Friday, October 30, 2009

Required Reading: Reducing the Racial Achievement Gap

There's research on a 15 minute intervention that reduces the racial achievement gap. Seriously. 

Helps African American students but doesn't hurt European American students. Lower achieving students get more of a boost than higher achieving students.

Works across content areas. The research is an experimental study, so it is causation not just correlation. From a short activity that fits into the first week of school mayhem.

And I hadn't heard of it until I read it for class this week.

Frequently, class discussions ask what's being done to implement the research we read. This week we asked why this article, which sounds like it should have gotten full-on media buzz, was new to everyone. (Including the Journalism professor.)

The original article was published in Science in 2006. A two-year follow up was published this April. (My professor says Science has a 98% rejection rate for social science articles. Multiple review levels. You don't get in without really good material.)

The intervention is simple. Give students a list of values and have them write about their two or three most important values.

That's it.

The theory is that this intervention breaks a negative cycle. That some students feel like school doesn't care about me so I'll perform poorly making school cares less about me and I'll do worse...

Breaking that cycle can actually begin an opposite cycle. "Oh, maybe they do care. I can do better. They like me more, I'll do even better..."

I am oversimplifying. And the news article I found does caution, "This is not a silver bullet. The improvements came from the psychological interventions paired with good resources and good teachers."

But still, 15 minutes of class time. Less than the interruption that my old school is having for today's Halloween festivities. Potential for real change. (Low achieving African Americans had  raised their GPA, on average, .41 points over two years where they repeated this activity a few times.)  Why wasn't I doing this?

Why aren't you?

The inner math teacher has to come out somedays

If you followed my move from the old blog to here, chances are good that you've already seen this picture floating around the interwebs.

Pretty cool map, yeah? If you're not familiar with it, read the original article. Now. The rest of this post depends on it. (And not just because I can pick out the McDonald's where the tenth grade English teacher at my old school works on weekends.)

When this was going around Twitter originally, people kept wanting to use it as a WCWDWT lesson. Teachers are fascinated by the map, let's have students play with it!

Problem is, there's not a motivating question. I mean, I have fun trying to see how closely I can identify different towns I've lived in, but that's not going to entertain anyone else.

Then today, I visited to find this.

Zoomed in.

"You Will Never Find a McDonald's More than 107 Miles From Another McDonald's"

Wait. I don't think that's what they found. Checked the Slate article. Actual headline, "Furthest Distance From a McDonald's: 107 miles."

So how far apart can McDonald's locations be?

Not sure how much of this one is just a rewritten textbook question and how much it can scan as WCWDWT. As always it depends on how it's presented to students. I'd show the map and the headlines.  Go all English teacher, "These headlines say different things." Pop the question. Puzzle it out.

If the class asks, take a look at the map of the "McFarthest spot" (go back to that original post, it's good). if they don't ask, shrug, comes too close to revealing the answer anyway.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can you help me with this?

First an introduction. Friends, this is Shannon.

I met Shannon two years ago. She's a ball of energy and I'm always excited when my weekend plans include seeing her. (Not at all related to the fact that weekend plans with Shannon usually involved skiing, camping, or otherwise getting out of classroom mode. ;-)

Actually, that aside is only partly true. Even when we're out of the classroom, Shannon continues to think about her students and ask about yours. Kinda typical of the the teachers I've met online.

Like a lot of teachers online, Shannon uses Donors Choose. She sent an e-mail today, that I wanted to share. I'll let her take it from here.


Hello Friends,

As you (probably) know, I teach at Little Wound School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  My students live in one of the poorest counties in the country and very few have access to books in their homes.  Below, you see a picture of T---, second grader.  This is my hope for all of my students: that they become proficient life-long readers.  In order for this to be a reality, the school library must have books that appeal to their interests.

Here's what you might not know: I'm part of the teacher community, where teachers post projects for the resources that would make the biggest difference in our classrooms.  I currently have several projects posted for books.  If teachers collectively get 5,000 people to give to classroom projects by October 31st, $100,000 in additional funding will be released.

Here’s the catch.  It won’t even cost you anything besides about 10 minutes of your time.  Yahoo! is inviting everyone to share their creative singing voices by customizing and uploading their Yahoo! Yodel (you know, the catchy part-song, part-celebration shout trademark Yaaahooo!).  In return for submitting your own Yodel by October 31st, Yahoo! will immediately provide you with a $10 electronic Giving Card code to help fund the classroom project of your choice on  Hopefully, of course, that would be one of my projects, but it’s up to you!

Here’s what to do:
1.     Go to the Yahoo! Yodel Studio and make a yodel.  It doesn’t have to be good.  Here’s mine.  Any submission counts. 
2.     After you’ve submitted your yodel and Yahoo! Has emailed you your gift card, use this link to go to Donorschoose:
3.     Support any classroom project.  My projects can be most easily found by searching under location -- > State: SD.  County: Shannon.
4.     Please also forward this email to spread the word.

Please note that the last day to use your code is Halloween.  Thanks in advance for making it the best trick-or-treat I’ve ever had.