds sweep in from the desert.  When they do, I’m heading for the beach!

Pattern Recognition and Intelligence

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

 

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My method of teaching the times tables is based on pattern recognition. Did you know there’s a relationship between pattern recognition and intelligence? 

 

I found the following on www.intelligencetest.com/questions/precognition.htm:

 

Out of all mental abilities this type of intelligence [i.e., pattern recognition] is said to have the highest correlation with the intelligence factor, g.  This is primarily because pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment . . .  Patterns can be found in ideas, words, symbols and images and pattern recognition is a key determinant of your potential in logical, verbal, numerical and spatial abilities.  It is essential for reasoning because your capacity to think logically is based on your perception of the logic around you.  Your pattern recognition skills are expressed verbally through your long term exposure to language and your mathematical and spatial abilities are based on your perception of numerical data and 3D objects.

 

 

 

The webpage presents five problems that can be solved through pattern recognition. 

 

Back to “pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment.”  Don’t we feel relieved when we recognize a pattern when confronted with a chaotic environment?  We feel panicked and stressed in a chaotic environment.  Stuck in a long line at the movie megaplex?  You notice the line on the left is comprised mainly of families with children while your line has mostly adult couples.  Your brain takes this in.  It has found a pattern.  The line with the families will move more rapidly because there will be fewer transactions at the box office. You step into the left lane behind families and smile as your line moves more quickly than the other. You’ve made order out of chaos. 

 

We are happy when we make sense out of chaos.  We are frustrated when we can’t.  This is how many children feel when confronted with mastering the multiplication tables.  All those tables, all those math facts to learn.  For many children, the tables become a blur.  How to make order out of the chaos?  I believe my method of pattern recognition does just that. 

 

Our High School Curriculum Fails Our Students — What Can Parents Do?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

An article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reported that fewer than 25% of this year’s high school grads who took the ACT college-entrance exam, had the necessary academic skills in math, reading, English and science required to pass entry-level college courses.  Yet elementary school students improved on national achievement exams.  So why the desultory results for our high school students?

Experts, quoted in the Journal, fault the lack of rigor in high-school courses.  “High schools are the downfall of American school reform,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy.  “We haven’t figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren’t dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally.”

Looking ahead, what can parents of elementary school children do to ensure this does not happen to their children when they reach high school?  Make sure your child reads at least at grade level, preferably above grade level.  Fill you home with books.  Read to your child.  At the same time, set the example by reading not only the daily news whether in a newspaper or on your PC.  Read for pleasure.  Go to the library together and pick out books. Make books a vital part of your life.  If you do this, your child will develop the necessary skills in reading and English.

As a former university English composition instructor, I can attest that the students who loved to read and were voracious readers had the greatest fluency in writing.  They knew how to compose coherent sentences and paragraphs and knew the rules of grammar.  They also had excellent vocabularies. 

Encourage your child to read across disciplines.  Bring home science books and history books to expand your child’s horizon.   Have a summer reading list.  If you’re child is going to be busy with sports in the fall, why not ask for next year’s reading list and have your child read some of these during the summer? If you begin this in the elementary years, you more than likely have turned your child into a good student.  Continue this in middle school.   In high school, have your child take AP course, the most rigorous courses.  If not available, seek a better school or supplement your child’s education with your own reading list. Take your child to museums if you live in a big city.  When you travel, seek these out.

Regrettably, reform in our schools comes slowly.  The teacher’s union is powerful.  It is resistant to change.  Good teachers tire of battling complacent administrators and leave.   Parents tire of battling administrators and opt to homeschool.  Whether you homeschool or not, recognize that YOU are your child’s first and primary teacher.  The school may schortchange your child but you as a parent should not.

……………………………………………The WSJ article can be found at:  online.wsj.com/…/SB20001424052748703824304575435831555726858.html

Little Rabbit Foo Foo is a page turner!

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

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Little Rabbit Foo Foo, a storybook by Michael Rosen, charmed my  three and four-year old grandchildren. No matter how many times we read it, they couldn’t wait to turn the page and see Little Rabbit Foo Foo bop yet another creature on the head despite Good Fairy’s warnings!

 

Within one afternoon, they had memorized the book and knew when to turn the page. My daughter grew up with the song/game so it was fun to see her children enjoy it so. The illustrations by Arthur Robins of Rabbit Foo Foo riding through a forest on a motorbike, red mallet poised in the air are delightful as is the put-upon Good Fairy. For the children, it was thrilling to see naughty Rabbit Foo Foo defy the Good Fairy but there were consequences.  Your little ones will love it!

  

Be sure to also teach your children the game.  Children sit in a circle and recite the verses as a child in the role of naughty Little Rabbit Foo Foo circles the group and then lightly taps one of the children on the head who in turn becomes Rabbit Foo Foo.