Archive for the ‘Education – Academics’ Category

Government tries to clamp down on record grade inflation…

September 8, 2022

Don’t rejoice (or worry), it’s the UK gov’t, not our’s

As in the U.S., grade inflation has swept the UK … with a huge spike during the pandemic when much schooling was done “virtually”.

In the UK, for about a decade preceding the pandemic, about 27% of the grades that high schoolers got were As. Source

That percentage spiked to 45% in 2020.


The commonly cited reasons:

  • Online performance tough to differentiate
  • Just showing up online earned bonus points
  • Cheating commonplace on online exams
  • Students needed motivation to stay engaged

As we previously posted, studies are revealing that standardized test scores are falling as letter grades are inflating.

See: Is grade inflation masking learning losses?

Well, the UK Education Ministry has noticed the trend and is taking decisive action to deflate the grades.

“Grade boundaries are being reset to the middle of where they were in 2021 and 2019 as part of a planned two-year process to get back to pre-pandemic grade levels.”

Already, in 2020, the percentage of As dropped to 37% (the black bar above) … down 8 percentage points from the pandemic high … but still 10 percentage points higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Students are reportedly having a “tough time” with the course correction.

As could be expected, they feel entitled to keep getting scored along the lax pandemic standards.

College admissions offices are having a fit, trying to figure out what to make of the grading shifts.

Nonetheless, the UK Education Ministry intends to stay the course … and get back to 2019 inflated grade levels.

No word from U.S. educators…

My bet, we won’t be hearing from them.

This isn’t a message that parents, teacher unions or the Feds want to hear.

Is grade inflation masking learning losses?

September 7, 2022

In short, the answer is yes!

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a sidelines story of a mother who was concerned that her daughter “is dumber now than she was 2 years ago”.

That mother’s comment piqued my already high curiosity about learning loss during the covid school lockdowns.

On cue, the ACT standardized testing service released findings from a reasonably comprehensive study of grades and standardized test scores.

Let’s drill down….


A remarkable increase in “A” students

ACT found that in 2021, about 55% of high school students had a composite GPA (i.e. average across all “book” subjects) that was equivalent to an A grade (the blue line below; Bs are the purple line).

That’s up about 10 percentage points over the past couple of years.

Hooray, the kids are getting smarter.


Err, not so fast mes amies….


But standardized test scores have fallen

On the below chart, the blue line tracks the average GPA … it’s consistent with the letter grade mix change shown above.

But, these higher grades don’t seem to be translating to improved standardized test scores.

Standardized ACT test scores (the purple line)have been pretty constant over the past 10 years …. but, have marginally declined in the most recent years.


Note: The “real” ACT trend is probably worse than shown because of “sample bias”.

During the pandemic (and continuing to today) many colleges have waived the requirement that applicants submit standardized test scores.

It’s commonly concluded that many “average” students opted out of test-taking, understandably concluding that they had little to gain with a mediocre (or worse) test score.

So, what’s going on?


Education pundits offer many explanations

There’s a wide array of  oft-cited possible explanations for the “discontinuity” between grades and test scores.

Here are some of my favorites:

> Assigning grades was challenging (for teachers) when classes were delivered online … so, a common sentiment was to give students the benefit of the doubt and “round up” to keep them engaged

> Course content was less rigorous (i.e. “dumbed down) to fit online delivery … so, more students were able to master the pared back content that was delivered.

> Submitted school work might not strictly reflect individual effort since students may have been getting “help” from well-intended parents who were, out of necessity, getting more involved in their children’s education.

> Fewer students are taking advanced courses … and getting higher grades in the less challenging course offerings.


> Curriculum changes — away from reading, writing and arithmetic towards social topics — have made grading less quantifiably objective and more generously subjective.


And, of course, there’s the possibility that school’s are “rounding up” to inflated grades to assuage parents concerns that, in the mother’s words, “children are getting dumber”.

As more standardized test scores come rolling in, that will become clearer.

My bet: We’re not going to like the answer…

Shocker: National test scores plummet…

September 2, 2022

“The test scores indicate a learning deficit that could resonate for years” WSJ

This week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released the  “Nation’s Report Card.”

The results of tests administered to 4th graders show unprecedented drops in test scores.

4th grade is considered by many educators to be a pivotal year for students learning.

4th grade test scores, in effect, measure a student’s preparedness for “upper” elementary school and beyond.


Specifically, average scores in reading for 2022 declined to 215 out of a possible 500, falling five points from 2020.

Math scores fell seven points, to 234.


Math and reading scores for the exam are now at their lowest levels since 2000.


Drilling down in math

The drop-off in math scores was most severe for Hispanics and Blacks.

Data source: WaPo

Asian-American students are still the educational gold standard … scoring higher than other groups by statistically significant margins.

Data source: WaPo


Drilling down in reading

Only Asian-American students scored at a level comparable to 2020

Reading scores for all other groups dropped by 2 to 3 percentage points.

Data source: WaPo

As in math, Asian-American students set the high bar … scoring higher than other groups by statistically significant margins.

Data source: WaPo


Education pundits opine: The test scores indicate
a learning deficit that could resonate for years.

Among their recovery recommendations:

  • Refocus curriculum on math & reading
  • Shrink class sizes
  • Provide more one-on-one tutoring
  • More homework
  • Extend the school year with mandatory summer school

Standardized tests “confirm the legitimacy of high GPAs”…

August 11, 2022

So says a pre-law prof at at “working class” university”.

I’ve always been a fan of standardized testing, so a recent WSJ op-ed caught my eye.

The author was reacting to reports that “the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, is considering a proposal to abandon its requirement that applicants take a “valid and reliable admissions test.”

His summary conclusion: bad idea.

For context, he points out that:

The Law School Admissions Council, which designs and administers the LSAT, has demonstrated through extensive research that “the LSAT is the single best predictor of law school success.”

That’s good, he argues because:

Objective measures of ability give working-class students a shot at going to a top law school.


By leveling the playing fields between undergraduates attending “working class schools” and those fortunate enough to attend “good schools” (i.e. selective private universities) whose “brand identity” and its “halo effect” boosts applicants’ standing in the admissions process.

He argues that a “valid and reliable admissions test” allows working class students to demonstrate that they are as bright and capable of doing well in law school as students from privileged backgrounds.

In effect, the standardize tests confirm the legitimacy of GPAs … potentially boosting the standing of qualified applicants from lesser ranked schools … while filtering out lesser qualified applicants who accrue “face credibility” simply by attending brand name schools … or, schools that have succumbed to the grade inflation virus.

So, the author opines that the standardized tests can help law schools construct more qualified and more diverse student bodies.


My take

While the article was focused on the LSAT and law schools, I think that its conclusions apply more generally.

It’s commonly agreed that grade inflation has been rampant in high schools and colleges … and that the trend accelerated during the pandemic.

Studies are consistently showing that teachers were tossing around high grades like penny candies during the pandemic … in part because of the challenge evaluating students in a remote learning environment … and, in part, to claim legitimacy for remote teaching.

The ranks of honor roll and straight-A students swelled during the pandemic.

Standardized testing is a way to determine whether the higher grades better performance and more learning …  or simply grade inflation.

If grades are going up, but standardized test scores are going down, that’s a red flag.

Biden: “Overwhelming support for universal pre-K”

February 1, 2022

But, are we talking education or day care?

The conventional wisdom these days seems to be that government provided universal pre-K is a no-brainer since it fast-starts childhood education and levels the playing field between rich and poor.

Even Joe Machin is on the program.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren asserts that “the science” is settled on this one:

Study after study has shown that regular access to high-quality child care promotes literacy skills, cognitive development, and healthy behaviors.

These are long-term benefits: quality early education produces better health, educational, and employment outcomes well into adulthood.

Sounds reasonable, right?

But, a recent study throws some cold water on the conventional wisdom.


This  report presents the results of a “longitudinal randomized control study of the effects of a scaled-up, government-supported pre-K program.”

The researchers sampled 2,990 children from low-income families who applied to oversubscribed pre-K programs that randomly assigned offers of admission.

They tracked the students who were accepted to and participated in the pre-K programs … and those who didn’t get accepted and didn’t participate in a pre-K program.

They cataloged standardized test results for all of the students from kindergarten to sixth grade.

The chart below displays the results by grade level, 3 through 6.

The gray bars are the standardized test scores for students who attended pre-K … the black bars are for students who didn’t … the asterisks indicate statistical significance.



The startling conclusion to be drawn from the standardized test results:

Data through sixth grade from state education records showed that the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children.


When confronted with “the data” pre-K advocates typically challenge the studies as non-representative outliers or attack the scientific integrity of the studies (or the studiers).

If that doesn’t work, they argue that non-academic outcomes are just as important as academic advances … whether they are immediate or long-run.

The study looked at those effects, too.

And, to make things worse, the researchers found:

In grades 3 through 6, pre-K participants had more disciplinary infractions and lower attendance rates.

Keep in mind that the pre-K students were randomly selected from the same pool of low income families. So, social and familial factors were inconsequential.

Double ouch.


My take

It’s hard to argue against early childhood education … at home or at “school”.

And, one study does not define “the science” and should be treated as a clue, not a conclusion.

But, this study — which casts doubt on the educational value of pre-K —    should give pause to those expecting a universal, coast-to-coast government pre-K program will be a panacea for educational attainment … especially given the less than stellar track record of many urban public school systems.

If the real motivation is “free” public daycare, then universal pre-K may make some sense.

But even then, it’s hardly “free” … and, if provided, reduces the need for refundable tax credits for child care, right?

Scientists: “Alarmed over recent trends in K-12 math education”

December 15, 2021

It’s oft reported that the U.S. is 25th (or lower) in the world in math & science … and things aren’t getting any better.

Case in point: Last week we posted study results indicating that K-8 students’ standardized math scores have fallen by about 10% since the pre-pandemic levels.

That’s ringing alarm bells for scientists and mathematicians.

So says a letter boasting about 500 signatories, including:

Four winners of the Fields Medal in math; two winners of the Turing Award in computing; a Nobel laureate in physics and another in chemistry; 25 members of the National Academy of Sciences; and faculty at Stanford, Berkeley, CalTech, MIT and every top U.S. university for hard science.

As the WSJ opines: “When mathematicians, physicists and engineers speak up to defend the integrity of their fields, Americans should pay attention.”


The scientists buy-into making math more inclusive (i.e. more “welcoming” to women and black / brown minorities) and more relevant (e.g. injecting practicality and social meaning).

My take: Their issues seem to revolve around:

> “Slow rolling” … the elimination of “tracking” in favor of one-size-fits-all courses that get watered down for the general student population (think: common denominator)

> Performance measurements …  the elimination or diminution of standardized testing … intended to reduce students’ anxiety and potential loss of esteem … at the expense of clear metrics re: achievement and progress, individually and collectively

> Subjectivity …  minimizing “right” answers … in favor of ones that are   “directionally correct” or simply “nice tries”

Weighing in, in absentia, is Albert Einstein:

“One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.”

> Methodology … ditching road-tested protocols and procedural documentation in favor of “many ways to skin a cat” and informal or mental “scratch-padding”.

Again, quoting Einstein:

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of expressed logical ideas.”

> Diminished “higher math” … delaying algebra until high school … and squeezing calculus offerings in high school … reducing students’ preparedness for college and making colleges responsible for skills’ remediation.


The signatories largely dodged the remix of education emphasis away from hard sciences and math towards social and political discourse.

Einstein would be disappointed on that count:

Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever. Albert Einstein

But, he signatories’ did issue a strong warning:

“The erosion of math and science education is threatening America’s prosperity and survival in a competitive world.

Those disciplines are centuries old and arguably even more critical for today’s grand challenges than in the Sputnik era.”


COVID Effect: Students’ academic proficiency down 12%

December 8, 2021

And, even worse in math.

A recent working paper published in the NBER attempts to calibrate how much learning was “lost” when schools were shuttered and classes went virtual.

Analyzing standardized test data from 3rd through 8th graders in 12 states, researchers concluded that overall academic proficiency (i.e. considering both math and ELA) declined just under 12% from pre-pandemic levels


My take:

> Surprising (to me): Only a slim majority of students were scoring as “proficient” before the pandemic, now, less that than a majority are proficient.

> That said, there are wide variations by state in both proficiency levels (ranging from 33.7% in WI to 67.1% in VA) and in pandemic-related drop-offs (from 2.2% percentage points in WY to 9 p.p. in VA) … the latter of which the researchers attribute the degree of in person vs. online schooling during the pandemic.

> Note that the state that scored highest in proficiency in 2019 (VA @ 76.1%) kept its lead in 2021 (67.1%) despite having the biggest drop (down 9 percentage points). The researchers point out that, of the 12 states studied, Virginia offered the least amount of in-person instruction during the pandemic.

> In comparison, Florida and Wyoming – 2 states that were almost entirely in person — dropped only 4.8 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively.



> The researchers found that the percentage of students who scored “proficient” in language arts (ELA) declined in spring 2021 by an average of 6.3 percentage points

> The ELA drop-offs are tightly banded for the 12 states with a slight positive correlation for in person schooling … for example, note that the 2 “fully in person” states – WY and FL – have the shallowest declines.




> In math, the researchers found that the percentage of students who scored “proficient” declined in spring 2021 by an average of 14.4 percentage points .

> Outboarding the precipitous 31.9 percentage point drop in VA, as with ELA, there appears to be a correlation … with in person schooling dampening the drop … and, the 2 “fully in person” states – WY and FL – among the shallowest declines.



Bottom line

> Only half of 3rd to 8th graders are “proficient” in math and ELA … that’s scary in itself!

> The 12 percentage point drop in test scores is, shall we say, “statistically significant … and the researchers note that they think their methodology understates the drop-off

> As usual, the most dismal scores came in math … there’s low likelihood that they’ll improve if equity math with no right methods & no right answers takes hold.

> Virginia: No wonder that education-oriented parents were up in arms during the VA gubernatorial election.

Baltimore: “Almost half of our kids are failing … and nobody seems to care”

August 12, 2021

The Baltimore City Schools  System recently released average high school GPA scores for  the first three quarters of the past school year.

The numbers are shocking!


You read that right.

Over 40% of Baltimore’s 20,500 public high school students averaged a D grade or lower.

Of course, covid’s “learning disruptions” have had an impact, but…

Pre-covid, 24% of the students were averaging a GPA below 1.0, so covid disruptions only get about half the blame.

The school board says that it is providing students with a variety of opportunities to acquire the “unfinished learning” they lost.

But, few students are taking advantage of the learning opportunities.

Nonetheless, the schools’ policy is that no student will be held back for failing classes.

All will progress to the next grade level.


Jovani Patterson ran for Baltimore City Council President last year on a platform that included accountability in education.

He lost!

Stating the obvious, Patterson now says:

This is just further perpetuating a cycle of poverty, of despair.

If almost half of our kids are failing, what options do they have after high school?

Our schools outspend 97% of other major school districts but we don’t see much change.

City leaders don’t care at all.

Everyone should be speaking out about this.

But, they aren’t….

McKinsey: The pandemic’s learning loss…

August 11, 2021

A 1/2 year of learning lost, but majority of parents are unconcerned (or oblivious)

McKinsey recently published an analysis of the the impact of the pandemic on students’ academic progress.

COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning


The Reality

Citing standardized testing results by Curriculum Associates, the McKinsey researchers conclude:

> More first and second graders have ended this year two or more grade levels below expectations than in any previous year.

> On average, K–12 students are now 5 months behind in mathematics and 4 months behind in reading heading into this school year.

> The learning loss is most severe for students attending majority black schools


Those results are in line with prior studies and projections re: learning loss, so they didn’t surprise me.

But here’s something that did…


Shades of Alfred E. Newman

Alfred E. Newman was the lead character in the Mad Magazine (pop in the 60s and 70s).

His blasé, often oblivious mantra was “What, me worry?”

Apparently, a majority of parents are adopting a 2021 variant of the Newman philosophy.

Based on a large scale survey of parents, McKinsey researchers conclude that “parents underestimate the learning gap caused by the pandemic.”

Specifically, across all races, more than half of parents think their child is doing just fine.

> 40% said their child is on track academically despite the pandemic

>16% percent said their child is progressing faster than in a usual year

> Only 14 percent of parents said their child has fallen significantly behind.

Black parents are slightly more likely than white parents to think their child is on track or better.


Perceptions vs. Reality

I’ve been wondering why there has been so little attention being given to the learning gap that students have incurred during the pandemic.

I chalked it up to the dirth of union-resisted standardized testing … and,  the media-fueled obsession with CLT, equity math and transgender accommodations.

I missed the obvious: A majority of parents are either oblivious  … or worse, just don’t care if we’ve fallen behind 27 other countries in academic achievement.

My hunch: Even Alfred E. Newman would fret over that.

Old School: Target offers employees a paid tuition program…

August 9, 2021

Ah, for the good old days…

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was commonplace for employers to offer tuition reimbursement programs to employees.

I know because I took masters courses in economics courtesy of a mid-sized machine tools company … and got my Univ. of Chicago MBA courtesy of a multi-national food retailer.

The terms and conditions were simple:  I had to pay upfront … and when I had proof of payment and a course grade that was B or higher, my employer reimbursed me for the schools’ tuition.

There was some small print requiring the courses to be “business-related” … but that wasn’t a issue in those days since workers were trying to advance their careers.

Companies benefited  since each job-related course increased employee’s value to the company and since the program had a “stickiness” that helped retention.

Employees benefited since they were getting a free education … and potentially a free degree.

Of course, there were indirect costs borne by the employees … mostly the sacrifice of free time since courses (and “homework”) were done in the evening or on weekends … and degrees seemed to take forever when taking only 1 or 3 courses at a time.

Bottom line: It was a win-win for companies and employees.

But, the tuition benefit seemed to fade away when tuition-inflation caused costs to skyrocket… and, when course offerings and degree majors became less practical and way less job-related.


Fast forward to today.

Many companies are rekindling the old school programs … offering employees a chance to complete or advance their studies at little or no cost.

The latest example: Target.

Team members will have a range of options, including courses for high school completion, college prep and English language learning as well as select certificates, certifications, bootcamps, associate and undergraduate degrees.

Target is partnering with education and upskilling platform Guild Education to provide easy access to more than 250 business-aligned programs from over 40 schools, colleges and universities.

Read the last lines carefully: only business-aligned programs from 40+ approved schools:

Schools, colleges and universities like the University of Arizona, Oregon State University and historically Black colleges and universities like Morehouse College and Paul Quinn College.

My bet: Target will be negotiating tuition discounts from the approved schools … rejecting schools with ROI-busting tuition increases.

Well done, Target.

Sometimes, old school ideas had merit…

So, how much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?

June 25, 2021

No way to tell since schools appear to have ignored a Federal gov’t mandate to do standardized testing this year to measure students’ learning levels in math & reading.

Let’s start back at the beginning…

In a long ago prior post, we reported results from a survey done in Fall 2020 that indicated, for example:

  • Students in 5th & 6th grades started the 2020-2021 school year 12 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in math.
  • Students in grades 4 to 7 started the 2020-2021 school year 4 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in reading.

Of course, we opined: It be useful to give students standardized tests this spring, as more of them  return to school?


There was some hope that the testing would be done … and, we’d have some calibration of how much students had fallen behind during covid.

According to USA Today , there was some reason to be optimistic…

Under federal law, states must administer annual exams in key subjects including reading and math to students in third through eighth grade and once in high school.

The requirement to administer state exams was waived by in spring 2020, when most U.S. schools shut down as a result of COVID-19.

But, in early 2021, a letter from Biden’s Education Dept. advised states that they will need to administer  the annual standardized achievement exams to students this year (.

There is some “wiggle room” to shorten the annual exams, administer them remotely or delay giving them until summer )or fall … but, “the Biden administration will not consider blanket waivers of assessments this year.”

Of course, not all sides agreed with the Fed’s announcement.


Kudos to teachers who have been teaching…

May 10, 2021

Don’t lump them in with the urban unions

First, some background….

Occasionally over the past year, I’ve had opportunity to observe my grandkids  online learning.

One “pod” of grandkids is enrolled in a private DC parochial school … the other pod is enrolled in suburban Baltimore County public schools.

In common, both the private and public schools relied heavily on virtual (online) learning.

For the public school kids, up until a couple of weeks ago, all course work was online.  Now, there’s a hybrid  mix of online and “at school” learning.

For the private school kids, hybrid learning kicked in very early (last fall) with a “bias” towards in school learning … but, the school provided an all online option for parents who resisted the at school option … and there were a couple of weeks when the school had to resort to all online.

OK, so what did I observe?


> First, teachers were faced with a formidable challenge.

For most (all?) instructing online was what’s euphemistically known as a “developmental opportunity” … that is,  something that they hadn’t done before and hadn’t been trained to do.

Early on, technical snafus were frequent and time-consuming, but they got worked out.

Teachers had to wear two hats — being prepped for both online and in person teaching … and, be ready to turn on a dime when administrators announced new rules & regs.


> Second, all of the teachers that I saw in action — private & public — consistently demonstrated a constructive, positive attitude online.

They were well prepared for each session, they took the technical glitches in stride and tried their best to keep all their zoomed students engaged.


> Third, teachers had to scale back the curriculum to deliver it online.

That’s not a criticism of the teachers … it’s a reality of online education.

We’ll have more on that in later posts…

WSJ: The Future of U.S. Higher Education…

April 9, 2021

A Few Star Universities, Many Affiliated Satellites

Consider how the U.S. hospital system is evolving … independent hospitals are affiliating with “name brands” (e.g. Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins) … or are joining “integrated delivery networks” (e.g. HCA, CommonSpirit, Universal, Ascension, Tenet).

That model is analogous to a “re-imagining” of higher education in a WSJ op-ed by Daniel Pipes, founder of an organization called Campus Watch.

Mr. Pipes predicts that “top schools will flourish while the rest wither and are reborn as affiliates.”

Here’s the essence of Mr. Pipe’s rationale:

The taxi system was unreliable, expensive and unpleasant, so along came Uber and overturned it.

Higher education, even more antiquated than taxis, was due for a comparable shock.

Covid provided it.

More specifically, this is what Mr. Pipes envisions:

Covid has forced a massive reliance on Zoom instruction has finally proved the internet’s potential to disrupt the dominant, archaic model.


In-person attendance will return, but institutions will scamper to find new procedures [and ways to add value


MOOCs (“massive open online courses,”) – which have generally languished — will take off and finally fulfill their potential.


The appearance of such huge courses at a moment when lesser institutions are failing will result in a few star universities flourishing while the rest starve and die.


Imagine a reduction from some 5,300 U.S. colleges and universities to 50, each with its renowned outlook, specialties and strengths.


Thousands of existing campuses will become shared satellite facilities for those 50 that flourish.

Legions of (local) teaching assistants and graders who meet in person with students, will give education the personal touch and community grounding essential to its mission.

So, what happens at the “flourishing 50” campuses (and their faculties)?

My take:

> They continue to fulfill their research missions.

> They train the next generation of scholar-teachers

> They offer advanced content courses that require in-person teaching by subject matter experts.

> They operate as “content farms”, providing proprietary online courses

> The provide quality control over the “satellites” to protect the school’s standing and brand image.

For sure, the next couple of years will be interesting.

In-person advanced seminars with star professors will continue as ever,

Tuition will come crashing down as economies of scale come into play, truly opening education to all and ending the student-loan crisis.

I bet Biden thought this one was a gimme…

March 8, 2021

Joe gets blowback re: moving teachers to the front of the line.

Immediately after Biden announced that there would be vaccine available for all adults by the end of May … and that all teachers, school staffs and child care workers would get at least 1 vax shot by the end of May, we observed:

1. Achieving the “available supply” is not  exactly a moon-shot. It simply requires continuing to deliver vaccines (to & from the government) at current run rates, adding in the new incremental J&J supply.

If the goal had been set at getting all 250 million adults 18 and over fully vaccinated by the end of May — that would have been a moon shot

For details, see VAX: What exactly did Biden promise?

2. Getting at least 1-shot into all teachers arms by the end of this month isn’t possible without compromising some “science” and medical ethics.

You see, stores in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program already scheduled out their anticipated vaccine supply for March.

So, letting teachers cut the line would require cancelling appointments already on the books for “vulnerables” and other “essentials”.

For details, see VAX: Did Biden’s brain trust set him up to fail?


While we were first, it didn’t take long for the piling-on to start … from science & data advocates, ethicists, “equitarians”, “zeroists” and politicos.


Still more: How much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?

March 5, 2021

Spring 2021 plan: Federal gov’t tells states to do standardized testing to measure students’ learning levels in math & reading.

In a prior post, we reported results from a survey done in Fall 2020 that indicated, for example:

  • Students in 5th & 6th grades started the 2020-2021 school year 12 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in math.
  • Students in grades 4 to 7 started the 2020-2021 school year 4 or more weeks behind their expected learning levels in reading.

Of course, we opined: It be useful to give students standardized tests this spring, as more of them  return to school?

Well, maybe, just maybe, that will materialize.

According to USA Today

Under federal law, states must administer annual exams in key subjects including reading and math to students in third through eighth grade and once in high school.

The requirement to administer state exams was waived by in spring 2020, when most U.S. schools shut down as a result of COVID-19.

But, a recent letter from Biden’s Education Dept. advised states that they will need to administer  the annual standardized achievement exams to students this year.

There is some “wiggle room” to shorten the annual exams, administer them remotely or delay giving them until summer or fall … but, “the Biden administration will not consider blanket waivers of assessments this year.”

Of course, not all sides agree with the announcement.


More: How much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?

March 5, 2021

Fall 2020 EstimateThe  COVID schools’ shutdown compounded the inevitable “summer slide”.

In a prior post (originally published July 30, 2020 and re-posted last week), we provided background on students’ “summer slide” in learning … and presented some research projecting how much “dislearning” will have occurred since schools closed in Spring, 2020 until Fall, 2020.

At the time, the WSJ did a study that painted a dire picture:  The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work.

Preliminary research projects students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 30% dis-learning in reading relative to a typical school year, and more than 50% in math.

Those were forecasts, so we asked the rhetorical question: Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew how much students’ actually regressed while schools have been closed?

And, we advised: To find out, give students a round of standardized tests at the start of the school year.

We predicted: Results would likely shock educators, parents and politicos alike.


Well, a  national testing service did just what we asked.

According to the WSJ

Data from Renaissance Learning — a national testing program which is used widely by U.S. public schools to assess students’ progress — shows widespread performance declines at the start of 2020-2021 academic year, particularly in math.


More: How much have students fallen behind during the school’s shutdown?

March 2, 2021

Fall 2020 EstimateThe  COVID schools’ shutdown compounded the inevitable “summer slide”.

In a prior post (originally published July 30, 2020 and re-posted last week), we provided background on students’ “summer slide” in learning … and presented some research projecting how much “dislearning” will have occurred since schools closed in Spring, 2020 until Fall, 2020.

At the time, the WSJ did a study that painted a dire picture:  The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work.

Preliminary research projects students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 30% dis-learning in reading relative to a typical school year, and more than 50% in math.

Those were forecasts, so we asked the rhetorical question: Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew how much students’ actually regressed while schools have been closed?

And, we advised: To find out, give students a round of standardized tests at the start of the school year.

We predicted: Results would likely shock educators, parents and politicos alike.


Well, a  national testing service did just what we asked.

According to the WSJ

Data from Renaissance Learning — a national testing program which is used widely by U.S. public schools to assess students’ progress — shows widespread performance declines at the start of 2020-2021 academic year, particularly in math.


Why can’t online education be as engaging as Fortnite?

July 30, 2020

In prior post,  asserted that near-term, more online education is inevitable … and, in another post, we reported a WSJ study that  The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work.

The headline point of the WSJ study:

Preliminary research suggests students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year, and less than 50% in math.

We concluded:

The playing field changed: Teachers are no longer just “competing” against other teachers and subjects for students’ interest … now, they are directly competing against Fortnite and Tik Tok.

That’s not a fair fight…

A couple of loyal readers asked a reasonable question: “Fortnite? What the heck are you talking about?”


During the past couple of months, I had a unique opportunity: occasionally kid-sitting a 1st grader and a 5th grader during the Covid school shut-down.

So, I had a glimpse into the effectiveness of their online virtual classes …  and, I got to see how they spent their time with schools and sports locked down.


The experience was eye-opening…


Should you send your kids back to school this fall?

July 10, 2020

It’s hard to follow “the science” when it’s inconclusive.

It appears that most school systems are on a path to open their schools either fully or partially (e.g. rotating students every other day or every other week) … and, to mitigate the risks by capacity limiting busses, socially distancing students in classrooms, wearing masks, etc.


In a couple of weeks, many parents will be forced to make a very big decision: Do they send their K-12 children back to school or not?

Classical public health thinking would say to focus on four questions:

1. Are kids susceptible to the coronavirus?

2. If yes, will mitigation actions sufficiently reduce the risk?

3. Are infected kids vulnerable to severe outcomes?

4. Do infected kids transmit the virus to others?

Unfortunately, “the science and the data” don’t provide much guidance…


During this week’s White House briefing on school reopening…

Sally Goza – President of the American Academy of Pediatrics said:

Children are less likely to become infected and they are less likely to spread infection.

But, White House health advisor Dr. Deborah Birx countered that there’s not enough data to arrive at that conclusion:

The U.S. data is incomplete, because the country has not been testing enough children to conclude how widespread the virus is among people younger than 18 and whether they are spreading the virus to others.

If you look across all of the tests that we’ve done, and when we have the age, the portion that has been the lowest tested portion is the under-10-year-olds.

Our data is skewed to people with symptoms, and then skewed to adults over 18.”

Bottom line: “The science” doesn’t know whether kids are susceptible to the coronavirus or not.

The mitigation actions are likely to reduce contagions risks, but it’s unrealistic to expect that they will eliminate the risks.


Perhaps the best news so far is that there have been practically no coronavirus deaths among children.

A lot of people are hanging their hats on the apparently low fatality rate as an indicator that severe outcomes are unlikely.

But, keep in mind that kids have been sheltered-in-place since schools closed in the spring, so they have been minimally exposed to the virus.

Some health “experts” warn that’s a double-edged sword since kids haven’t had a chance to develop immunities that counter the coronavirus.

So, when schools open, the proverbial dam may break.


That gets us back to whether or not infected kids are likely to transmit the virus to others.

This is, in my opinion, the pivotal decision factor.

Again, the evidence is, at best, equivocal.

“While some scientists fear schools could act as accelerators for the pandemic, no country where schools have reopened has so far reported a sharp increase in infections.” WSJ

That said, I side with Dr. Birx that “there’s not enough data to conclude whether kids are spreading the virus to others.”

So, I’d apply a variant of Pascal’s Wager to the transmission question.

See HITS: Pascal’s Wager … perhaps, we should be more righteous.

That is, assume that kids are susceptible to the virus, that mitigation actions will reduce but not eliminate contagion, and that infected kids do transmit the virus.

Then, the critical question is:

Are there vulnerable people potentially exposed to infected kids?

If there are vulnerable caretakers at home (e.g. are elderly or suffer co-mobidity factors) … or anyone with compromised or underdeveloped immune systems (e.g. chemo patients or newborns) … then Pascal’s Wager kicks in.

In those cases, the risks of going back to school increase substantially, maybe reversing the decision calculus.

It may be less about whether the kids will suffer bad outcomes … and more about who the kids might infect — and what the consequences will be on them.


Re-opening schools may not be as easy as it sounds.

June 22, 2020

Complying with CDC guidelines may be cost prohibitive and logistically impossible.

One of my biggest coronavirus concerns has been the school-shut-down impact on kids … both socially and educationally.

Since children are negligibly hurt by the virus (i.e. lower infection vulnerability, minor or no symptoms when infected, low transmission-forward rate),  I’ve been a advocate for re-opening schools ASAP.

I’ve been implicitly assuming that “cleaning” the schools’ environment would be no big deal … just move the desks further apart and double down on nighttime deep-cleaning.


I’ve been glossing over the economics and the logistics…


The “summer slide” meets the coronavirus…

June 18, 2020

In his 2008 bestseller Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of an educational “summer slide”.

Referencing a tracking study of Baltimore City Public School students, Gladwell highlighted evidence that students’ standardized test scores in the fall were generally lower than their scores in the prior spring.

His observation: “Between school years, students’ accumulated learning is diminished”.

In other words, there is a statistically significant “forget factor” if learning isn’t reinforced and edged forward with summer enrichment activities (think: summer school, educational camps, field trips, parental tutoring).

The summer slide is most pronounced for poor students who lack summer enrichment opportunities … and for all students in math. 

The black line below illustrates the math score drop-off for typical 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. On average, the typical summer slide in math skills is about 2%.  That is, students are 2% less proficient in math after their summer vacations.

Source: WSJ

To make matters worse, note the red line on the chart … it illustrates the projected drop-off due to this year’s virus-induced school closings.

It’s estimated that students will be about 5% less proficient in math than they were when the schools closed … the combined effect of lesser learning during the schools’ shut-down period and an extended summer slide (with many schools declaring no mas in early June) .

More specifically…


Why do students need a physical classroom?

January 16, 2020

An interesting op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ concludes that 2020 will be “the year the dam breaks for college education in America”.


The author notes  “the rising cost and slowing returns of traditional schooling, coupled with advances in and the growing acceptance of online education

Among the specifics…


Smart states voted for Hillary, dumb states voted for Trump … right?

December 3, 2019

A friend sent along a study by an organization called SafeHome that ranks states by their relative “smartness”.

More specifically, the study used a formula that “takes into account college degrees, high school graduation, professional or advanced degrees and test scores to create a smartest states ranking.”

So, “smartness” isn’t just native IQ, it’s opportunity and achievement, too.

Without quibbling over the criteria or the formula, here is the answer:

imageclick to see the state by state details

I suspect that my friend was multi-motivated, sending me the study because (1) it’s interesting, (2) New Jersey — her home state — topped the list, and (3) it would prove that smart voted for HRC and dumb voted for DJT.

Of course, I had to drill down to see if #3 is true…


What’s the ROI of a college education?

November 26, 2019

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently published a study on the ROI of college educations.

Billed as a “first try”, the report estimates the Net Present Value of a college education — taking into account the “price” of a college’s degree, the interest on student debt incurred, likely future earnings and the time value of money.


Among the reports key conclusions….


Schools: Test scores falling from already dismal levels…

November 4, 2019

… and, the gap is widening between highest achieving and lowest achieving students.


Every 2 years, an organization called The Nation’s Report Card conducts an “Assessment of Educational Progress” being made in America’s school.

The overall conclusion: not much progress is being made.




Decline in MBA applications accelerates…

October 22, 2019

Schools pressured to innovate programs and tighten cost belts.


According to data collected by the WSJ

Applications to American M.B.A. programs fell for the fifth straight year … down by 9.1% last year to just over 135,000.

Elite schools — except for Chicago (my alma mater) – are experiencing declines and being forced to dig deeper into their still formidable pile of applications … i.e. increase their acceptance rates.


What’s going on?


What’s the impact of declining birthrates on future college enrollments?

October 15, 2019

And, how should colleges brace for the changes?

According to Nathan Grawe, a professor of social sciences at Minnesota’s Carleton College …

A declining birthrate means the currently typical college-going population could decline by more than 15 percent starting about 2026.

The impact: schools will need to tightened their cost belts, aggressively recruit students and do a better job retaining and graduating their enrollees … or close down.


Let’s unpack Grawe’s argument…


Ethics: Is mathematics racist?

October 9, 2019

Seattle Board of Education thinks so.

According to the Daily Caller (and numerous other sources)…

Seattle Public Schools are now offering a course for K-12 students titled “Math Ethnic Studies.”

The permeating theme: mathematics is fundamentally racist.


Say, what?


Why Johnny can’t write …

April 18, 2019

Faculty colleagues and I often bemoaned that there seems to be a consensus that writing skills among MBA students have been declining.

I’m not talking about flowery prose and precise grammar.

I’m talking about logical argumentation … being able to explain why something is happening and what to do about it.

My hypothesis was that colleges aren’t requiring students to take courses (or demonstrate proficiency) in, say, critical thinking or logic … and that college students today aren’t required to write many papers that hone their thinking and writing skills.


Testing my hypothesis on a middle school math teacher-friend, I got a rude awakening …


Do students really learn what’s taught?

April 11, 2019

Though I’ve retired from the practice, I’m still very engaged on education issues … especially whether our students (at all levels) are being adequately schooled to compete in the real world.

So, one of my summer reads is “What Schools Could Be” by Ted Dinterersmith – a well credentialed, experience-deep educator.

In a nutshell, author Ted Dintersmith spent a year visiting schools across the nation to identify outstanding teachers and catalog their secret sauces.


One of the anecdotes that he recounts in the book hit one of my longstanding questions: Do students really learn what they’re being taught?


How much “learning” is lost during summer vacation?

April 10, 2019

In his book Outliers, one of the topics that Malcolm Gladwell explored was the academic achievement gap between kids from low income families and kids from higher incomes families … even for kids attending the same schools.


Malcolm uncovered  a learning dynamic that he coined the “summer slide”.


The degree-earning gender gap…

April 9, 2019

An interesting analysis done by economist Mark Perry concludes:

Since 1982, women have earned 13 million more college degrees than men.


Let’s drill down on those numbers…


If your kids are college bound…

March 29, 2019

Here’s a site that you must check out.

In a prior post, we questioned: “Are colleges watering down their curriculums?” … and reported on  a survey conducted by American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

The ACTA criteria and methodology  specifically  assesses whether students are learning the “essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.

The results: Only 2% of the surveyed schools earned an A grade from ACTA.

For details, see “Have colleges watered down their curriculums?”


The overall statistics are interesting (and disappointing), but what’s more meaningful is how specific schools are doing.

Here’s how to find out…


More: Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

March 28, 2019

A survey of 700 schools answers the question.

In a prior post, we outlined the criteria and method that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) used to assess whether students are learning the “essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.


In a nutshell, ACTA researchers culled through over 700 schools’ course catalogs and web sites to determine what courses were being offered and, more important, which courses were required of all students.

Specifically, they investigated whether undergraduates are gaining a reasonable college-level introduction in seven core subject areas:

  1. Composition & argumentation
  2. Literature and critical thinking
  3. Foreign language & culture
  4. U.S. government & history
  5. Economics: Macro, micro, behavioral
  6. Mathematics, logic & computer science
  7. Science & scientific experimentation.

Here’s what they found …


Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

March 27, 2019

A survey seeks to  answer that question.

In a prior  post, we reported that employers think that most college graduates are poorly prepared for the work force in such areas as critical thinking, communication and problem solving.

See A bigger college scandal than the recent admissions bruhaha…

Let’s dig a little deeper on that sentiment.


The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) conducted a survey of “Core Requirements at our Nation’s Colleges and Universities” to determine what students are really learning in college.

Specifically, the ACTA survey focused on the courses that a student is required to take outside the major.

These courses — commonly called general education classes or the school’s core curriculum — are, according to the ACTA, “ the foundation of a school’s academic program”.

They are the courses “generally  designed to equip students with essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.

Here is specifically what ACTA was looking for…


College admissions scandal: Much ado about nothing?

March 25, 2019

Maybe so, but it shines a spotlight on other college problems.

It was easy to get caught up in the recent college admissions fiasco.

It had all the ingredients of popular scandal: rich celebrity stars and industry titans, elite colleges, outrageous (and illegal) adult behavior, sports abuses, social injustice.  All constantly re-fueled by continuous cable news looping.

Today, let’s step back and put the bruhaha into perspective.


Nicholas Lemann – of Columbia’s School of Journalism – cut to the chase in the New Yorker:

Busting the admissions cheaters is the right thing to do, in addition to being emotionally satisfying.

But it won’t change America’s colleges much for the better.

Let’s drill down on that…


Just how dumb are Lori Loughlin’s daughters?

March 18, 2019

Or, the more pertinent question: Are Lori’s daughters “qualified” to attend USC?

I hate to pick on Lori Loughlin’s daughters (<=not really) but, in the recent college admissions scandal, they’re the only  kids who have been outted (in detail) by the media … and, let’s be honest, they are easy targets.


Evidence re: smart or dumb is scant – i.e. IQ or legit SAT scores haven’t been reported – but there are a couple of data points:

  1. The video loops on cable news are less than flattering (e.g. “I’m looking forward to the football games and parties” — not “the high level of intellectual challenge”);
  2. Lori’s stating that “I didn’t push my daughters to get A’s in high school” — suggests that they met their mom’s low bar and didn’t get many A’s;
  3. it took a whopping $500,000 to open USC’s “side door” for the girls — that suggests that the girls had a lot ground to make up.
  4. Lori shelled out the $500,000 (and allegedly committed a couple of felonies in the process) …that’s pretty dumb … and, at least some of everybody’s “smarts” comes via their parents DNA.

So, it seems reasonable to conclude that the girls aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

Does that mean that they aren’t “qualified” to attend USC?  

That’s a trickier question…


Why are Asian-American students dominating “elite” schools?

March 15, 2019

No, they don’t buy-off sports coaches and abuse standardized testing procedures. 

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (“TJ” for short), is a selective DC-area magnet school designed to provide an elite, high-tech education for the most academically gifted students in Northern Virginia.

The school offers rigorous study in advanced college-level offerings like electrodynamics, neurobiology, and artificial intelligence.

High octane academics, for sure … offered to the best and brightest.

What’s the rub?

Demographic mix.


The school’s newly accepted Class of 2022 is 65 percent Asian, 23 percent white, five percent Hispanic, and two percent black.


20 years ago, the concern was that Black and Hispanic representation at TJ was less than half their demographic mix in Fairfax County – the “feeder” county.

Several initiatives were launched to increase Black and Hispanic representation, including early identification and proactive outreach to high potential minority children; supplementary in-school and extracurricular programs to teach and mentor them; and more ready access to prep and gateway courses such as Algebra.

While undertaking those initiatives, something unexpected happened.

The numbers of Black and Hispanic students applying and enrolled at TJ remained stalled at the pre-initiative levels. So, that’s still a concern.

But, during the same time period (and unrelated to the minority initiatives), the number of white students declined sharply … and the number of Asian-American students has soared.

Why is that?


“Half of all U.S. colleges to close or go bankrupt in the next decade”

March 1, 2019

That’s the gloomy prediction of disruption guru Clayton Christensen

And, it’s not just the tidal wave of online programs or ballooning college tuitions.

Moreso, Christensen’s prediction is on track, according to a WSJ recap of economist Nathan Grawe’s “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education.”


Grawe’s central thesis: Birthrates have plunged 13% since the Great Recession … and that “birth dearth” will cost America 450,000 fewer college applicants in the 2020s.

Here are some of the specifics….


Shocker: Johnny can’t sign checks or legal documents…

January 10, 2019

Many schools just don’t teach cursive handwriting any more.


Yesterday, we posted about how Johnny can’t write.  That was in a macro sense: he can’t construct a compelling, logical argument since that skill is decreasingly taught and practiced in schools these days.

Today, let’s dive down to the literal level.


I was taken aback when a friend casually mentioned to me that his grandson – a freshman in college – “couldn’t even sign his name”.

I initially thought that the kid might have a learning disability, a physical handicap or was – for some weird reason – banned from signing legal documents.

Nope, the reason was more straightforward and pervasive than that…


Should lawmakers (and regulators) have to eat their own cooking?

January 8, 2019

Might induce some genuine empathy, motivate some constructive action … and forestall future government shutdowns.


There was an interesting exchange at last week’s impromptu Trump press conference.

A reporter asked: “Administration personnel are due for a salary increase … will you be delaying them until the shutdown is resolved?”

Trump answered: “That’s a good idea.  I’ll look into that.”

I think that the response surprised the reporter who probably expected a long-winded rationale for the pay increases.

And, the Q&A pushed one of my hot buttons: gov’t officials who insulate themselves from the burdens that they impose on us.  Think: Medicare exceptions for Congressional staffers.

So, to avoid future government shutdowns, what not a simple legislative change: No member of the Senate, Congress or their staffs shall receive any compensation during the period when any part of the government is shutdown because of Congressional actions or inaction.”


My bet: the likelihood of a future shutdown would fall to near zero.


Along a similar vein — I said it was one of my hot buttons — in a prior post, I wrote about how our dim-witted government officials put the brakes on school vouchers that would allow working folks to send their kids to private schools …. while sending their kids to swanky private schools.

According to The Atlantic …

As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter criticized “exclusive private schools that allow the children of the political and economic elite to avoid public schools that are considered dangerous or inferior.”

When he assumed office in 1977, he did something remarkable:

He enrolled his 9-year-old daughter, Amy, in a predominantly black Washington, D.C., public school.

Amy became the first child of a sitting U.S. president to attend a public school since 1906.

She still is.

Gotta give the man credit for walking the talk.

Former President Obama?

Not so much …


A Dept. of Education study found that students in the nation’s capital that were provided with vouchers allowing them to attend private school made “statistically significant gains in achievement.”

Despite that finding, then President Obama curtailed the program … and turned around and enrolled his daughters in Sidwell Friends – the swank private school of choice for the DC elite.

So, it wasn’t at all surprising that several sources found that many of the Democratic Senators who voted against school voucher advocate Betsy DeVos –- opt out of the public school system and send their off-spring to private schools.

OK, maybe they really thought that DeVos wasn’t as qualified as Obama’s basketball buddy, Arne Duncan, who presided for 7 years over declining test scores and “failing schools” headlines.

Or, maybe their pro-choice inclinations don’t really extend beyond their family & friends when it comes to education.

As the USN&WR opined:

Education politics are big business in America, often pitting institutionalized interests like the NEA against parents and kids.

And, equally unfortunately, there are far too many people who are in a position to right the wrongs who are taking advantage of their ability to opt out of the discussion, at least as far as their own children are concerned.

Where education is concerned there’s one America for the elites, like members of Congress and the President, who send their children to private schools.

And, there’s one for everyone else, the regular people who are seeing the educational dreams they have for their children shattered on the altar of politics.


So, what’s the answer?


You can’t control everything that happens to you but …

December 18, 2018

… you can control the way you respond to everything that happens to you.


That’s one of the admonitions from my adios lecture to my MBA students.

I was amped when Condi Rice used a version of the line in one of her speeches

Other snippets from her speech that caught my eye are below  …


The world is a chaotic and dangerous place. 

The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer – we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them – we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.

Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world — they must know that we are reliable and consistent and determined.  And our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve — because peace really does come through strength.

When the world looks at us today they see an American government that cannot live within its means.  They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come.  The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny.  That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead.

The essence of America – that which really unites us — is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion – it is an idea — and what an idea it is:  That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.  That it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going.

Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement.  We have not believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well.

We have been successful too because Americans have known that one’s status at birth was not a permanent station in life.  You might not be able to control your circumstances but you could control your response to your circumstances

Today, when I can look at your zip code and can tell whether you are going to get a good education – can I really say that it doesn’t matter where you came from – it matters where you are going.  The crisis in K-12 education is a grave threat to who we are.

We need to have high standards for our students – self-esteem comes from achievement not from lax standards and false praise.  And we need to give parents greater choice – particularly poor parents whose kids – most often minorities — are trapped in failing neighborhood schools.

And on a personal note– a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America – her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant – but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter – she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State.

Click to see the video

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Ouch: U.S. math scores continue to drop

December 6, 2018

U.S. now trails 39 countries …


The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released its  survey results for math “literacy” … and, the results aren’t pretty.

The average for 15-year-old U.S. students slipped to 470 on the PISA scale … down about 3.5% from 2009 … ranking the U.S. #40 among developed nations (see list at end of this post) … 20 points lower than the average of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The scores differential versus the OECD countries is roughly equal for the average, 25th percentile and 90th percentile … refuting claims that “our” best are head-to-head competitive with the the rest of the world’s best.




Digging a bit deeper into the numbers ….


Need proof that charter schools work?

December 4, 2018

New study of NYC charter schools provide compelling evidence.

I recently stumbled upon an interesting research study by CREDO – the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

CREDO was established to gather and analyze empirical evidence about education reform and student performance (i.e. “outcomes) with a particular emphasis on innovative programs, curricula, policies and accountability practices.

A recent report focused on New York City  charter schools since “New York City has been the nexus of public discourse about charter schools for nearly two decades but only a fraction of that debate has been grounded in well researched evidence about charter schools’ impact on student outcomes.”


And, the answer is …


Score higher on the SATs … GUARANTEED!

November 30, 2018

Just make sure that your parents went to college.


Earlier this week we posted about how Asian-American students are being admitted to selective elite high schools at increasingly high rates.


Because they are academic achievers.


In part because Asian-American parents place a high priority on education, drive their children to excel (especially in STEM academics) and provide their kids with extensive  extracurricular learning experiences.

And, oh yeah, they’ve probably gone to college … providing good role modeling and ready tutoring capabilities.

To that point …

The College Board published a  “Total Group Profile Report” for recent college-bound seniors …

One set of numbers caught my eye:

SAT scores by the student’s parents level of educational attainment.


Note that about 2/3’s of the college-bound seniors taking the SAT came from homes with a degreed parent – either associate, bachelor or graduate.

Only about 1/3 came from homes with parents having only a high school education or less.

And, the performance differentials are substantial between the groups …


Some “interesting” SAT results …

November 29, 2018

The College Board publishes a “Total Group Profile Report” for  college-bound seniors.

Browsing it, a couple of sets of numbers caught my eye ….

Let’s start with math scores/

Two big takeaways:

(1) The gap between boys and girls narrowed from the 40 point difference in the 1970s to about 25 points … but has remained fairly constant at that level for about the past 20 years

(2) Scores for both boys and girls have been falling for the past dozen years or so.



OK, boys outscore girls in math, but girls do better on the verbal part of the SATs, right?


Answer to: Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 20, 2018

Yesterday, we posted a question posed to me last year by my soon-to-be 10 year old granddaughter … and challenged you to give it a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.


Here’s the answer … if you haven’t already done the problem, do it before peeking:


Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 19, 2018

A Thanksgiving Day puzzle from my granddaughter.


What does your family do for fun at Thanksgiving?

Nowadays, mine tries to stump me with math problems.

Last year, my soon-to-be 10 year old granddaughter brought over a set of puzzles that she’d been working on at school (when she was in 3rd grade).

Give one a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.


We all like to whine that American students are slipping behind other countries in math and science … which begs a basic question:

Are you at least as smart as a 3rd grader?

I’ll post the answer tomorrow …

Thanks to AMH for feeding the lead.


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Shocker: Majority of Harvard students cut class…

August 31, 2018

A recent WSJ article written by a clinical psychologist advocated that college students attend classes.


Say, what?


Words really do matter … especially in a kid’s early years.

July 25, 2018

Interesting study reported in The Atlantic

A pair of psychologists – Betty Hart and Todd Risley –  got curious about why some 3 and 4 year old kids are more academically ready than others.

“They devised a novel (and exhaustive) methodology: for more than three years, they sampled the actual words spoken to young children from 42 families at 3 different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals’ homes. Then they tallied the quantity and quality of the words spoken to the kids. “


The results were – in the words of the researchers – “astounding”…


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